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
    Nick, 23 Jan 2009 @ 10:12am

    I'm not inclined to immediately say infringement in situations like this. We are talking about a group of very talented people here that probably produce a lot of material over time, even if it doesn't end up on the albums. I'm sure in some ways there is crossover in other artists that they listen to and were influenced by so why wouldn't that possibly lead them to come up with similar ideas sooner or later at least a couple times.

    I can give you two examples from personal experience how such a thing is possible.

    Many years ago a very good friend of mine came up with a guitar riff that we jammed to, it was pretty badass. About a year and a half later Megadeth released a making of video for their album Youthanasia that had a short clip of Dave Mustaine playing a riff that was almost exactly the same as the riff my friend had come up with. That riff eventually was turned into the song Vortex off the Cryptic Writings album. Needless to say we were all pretty shocked when we first saw that clip but we also thought it was pretty awesome.

    Now, my friend was a HUGE fan of Mustaine, in fact Mustaine was/is his single biggest guitar playing influence. Sometimes you "channel" your influences and come up with the same thing.

    Another example is a song that a band I was in, wrote and played at shows, it was one of the crowd favorites to be sure. Again, roughly a year or so later Fear Factory released an album that had a song on it and that main guitar riff was EXACTLY the same. I mean it was almost uncanny. The song was Edgecrusher from their album Obsolete.

    Obviously there is no way in hell that we felt "ripped off" or anything. I mean, they were Megadeth and Fear Factory and we were playing shows in Northwest Wisconsin that maybe 30 people would show up for (if we were lucky).

    If nothing else it gave us a boost, made us think, "Damn, maybe we can write some cool songs after all."

    This is a bit longwinded perhaps but I'm just saying that influences intermingle, life experiences are shared or are similar, and that is bound to come out in the creative process. Sometimes it will be stunningly identical, sometimes it will only be vaguely similar. But it will happen from time to time.

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