ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC -- the Other Half of the Songwriting Coin

ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC -- the Other Half of the Songwriting Coin

Welcome to the All About the Music thread, where you will find discussions ranging from songwriting process and musical influences to detailed posts about time signatures, chord progressions, and key changes. And anything in between.

This thread began when I was feeling more than a little lonely here on DCO, thinking I was the only music nerd out there who wanted to discuss all that technical stuff that seems so mysterious to so many fans about David's music. At which point I realized that there was, oddly enough, no thread in which to do that.

Any topic of discussion that relates to the music is welcome here, including that about other band members and their musical contributions to the recordings and/or performances, past, present, and future. Lyrical discussions are welcome as well, as long as, again, they relate to the music. (For more detailed lyrical analysis, I direct you to our sister thread, All About the Lyrics. Our other sister thread, All About the Voice, is also available for discussions about David's vocal instrument -- although cross-posting here from the latter thread is not frowned on, either.) And any question, however simple, is welcome. I don't think anyone claims to be an expert here; certainly not me -- but I think we can all learn from each other about what it is about David's music that fascinates, and entertains, and affects us all.

The various resources provided below are a compilation of the many informative links that have been provided by the denizens of this thread, as well as several informative blogs compiled by said denizens and other DCO members. If you find anything incorrect, or if credit must be given to an otherwise uncredited contribution, please post in this thread or PM me and I will make the necessary changes. Also, any further contributions to this list of resources are not only accepted but encouraged. Thank you to all who have done so already. This list could not have become nearly as comprehensive without the devoted assistance of many.

Musical Execution





David Cook Discography, Sheet Music, Lyrics, Chords, and More

    Discography and Libraries
  • David Cook Unofficial Discography by QTTaquito provides all known credits to all known songs DC has written
  • David Cook Unofficial Discography by Cowriter by QTTaquito (the companion discography to the one above)
  • TLM Discography by FoolsApril64: a list of all songs on TLM, along with all other songs and known collaborations written in advance of that album, as well as all known writing and performance credits.
  • Album Writing Credits for DCTR, including non-DC-written songs, by BethRiot
  • Pre-Idol Video Library, compiled by LadyBirdSF, contains links to videos of all DC's pre-Idol music, from Axium to Analog Heart to those unpublished songs we actually know of.
  • Axium Resource on LiveJournal, contains information on the band's history, as well as a discography and links to download various songs.





On songwriting, recording, and production

  • Youtube video some smart aleck posted about his songwriting process (by Mitch Friedman)


    David About the Music: Comprehensive musical interviews and playlists (Thanks, David! We love this! Keep it up!)
  • The Musical Interview Archive contains links to all articles containing pertinent musical information.
  • David Cook -- Musical Likes and Influences -- A comprehensive list of songs that David has mentioned in various interviews or other media, compiled by G*Marie; an excellent resource, including the additional songs appended in the comments.

And, per request, Because at the end, it really is all about the music -- an open letter -- my blog post, which I hope DC reads at some point, informing him that while we'd love to talk about the music, we'd appreciate any nuggets of information he'd consider throwing our way as he sees fit.

Comments (2305)

Hi folks. Seems quiet here today -- are we all watching concert videos? Smiling

I still haven't caught up with everything, and hope to have some comments on ADAM soon. But in the meantime, I've been discussing Died in Your Arms Tonight over at WNH, and figured I'd collect all my thoughts on the song into a blog, as I apparently have a lot to say. I found myself quite disturbed for a number of reasons by it, and yet am intrigued and fascinated by the arrangement and delivery. Since this subject does relate to the topic of this thread, but is more lyric-oriented (in as far as the lyrics are interpreted musically), I'll just post a link to the blog post here and those of you who wish are welcome to read or comment.

Thanks Incipit.
I love that video and nice catch to pick up on the harmony. He's a natural harmony singer for sure.
I love the 360 also...such love.

The best revenge is massive success. ~Frank Sinatra


Thanks, Incipit9!

Hah! Something to contribute about Harmonies -

Last night's AdaM - listen @ 3:04 - David is singing the harmony line and leaving the melody to the audience. I have to listen more to see if the Boyz are joining in....but he does it at least twice. Ugly link follows:

Another AdaM - full stage view - - starts out w/great visibility - then people stand up in front of the camera a bit - 360 pan of the audience swaying arms - 3:04 (1st Harmony moment) - 5:06 David jumps down into the crowd.


Edited to: fix the ugly link and report that there is question if it's a voice saving move at the end of the night.
Incipit9 - Irrationally 0sup2;
"Expect the Unexpected." tm WTF!Cook

Ooh nice, eta. Loving the focus on Neal during his solo. Respect. (Did we ever find out if that's an accessory or a splint on his middle finger? Either way I can't imagine playing like that with one finger immobilized.)

Still not over my very visceral reaction to that cover. I think it even surpasses Hello for me.

(Dear Spam filter, I am not posting spam, and I hate your captchas. Knock it off already!)

redana - agreed. There's something very visceral about this performance. I can't even think about analyzing it yet. For me? It's the first time the "Hello" reaction has been replicated.

Like drug to a junkie.

I'm a gonner.

ETA: Here's a new video. Just went up about an hour ago. Wider view of the stage, pretty good sound except for the reverb in the deep bass.

eta: I don't think I've done anything but watch that video all day. I must have been living under a rock in the 80s (actually no, I didn't, I was just a snob and too cool to pay attention to anything defined as pop), but I never realised what that song was about until David moaned and growled his way through the first few bars. Needless to say, I get it now. *fans self furiously*

If this cover is representative of the direction they want to take their sound, then I for one approve. So much hard rocking energy. Goes straight to my gut. Can't remember the last time I had such a physical reaction to a new song. Music for me is very much an intellectual exercise - I can't just have music playing in the background while I'm working on something else, because all my attention will be focused on the music. Cool chords, advanced musicianships, good harmonies, an unusual chord progression, you name it, I'm listening for it, and can get quite grumpy if it's not there. Died In Your Arms? That performance took no prisoners. I was too busy being bowled over to even think about analyzing it.

I realise it's probably a lost cause talking about anything else today, but.... harmonies! We were talking about harmonies (or y'all were, so I'm just going to jump on to that subject). We've talked about David's natural ability to harmonize, but how about his band members? Or, more specifically, how about Kyle's harmonies on Straight Ahead? I know they're probably lifted directly from Analog Heart (I'd go back and check but ... I'm too busy rewatching Died In Your Arms), but I just love the way Kyle and Dave sound together on that song. Kick awesome, if you ask me. Oh, and yes, on the *mumblety* rewatch I noticed that Died In Your Arms has some good harmonies as well, though they're a bit hard to hear over Neal's awesome guitar work.

Alright. Lie vs. Lie may have to go on hold for a while, as our boyz seem intent upon bestowing new and intensely gratifying MUSIC upon our waiting ears.

