Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Shifty Music

Who knew that a key change would get somebody this worked up?

From The Truck Driver's Gear Change Hall of Shame FAQ:

Many writers and arrangers feel that when their song is in risk of getting a bit tired, it can be given a fresh lease of life by shifting the whole song up a key, usually in between choruses, towards the beginning of a "repeat-till-fade" section. You may have heard this technique informally referred to as "modulation", but the correct ethnomusicological term for the phenomenon is the truck driver's gear change. This reflects the utterly predictable and laboured nature of the transition, evoking a tired and over-worked trucker ramming the gearstick into the new position with his – or, to be fair, her – fist.

Contrary to what many people seem to think, the truck driver's gear change is in no way inventive, interesting or acceptable: it is in fact an utterly appalling and unimaginative admission that you've run out of inspiration and the song should have ended one minute ago; but you're under pressure to make something which can be stretched out to the length of a single. The concept of the truck driver's gear change seems to transcend all musical styles, from Perry Como to The Misfits, although my investigations reveal that it's most prevalent in mainstream pop, and, let's face it, it's unlikely to feature in hip-hop. But who's to say.

He goes on to provide numerous audio clip examples from Michael Jackson, The Who, John Lennon, Barry Manilow and others. I have to say that I'll never be able to listen to the radio again without listening for the dreaded "gear shift".

About the only good modulation I can vouch for is in the amusing boy-band power-ballad deconstruction "Title Of The Song" by a capella funnymen Da Vinci's Notebook.

(via Crooked Timber)

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