Analyzing great progressions is not just an academic exercise- it’s a way to introduce new movements and musical effects to your composition lexicon. In this video, we’re taking a look at Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”, which is in the key of C Major and uses all of the garden variety diatonic chords in the key (save B diminished). In addition, it uses several borrowed chords and/or secondary dominants, and is structured in a way to really get as much juice out of the C Major/A Minor tonality as possible.
A few things to note- Pop music is not classical music. And pop can not always be described in traditional terms like Roman Numeral analysis easily. However I think it’s worth a try, and I’ve made some less-than-popular notations that are worth explaining. I name a Csus2/B and notate it as Isus2/7, which is to imply it’s the Tonic Chord (I) and it’s sus2, but it’s over the 7th tone of the key (B).
During that part of the video I keep calling it a C but it’s really a Csus2. You can also think of it as a Gadd11/B, then it would be a V chord. One other option there for that one chord would be an Emb6, it should provide a similar “slide” from the Am to the C.
Chords of Major: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8eItITv8QA
Borrowed Chords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IdttvJSedg
Secondary Dominants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=py4HaueW50Q
Minor Plagal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEadIDOBpuA
A big thank you my Patreon subscribers, and especially to these fine folks:
Don Dachenhousen III
Free online guitar lessons for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players. Located in Crystal Lake, Jake Lizzio provides free jam tracks and video lessons for guitar players, as well as music theory videos and other music education content.