Holy crap! Have you heard this yet?

Can you think of any better way to define one's Style, one's Sound, than by taking an old favorite (with heart wrenching chord progressions, at that ) and saying "THIS is what it sounds like when WE play it?"


Everything about it. Song choice, his voice, the band, the arrangement, the style, Neal's solos.


:thud: and :died:

That is all. I'm done for. He wins. Hands down. I give in.


OK, minstrel -- I tried it -- but this time, I tried singing along the I/IV/V/I theme as a countermelody to AH, rather than DCTR. And -- it works, but in a different way, as there are more songs written in a minor key on that album, and the rhythms and tempos vary more significantly. So I don't think it's a leitmotif.

In fact, I think you've actually hit on a commonality of -- wait for it -- mainstream, commercial music. Maybe that's what makes DCTR lean more to that side than AH does. The prevalence of that chord progression as a countermelody coupled with a simpler rhythm, and done in a slower tempo than would be necessary to adjust to work on most of the songs in AH (although I will say that, surprisingly, Stitches did not require much alteration to the chord progression, and in fact uses it pretty significantly in the chorus).

So, does that make sense? Or am I making things up at 3am when I should be cleaning my house in a panic since our outdoor BBQ birthday bash for my grandmother-in-law has a 100% chance of getting rained out tomorrow and will need to be held indoors? Laughing out loud

(Oh, and chawan -- I have no doubt he uses falsetto for effect rather than necessity, although sometimes the choice may be constrained by either singing softly or belting, with no middle ground -- or at least I haven't heard him hit those high notes any way but those two. And if you refer to Enan_2.4's YT clip of DC's range (in the resources in the OP), you'll notice that the highest notes we have evidence of DC singing are actually in his chest voice -- which indicates, to me, that he's got a much bigger range than what we've heard, as he's never really sung falsetto notes beyond that middle range of notes that cover both registers. In other words, he's hardly scratched the surface of his higher register.)

Just touching on David's falsetto. It is my impression (correct me if I'm wrong) that he does not actually use it to reach a higher note but only for effect. That is to ask, are there examples of David singing in falsetto to reach a note that is higher than his natural voice (chest voice?). Is it just because it is not his style of singing.

I'm very familiar with falsetto singing because it is an art form in Hawaii. I've been to several falsetto competitions (which is like a talent contest with a recording contract as the prize). It is different than western falsetto, though as it emphasizes rather than attempts to smooth over the voice break. I LOVE Hawaiian falsetto singing. Certain genres of Hawaiian music stimulates my alpha waves (tm Scott).

Here's an example if you are interested. This guy won a Hawaiian music new artist award in 2007 but his sound is very traditional. I think I'm going to have to buy his record, it's so good. BTW he's playing in a community center. Don't be put off by not being able to understand the Hawaiian language. If you do, then that adds another layer of beauty, but you can just revel in the pure sound like I do (which is what most people do-few actually speak Hawaiian). Oh, and he plays Hawaiian slack key guitar, I think.

Steven Espaniola

The best revenge is massive success. ~Frank Sinatra

i sing harmony all the time and find it much more fun than singing melody.

spent a LONG time in the car today, long distance car trip, with the ipod on shuffle but... for fun played through DCTR, testing the CBTM/ADAM relationship discussed below. and i think this was eta's insight from somewhere other than this forum, but i have to tell you that the 'oh oh oh oh' phrase from both those songs can be sung over nearly ALL the cuts on DCTR, on the verses, the choruses, or both, as a countermelody.

as different as those songs may sound from each other, there is a strong harmonic underpinning.... some sort of DNA thread... which makes it completely possible to do this. whether D was doing it deliberately as a sneaky form of leitmotif, or whether it's just a signal of the prevalence of I/IV/V/I as a progression, only D could answer.

but it works. try it. (In the recording of 'lie' there is actually a spot where it's played overtly as a countermelody.)

thx for the good tabs, can't wait to get home and take a crack at those.

I laugh at myself while the tears roll down....

Yay. I get so happy every time I see this thread and how busy it's getting. (And again, what took so long?!?! Am I really the only person in DCO who saw the empty gaping hole in discussion topics? Sorry, turning off angst now. Smiling )

Anyway, regarding harmonies, I guess I'm a natural harmony singer -- I've been doing it for years -- the earliest I can recall for sure is when I was about 12, I think, but probably earlier. That may be why I gravitated to a cappella in college, as it's all harmony, for lack of any other instrumentation. Some people are easily able to sing a third above, and that's probably the simplest there is -- but the further away you get from a base chord, the more difficult it may get, I think, unless you've trained your ear to do it. It really comes down to how your ear is trained, and eventually it becomes instinctive if it isn't already. And some of it is just natural-born talent. I'll share a personal story that's just making me glow with happiness these days -- I have 2 kids, a 3 1/2 y.o. & a 2.y.o. My DS (the 2yo) just recently started singing along with songs with me a few months ago -- as in, I'll sing a line and he'll fill in the last syllable -- and the thing is, HE SINGS ON KEY. This is not, to my experience, something common to all kids -- my DD may have inherited her father's tone-deaf ear, although she's learning to sing closer to pitch as she goes to school and learns new songs with other kids, but clearly -- sometimes people are just born with certain abilities. (And can I just say how THRILLED I am about one of my kids being able to sing!! Sorry for gloating. Proud Mommy and all that.)

In any case, obviously some more complex harmonies need to have a little more thought put into them as they're devised, as I don't think that most singers would automatically gravitate to a diminished 7th as an accompanying harmonic note. But 1-3-5, or an octave above, is pretty simple, especially when you're used to it. I'm sure David is a natural harmony singer, given Cavallo's comments.

As for ADAM, I don't believe that was falsetto, although I'm speaking from memory, which can be faulty, so please correct if I'm wrong. With regards to falsetto, also known as head voice -- if you're not sure what that sounds like as opposed to chest voice, or lower register -- just start singing the lowest note you can manage and go up in a scale, one note at a time. At some point you'll hit a note that you have to sing differently. There's usually a big range of notes that can go either way, but eventually it will be all falsetto, which has a very different tone to it. I think DC's being a dramatic tenor makes a huge difference in the tone of his falsetto, as well, because I find it very appealing to hear -- and most male falsettos sound like cats meowling to me, so this is high praise. As an example, listen to Avalanche, or TWIK (the last notes in particular from the AI performance). ADAM, I think, was just really high in his chest register, as is that final screem in HFT -- which is also amazingly high for a male vocal. (And as another aside, does anyone remember that video playlist he did back in December? He included A-Ha's Take On Me, & said he couldn't hit the high note and wouldn't attempt it. I'm still trying to figure out if he was completely ignorant about his range or was just being falsely modest, because that note is a mere half-step up from the high note in HFT, and it's in falsetto, whereas HFT was in chest voice -- meaning there's no way he CAN'T hit that note.)

