Question 2: Scales, notes, and composition

Question 2: “I’ve found with Interpol, that there is a tendency to stick to the same notes and chords. F major starts no less than 5 songs – four on Antics (i think). Is there in fact theoretical genius with the scales and notes used, or does Interpol’s genius lie mainly in the composition of the basic parts of the song?” – Josh

Before getting to the meat of this question, I’d like to quickly address a few of the concepts brought up by Josh, which are the concepts of “scale,” “key,” and “chord,” in music. These concepts are related, in that they provide for us a way of theorizing about the palette of pitches that musicians use to write any given song. Both the scale and the key of a song tell us the specific collection of pitches that predominate throughout the song, as well as which will be the most commonly found chords (a “chord” is generally 3 or 4 notes played simultaneously, all of which are found “in” the key of the song). “F major,” refers to a type of chord, called a triad, which contains the pitches F, A, and C—this chord is found in the keys of F major, C major, B-flat major, etc.

~ The fact that Daniel, Paul, and Carlos all compose their music on guitars (though, as you know, Our Love to Admire saw Carlos integrating the keyboard parts earlier on in the compositional process than he had done in the past) is an important factor in their choice of keys, and therefore chords, for their songs. I find it fairly common to hear bands favoring one key over the others, and from my limited experience with playing the guitar, I can say that my hand usually favors certain shapes over others (this is also true when I play at the piano). Having heard in several interviews that, when the band convenes to write, Daniel often brings in a short lick that provides the springboard for a new song, a possible explanation for Josh’s observation is that (at the very least) Daniel’s hands might favor the F major shape.

~ The latter half of Josh’s question speaks more strongly to my reaction to Interpol’s music: for me, Interpol’s cleverness lies mainly in the composition and collaboration of each band member’s musical line. Aside from being in love with their music, part of what makes Interpol a fascinating band for me to study is the way in which they write their music—each band member has a say in the composition of the song, and somehow they manage to reconcile their individual tastes and needs in a piece of music that communicates collectively and coherently. I am able to hear “Sam” while at the same time hearing him interacting with “Paul,” while at the same time receiving a coherent communication from all 4 of them (including the keyboard) at once.

Thanks for the question—I hope this provided at least some illumination.

Love from,



~ by megwilhoite on November 2, 2007.

3 Responses to “Question 2: Scales, notes, and composition”

  1. thanks so much. A very well crafted response showing depth as well as musical knowledge.

    As you’re a very talented writer (as well as a big fan of the band), i’d love to hear your thoughts on early stuff such as Precipitate and maybe their growth to now.

    Thanks again.


  2. Did you discover the notes/chords on your own or did you use a “TAB”?


  3. I’ve been playing for a while, so it’s easy to hear by ear that man of the songs contain F. I used tabs for ages when trying to figure out stuff. Guitar Pro is awesome.


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