Page 1 of 2

'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:32 pm
by studio32
What are the guys of Radiohead doing here?

I'm talking about 'Karma Police':

There is one cross (#) before the staff. So it's written in G major, right?
This is the chord scheme:

|am D9/f# | Em G | Amadd9 F |
Em G | Amadd9 D | G G/F# C Cadd9/B |
Am | Bm D |
| Am D9/F# | Em G | Amadd9 F |
Em G | Am D | G C Cadd9/B |
Am | Bm D | Am D9/F# |
Em G |Amadd9 F | etc. etc. |

My question, how can you use a F when you play your song in G major???? :roll: :?:

Here are some notitions. I'm looking what key they have used and how the chords is progressing, with some musical rules in mind.
To see how the song is build up, I try first to write down which parts are in the song (I = 4 counts/ one bar)

Code: Select all

Karma police / radiohead

73 bpm

G major

G(maj7) (g b d fis)
am(m7)   (a c e g)
bm (m7)  (b d fis a)
c(maj7) (c e g b)
d(7)   (d fis a c)
em(m7)   (e g b d)

D9/F# = (d fis a c e)
Amadd9 = (a c e b)
Cadd9 =
Am 2 (2 = equal to 4, 4 want to go to 5)
d9 5 (5 = dominant and want to go to 1)
em 6  (6 is equal to 1, so 5 goes to '1' and the one wants to go nowhere...)
g 1  (1 is chosen, you're free to choose the next)
am 2  (2 is equal to 4 and want to go to 5...)
f ?? (what the piep is f doing here?

em 6  (6 is equal to one)
g 1    (1 is going nowhere)   
am 2   (is equal to 4 and want to go to 5)   
d 5   (want to go to one and...)
g 1   (one is free to go... or is the end)

am  (2
bm   (3
d   (5
this  is what you get....
c     1   1
d/a   5
g      1
f#    ??
c     1

D major
d e fis g a b cis d



for a minute


intro (guitar/piano)

A (drums/bass/guitar/piano)


B (piano/guitar)



for a minute

for a minute



Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:34 am
by musicbloke
Hi, to explain why a chord of F is used in the "key" of G major...

Try to bear in mind that a "key" is a classical construct, it is from an era when you were only "allowed" to use certain notes in a certain way. These days, the only clue the key signature gives you is what the root note of the song is. This is in most cases the bass note that the song is constructed upon and centred around, and that it (usually) finishes on.

The F chord in this particular case is related not to the major scale, but to the minor pentatonic starting on the key note (in this case G). The flattened leading note is a feature of many rock and pop songs, but as from jazz onwards, starting i guess as far back as Debussy, the mixing and matching of major and minor scales is no longer a strictly demarcated area.

The development of music theory in this kind of respect comes as a result of the Church having to have a "system" with which to construct hymns, and previously folk song used these kinds of things all the time. The Church has been responsible for setting the advancement of music back by about a thousand years. Don't get hung up on their ridiculous theories (they are all to do with certain musical intervals being somehow "good" or "bad") and remember that the Church forever stifled people like Bach and Mozart into making music that they knew was wrong. You don't need a theory to construct a good piece of art. Just your ears, your mind, and your heart (which you know is telling you the right thing to write, to play).

Sorry, i'm passionate about this, because i wasted years looking for theoretical explainations to problems, but the answer is imagination and hard work.

Am i dribbling at all?


Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:19 pm
by Scary Hallo
Hi musicbloke,
I totally agree with you. I think Beethoven wrote a Book of music theory. And a few years later someone came to him showed him a score and sad: "You don't follow your own rules" And Mr B sad: "Okay, I just made all that rules to break them now" (very free translation :) ).
I'm telling this because I know this kind of discussion in my band. The bass player: "Why do you use the note ... in your solo. This song is in the key of ..." :arrow: Hours of discussion
And the other side is, if go deep enough inside the theory, I'm sure you'll find a rule why it is allowed to use F in G major.
No matter, my opinion is: music should be free. Do what you think is good.