As for singing with the guitar or not -- well, sometimes it's a lot harder to do both at once. I can sing well enough, and play mediocre piano, but when I do both at once they both suffer. Perhaps it's the same with him, and he sticks with songs that he's more comfortable playing?

And finally -- regarding the counterpoint in Permanent -- given that Chantal wrote the melody first, I wonder if the counterpoint was written at the same time, or along with the lyrics? Any thoughts?

Love this thread! You all have so much to contribute - and having any formal music training doesn't matter.

On the subject of singing harmony: I find that I test myself again Avalanche as I am driving. It's just begging for harmony and at some parts, it is easy to do and at others more tricky. With practice, a singer can improve their ability to hit the harmony notes. When I was in a band, we improvised the harmony and when we got movement that sounded good, we would be able to remember it and it stuck.

One of the interesting processes in a band is the synergy and how it all comes together and arrangements can be remembered without formal transcription. As someone said with the new cover song that David and the dweeb is trying, they will play with it and it will eventually gel or they will throw it out.

Taylor_Sue, yup, good descriptions of their various guitar parts and how and when David plays. He loves guitar too much to lay it down and just sing, yet A & N give him the luxury of doing that when he wants to really get transcendent in his vocals. And, since David writes his songs on guitar, the ax is a part of him. (Guitars do become like living things to us. Maybe it's because we hold them so close to our bodies...).

Oh, yeah, and Andy on that piano. Mind blower extraordinaire!

Oops....wanted to comment on this too:

Saturday, June 20, 2009 - 16:52
That's why I fell over myself when Andy played the piano for Permanent in the AI finale. He showed himself to be a true musician. His touch was stellar. My opinion of him shot way up. Not that I didn't have a high opinion of him, because I did, but that piano playing showed me what Andy is made of.

That was one of my favorite parts of that particular performance. It is SO different playing on a small, electronic keyboard versus a nice grand piano. Not only do you have more octaves to play with, but the touch and feel are completely different. I was never sure about Andy's skills on piano because I've only seen him play on the small keyboard. (Not that I doubted him, I just had never witnessed it.) He blew me away--it was absolutely beautiful.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 - 16:52
Bumble - Are you the one who posted the chords to Permanent so long ago? I have tried to find out who did it so I could properly thank her. THANK YOU.

Although there certainly may have been others, I did post the chords a LONG time ago. And then I just recently posted them again in DWoP.

*Sniff* you're a musician! caught me! Indeed I am!

kitunen - I'm not a voice expert, but in general, for the male voice, higher octaves are sung in falsetto or head voice. That has more to do with their voice and their range than the type of harmony being sung.

I'm intruigued by harmonies too. They can characterize a group. Take for instance, anything the Judds sing. Their harmony defines their sound.

Sometimes I wonder when DC says he's working on developing his sound, if that includes a specific style of harmony. Most of what I think I've heard him do is two part harmonies, fairly open. Sometime even an octave with himself (at least one song on AH....can't remember which, though, at the moment.....maybe Porcelain.....have to go back and listen.)

The chorus of "Shattered Dreams" is very open. Only a few notes (2?)...not very filled out chords, even in the backup. Contrast that to a classic barbershop quartet (four part harmony) or a symphony or piano concerto....which might have 7 or 8 individual notes making up a cord.

Here's a fun example. Listen to Muse's Butterflies and Hurricanes - . The piano solo starting at 2:50 is inspired by a Rachmaninoff Concerto. Some of those massive piano chords have a huge number of individual notes (distinct notes, not just multiple octaves.)

Why is this important to harmonies?

Harmony lines commonly run through the second and third notes in the chords that accompany a melody.

The more notes to choose from in the accompanying chords, the more choices of complex or multiple harmonies you have. (not to mention going above or below the melody line.)

Yet another type of harmony is called counterpoint. This is a really unique style of harmony where two different songs, based on the same chord sequences, are overlapped on one another to form the piece.

I kinda think this is what I like about "Permanent." It's a counterpoint between David's voice and the piano. It's really a duet, of two instruments playing two different songs that overlap and harmonize together.


ETA: And as I look, I realize I'm beginning to monopolize this thread. :blush:. I guess I just really was craving to talk about this stuff way more than I realized, and now I'm gorging myself on my own voice. Sorry. Somebody else's turn.

ETATA: Taylor_Sue - What you said about Andy on the AI performance of "Permanent" was exactly what I thought as well. My admiration for him as a musician went up exponentially from that performance. It was beautifully done.

ETATATA: Another famous song done in counterpoint harmony? Eleanor Rigby. :grin:

Just wanted to pop in and say that there's some really interesting discussion going on kdc, I don't necessarily understand all of it, but very informative nonetheless.

Re: Harmonies on DCTR. Waaaay back in September when we first got LO, I was listening to it over and over...the harmony started gradually standing out to me, first as a "wait, there's someone else singing, isn't there," then as an "wow, he's singing backup for himself." I always pick up on the harmonies in a few other songs, mainly CBTM and Avalanche, where they seem to be very prevalent. Sometimes I find myself singing along (badly, I might add) to the harmony parts in those songs instead of the melody. Lie has a really pretty harmony too, which is continuous for most of the song...

A question about how the harmonies are actually sung, though. Some of the songs, like A Daily AntheM, have super-high notes in the that done in falsetto?

And psst, kdc...I saw that typo...I do that all the time. Hee.

This thread is full of WIN and concepts I don't necessarily understand. That's cool though 'cause it's gonna make me go research stuff. I'm good at that. Not so much making the pretty noise.


Have I mentioned that I LOVE this thread?
You guys have such amazing questions and insights.
And thank you so much for the tabs. <3

I have a confession to make. As much as I believe that Permanent is one of those songs that just shouldn't be messed with....mainly out of respect for the subject is a fabulous song to play with when it comes to variations on a theme. Endless variations.

Regarding the discussion about fluency in music. I liken it to learning to read, or learning a language (and btw, I'm reading "Outliers" as well. It's written by the same guy who wrote "The Tipping Point", Malcolm Gladwell, whose ideas we played with during AI in our all out war on TPTB. How does one help seed an epidemic? Even one regarding a singer's popularity? {WEG}....but I digress. Back to music.) Remember when you were learning to read? How you had to sound out each word, and then all of a sudden one day the words flowed together better? That's how music is. It's like learning a language. It's a fluency.

And it absolutely can be developed as an adult. Both the learning to listen to it and the learning to make it (reading and writing) parts. But it's a much more difficult thing to learn a language past the age of 7. That part of the brain is most pliable in young childern (which is why music education for young children is so important.).

Anyway. Where was I going with all of this?

Oh, yes. Music appreciation.

