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Calling all music theory geeks/nerds/dorksDissecting The Dear Hunter


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#1 Ben Here

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 07:17 PM

A quick background on me- grew up in a moderately musical household, and followed my older sister into the world of public school band. I decided I liked it so much, I'd continue with my music education into college at Ohio State. A few years later, I'm now an active music teacher and band director.

That being said, I've come into contact with many different types, styles and approaches to music over the years. I truly enjoy many different flavors of music, and don't believe in limiting "good" music to qualifiers such as simple/complex.

On topic- if there's any interest, I was hoping to dive into some of the technical and theoretical aspects of The Dear Hunter's music. Allow me to clarify that I don't believe the band's works are good because of any particular technique or style, but rather I hope to simply examine some of those approaches used by Casey and the band.

I'm by no means an authority on the subject, but I'm looking for some of the neat, geeky things you may have noticed or even discussed with the band in their music. :)

For example...
-The intro to 1878 is a moderate 7/8 (before transitioning into 6/8), which I can only assume was an intentional nod to the title, or vice versa
-Many themes get revisited in the story arc, like the "sing softly" lines. I really enjoy the chorus in Bitter Suite 3, and it gets a reprise in Vital Vessel Vindicates.

All thoughts and input more than welcome.

#2 search

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 07:25 PM

I don't know if it's technical at all, but I love the way that Act II transitions flawlessly into every song. I think the only "stop" is between Bitter Suite III and Smiling Swine, but it's less than a second long. Also, the solo in Lake and the River is the melody from Evicted. MIND = BLOWN

#3 Scott

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:11 PM

this is technical?

#4 OurSerratedDust

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:49 PM

An awesome "musical reference" that can easily go unnoticed is the Evicted theme in The Lake and The River. Gotta love the sweet and natural sounding 5/4.

Also, I noticed a ton of interesting chord changes when I first watched the piano version of "What it means to be alone:"



I asked Casey how he does it so naturally, and he said that while he doesn't know much about music theory, he tries to use "accidentals" to make the chord changes flow properly.

The last thing is something I noticed just the other day. This could be me overthinking it, but What it Means to be Alone, he says something like
"Move our feet beneath us
and our hands to the sky
We extend our limbs begging 'why oh why?'

Don't turn away."

This seems to reference the hands and limbs of The Tree in the song 1878. "Don't turn away" seems references later in Act III (Son, I think) when he says "Turn and walk away."

Whether this is intentional or not, Casey has said before that he makes a ton of intentional lyrical references to themes and other songs.

#5 stretts

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 10:04 PM

There is a thread dedicated to inter-album referencing whether it be in lyrics or musical form:

http://lakeandtheriv...?showtopic=2339

I do realise that this thread is for technical discussion regarding musical theory of TDH music, though it seems there is some overlap - so just drawing your attention to that thread which has had a lot of cool things brought up in it :)

For example, the riff for In Cauda is the riff from City Escape inverted :themoreyouknow:

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#6 Snork

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 02:48 PM

View PostOurSerratedDust, on 21 June 2011 - 08:49 PM, said:

An awesome "musical reference" that can easily go unnoticed is the Evicted theme in The Lake and The River. Gotta love the sweet and natural sounding 5/4.

Also, I noticed a ton of interesting chord changes when I first watched the piano version of "What it means to be alone:"



I asked Casey how he does it so naturally, and he said that while he doesn't know much about music theory, he tries to use "accidentals" to make the chord changes flow properly.

the whole "prayers from above..." up to "the only one you have is you" section in What It Means... fucking BLOWS MY MIND
he fucking starts it with IV - V - I - V7/vi - vi which is basically one of my favorite chord changes ever with an extra I thrown in there to make it even cooler

and then he proceeds to arpeggiate a diminished chord with the vocal line ('...one you have'), which is badass in its own right, before throwing in a random bVII and going all mixolydian on our asses for the chorus
it's one of my favorite moments on act iii and one of my favorite dear hunter moments in general. it takes a pretty common secondary dominant function and spices it up just enough so that it sounds new before dropping some really unusual shit just for the hell of it
and it sounds so unbelievably natural and fluid. lots of bands write using strange chord changes, but casey makes them sound like that's where the notes want to go. it's what i think makes the music genius as opposed to just really well constructed. when he writes in something like 5/4 or 7/8, it doesn't sound like 4/4 plus or minus an awkward beat somewhere- it sounds like that's the only way the music ever could have existed

VERY few bands can pull that off

EDIT: also maybe this thread should be in a different forum? it doesn't really fit in any one specifically but i feel like it'll get more attention in the TCS subforum as opposed to here

#7 wax wings

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:08 PM

Dat myxolydian.
B)

#8 wax wings

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:29 PM

IV - V - I - V7/vi - IV
ii - V - I - V7/vi - IV
is what I'm hearing for 'prayers from above'

(edit: this is me realizing that you wrote that, just in a different way.)

But yeah, that whole song is incredible with all the shifting around he does. All while sounding totally natural and fantastic.

Bastard.

