Avril’s Little Secret… Deconstructed and Remixed!

Avril Lavigne PhotoShe’s back! Or at least her little musical secret is…

But before I get into that, last week I did two successful workshops on technology assisted music creation at Brockville Collegiate Institute (BCI); a one-hour workshop for the grade 9-10 music class and a two hour workshop for grade 11-12 arts and culture Specialist High Skills Major students. We covered my six easy steps to compose and record the music for a song; I demonstrated how the music software I use works (including Reason 7 and Logic Pro X); we also started creating some music in class, including a dance remix of a chord progression one of the students offered (which we’ll discuss in more detail shortly) and an instrumental arrangement of a song one of the students wrote, which is going to be a great pop song I reckon.

One of the recordings I used as a musical example during the workshops is a preview of a song by a keyboard student of mine who is also a BCI graduate. My student wrote the lyrics and most of the melody, and I added the chords and altered the melody in the chorus. It features vocals from my good friend Amanda Keeley, which were recorded at Tone King Records, in Cardinal, ON. It can be heard below:

(“Let It Rain” Lyrics and Music ©2014 Allison Caldwell)

Song vocals recorded on this bad boy (Neumann KMS 105 Condenser Mic)

Song vocals recorded on this badboy (Neumann KMS 105 Condenser Mic)

I thought I’d use this track as an example here of two ways to use a standard chord progression pattern in a song, in this case the Avril Lavigne Secret Chord Progression, or Avril Lavigne progression for short.

One is to just use the chord pattern as is. The other is to add intermediate chords to the chord progression to somewhat disguise it.

In the key of F, the Avril Lavigne progression is as follows:

||: D- Bb | F C :||

As mentioned in previous entries, I don’t normally use the Avril Lavigne progression in the songs I write, in part because it is arguably the most over-used progression in contemporary popular music.

In this song however, this is the exact progression I use during the pre-chorus (0:17-0:25), and later at the end of the chorus (0:54-1:02). I wanted this song to have a contemporary pop sound, so the Avril Lavigne progression seemed the logical choice. It fit with the melody too, which always helps.

In the first four bars of the song’s chorus (0:37-0:45), it may sound like a completely different chord progression is used, but it’s actually an extended version of the same progression using some first inversion triads, notated below as ‘slash chords’:

| D- D-/F | Bb | F F/A | C |

which translates to:

| D- | Bb | F | C |

I didn’t intend to use the same progression here, these are just the chords I thought sounded best for that particular melody (which was derived from the verse of the song, which features a completely different chord progression than the pre-chorus). As an unintended consequence, using an elaborated and/or disguised version of the same chord progression gives the song a greater sense of musical coherence in my humble opinion.

I could talk about this sort of thing for hours, but that’s as nerdy as I’ll get on this subject… for now.

I’ll conclude this entry by sharing an excerpt of the dance remix from the above-mentioned hour-long workshop last week. Incidentally, the chord progression offered by the student to be remixed was of course (as she soon learned) the Avril Lavigne progression. There’s nothing new under the sun it seems.

(“Avril Lavigne Dance Remix” © 2014 Bryne Carruthers)