There's Only So Many Ways To Combine Chords...

from the so-stop-worrying-about-copying dept

The whole Coldplay/Joe Satriani copyright fight is pretty silly for a a variety of reasons. Yes, there are some similarities, but there's a ton of stuff in music that sounds the same. There's a great chapter in James Boyle's The Public Domain all about Ray Charles' song I Got A Woman, where Boyle goes back in time to show how Charles' song basically copies from a few others (in some cases rather blatantly) in order to effectively invent soul music. Then he moves forward and looks at how others have built off of Charle's song as well. You can read the whole chapter (and, indeed, the whole book) online. The chapter in question is Chapter 6: I Got a Mashup.

Then, of course, many folks have seen the comedian who points out how many songs are based on the same basic progression as Pachelbel's Canon in D:


Along those lines, reader Bill Squire has sent in this similar video about how many songs use the same basic chord progression as Journey's Don't Stop Believing:
And yet, now some people are worried that one musician has come up with a similar song?

Filed Under: chords, humor, music, similarity


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  1. identicon
    Anon2, 23 Jan 2009 @ 9:44am

    As Jeff points out, it's about far more than just chord progression -- and in this particular case it's about not just chords plus melody, but pretty much every aspect of the song, from the rhythm, bass line and time signature to the lead guitar lines. Combine that with timing, and it at least raises a question.

    I think the laws should be interpreted a bit more loosely in terms of artists riffing off each other, whether it's remixes, mash-ups, samples, or new interpretations of previously published, recorded or performed musical works. But I'm not so sure it's a good idea to strip away all protections, that should be up to each individual artist to decide. In the long run, it may well be that the artists who adopt more liberal stances on what subsequent artists can do with their works will do better by one measure or another, or it may not. But allowing the market to decide by having multiple systems for allocation of rights in artistic creations seems to me to be the best way to go about it, rather than just tearing everything down. That's what's going on in the open-source software movement, I don't see why the approach should be any different when it comes to music.

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