You can do it. It takes practice. I little guidance, but mostly practice. When I analyze a song, I download it and go for a run with it on loop. Usually, I hear new subtle differences every time. 10, 20 times of listening, and the detail points on phrasing and chord interval nuances start to come through.

I intend to do just that with those 2 "Lie" versions this afternoon. I'll post an analysis....sometime this weekend perhaps.

BTW - David mostly plays Rhythm Guitar - wiki explanation here:

Bumble - Are you the one who posted the chords to Permanent so long ago? I have tried to find out who did it so I could properly thank her. THANK YOU. In all my finding David's songs posted on the internet, Permanent is the ONLY one that had the CORRECT chords. THANK YOU. Because you have a track record with Permanent, I printed out your chords to Anodyne and will play them some day. Yeah. Some day.

I was also impressed with your answer on singing harmony. Absolutely right. *Sniff* you're a musician!

Chawan, you're right, a true musician plays music on a different level than a non-musician playing music. It is kind of ethereal. You play using a different part of your brain. You have to put the practice in and learn it, but once you've done that, the execution of that is of a different type. That's why some people play instruments but they're not really that good. It's an effort. And with a true musician there's a finesse that can't be duplicated by a non-musician musician. That's why I fell over myself when Andy played the piano for Permanent in the AI finale. He showed himself to be a true musician. His touch was stellar. My opinion of him shot way up. Not that I didn't have a high opinion of him, because I did, but that piano playing showed me what Andy is made of. Wonderful stuff.

David doesn't play the same thing as Andy or Neal. Andy plays rhythm, a lot of chords. Neal plays lead, a lot of notes. David plays ... what does David play? He strums. Andy holds down the fort with the chords, and David adds some extra on top. David plays chords, but they're not as essential to the success of the song as what Andy plays. David does sometimes play notes, as in Barbasol. Well, I actually never watched him do that part very closely. They've divided up the guitar duty according to their strengths, and what David does allows him to stop playing whenever he wants to without much effect on the song.

Neal doesn't use as many guitars because he doesn't need the alternate tunings. Or as many alternate tunings. I don't really know what his other guitars are for. Neal plays lead, meaning he plays notes. Notes are found up and down the guitar neck. An Ab note is as easy to play as an A note. An Ab chord is harder to play than an A chord. So he just does his thing, wherever it may take him. And he does fine, and it's not any harder than if he would use a capo. Actually, it's harder to use a capo when you're playing notes because THEN you would have to transpose the notes. A capo is really more for chords. Play this chord, this way, and use a capo to change the key. Neal just moves himself up and down the neck wherever he needs to be for that particular key. Neal does sometimes play chords. But you don't "need" a capo to play chords in different keys.

minstrel Friday, June 19, 2009 - 17:10 If I were him, i'd be selecting keys that maximize these strengths but also allow me to avoid hanging out in any uncomfortable middle register for longer than absolutely necessary. Also... keys that allow a power high note, but not at the expense of vocal stamina over the course of many shows. Sometimes a simple transposition of a half step up or down can make a very big difference in your ability to sustain something a lot of nights in a row.

This is something I'd never thought of. I'd always assumed that if you can sing, one part of your vocal range was pretty much as strong as the rest, except for the very ends. (Mine is, but it's only two notes, so, there you go.) It makes sense, though, when you put it this way.

Bumble! I am glad you found this thread. I like your input on the harmony question - well put.

I had tried to answer the question on the Anodyne chords, too, in the DWoP thread, but my version was far less sophisticated. I have been on an alternate guitar tuning kick since this thread started, and I'll drop it now, I swear, but, just in case anyone's learning the guitar and would like an easier-to-play version of these chords, I'm going to copy your version and transpose it up a half-step. To play along with the recording using these chords, you'd have to tune down a half-step. But most of these chords are very easily played on the guitar using "open" chord voicings (i.e., not barre chords), which are easier when your hands are learning. ["Fmaj9" sounds like it ought to be complicated, but it's not.]

Anodyne chords:
Intro/Verses: Fmaj9 (keeps that E and G in the chord) Am C Fmaj9
Chorus: (How many times will I play the hero?)
Csus2 Am Fmaj9 G (the G is a quick pick-up into the downbeat of the Csus2)
repeat this three times, but the last time don't play the G - go from the Fmaj 9 into:
D F G (where they all sing "How many times before we're through")
So those last lines with the chords look like this:
How many [times] [D] before we're [through] [F]; how many [lives] [G] till another you
Bridge: (The scars are slowly healing)
F Am C Fmaj7 (play this twice)
And then it goes into:
Fmaj9 G Am Dm9 (the line for "the great white ships...")
And then:
Fmaj9 G Am Bb {G/B} ("the four last hooves...")
And then back into the chorus
Finish it out with the Intro/Verse chords
This is not to say that the Band to be Named Later plays the song with simple open chord voicings, mind you. They do all kinds of complicated stuff. Sometimes I actually do try to watch their hands on the videos, I swear. But this is the basic song, and you can take it from there to "make it your own" or try to sound just like NFT or whatever.

Bumble and Incipit, thanks for answering my questions.
Eta, I can tell you are going to be one of the guiding voices on this topic. I'm learning so much.

It is interesting to me that people are so different in talents. Someone once said that
"success = talent plus hard work plus luck"
Also luck = being in the right place at the right time. And what people call luck is actually the result of planning and making contacts and risk taking. (although sometimes luck is just luck) David had the talent and worked hard but it was not until he "accidentally" landed in AI that his career took off. And then had to work his butt off to win the show and make his career.

I've started reading a book (currently a best seller) called Outliers. It says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practicing something to achieve mastery. That's about 10 years. (which is why most Olympic and pro athletes start at a young age). It calls Mozart a "late developer" because his masterworks were not written until he had been composing for 10 years. So my take on that is David and Neal have probably put in many hours (David singing, Neal in guitar, maybe both in composition), but also that their trajectory is very likely still on the steep part of the slope.
Sorry, that is kinda off topic.

Another observation that I've made since this thread is that true musicians know music from a completely different place in their brains than people like me (I'd love to see a fMRI study on this). If I were to learn a song, it would have to be by rote. I know musicians have to memorize lyrics etc but when they perform they are also interpreting the song. Thus so many versions. I don't know if this makes sense, but my analogy is that I might know a story and be able to tell it, but I might tell it slightly differently every time because I "know" the story, rather than memorized it.

My daughter has enough musical talent to play in a community symphonic band. That is, she is able to play at least at the high school level. Her ear must be better than mine, but exposure to music and knowing what to look for does help train the ear. I know she can pick out individual instruments whereas I mostly hear one sound, even if it is very rich. Like a chef can tell the ingredients in a dish by taste, whereas the ordinary consumer might just know it tastes good.

The best revenge is massive success. ~Frank Sinatra

eta good question, I would like to know what makes those 2 versions of Lie different. The one from DM sounds faster and a bit "brighter" than the one from VB. Am I in the ballpark?