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:56 pm
by kaimerra
On the note(pun intended) of mixing major and minor scales, you also have to remember that the church had even more scales called modes(ionian, dorian, mixolydian, lydian) that had varying degrees of intervals. Two of those modes that were popular became our major and minor scales.

This is all based on western music history and the even tempered 12 note scale. Scales and tunings from the rest of the world have been mixing into western music for decades now and can spice up an "old" major chord progression. :)

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:37 am
by musicbloke
what do i think is good?

any music that keeps its own which i mean that it must set its own rules from the outset and remain self-contained for its duration. But isn't that the basis for any art?

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:32 pm
by kaimerra
I feel like we are on way back down from trying to do everything within the rules, then breaking them, and making them up. With technology and communication advances in the 20th century the speed of art achievement increased incredibly. I kind of see John Cage as taking it to the next level...which made you think about what a level or genre or music or sound really is.

Classical music had its peak earlier and got simplified to a minimalistic form around the turn of the 19th-20th century. Jazz was evolved from its roots to hard bebop, to smooth Miles Davis and eventually to the deconstructed avant garde in the middle of the century. Then popular music picked up the torch and carried rock n roll to its extremes that busted in the 90s. You then had it get scaled back to bands like the White Strips. It's this pattern of do everything that hasn't been done in a while, and then get back to the roots. Each generation of kids forgetting melodies that were written in the previous few decades and then through the creative process write similar material whether by chance or subconsciously.

Now with recording technology so easily available to the masses, we are seeing the market and underground flooded with music of all sorts. Anyone who has the ambition and a few hundred dollars can produce works of audio art. The amount of musical history being recorded has gone through the roof and rivals the amount of live music that happens in the world everyday. I have no evidence of that last statement, but it seems logical that we will reach a point where live unrecorded music happens as much as recorded music everyday.

It will be interesting to see how this over saturation will influence music to come in the next few decades.

Anyways, now that I sound like an old guy shakin his fist at young punks who don't know how shitty their music is...that's just the musical history rant in my head of late.

Rock on wayne!

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:49 am
by studio32
Hey musicbloke, thanks, I like your writing. Also thanks to others in the discussion, interesting for sure!

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 1:12 am
by David Raleigh Arnold
1. In music, as in most everything else, theory follows practice.
--George Thaddeus Jones, in the intro to his book, "Music Theory".

2. Theory is clues you can use, not blues you can't lose.

Regards, daveA

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:02 am
by southpaw
Good discussion guys.

I would like to also point out that like music, theory is an evolving language. Correct me if I am wrong but during the classical period the language was written to favor consonance or mathematically even music. Bach was a good example of this as he helped pave the way for counterpoint. Where as by the 20th century, written music favored dissonance and compound time signatures.

I believe that no matter what you are playing, so long as it feels good to you and you are having fun with it then go for it. But I also believe that it is important to understand the language of music. There is a lot more to music theory than what was set forth during the classical period.


Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:37 pm
by Jan
I have mixed feelings about music theory. I learned to play sheet music and learned also about music theory. But, and this is a big "but", I don't like it to interfere with the music I am writing. Music for me is about feeling and moods, and I can't put that on paper. I am sure, everyone here has seen these kids on Youtube who learn guitar solos note by note, even if these solos are completely improvised and rely almost entirely on the player. I am sure these solos are liked by these kids, otherwise they wouldn't be playing them note by note. But it's a pointless exercise.

It's the same with classical music where everything is written down. Some players/orchestras deliver and some don't. To figure out what chord goes with a certain melody for example, a basic knowledge of music theory is useful. I do that all the time. But I (and I think everyone) follows the rules of music theory only as far as they don't interfere with the creativity.

Listen to the generic pop songs on the radio. Writing, production, lyrics - these are the rule followers. There seems to be a guideline everyone involved follows and the result is crap for the masses. It's just plain boring, and as a result everything sounds alike. I certainly cannot tell one hyped R&B starlet from the other. It is shocking.

