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With what we’ve learned about that ‘unusual’ sequence of chords in mind, let’s check out a couple more examples of progressions with a similarly odd feel. First off, Milton Jackson’s ‘Ghosts In My Machine’:
And secondly, The Prodigy’s ‘Everybody In The Place’:
The Milton Jackson track uses a sampled minor triad, playing Bbm, Em, Em (octave down), Gm, Bbm.
Things are a little more complex in the Prodigy track, which samples an inverted dominant 7 chord.
Theo Parrish – ‘Ebonics’
Finally, let’s consider Theo Parrish’s ‘Ebonics’, one of the ultimate examples of a track which breaks all the theoretical rules and still ends up sounding incredible:
The track is built around a sampled minor 9 chord (introduced at 1:05), which contains five notes, and is played at six different pitches in the track – F#, G, E, D, C, and B – forming a progression in which a large number of the notes and chords are totally out of key.
Here’s how the original sampled chord looks and sounds:
And here’s how it sounds when replayed to form the chord progression in ‘Ebonics’:
Rather than being restricted to following the chord progression, the sampled chord in this case is treated as a melody, with the bassline moving around the 1st and 4th of the scale, the F# and the B.
The oft-repeated adage that keys and scales aren’t important as long as the track ends up sounding ‘good’ is typically a lazy dismissal of music theory. If there’s one thing our Passing Notes series aims to demonstrate it’s that theory is relevant to dance music and that there are theory-based reasons why some of the greatest dance tracks are so effective, even if that theory isn’t always consciously applied. However, in the case of ‘Ebonics’, attempting to analyse the key of the track or the harmonic development of those complex sampled chords is missing the point; it’s a masterpiece because it breaks all the rules, not in spite of it.
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Spitfire Audio is a British company founded by two film composers looking to revolutionise sampling.
They set about recording the world’s finest players in the best locations in order to capture samples of unrivalled quality. Used across the music, gaming and film industry, Spitfire has become the go-to for producers and composers looking to add truly authentic sounds to their works.
With offices in Central London and a growing workforce of experienced music, film and recording professionals, their revolution continues.