But if you are a natural harmony singer, it can be so easy. You can sing a harmony above the melody, below the melody, anywhere you want. David seems to be this type of singer.

Bumble, that was cool info about harmony. When people started circulating the really early Cook work with his band Axium, I got very into the great anthem "Hold" partly because of the blended sounds of Cook and Guest-Skib's voices (not that I knew who is was). Rough stuff compared to today, but he does seem like he's got a great instinct for working around and with other male voices. Lurve that.


IIRC... CJT, or Chart James Thread is a shoutout to Mr. David James Archuleta (a.k.a. The Namesake) when the thread denizens decided it best not to compare the careers of these two artists. LOL, but we've been calling it CJT for so long that the story is blurry.
It's the pinned thread On this forum, tracking and discussing David C.'s charting. I mentioned it as an example of a thread were people learned the technical speak as we went along.

o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o o^o
Vote for David Cook at the Kerrang awards!
Best International Newcomer *** Best Album

Ms. Darcy - Validation is good! (And sometimes, great minds think alike.)

Redana - Sting is on my top 10 list of all time favorite musicians, precisely for some of the reasons you mentioned. Creativity is captivating. I get the sense from some of his latest interviews that David and the EEB are hitting the proverbial steep part of the learning curve when it comes to musical composition and creativity....and he certainly has become surrounded by musicians and mentors who are capable of virtuosity. I am already starting to get quite excited about the next record in the making.

cynic1 - I love your questions! (and there's almost nothing that makes me happier than a new poster de-lurking....finding a place to express well done.) My theory on why the older (and perhaps more monotonous ones)? I think it's marketing. David is reinventing some familiar songs in order to hook additional audiences in.

For example, this latest 80's re-work, Shattered Dreams. . I kinda liked the song back then....and the lyrics hit a familiar spot in DC's lyrical history. A recurrent theme of his. I thought the new arrangement was nicely updated and his voice sounded great on it. But frankly, I expect better production and execution from the DwEEB. The harmonies were off in some areas, Neal is capable of doing more with a solo, and they haven't worked with it enough to completely overcome the repetition of it with some creativity. The chorus is just a little bit stark. (understatement) That was the first time out of the cute with it, though, and we all know how much David likes to flip and twist and work over a song as they play it I'm anticipating what a more developed version of that one might sound like, with better balance in the voices, and a bit more precise execution of the vocal harmonies. That one has potential.

OK....I gotta run. Will come back and respond to more later...but I have a musical challenge to drop off for you today.

Listening to these two very different versions of "Lie" what does your ear like differently about each one?

Lie from VB -
Lie from DM -


ETA - What do you guys think, musically, about the new song?

Til I'm Blue lyrics -

Til I'm Blue - David Cook version -

Go listen to the other versions on the tube...maybe I'll post them later. There's an acoustic version by Andy, there's one that's straight MWK rockin' it, and there's another with Nick Gibson. Maybe I'll post them all here later.

And here's my crack at Anodyne chords:

Intro/Verses: Emaj9 (keeps that D# and F# in the chord) G#m B Emaj9

Chorus: (How many times will I play the hero?)
B2 G#m Emaj9 F# (the F# is a quick pick-up into the downbeat of the B2)
repeat this three times, but the last time don't play the F#; go from the Emaj 9 into:
C# E F# (where they all sing "How many times before we're through")
So those last lines with the chords look like this:
How many [times] [C#] before we're [through] [E]; how many [lives] [F#] till another you

Bridge: (The scars are slowly healing)
E G#m B Emaj7 (play this twice)
And then it goes into:
Emaj9 F# G#m C#m9 (the line for "the great white ships...")
And then:
Emaj9 F# G#m A {F#/A#} ("the four last hooves...")

And then back into the chorus
Finish it out with the Intro/Verse chords

These were done on piano, and I know they don't always translate well into the guitar. I know the bass notes are right, but it's difficult sometimes to tell if the guitars are playing 2nds, 7ths, or 9ths--so you can play around with that to get the right feel.

Sorry if this is too technical....I can be quite nerdy when it comes to chords!!

Slyvanaire suggested that I post this, so here goes....

chords to Permanent

Intro: Dm C Am Bb2

Dm C Am Bb2
Dm C Am Bb2
Gm Dm C

F C Am Bb2
F C Am Bb2

**back to intro/verse/chorus**

Bbmaj7 Am7 Gm7
Bbmaj7 C D C/E

Last Verse:
Dm C Am Bb2
Dm C Am Gm

These are the chords to the CD version. The live version is a half-step lower and the bridge is slightly different. I can post the transposed chords if anyone would rather have those.

The piano intro is very distinct and doesn't follow these chords exactly, but these chords are close to the basis of what is being played. For instance, in the beginning the left hand (bass note) is playing D, C, A, Bb on the downbeat of each measure. The right hand (in the upper octave) plays {F A E}, {F G E}, {F G E}, {F F(octave lower) C Bb}.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 - 03:01
I have questions about singing harmony.
Rob C said that he was amazed at David's instinctive ability to sing harmony without thinking so I'm thinking it must be a difficult thing.
I am not a singer, so how does one develop such an ability. Would he have to had sung harmony in theater or choir to learn this? How do most groups figure out the harmonies. Is it by trial and error or would it be written out. Is it possible to "just know" like how some people can play an instrument by ear. Would being able to sing harmony so well be more indicative of extensive experience or is it a talent. Where could he have learned this? Or is this part of being a gifted singer?

I'll try to answer this. Singing harmony can be very difficult for some people, and a natural thing for others. It can be taught, but if it doesn't come natural, then you almost have to "drill" the part into your brain and consider your harmony part to be the melody and practically tune out any other voices that are singing. In choirs, a lot of people struggle with this.....the alto section is trying to sing their harmony part while the soprano section is blaring out the melody, or the tenor section is singing a different harmony part. Again, if you do not hear harmony naturally, then it can be a struggle to stay on the harmony part--the tendency is to fall right back into the melody. I see people do this all the time.

But if you are a natural harmony singer, it can be so easy. You can sing a harmony above the melody, below the melody, anywhere you want. David seems to be this type of singer. It's not a difficult thing for singers like this. But for those that cannot do it, it SEEMS extremely difficult.

As far as figuring out choirs and more formal groups, the parts are written out. In bands and small groups, it's more of a matter of playing around and seeing what works. That is usually a necessary tool when you're singing vocals in a be able to sing harmony at any point.

Chawan wrote:

I'm also thinking of David and Andrew singing the SSB together. Can anyone tell who was singing the melody and who was doing the harmony? I'm guessing that Andrew sang the melody and David sang the harmony.

Chawan, I don't speak the language in this thread, all my music is by ear - but I read it anyway, and you just asked a question about known facts. That, I can answer:

The arrangement traded off melody.

