This week we’re going to look at Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger
We’re going to look at what we can learn from another overplayed song. It’s fun to look at songs or “ear worms” that you know so well you can sing them without hesitation. Even though they may now be considered “cheesy“, there are good lessons to be learned. I mean, something must have worked. Not everybody was on drugs in the 80’s!! I bet if you walk the streets of Williamsburg long enough, you’re likely to hear an “ironic” version coming from a dingy rehearsal space. I should warn you upfront not to play Eye of the Tiger in its entirety. Doing so may attract hipsters or cause you to appear in a Starbucks commercial with some dude named Glen that I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know.
Let’s take a look:
The song is in the key of C minor (Its relative major is Eb). The songs main riff is built on pedal tone. A pedal tone is a sustained bass note that remains static as other chords are played on top. Sometimes this may be referred to a pedal point. In this song there is a pedal tone of C that remains constant while other chords play.
When the second guitar part in Eye of the Tiger is added in bar 5 you’ll see power chords. A power chord is a two note chord that consists of the root and 5th. There is no 3rd present. Its a camouflage chord. Its not major nor minor.
Guitar 2 is super imposing chords over our pedal tone adding tension to the droning C. Kinda like cousins that show up unannounced. The imposed chords are Bb (VII chord of C minor) and Ab (VI of C minor and our relative major key) and G minor (minor V of C minor).
The super imposed chords in Eye of the Tiger can also be thought of as slash chords. No, not Slash from Guns N’ Roses!! A slash chord is a chord with a specified bass note (root) that plays below a specified chord. They are separated by a slash. So we have C, Bb/C and Ab/C. We can say Bb over a C root and Ab over a C root. Or you can say whatever the voices tell you. (pssst, take your medication!!)
At bar 10 3rd’s show up to what was supposed to be a quiet night in. Doesn’t anyone text before they leave?!?! The 3rds sound a bit exotic in Eye of the Tiger sitting on top of the low chugging and super imposed chords. Such an 80’s move!!
This brings up the question about using pedal tones in songwriting. Have you ever switched from a G chord to a C chord and kept you finger on the low E string (G note)? That’s a C/G. What if you play an F chord and kept you finger on the low E string (G note)? That’s F/G.
Let’s look at some chords in the key of G with a pedal tone of G. The first diagram shows the open positions without any 3rds. The second diagram shows them with 3rds. So just like Eye of the Tiger you can experiment with tension.
In theory you can use any pedal tone you want and super impose any chord you want onto of it. Whether people will spontaneously combust from the sonic chaos you create remains uncertain. Whether you realize it or not, this is what works nicely with open tunings. You get a nice droning pedal tone and you play chords above it. Isn’t it nice knowing what you do actually makes sense? So give it a whirl. You don’t need 3 guitar players to create an Eye of the Tiger effect. You may desire some Revo sunglasses and a floyd rose, though. I bear no liability, as you should use responsibly!!