Published on August 14th, 2012 | by Tom1
Radiohead’s Creep and some questions on chords – Correspondence with Trey part 1
A reader of the blog emailed me with some questions and agreed that I could share our correspondence with you. Here’s an abridged version of it:
I noticed your blog a few days ago and, what I’ve gotten from it so far has been very helpful.
Every song has a chord progression but what about songs where there is no rhythm guitar playing chords underneath?
Like for example, the beginning of Creep by Radiohead.
The start of the chord progression is a G major chord, but when they play that song on the track, it isnt with just a g chord. Jonny Greenwood is playing single notes that might be from a scale related to the key of the song, but you have no way of knowing that. He obviously isnt arpeggiating a G chord and playing the notes like that. so… where does he get the notes he plays from? and how does that relate to a G-B-C-Cm chord progression?
Thanks for reading.
Just listening to Creep for the first time in years
At the very beginning the guitar player (It’s not Johnny Greenwood in the video, it’s the other one) is mostly just arpeggiating the chord, but he adds one note to the first three – the fourth note. So it’s a bit like G Gsus4 G, B Bsus4 B, C Csus4 C Cminor.
The fourth is that one note that isn’t in the G chord shape – the fifth fret on the G – it’s a common choice. There are lots of Rolling Stones riffs that make use of it.
Later on there are some other guitar parts in Creep, though they’re often hidden in distortion.
There’s a little melody line in the chorus:
Which uses the same notes as before, but in a different order.
Also at the end of the chorus, on the C minor chord Greenwood plays up a C minor scale – C D Eb F, ending on a G as it changes back to the quiet verse.
So where do those notes come from? Well changing to a sus4 chord is pretty common for a guitar player and Radiohead have just done the same thing on each chord shape. The C minor is the ‘unusual’ chord in that song, so making use of the C minor scale during the C minor chord makes sense.
Hope that helps!
If you have any questions about songwriting or music theory feel free to email me at indiesongwriter AT gmail.com
- Basics – Some questions about chords
- Basics – Some questions about intervals
- Basics – Guitar Chords Explained
- Stealing Ideas from Radiohead’s Creep
- Key Changes – Part Two