Have you been practicing your solid, broken and inverted triads for days/weeks/months on end? Are you starting to wonder ‘what are these things good for?’ Well, ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay is a perfect example of how piano theory and exercises can be translated into something very musical, provided you know how to combine just a few easy chords. So let’s dive into what makes ‘Clocks’ tick…
The Key Signature
Clocks is written in the key of Eb major. Well, at least that’s how I think of it, seeing as the main tonal center of the song is based around Eb major. The one consideration you’ve got to keep in mind is that there is one accidental note that you’ll find in this song. An ‘accidental’ is just a fancy music-theory way of saying a note that doesn’t naturally appear within the key of the song. In the case of Clocks, that accidental is going to be Db. So keep in mind that the four black keys needed for this song are Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db.
Chris Martin - the lead singer of Coldplay, likely singing a Coldplay song
The Main Progression
The main progression of this song consists of three chords: Eb, Bb minor, and F minor. You can familiarize yourself with just the solid version of each triad in the inversions they can be found at. Those inversions are Eb in first inversion (G - Bb - Eb) Bb minor in second inversion (F - Bb - Db) and F minor in root position (F - Ab - C).
The main element that makes this song such a classic is that riff that kicks off the song and punctuates each chorus. And once you get the hang of it, that riff is super easy to play! Take those three chords in the inversions mentioned above and play them instead in a broken triad pattern in this order:
top - middle - bottom - top - middle - bottom - top - middle.
Each of the chords will follow this movement, but it’s all about the rhythm of how each note is played so make sure to keep that metronome going as you practice this!
uhhh, guys? Would it kill ya to SHOWER before the photoshoot?
The Verse Melody
If you want to create an instrumental arrangement of this song, you’ll have to take a look at what the vocal melody is doing in the verses. Luckily, this is quite simple, using many of the same notes as the riff. Again, when you’re practicing this section of the song, bear in mind that there’s still that accidental note (Db) so keep that in mind as you practice this scale-motion feel of the vocal melody on the piano.
The bridge is the first and only part of the song that uses different chords, switching to Gb, Db, and Ab. In this section of the song, you have the most creative license due to the guitar-driven nature of the bridge. But this bridge also gives you an opportunity to use a cool and effective technique to drive momentum on the piano. It’s so surprising that it might shock you how effective it is. All you have to do is repetitively pedal that Db note in an 8th note rhythm, swapping out for a C to reflect the Ab chord change, mimicking that guitar part. It’s amazing how effective this is to create an awesome bridge part.
The Reprised Riff
The song closes off with a revised version of that riff that works with that same right hand pattern as written above, but with slightly different notes. This time instead of directly playing the triad notes, you’ll play two consistent ‘anchor-notes’ (Ab - G) with your bottom note reflecting the chord change. So when you’re playing Eb in the left hand, the three notes you’ll be playing are Ab, G, Eb. When you switch to the Bb minor, the only note you change will be the bottom note, swapping Eb, for Db. The F minor chord will be reflected in the right hand by swapping Db for C.
Practicing This Song
This song is a total blast to play along to the track with. It’s also a ton of fun to create your own adaptation of it instrumentally. So have fun playing the song as I’ve demonstrated, and once you feel comfortable with the groundwork of the song, shift your mindset over into creating your own unique arrangement of it!