9/16/08 - Apparently, according to a poster at MJ's Big Blog, Andrew posted this on a Facebook group:

"Okay okay okay okay….i will tell you….tell all your friends! lol

I was singing the high notes at the beginning and the end… and i had the lower notes during the And the rockets red glare section. The mystery is now solved!"
Gwen4791 TWoP


Incipit9 - Irrationally 0sup2;

"Expect the Unexpected." tm WTF!Cook

I have questions about singing harmony. My understanding is that singing harmony is like making chords with vocals...but it is not as simple as just singing 2 notes above the melody. It seems to my tone deaf ears that harmony is very complicated.

Rob C said that he was amazed at David's instinctive ability to sing harmony without thinking so I'm thinking it must be a difficult thing.

I am not a singer, so how does one develop such an ability. Would he have to had sung harmony in theater or choir to learn this? How do most groups figure out the harmonies. Is it by trial and error or would it be written out. Is it possible to "just know" like how some people can play an instrument by ear. Would being able to sing harmony so well be more indicative of extensive experience or is it a talent. Where could he have learned this? Or is this part of being a gifted singer?

I'm also thinking of David and Andrew singing the SSB together. Can anyone tell who was singing the melody and who was doing the harmony? I'm guessing that Andrew sang the melody and David sang the harmony.

The best revenge is massive success. ~Frank Sinatra

Neal is the lead guitarist, and as such he will play up and down the neck at various positions. He uses the entire neck - lead guitar runs and riffs have a structured basis from which talented players then improvise (jam). Neal doesn't need the capo because he will just play in the position on the neck to match whatever key David and Andy are in while using the capo. On the guitar neck are inlaid dots at various frets that indicate the position - markers along the trail, so to speak. These make it easier to hit the right fret for the position needed. Players use the dots also to position what is sometimes called "power chords", or "barre chords" as you use your index finger to barre across the neck and the rest of your fingers to form the chord. Sort of an anatomical capo.

I hope this isn't too late to the fiesta. We've discussed capos and alternate guitar tunings. I'm puzzled by one thing. Neal plays the most complex guitar, but he has very few instruments (I've noticed only 3). I never noticed that he uses a capo. I have noticed that he uses the frets up and down the neck. Since he isn't playing the melody does the key not matter? Or is he playing the more complex transposed chords?

QueenJ: I have watched when he sings with the guitar, when he doesn't strum it, when he plays through and when he sings without the guitar. It seems to me that having both Andy and Neal allows him the flexibility to stop playing when he wants to dig deep on certain songs (it would take all year to go through all the vids to catalogue this stuff. Can't quit my day job and I do need to tend to fam and sleep, too.LOL) but still contribute his rhthym (d*mn I can never spell that word) guitar after the power singing.

I think that he sings certain songs without the guitar even slung around his neck because he wants to be fully into the song - not only vocally but bodily, too. We'll have to take closer note on this leg of the tour and discuss this again.

Zarita - good question about how contemporary music is "classified." What is pop and what is rock? I'm not sure how the industry divvies it up. It seems to me, for example, that AH and Axium stuff is rock. Now - what Kind of rock? Not heavy metal, not hard rock, not soft rock... I dunno. It can be helpful to watch various VH1 Shows about "the top 100...." whatevers. Yesterday we were watching the Top 100 Heavy Metal songs. So - groups like Zeppelin, G&R, ACDC and scores of others. You know it when you hear it and see the bands.

So, DCTR definitely is not hard rock and it's not easy listening either. I guess that lands it in pop-rock. I was disappointed that Rob Cavallo chose to produce David's first record in this direction. When I learned that he was chosen , I was thrilled because I know his work with Green Day. I thought for sure we would get a blasting and edgy cd.

However, given the circumstances of having to record under such time pressure, and the bringing in of so many cowriters, and the choice of lush high powered backing music and mostly David singing in power mode, DCTR is more mainstream than hard. A transitional sound that would not frighten away AI fans not accustomed to screaming guitars and vocals.IMO. YMMV.

Thanks for answering Taylor Sue, I admittedly know little about music theory but I'm trying to learn! I do know Joey plays bass, I just over simplified the question. Does David typically play the same as what Andy does or something else entirely? I can pick out David's guitar on some songs like Breathe Tonight and Souvenir but its usually because he's stopped and started at a certain point so I know which sound he's making.

Dropping the D has nothing whatsoever to do with minor chords. Dropping the D is just a different way of tuning the guitar. When you tune a 6 string guitar, each of the 6 strings gets tuned to a standard pitch. Each string, played by itself, is a particular note. Starting at the top, with the thickest string, the strings/notes are: E A D G B E. Dropping the D, dropped D tuning, means adjusting the pitch of the low E (thickest) string. It gets lowered until it is an octave below the pitch of the D string. So now your strings/notes are: D A D G B E. It's done for an interesting sound and to do fancy things.

A minor chord is a chord in which the basic notes which make up the chord are changed a little bit to make a completely different sound. A major chord is 1 3 5, meaning you start with your base note - let's say C because there's no sharps or flats in the key of C. Then for the next note of the chord you count up to 3: C=1, D=2, E=3. So the middle note of the chord is an E. Then you keep counting up to 5: F=4, G=5. So the top note is a G. So a C chord consists of the notes C, E, and G. In a minor chord, you drop the 3 a half step. So a C minor chord consists of the notes C, Eb, and G.

A song in a minor key has a completely different feel to it. Haunting, emotive, maybe sad.

David's guitar is the 3rd guitar, not the 4th guitar. Andy and Neal play the guitar, while Joey plays the bass. Why David does or doesn't play is something I've wondered about too. Is his guitar needed in certain songs? Hard to say. I think in A Daily Anthem, if nothing else, a guitar would interfere with his arm waving at the end. For Declaration? I don't know. If they would set themselves up in a nice boring row, close enough to each other that I could see exactly what each one is doing, maybe I could tell a little better. I have a hard time hearing what David is playing when he does play, except for Lie, which he plays by himself. And The World I Know. And whatever else I've forgotten. If I had to guess, I would guess that there is probably a musical reason why David plays when he does, and when he doesn't play, it's because it wouldn't add anything to the song. And for something like Anodyne, he has such a hard time remembering the words that it's all he can do to sing it. He doesn't need to distract himself with playing. And I would even guess that maybe there are some songs where he doesn't know what else to do with his hands, so he plays. That's just a guess and I have no particular song in mind.

I'll probably be a lurker here too, and I think this is an awesome thread!! To give my two cents (which isn't much as I'm not very familiar with the technicalities of music, even though I took piano lessons for 10 years) I love songs in the minor key...haunting and beautiful, like Permanent...I DO love to discuss possible meanings behind song lyrics, and I'll wait until that subject is brought up.

Been having a lot of fun catching up here today! A few questions:

To me when you talk about dropping the D, are you just talking about minor chords or am I over simplifying it? I know a lot of the songs I like are in minor chords.

