because i can’t

annoy my facebook acquaintances by posting the link to this youtube-film again, I’ll pester you with it. Now, is this in major or in minor? I have no idea. Does major or minor apply to pop music at all? This live version is a bit different from the album version. And I’ve listened to the album a million times, so it’s nice with a change. I’m totally crazy about Stipe’s voice.


Here’s another version yet.


29 thoughts on “because i can’t

  1. I’m crap at recognising chords or keys by ear and it took a bit of playing along on my keyboard to work out what worked. I think this song is mostly in F major but uses D minor too. Many pop songs are ‘in’ a key but have a chord structure that can incorporate any manner of keys over which the melody is sung. Is that any help at all?

  2. What? There’s more than just minor and major? F major, D minor? Oh dear Dog.

    I thought F and D were those, eh, tones, or notes, or what they’re called. I think there was a D on the piano.

    You see, I know nothing, even less than I thought I did.

    Thank you very much though!!

  3. You’re funny … I thought I was musically hopeless, but you’re worse :)
    All our brains are wired differently. But it’s definitely surprising that you can’t tell the difference between major and minor. I can recognize key signatures (each of them, A through G, has a major and a minor), but I had years (and years and years and years) of training, before any of it “took.”

    Happy/sad is one way to think of it.

  4. So, going by what Nick said…
    “The D-minor scale is called the relative minor of F-major. It is called the relative minor because it is related to F-major. How is it related? It uses the same key signature. Both F-major and D-minor use one flat as their key signature. Here’s what a D-minor scale looks like with a key signature:…”

    Minor chords will make Mr. Dog cock His head… Major chords will make Him wag His tail.

  5. He wags his tail to the fire truck/police/ambulance sirens. I’m not sure if they’re in major, but he thinks they are of Major Importance.

    ‘Happy/sad is one way to think of it.’

    It seems so, although I can’t hear the difference.

  6. “Major” sounds upbeat, satisfying, contains a resolution, sounds “right” to the ear. “Minor” sounds “one off”; maybe more meditative, a plaintive note, things don’t necessarily resolve, or things don’t go quite where you’d expect.
    I will look around and try to find some youtube videos that might help, I feel sure there is instruction on this available …

    Putting it in the simplest mechanical terms, the major chord is is the 1-3-5 notes of the scale. To make any major chord minor, you take the “3” down one half-step. The major chord will sound satisfyingly “right” (assuming your instrument is in tune), but if you just knock that middle note down by one tiny half-step, it will sound somehow “less right.”

    If you can try this on a piano, a whole step is from one white key to the next. A half-step will be from any white key to any black key (not always exactly right but will work for our purposes). so if you fool around hitting a white key and then the next white key down – play those 2 notes a few times; then after that try hitting a white key and then hit one BLACK key down instead and compare this set of notes with the previous two … you might get a sense what we are saying. If you have access to a piano try this and see if you can hear a difference in the quality of those two sounds.

    (stick with the places where there are 3 black keys together) … this is probably not useful but I will try to find a video.

  7. (for instance, listen at 2:10 where he compares major/minor)

    He uses the “happy/sad” comparison, also “sunny/rainy” “good/evil”
    That’s very simplistic of course …

  8. bonfire — for some reason your comment was categorized as spam, and I didn’t see it immediately.

    (I’ll be back and look at the comments later. Dinner time.)

  9. I enjoyed the live version very much. He does have a super voice. As far as I can tell the minor chords only appear briefly they add a kind of questioning feeling.

  10. I must run, but very briefly… (I’ll be back, I will)… I’m absolutely enamoured with Stipe’s voice. Maybe he doesn’t have a good voice, from some technical viewpoint (I wouldn’t know), but it just completely blows me away.

  11. questioning, that’s a good way to put it. major chords are definite, minor chords are questioning or uncertain.

  12. One other problem I have is that I don’t understand what a chord is. I can read about it but I don’t understand a thing. I just don’t get it. It’s like some intellectual blockage in my brain; I don’t know. Of course — the youtube video explains that it’s what you get when hitting several piano keys. I never got that when seeing the explanation in writing. But I still don’t understand a thing about the counting — I didn’t even know that stuff existed… Why not press 3 or four keys randomly? I get as much as a minor chord includes a black key. I’ll have to listen to the REM tune again now. To see if I hear the differences.

    The F and D and all that stuff I’ll probably never get…

  13. Bonfire:
    ‘note that in the above presented versions R.E.M. play the A7 (major) chord instead of Am (minor) in the Chorus:

    “I’ve been high, I’ve climbed so high

    That light some times it washes over me”’

    THIS is particularly interesting, because I do hear a difference — and I like this part of the live versions very much.

    Other than that, I hear no majors or minors in the songs… And I don’t hear the happy/sad distinction between the album vs live versions either. I hear there IS a difference, though.

  14. >Why not press 3 or four keys randomly?

