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Analysing the chords of “All The Things You Are”

Analysing the chords of "All The Things You Are"
Let’s use our Clock of Keys to analyse “All The Things You Are”.
I should emphasise that this is my interpretation. You might find another musician might vary it slightly. I would argue that this is pretty close to an interpretation based on the Clock of Keys. The structure - this is a 36 bar structure, not a 32 bar structure - and I would consider its shape is A1, A2, B, A3. So A1 has 8 bars, A2 has 8 bars, B the middle section has 8 bars - the middle 8 - and A3 has 12 bars. They’re all called A because they are thematically related to each other.
Remember we are looking out, very often, for a major seventh because it’s a very strong chord and, very often, it’s suggesting that, at least temporarily, we have modulated - we have changed key to the (new) key centre. Let’s have a look at A1. A1 consists of the first 2 lines of the music, the first 8 bars and it consists of 2 halves. The first half is, with my interpretation, simply a turnaround in A flat, namely VI-II-V-I in A flat. The roots are F, B flat, E flat and A flat, VI-II-V-I. If we look at the next 4 bars - the second half of A1 - then I would interpret that as II♭-V-I-I in C.
So V-I in C is G C, but the flat five substitute for G is D flat - a chord rooted on D flat - so it goes II♭-V-I-I. Let’s turn to A2. A2 is intimately related to A1, but in terms of chords it’s the whole of A1 transposed up a major fifth - or, if you like, down a fourth. For example A2, the first 4 bars consists of VI-II-V-I this time in E flat major. E flat is the fifth of A flat, so the whole thing has modulated up a fifth.
Similarly A flat major7, D7, G major7, G major7 - the second half of A2 - is another II♭-V-I-I, but this time in G and G is the fifth of C, which is the tonal centre - the point the chords were aiming towards at the end of A1. So A2 harmonically has the same structure as A1, but it’s up a fifth, however the tune from bar 6 onwards is different. Let’s move to the middle 8 - that’s bar 17.
Well this is clearly a II-V-I-I in G. So we’re in G major. We were in G major before - we stay in G major. However, the second half of B is, with my interpretation, you’re looking for E major7, it’s a very strong point and you get to it from a II-V. So II-V-I bars 21, 22, 23. Finally the last bar in the middle 8 - in B - is a preparatory bar to get you back to the last A section. The last A section begins as the other A section - as the first A section - on F minor7 and the fifth of F minor7 is C. So it’s a C-based chord.
In fact, if you want to be precise it’s C+7 - C augmented 7. What does that mean? It means its C7 with a sharpened fifth. So C7 has C, E, G, B flat in it but if we augment the fifth - if we sharpen the fifth - then we get an A flat in there and the A flat is in the tune. That’s why the chord is augmented.
We’ll say a bit more about that later on when we talk about chords with altered notes. Now we’re on to bar 25 - the A3 section and you’ll see that the first 4 bars are exactly the same as A1. So it’s a VI-II-V-I in A flat. Then I interpret the last 8 bars as a long cycle of fifths taking you back to A flat.
If it wasn’t for flat five substitutions it would go VII-III-VI-II-V-I — VII-III-VI-II-V-I — so that’s a long cycle of fifths. However, the VII - which if you think about what the VII is in the scale of A flat - is a chord rooted on G. If we take its flat five substitute we get a D flat. So we get a chord rooted on D flat and that indeed is what we’ve got in bar 29. Bar 30 is a chord rooted on D flat. The difference is that the first bar is D flat major7 and the second bar is D flat minor7.
This is using our 3rd rule of the Clock of Keys saying the tonality can change - or may be either. Then we get to bar 31 - that’s III - and it would normally be III-VI-II-V-I. In fact in the last line it is II-V-I — B flat minor7, E flat 7, A flat major 7 — so the whole piece is in A flat and we end up on A flat. However, what about bar 32?
Well if it was a VI in A flat, that would be a chord rooted on F and its flat five substitute is B - but is a B chord - so it is a flat five substitute of VI, but it isn’t a B major chord or a B minor chord because the tune has a G natural in it and an F natural in it. All the chords B major 7, B7, B minor 7 have an F sharp in it. This has an F natural in it and none of those chords have a G in it either.
In fact what it is, it’s a diminished chord because G and F belong to that … the B diminished scale has got an F and a G in it. To summarise again, the last section - the A3 section - is VI-II-V-I in A flat, a long turnaround to A flat, namely with IV, which is the flat 5 substitute for VII for 2 bars, then III, then the flat five substitution of VI, which is the B diminished chord, then II-V-I. Then the final bar is just part of a turnaround to get us back to F - G, C taking us back to F. What does this all mean in terms of improvisation?
As you see, it has a lot of chords and a lot of tonal centres, but we can reduce our improvisation to just playing on 5 major scales. If you look at the chart in front of you, my interpretation - the simplest interpretation - is for the first 4 bars to be using A flat major scale. These are all major scales. Then the next 4 bars C major scale. The next 4 bars E flat major scale. The next 4 bars G major scale. Now we are at the middle 8. First 4 bars G major scale. The next 3 bars after that an E major scale, because it’s II-V-I to E.
But then that final bar is taking us back to the top - so it’s taking us back to A flat - in fact it’s A flat all the way through, as we’ve said, with this big cycle of fifths VII-III-VI-II-V-I, using flat five substitutes. So instead of having to have a whole welter of scales to agree with our chords, we have now reduced it to lumps of 4 bars at a time of 5 scales. Let’s see wants this sounds like when we improvise with our playalong.

We use the Clock of Keys to analyse the chord sequence of “All The Things You Are”. Don’t forget to download and print off a copy of the two pdf files below first since they do not appear very well on the white board.

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