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Analysing the chord changes in “Blue Room”

Analysing the chord changes in "Blue Room"
If you’re presented with a tune like “Blue Room” and you look
at all the chords and you think just scalically: I’ve got to play on the scale that agrees with the chord - it can be a bit daunting. Which is why we are adopting this approach of simplifying things and, as we develop our ideas, then enhancing the approach that we have. As we have seen, you can get away with playing “Blue Room” by just playing on one scale - pretty much. Now I want to develop that idea further. We are going to analyse this in terms of the scales that we need to use to make optimum use of the chord sequence. This is my interpretation, but I think most people would agree with it.
Let’s look at the first couple of bars. You’ll see over the top I’ve written Roman numerals. The Roman numerals all refer to the key of F, unless there are some parentheses indicating otherwise.
So you’ll see that what we have got is a classic turnaround: I-VI-II-V in F major. Moreover, the tonality of the chords agrees with the parent scale - with F major - and by tonality I mean whether the chord is a major or minor chord - whether the third is major or minor.
For example: Dminor7 because the minor third is F, which is in the scale, obviously, Gminor7 because the minor third is B flat which is in the scale and, then finally C7 and the major third E is in the scale. So I-VI-II-V and the point about the turnaround, as we have said already, is you just play on the scale. Those are the notes available to you; the notes of the scale F major. The same in bars 3 and 4.
Now let’s look at bar 5 and the first part of 6: Cminor7, F7, Bflat major7. Whenever you see a major seven you should take note, because a major seven is a very strong chord. It probably means - at least temporarily - that the tonal centre would agree with the major seven. In this case, Bflat major7 would suggest that we have modulated to B flat major. In fact, the way we have done it is via a II-V. So II-V-I is a very strong mechanism for changing the key. If you’re playing something in any key and you want to change to another key, just put in a II-V and you’ll end up in that new key. So II-V-I in Bflat major.
Bflat major is, of course, quite quite close to F. The only note that is different is the Eflat. That’s why we could get away with playing in F as long as we didn’t hammer the E natural of F while we were on that bit of the sequence, then it probably would have sounded correct. Then I’ve got a chord Eflat7 in parentheses - and parentheses means that you can leave that out if you want to, you can just make it a bar of Bflat major and we’ll return to this chord later. Of course, exactly the same thing - at the end on the last line - we have also II-V-I in Bflat major.
I’m suggesting now that we move on from one scale - F major throughout - to 2 scales: namely, play on the Bflat major scale in bars 5 and 6. Let’s now turn to bars 7 and 8 - the first time bars.
You will see again that there is a chord in parenthesis G7 - you could leave that out and you could make it a whole bar of Dminor7 - and then Gminor7, C7 would just be our old friends VI-II-V taking us back to I again. But, on the other hand, the original chord sequence has a G7 in it and the way, I think, that one would interpret this
is as a II-V that’s going to C: Dminor7, G7, Cmajor7 would be a II-V-I in C. Now when you have II-Vs they don’t necessarily have to make it all the way home to I. In fact, not only that, but you can have II-II-V, V-II-V - they don’t necessarily always have to immediately follow each other or make it to the home key. The key that is being signalled there is C major, because you’ve got II Dminor7, (V) G7, home to C major. So the improvisation - if you wanted to enhance your improvisation, would be better. Again, the only way C major scale differs from F major scale is in the B flat.
So as long as you don’t hammer the B flat when you come to play G7, it probably will be OK. So that’s what we’ve got in bar 7 - I’m suggesting that we play over the C major scale. Exactly the same thing occurs in bar 7 of the middle 8 - that too has a Dminor7, G7. So now we’ve gone from one scale, F major, to two scales, including B flat major, and now 3 scales including C major. Let’s look in more detail at the fourth bar of the middle 8 - on the music in front of you bar 14. You’ll see there’s am Aminor7, D7 and again this suggests that it’s a II-V in the key of G.
Now G is quite a bit different from F. First of all it has an F sharp in it and secondly it doesn’t have a B flat in it. It is taking us a bit further away from F and so, in some sense, is more interesting as a consequence. I’ll think you’ll find that we’ve now got up to 4 scales, namely the major scales F, B flat, G and C and we have just left out one chord which is Eflat7. Functionally, I don’t want to discuss this yet. We are going to discuss why it’s there, if you like, a bit later on. What I would like to discuss is, if we really wanted to be precise,
what would be the scale that you play with Eflat7: it’s E flat major but you flatten the seventh. That’s the standard seventh scale. That, in fact, is a mode of A flat major, where you root it on E flat. So if there’s time and you wanted to run a scale, then on that particular chord you’d run the scale of A flat major. How does A flat major differ from F major? Well, it’s got an A flat in it, rather than an A natural, it’s got a D flat rather than a D natural and it’s got an E flat rather than an E natural.
So it is a bit further away, in a sense, since 3 of the notes in the scale are different. So now let’s analyse it slowly as we go through. The first 2 bars are F major. The next two bars are the same. Then we’re into bar 5 and we play B flat major II-V-I which makes it to home.
Then we’ve got this one chord Eflat7: we play the Eflat7 scale, or Aflat major. Then first time bar, bar 7, we’ve got II-V for C major. Then we’ve got II-V for F major. Then it goes back to the top. The second time bar is just II-V going to F major. Let’s look at the middle 8. The way I interpret this is the first chord is the V of F major and so you stay on F major and then it goes II-V-I. Notice that we can go V-II-V-I. We don’t have to go V-I.
So that’s pretty clear: the first 3 bars are F major.
Then we have this one bar of G major: II-V - that’s how I am interpreting it - Aminor7, D7. The same as above, we’ve got C7, Gminor7, C7 but then we have in the seventh bar of the middle 8 this Dminor7 to G7 - so C major. Then we have II-V taking us back and the last A is the same as the second time A - so the chords are the same. Right.

This video looks in some detail the chord changes in “Blue Room” and the associated major scales.

You can download the “Blue Room” chord structure in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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