I've also been paying attention a lot to the riffs in songs, I especially like the one in Mr.Sensitive. i can tell David notices this a lot in music he reccomends.

I've always wondered why on some songs David performs he does not play the guitar. Is there a musical reason for this or just a desire to not play it on certain songs like Declaration. Basically I'm asking is there a musical reason to need that 4th guitar on most of his songs?

cimorene, thank you SO MUCH for this thread. I am planning on enjoying it a great deal. I won't contribute much, being pretty much tone deaf and lacking in any kind of musical knowledge, but I'm willing to follow along and google what I don't understand.

I have a couple of questions I hope one of you can answer. I've heard DCTR songs described (on DCO and elsewhere) as pop songs with rock instrumentation, because they have pop melodies.

a. Is this true?
b. Is that what pop/rock generally is?
c. What's the difference between pop melodies and rock melodies? How can I distinguish one from the other?

Sorry, on second thought, too off topic, and not important. Carry on!
To redeem myself, Jen, over in the DWoP thread dropped off these goodies, and they seemed like they belong here: Piano lessons for Permanent.
Chorus and Verse.
Bumble also offered up some guitar chords earlier this week. I'll see if I can get her to share here too. Love the thread, even if it is a little over my head at times, what better way to learn, right?
~You are love, you are life, you are Peace of Mind~

He is SO lucky he got to write on so much of his first cd but I'm sure he realizes that.
It's just that I'm a fan of Kelly Clarkson too, and she had to fight to release a cd that she wrote on every song. The songs were really good too but now she's back to writing on half of her new cd.
I'm so happy he got to write so much too since I love his lyrics.

As I re-listened to the yahoo interview, I think David answered the question about why there are some songs that were written by other people. He said that he was allowed to write the whole record, but then they showed him the schedule and he had only two days off. So I think he was saying that they would have allowed him to write or co-write every song, but in order to save time or fit the record into the schedule they shopped around for songs by other writers.

I also wonder about all the co-writes. I imagine from what he says that he was given the opportunity to co-write and he took it. I remember one interview he said that they asked for his list of people he wanted to work with and they just showed up, which must have been very cool for him. I think given the time constraints they did put out a good record and David always says he is proud of it and supports every song. I can't imagine that they forced him to record any song that he did not want to sing. Maybe if he had more time they could have made it more complex or dirtied it up a bit or made it more organic.

ETA: Regarding David's guitar learning, in interviews he's mentioned learning to play along with CDs at home (someone help-I can't remember which interview or what records). In another interview he says that he played rhythm guitar for years and then when he joined the MWK he found out how much he had to learn about guitar. So played guitar for years, but only began to learn how recently, I think is how he put it. I think Neal and maybe Andy taught him a lot. And you do learn a lot just by playing with people better than you are (mostly a sports analogy). I think he is still working on it (any musician knows you have to practice even if you are a pro).
The best revenge is massive success. ~Frank Sinatra

CJT is the 'bullets/billboard' thread, the 'numbers' thread in other words, that's pinned at the top of the forum. it's nicknamed 'chartjames thread' or CJT for short -- and i don't know the whole story of that, i think it was perhaps from the old TWOP, someone actually named James who followed the music charts perhaps? I don't know.

CJT cracks me up -- always great to read though i can't keep up with it -- esp since they are inveterate inventers of acronyms and nicknames for various songs. case in point.... Light On, then LO, then 'boat anchor' because people speculated it would drag dave down since it was not a good enuf single, then Zenny because it continued its upward rise in a Zenlike calm way despite all the fan angst.

ya can't tell the players w/o a program over there. (Magic Rainbow for instance morphed into Oggy, for 'oh go F a rainbow', that's a long story, snerk.

but abbreviations do speed things up -- and ever kind of tribe has jargon -- even this one.

Re diff keys sounding different -- TaylorSue is right in that there's the same number of half/whole steps between the notes of every major scale and every minor scale. Technically this is absolutely correct. But i also do think different keys tend to have somewhat of a varied visceral impact. And Western music isn't the only kind of music, and there are other types of tuning -- half steps are not the last word, there are systems where quarter steps exist, there are different kinds of scales than the Western major/minor. (for instance, modal scales.... if you want to hear one in action, listen to Greensleeves/What Child is This). With an instrument that has variable tuning like a guitar, or with a wind instrument, or, of course, your voice, you can get varied effects by being bendy, to a degree, with pitches..... so there is an amazing palette available.... not just yellow but also goldenrod and lemon and ... mustard, snerk. (If any of you guys are Switchfoot fans I recommend checking out Jon Foreman's solo EPs released last summer, where he does some extremely interesting experiments with Asian scales/tonal colors.)

as for why pick one key vs. another, beyond deciding what key the song 'wants' to be in? for a vocalist, you're looking at not just what serves your composition but also what allows you to interpret most effectively, and to save your voice as needed over multiple gigs, and to maximize your strengths/minimize your weaknesses. in any voice there will be a 'break' between 'chest voice' and 'head voice' -- some notes where your power is lesser as you negotiate the shift between your lower register and your higher one. If you're lucky the break(s) -- some people have more than one break, if they have a big range -- are only a minimal number of notes. For some people it might be only a couple notes, for others maybe 3 or 4. You can learn techniques to mitigate this, disguise it and slide over it, but you can't completely wipe it out. (if you start singing with the lowest note you can manage comfortably and then just sing scales up as high as you can, you'll see what i mean.)

Dave is blessed with a great lower register and also a beautiful falsetto (a la 'little sparrow'), as well as power high notes. (And i mean 'blessed' -- he has good technique, and he's developed it a great deal since the early Axium stuff, but -- to be born with an instrument like that is a gift, and he knows it.) If I were him, i'd be selecting keys that maximize these strengths but also allow me to avoid hanging out in any uncomfortable middle register for longer than absolutely necessary. Also... keys that allow a power high note, but not at the expense of vocal stamina over the course of many shows. Sometimes a simple transposition of a half step up or down can make a very big difference in your ability to sustain something a lot of nights in a row.

I laugh at myself while the tears roll down....

Taylor_Sue - well, yeah, ok, I see your point, and when I get home will fiddle a bit on the piano so I can hear it and then get back to the question. I do agree that it is often a matter of vocal range and comfort.

LO is what I call "the devil song" because of that lower vocal solo section. At the Gala in Nov, when I believe it was one of the first performances of it and he could not hit that note after the transition, I was quite astounded at the difficulty level. He has said how hard the song was to sing in the "making of" video.

Traditional rock n roll has its own favorite scale : C D# F G A Bb C according to the website I cited below; blues scales, too, work within their own framework and their chord patterns can be "very simple." Yet the melodies that can be woven around basic scales and chord progressions are infinite.

