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Babaluma

Houses of the Holy song theory behind riff?

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Hi all,

I was playing Houses of the Holy song and I was interested in the theory behind the opening chord. The song is in A and I was playing it as an open C chord shape (C on 2nd string 3rd fret, E on third string 2nd fret) then moving my little finger up a half step from C to C#. This move is quite unusual I think? I wonder if Jimmy was thinking of it as a C chord, which would be a bIII in A, with the semitone making it a Cb9 or was he thinking in A so the riff would start on C, the #9 in A, and resolve the dissonance to the C#, the 3rd of A? Either way it is an interesting use of dissonance, using a flat or sharp 9 is quite a blues and jazz dissonance but the riff doesn't sound bluesy to me, it is more punk or post rock even. A cool example of JP using his blues roots to come up with something new.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Babaluma

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As you've said, it's in A.

 

1st 'chord' is an implied Am (no root, so just C and E - almost a first inversion, but it's only two notes so it's not really a chord... There's no G present so it's not a C chord... If you're putting the G in you're playing too many notes!) 

2nd 'chord' makes the minor 3rd (C) a major 3rd (C#) so A major (with the C# at the bottom, so again almost a first inversion). 

3rd 'chord' is cementing the riff into A with an A5, and the riff eventually ends on a fully realised A6 chord (AEAC#F#). 

 

You wouldn't describe the C as a #9 (especially as the bottom note of a chord) it would be a simple b3. If there was a major third in the chord you could then get away with thinking it was a 9th, but it's simply a diad, or a two note interval

The chord you seem to be playing at that point would be a C#min b5 or a C#dim without the 7th (root, b3, b5, or C# E G), which is interesting in itself, but incorrect. 

It's definitely blues based - the riff is a truncated part of the beginning section of Bring It On Home, the main riff for Rock and Roll and can also be heard in Boogie With Stu.... If you know what you're listening for! 

Edited by woz70

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12 hours ago, woz70 said:

As you've said, it's in A.

 

1st 'chord' is an implied Am (no root, so just C and E - almost a first inversion, but it's only two notes so it's not really a chord... There's no G present so it's not a C chord... If you're putting the G in you're playing too many notes!) 

2nd 'chord' makes the minor 3rd (C) a major 3rd (C#) so A major (with the C# at the bottom, so again almost a first inversion). 

3rd 'chord' is cementing the riff into A with an A5, and the riff eventually ends on a fully realised A6 chord (AEAC#F#). 

 

You wouldn't describe the C as a #9 (especially as the bottom note of a chord) it would be a simple b3. If there was a major third in the chord you could then get away with thinking it was a 9th, but it's simply a diad, or a two note interval

The chord you seem to be playing at that point would be a C#min b5 or a C#dim without the 7th (root, b3, b5, or C# E G), which is interesting in itself, but incorrect. 

It's definitely blues based - the riff is a truncated part of the beginning section of Bring It On Home, the main riff for Rock and Roll and can also be heard in Boogie With Stu.... If you know what you're listening for! 

 

Thanks for this very helpful and interesting!

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