    LOL because music has a structure, it isn’t random. Music isn’t the same thing as noise :)

    When I mentioned 1-3-5, I’m referring to a scale, which normally has 8 notes (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do – do you know that song from the Sound of Music? the point of that is to teach how a scale is constructed). In any key, pressing the first, third, and fifth notes together will give the major chord, and it will have a characteristic sound. Pressing any random combination will give weird mixes, some of which might be ok and some which wouldn’t.

    There are other scales, too, however; the pentatonic scale, which has only five notes, is beloved in Waldorf because of its supposedly spiritual qualities appropriate for children. That of course is nonsense; it’s hardly surprising that you found learning music difficult in Waldorf … complete nonsense was mixed with actual instruction, apparently. I do not blame you for chewing on the recorder.

    >Can you hear the major and minor in human voices too? Instruments that aren’t piano?

    Sure, it’s a characteristic of the melody, not depending on what instrument is playing it, whether piano, guitar, voice etc.

  15. Fascinating. Yes, I’m familiar with penta-tonic. I didn’t know the ‘normal’ was eight.

    I’ve seen Sound of Music, but I probably didn’t get the point of that song. Sometimes these small do-re-mi things appear in cross-words though.

    ‘LOL because music has a structure, it isn’t random. Music isn’t the same thing as noise :)’

    On the level of listening, I sort of understand it. On the level of seeing how it’s made, it seems totally random to me.

    ‘Sure, it’s a characteristic of the melody, not depending on what instrument is playing it, whether piano, guitar, voice etc.’

    I had no black keys on my pentatonic flute ;-) I mean, there are just holes in a flute? Even the other flute that came after (an ordinary recorder, I guess — I don’t actually know) had only holes, no white holes and black holes (or the equivalent) — I mean, they were much fewer than all the hundreds (?) of keys on a piano.

    As I’m sure I’ve said before, I was also forced to take piano lessons because every child had to play one extra instrument in his/her spare time. So my mum enrolled me with some very popular old piano teacher. She was supposed to be the best or something. It was awful. Absolutely awful. I hated every second of it, didn’t understand a thing. She was used to talented and motivated kids. Horrible. And although the piano wasn’t pentatonic, I still didn’t get it. It was all just gibberish to me. And, somehow, it bugs me I don’t get it. Not that I have to or need to or even want to, really — but the idea that my brain just won’t co-operate.

  16. LOL … sorry to laugh, but this is hopeless. Not because you can’t understand, but clearly it cannot be conveyed in written words via internet from Philadelphia to Stockholm :)

    Really I think youtube is your best bet, especially if you’re going to be watching a lot of youtube anyway and aren’t reading. I’ll try to find some videos that might help.

    And it could be that your brain just isn’t wired to understand music. Clearly you are amazingly talented visually (your photographs are spectacular, whereas I take hopelessly bad photographs, have absolutely no sense of composition or all the other subtle things you obviously do intuitively.

  17. That’s the thing — with photography, I have a sense of knowing (well, more like feeling) about the composition, it’s not the random thing that music seems to be to me. Just sounds jumbled together. I can pick up if something is off (it usually is). But with music… no. I know when I like something or when I don’t. But it makes no sense to me why this is. I can’t analyze it. Why is one random jumble of sound more appealing than another? I can’t get my mind wrapped around that.

    Pete — that page is just totally impossible to understand!!

    BUT! I just remember an instrument I had as a child. On that thing I heard the difference between upbeat and downbeat. I’m trying to remember what it was. It was plastic.

  18. just a small point but it’s not that one particular key is happy or sad by itself – it’s about the relationship between several notes together, or in sequence.

  19. ‘just a small point but it’s not that one particular key is happy or sad by itself – it’s about the relationship between several notes together, or in sequence.’

    I know, because I just read about it, in this very thread. Yet, it makes so little sense that it all gets messed up in my head. I seem to remember that the black keys on that plastic thing sounded more ‘down’. But I’m not sure what they were supposed to be, or what you were supposed to do — if you were supposed to press on key or several or in sequences or…

    The devil’s interval — that seems nice!!

  20. yes I like the idea of the devil’s interval too – i haven’t been able to check out the music in this thread yet.

    The black keys don’t sound more “down” as a general rule. Perhaps you are remembering someone trying to explain what I was explaining above – how the major can be turned into minor by taking the third note down a half-step. You could show someone this various ways.

  21. No I don’t think anyone tried to explain that. I’m not sure why I had that instrument at all, can’t remember any explanations. I was very young when I had it.

  22. Why care so much about major/minor?! According to jazz musicians I’ve been speaking to, rhythm/timing is way more important than harmonics/chords and melody anyhow! And then there’s timbre as well (for example how the voice of the singer sounded).

  23. ‘Why care so much about major/minor?!’

    Well, I wouldn’t know if it is something to care about or not, since I don’t hear it, but it seems so important to the rest of the world!

    As for all of it — harmonics/chords/rhythm/timing/melody/timbre… and so forth — the only distinction I’m able to make in music is between ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’, if even that. The rest is complete mystery!

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