Sometimes songs sound very much alike because of that. After George Harrison lost his plagiarism case regarding "My Sweet Lord" sounding like " He's So Fine," forever after he had his songs "vetted" by impartial listeners and he stopped listening to the radio (See Patty Boyd's autobiography, "Wonderful Tonight") for fear of inadvertantly copying other melodies.

When you work within certain keys and chord progressions, such "borrowing" can happen.

What is CJT? People keep referring to it! I don't know what it is!

"Officially declaring my lurker status!"

Me too! I think this thread is a great idea, though I don't think I'll have much to contribute. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts, and hopefully eventually learning enough to have something to add. I have no musical training, but my husband comes from a family of professional musicians, and our kids were lucky enough to inherit his abilities, and not my lack of ability. So, I'm used to listening to conversations about music that I don't completely understand! Thankfully, I am sometimes able to express my thoughts about a particular piece of music well enough to get my husband to understand what I'm trying to say, and to translate it into musical language for me, so if I ever sound intelligent on the subject, it's thanks to him. Thanks to everyone who's posted already, I'm enjoyed the conversation so far. I can tell that this is going to be another challenging and interesting thread, just like CJT.

I did already know what a capo is though, since I live with a couple of guitar players! My son is prone to using household objects as makeshift capos lately, and I've been regaled with stories of how Dwayne Allman taught himself slide guitar using a medicine bottle while he was bedridden for a while. I'd love to hear some stories about how David and the band learned to play, their influences, etc. I know we heard a little from David last year, and I remember a story about Neal punching a wall and injuring his hand so badly that his guitar-playing was threatened,but I want to know more, and about the other guys!

It's easy when it's done being hard. (Therapy/ Axium)

David_Cook_Wav... I'm sorry you had a bad experience after the concert. I wish I could answer your questions. You're one of a multitude of fans things like that have happened to, and your concert was one of the many in which he didn't come out. As for the group of people who did get through, I don't know. Maybe you can find an answer somewhere in the concert thread. Actually, you should probably repost your post in the concert thread. Maybe more people will see it and maybe someone can answer you.

Jayelgee, I don't think sharps and flats have a different sound. A normal scale starts on a base note and then goes up by a whole or half step in a certain pattern. When you start on a different base note, you have to then put in some sharps and flats to continue the pattern.

For chords, like the B vs. C that redana mentioned, a B is a more complex chord than a C. So what do you do? If you want to keep it in C, play a more complex version of a C chord!

Yes, David is very fond of minor keys, which have a different pattern of whole and half steps in the scale.

"A transcription I have of Straight Ahead has the chords in the key of Db major." This is David's thing. He can't be simple and do it in either C or D, he has to do Db. C is down a half step, D is up a half step from Db. E is up a step and a half. The reason I think he does this is because of his voice. He sings in whatever key he wants in order to maximize his voice and it just comes out this way. In order to sound as good as he possibly can, Db. For us to play along, use a capo. For him, use a differently tuned guitar.

Light On really opened my eyes to David's little bag of tricks. He did it in the studio in a certain key, because he was able to do retakes, but he couldn't do it in that key live because it was too high. So he lowered it. But then it was too low. So what he does to play it live is use a guitar tuned a half step lower, and he lets the audience sing on the low part.

And for CBTM/ADAM that Cimorene mentioned: I've heard this before and don't disagree. But, interestingly, ADAM was written 3 years ago. And David didn't even write CBTM. I guess those similarities are his comfort zone. The timing, the melody, he likes it.

Regarding CBTM/ADAM similarities: It's worth noting that both are based on a very common and straightforward major chord progression (I - V - IV - I). Same as the "war is over" bit of "Happy Christmas," and same as probably eleventy hundred other pop and rock songs, too. Which is not a put-down; there are a lot of great, great songs based on very simple chord progressions and melodies. And, actually, I think if you want to write a hand-waving sing-along song for the end of your concerts, this is a great way to do it. Simple, catchy, melody; easy-to-recall lyrics ("oh, oh, oh, oh," isn't it?). The fact that ADAM so quickly became that song on the DeTour makes me suspect Cook had that in mind when he was writing it. That someday, when he was famous and thousands of people were cheering his name, this would be a song they'd sing along to. But, I digress....

Another note about CBTM vs. ADAM (someone stop me, please!) that gets back to my burning key choice / alternate tuning question. I notice that CBTM, written by an uber-professional team of American Idol single-writers, is recorded in the key of E. Which I can pick up my guitar and play, no problem. ADAM, written by Our Hero, is in... E-flat. A mere half-step key change that means I need to think a lot harder about playing it. It's not hard, because it's not a complicated song, but it'd be easier in E. Unless, of course, your guitar is tuned down a half-step, in which case... it pretty much is in E. So, again, I ask you... what's up with that?

ETA: I see that, once again, y'all have been busy answering my questions while I'm writing something. Thanks for that - it's cool to have someone to pose these questions to at last.

normanTC: Ah - good question ( I should be workin, doggone it!) - so I looked up the scales just to be sure I had it right. The C major scale is very basic, and when you write in it - it has no sharps or flats, your melody HAS to come out upbeat and cheerful. That's just the physics of sound. So, the B major scale, while still major, has 5 sharps and looks like this:
B C# D# E F# G# A# B

It will have a different sound .

Now, it seems to me that David and his various collaborators often write in Minor scales, which lends a mournful, sad and moody tonality to your melody. Again, physics.

A transcription I have of Straight Ahead has the chords in the key of Db major. If you transpose it down to C major, it will have no sharps or flats and therefore have a more perky sound. Transpose it up to E, and you have 4 sharps. I guess once the best key for the voice and mood is picked, chosing whether you want to go for sharps or flats becomes a technical and chord choice.

I hope this is somewhat of what you were looking for. Boy - this is making me brush up on all the technicalities and will definitely help me revive my own songwriting.

check out all the musical scales, including exotics etc at

normanthecat @ 13:23: Because of the way it sounds. Which is a trite answer, but as close as I can get. Different keys have different qualities and moods. A song can sound boring in C, but be tense and intriguing in B, and vice versa. It's not really a question of ease of playing, not with musicians of this caliber, it's a question of where the song 'fits'.

And then it's not just a question of being *able* to sing a song in a specific key, it's a question of where it fits your voice best. There are areas of your voice that just sound better than others, and areas that can be slightly problematic, especially the areas where you change register - of course if you're well-trained you're able to minimize the problematic areas, but they're never going to sound quite the same, nor feel as good. Some songs hover around the same notes a lot. If those notes are your 'problematic' notes then you're going to want to transpose to avoid straining yourself unnecessarily. A half-step can make all the difference in the world between struggling and flying.

In the end, I think it's a question of compromise. Finding the key that fits both your voice and the song itself. How hard it is to play must be secondary to that, especially when you have mad skillz like these boys. Eye-wink

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