#9 Snork

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 05:34 PM

yeah you're right in goes to IV not vi

casey likes doing I iii IV or I V/V IV
planning a prison break, red hands, this song all have it


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#10 Sigafoos

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 07:33 AM

*
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View PostSnork, on 25 June 2011 - 02:48 PM, said:

he fucking starts it with IV - V - I - V7/vi - vi which is basically one of my favorite chord changes ever with an extra I thrown in there to make it even cooler

and then he proceeds to arpeggiate a diminished chord with the vocal line ('...one you have'), which is badass in its own right, before throwing in a random bVII and going all mixolydian on our asses for the chorus
it's one of my favorite moments on act iii and one of my favorite dear hunter moments in general. it takes a pretty common secondary dominant function and spices it up just enough so that it sounds new before dropping some really unusual shit just for the hell of it

So this is what it feels like for my grandparents when I talk about coding.

I hope to set an example. You know, for children and stuff.


#11 Snork

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 10:23 AM

Posted Image

#12 DerekAdams32

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 12:34 PM

View PostSigafoos, on 27 June 2011 - 07:33 AM, said:

View PostSnork, on 25 June 2011 - 02:48 PM, said:

he fucking starts it with IV - V - I - V7/vi - vi which is basically one of my favorite chord changes ever with an extra I thrown in there to make it even cooler

and then he proceeds to arpeggiate a diminished chord with the vocal line ('...one you have'), which is badass in its own right, before throwing in a random bVII and going all mixolydian on our asses for the chorus
it's one of my favorite moments on act iii and one of my favorite dear hunter moments in general. it takes a pretty common secondary dominant function and spices it up just enough so that it sounds new before dropping some really unusual shit just for the hell of it

So this is what it feels like for my grandparents when I talk about coding.

hasMusicalTheory ? :D : :wacko: ;
Posted Image

#13 uvtbass

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 11:30 PM

A few months ago, I wrote out Isabella from the Branches EP so that my sons and I could try out an instrumental version of it. As I moved from one chord progression to another, I was just blown away. Casey has such a natural feel for musical structures and how to evoke something inside the listener. That's within a song, which is amazing in and of itself. But then he does something similar across arcs of songs within an album, or series of albums, or across even the 9 EPs of TCS. The first time I listened to TCS (all 36 without stopping), I was blown away by the transitions within each EP and as he switched from color to color. How the frick does he do this stuff?!

#14 search

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:43 PM

he's a magician

#15 Snork

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Posted 14 July 2011 - 09:19 PM

guys let's talk about the white EP

specifically fall and flee and LOST BUT NOT ALL GONE

the mode mixture in that song blows my fucking mind. i never would have pictured a 'white' song having so much b6 and b3 in it but god damn it works so well. the chorus is fucking unbelievable

#16 kelso

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 09:39 PM

gyahh. Not anywhere near enough musical knowledge is in my head.

I've been picking up the acoustic guitar more than ever lately, its made me notice things. I love that a good portion of the new material has simple base chord progressions that are improved upon for the end result - it makes them very approachable. Its probably my lack of understanding but it feels like the acts are generally more complex.

I was going to mention both 1878 and what it means to be alone. Just incredible songs from a technical standpoint.
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#17 Ben Here

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Posted 18 July 2011 - 11:16 AM

The songwriting on TCS is just amazing. The more I listen, the more I pick up on. It seems like a lot of bands out there that make an effort to throw in some mixed meter or less common modes sound a lot more forced. I still applaud anyone that's making an effort, but when it just feels right and is harder to pick up on, it's being done properly. The 7/8 in Lost But Not All Gone is perfect, and the signature mix in Take More Than You Need is just freaking seamless.

Those of you with guitar/piano chops have surely noticed even more of it. Mad props to Casey.

#18 Snork

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Posted 18 July 2011 - 08:38 PM

this has always been one of my favorite things about Casey's writing
he takes unconventional time signatures/chord changes and makes them sound completely natural

music like TDH makes me less ashamed to self-apply the 'progressive rock' label

#19 TheStyxCrossing

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 07:56 AM

View PostSnork, on 18 July 2011 - 08:38 PM, said:

this has always been one of my favorite things about Casey's writing
he takes unconventional time signatures/chord changes and makes them sound completely natural

music like TDH makes me less ashamed to self-apply the 'progressive rock' label


I totally agree, Casey's use of chord progressions in particular blows my mind. And it's not even so much the chord progressions themselves as how he uses them, especially recently. It seems like during periods of a song that are repeated a certain number of times, he'll start using a chord progression that at first you think you know where it's going. Then somewhere along the lines of that chord progression he throws in some fuckin' crazy chord that not only throws you off, but sounds even better than the progression you'd expect him to use. And THEN, just when you're getting used to the crazy awesome chord progression, like towards the end of the song, he'll change it to be a much more comfortable and predictable progression, which I feel like causes this huge sense of melodic satisfaction (which is probably not any kind of real term whatsoever).

Two examples: The last time the chorus of This Body is played, the chord progression changes from a very disorienting, strange progression into a much more typical (and oh so epic) one. The same goes for Andy's bridge section in Deny It All. The last "Now it takes a while to pray" line takes place over what I feel is a much more satisfying and not disorienting progression. (Not that disorienting is a bad thing.) And that's exactly the thing about Casey's songwriting that makes my head asplode. Not only is he a lyrical genius and an amazing musician, he knows how to use every musical tool to make music that effects you emotionally. Or at least me anyways. I dunno, does anyone feel me?
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#20 KidArchitect

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:48 PM

I'm surprised no one has brought up the whole tone solo in Take More than you Need!

Although I'm not sure who played it (maybe Max Tousseau?) - that is by far one of the best whole tone solos I've ever heard. Pretty damn hard to pull that off without making it sound cheesy and overbearing. Kudos.
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