As a follow-up to my previous post, this one will look specifically at the use of the minor dominant chord in "From Me To You".
"I remember being very pleased with the middle eight because there was a strange chord in it, and it went into minor: 'I've got arms that long...' We thought that was a very big step." -Paul McCartney, Anthology p. 94
The "strange chord" McCartney refers to is an A minor chord. But an A minor chord in an of itself is nothing terribly original or innovative (or strange) - A minor chords appear in "Misery", and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" from their studio recordings prior to "From Me To You", and undoubtedly in many more of their early concert songs that were never recorded in-studio. What was new was the tonal context for that A minor chord. "From Me To You" is in D major, and in that tonality A minor is an unusual chord. The technical term for this is a minor dominant (a dominant being the chord based on the fifth scale degree - in D major, this would be the note A). A major (the major dominant) is much more common because it's more closely related to D major. The D major scale consists of the notes D-E-F sharp-G-A-B-C sharp-D. An A major chord consists of the notes A-C sharp-E, and an A minor chord consists of A-C (natural)-E. The A major chord, then, is more-closely related to the D major scale because all three notes that comprise the A major chord are also found in the D major scale. The A minor chord, on the other hand, is less-closely related to the D major scale because only 2 of the 3 notes are shared - both A and E are common between the two, but the C natural is not.
To aurally illustrate the difference, listen to these two MIDI renditions: the first being the version using the minor dominant (as it actually appears on the recording), the second what it would have sounded like with the more common major dominant. The more unusual chord will likely sound more normal out of habit (we've all heard "From Me To You" so many times that any change to the chord structure will probably stick out like a sore thumb). However, as my previous post shows quite conclusively, the Beatles were much, much more likely to use the major dominant than the minor. Re-organizing the information from my previous blog to show how one-sided this is, here it is again, grouped by use rather than chronologically:
Songs that use major dominants exclusively (41 total):
Love Me Do: G major, only D major chords (no D minor chords)
P.S. I Love You: D major, only A major chords (no A minor chords)
Please Please Me: E major, only B major chords (no B minor chords)
Ask Me Why: E major, only B major chords (no B minor chords)
I Saw Her Standing There: E major (although D naturals suggest E mixolydian), only B major chords (no B minor chords)
Misery: C major, only G major chords (no G minor chords)
Anna (Go To Him): D major, only A major chords (no A minor chords)
Chains: B-flat major, only F major chords (no F minor chords)
Boys: E major, only B major chords (no B minor chords)
Baby it's You: G major, only D major chords (no D minor chords)
There's a Place: E major, only B major chords (no B minor chords)
Twist and Shout: D major, only A major chords (no A minor chords)
Thank You Girl: D major, only A major chords (no A minor chords)
She Loves You: G major, D majors and D7 (with a flat 6th), no D minors
It Won't be Long: E major, only B major (7) chords, no B minors
All My Loving: E major, all B and B7 chords
Till There Was You: F major, all C major chords except one C+ and a few either Gm7/C or C11(-3)
Little Child: E major (mixolydian?), all B7 chords
Please Mister Postman: A major, all E chords are major (no E minor chords)
Roll Over Beethoven: D major, all A chords are major (in fact, every single chord in the whole song is major - there are no minor chords at all!)
Hold Me Tight: F major, all dominants are dominant seventh chords
You've Really Got a Hold on Me: A major, all E chords major, and sometimes 7
I Wanna Be Your Man: E major (mixolydian?), all B chords major, and sometimes 7
Devil in her Heart: G major, all D's are dominant 7 chords
Not a Second Time: G major, dominants used sparingly, all D majors, and sometimes 7
Money (That's What I Want): E major (mixolydian?), every single B chord is a V7
This Boy: D major, every A chord is a V7
Long Tall Sally: G major, every D is a V7
I Call Your Name: E major (mixolydian?), every B is a V7
Slow Down: C major, all G chords are V
Matchbox: A major (mixolydian?), all E chords are V7
A Hard Day's Night: G major, the famous first chord functions (sort of) as a dominant. But it could also be a tonic with the 5th in the bass. Rather similar to the "Appalachian Spring Chord" in that the sense of harmonic propulsion is attenuated by elements of both tonic and dominant chords sounding simultaneously. Throughout the verses, choruses, and middle 8, the dominant is used quite sparingly - always as V or V7.
I Should Have Known Better: G major, lots of D chords - all V or V7
If I Fell: D major, several A chords - all V7
I'm Happy Just to Dance With You: E major, several B chords - V, V7, V7+, Vadd6
Tell Me Why: D major, standard V7 chords until coda which features a V11 and V13
Can't Buy Me Love: C major, several V7 chords and a smattering of Vadd6 chords
Any Time At All: D major, standard V and V7
I'll Cry Instead: G major, a couple V7 chords and a great many V11(-3) chords - the same chord found in "Til There Was You"
When I Get Home: C major,all V7
I'll Be Back: A major (could make a case for minor), the dominant (always V - never V7 always resolves to A major
Songs that use both major and minor dominants (6 total):
Do You Want to Know a Secret: E major, mostly B major chords but a few B minors in the middle 8. B minor hinted at in introduction.
From Me To You: C major, G major in verses but minor in middle 8 (plus one G+)
I'll Get You: D-flat major, mostly A-flat (7), occasional A-flat minors
Don't Bother Me: E minor, mostly B major and B7, a few B minors
I Want to Hold Your Hand: G major, D chords are major in the verses and choruses, but minor in the middle 8s. (Just like "From Me To You".)
Things We Said Today: A minor during verses but A major in the middle 8; v7 common in verses, V7 used in middle 8.
Songs that use minor dominants exclusively (0 total):
Songs that use no dominant whatsoever (1 total):
All I've Got to Do: E major, not a single dominant chord is used
Ambiguous (3 total):
A Taste of Honey: F-sharp minor, ?. I'm gonna come back to this one.
And I Love Her: tonality ambiguous. I'm gonna come back to this one
You Can't Do That: G major (mixolydian?), all V7 but lots of bent thirds, making major/minor difficult to discern
Thus, of the Beatles' first 51 commercially recorded and released tracks, 41 use major dominants exclusively (82%), 6 use both major and minor dominants (12%), 0 use minor dominants exclusively (0%), 1 uses no dominant whatsoever (2%), and 3 are ambiguous (6%). Tunes using only major dominants are therefore 6.83 times more common than tunes using both major and minor dominants. This is what Paul McCartney was referring to when he claimed the use of a minor dominant in "From Me To You" was "strange".
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.