I used to be shocked in a good way. Strange instruments, strange chord progressions, strange sounds. I remember listening to Sepultura for the first time around 1992 and it certainly was a big shock for me. I used to discover new styles, new bands, new music. They all somehow broke the rules.

There were times when it was conformist to be non-conformist (see Punk and what became of it). Like Dostoyevskys Raskolnykovs theory in "Crime and Punishment" that "all great men are criminals", all great musicians pushed the envelope and ignored the rules. The odd chord is only a little thing, but symbolises the evolution of music for me. And every revolutionist becomes a conservative the day after the revolution (don't know who said that), so I hope that odd chod progressions, odd time signatures and musical rule breaking would be regarded as a good thing again.

I really sound like a grumpy old man, but I will post it anyway.

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:39 pm
by om3
Looks like everyone puts their thoughts on general music theory here... :-) Let me try and answer the initial question. I think the F chord can be understood as a "modal interchange", that is, the chord is so to say "borrowed" from another scale. Although the song is mostly in G major, the F chord is taken out of G mixolydian. This gives the song a nice colourful turn, sounding a bit Beatles-like to me.

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:14 pm
by lintlicker
I'd also like to echo my appreciation of the role of music theory today. I'd also like to throw my opinion into the hat. I think that music theory can be used to bring ideas to new heights, or to crush creativity. Like any good thing, too much of it is no good. Look at the works of the Beatles. There's incredibly complex chord structures in a lot of their songs. Try a harmonic analysis on "When I'm 64". However, I do not believe that they sat down and said "I want to use [insert weird-ass chord here], how can we write a song that does this." I think creativity and inspiration need to lead, and theory should suggest answers and direction, clean up, polish, and ornament what is created.

Now, back to the Radiohead song. After listening to it, I do not think the song is strictly in GM. The chords in the verse do not seem to reference GM, and the song definitely does not sound major. I suspect that Radiohead is purposely trying to make the verse be somewhat key ambiguous. The chords seem to suggest the key of Am in the beginning, but they avoid using the dominant, which I think makes it sound more unstable. In the key of Am, F is the VI, which is a valid chord. However, the chorus clearly outlines GM, with C (IV), D (V), G (I), and F# (vii). Also the song is clearly in GM at the end. Assigning GM as the key signature might just be easier than trying to define the verse.

Cool song though. I've never been much into Radiohead.
I could also be wrong. I was never that great at advanced music theory. Couldn't stay awake in class. :) But seriously. Am in the beginning, becomes GM. Eerie.


Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:18 pm
by Гага́рин
kaimerra wrote:Anyone who has the ambition and a few hundred dollars can produce works of audio art.

Such as? Enlighten me, plz. I would very much like to find out who these artist are and enjoy their works of art.

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:50 pm
by manic_b
Jan wrote:Listen to the generic pop songs on the radio. Writing, production, lyrics - these are the rule followers. There seems to be a guideline everyone involved follows and the result is crap for the masses. It's just plain boring, and as a result everything sounds alike. I certainly cannot tell one hyped R&B starlet from the other. It is shocking.

Don't let that reflect too poorly on theory in general - most of these songs could be greatly improved by applying classical "rules": avoiding parallel fifths, using contrary motion, setting up modulations properly... Obviously these are not hard rules, but they sound better when broken deliberately by skilled artists, instead of unknowingly trampled by ignorants.

Re: 'Karma (music theory) Police'...

Posted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 2:21 pm
by Retro Banana
Classical rules were also quite important, if not limiting to composers. There is a possibility that the rules came by because of the tuning of their instruments. Many instruments sounded best in one key, okay in another, and howled in another. The rules made it slightly safer for the composer in a world of wildly varying temperments -- especially with keyboard instruments like the harpsichord and clavichord.

The introduction of equal temperment was extremely important, and it broke the classical rules, as did the diminishing influence of the church. No longer did we have to use a limited set of notes. Interestingly, equal temperment was helped by a Baroque composer, Bach, with The Well-Tempered Clavier, which had a tuning that could play well in any key.