#1
Hey guys I am currently doing an essay exploring whether there are any similarities between Nirvana songs and Beatles' songs. It's been a difficult investigation but I think songs like "About A Girl", "Lithium" and "Come As You Are" bear some resemblances to Beatles' songs. Does anyone know with regards to specific music theory whether any Nirvana songs are similar to Beatles' songs? This can be chord progressions, vocal melody, form etc.

Thanks for your help, really struggling with this one!
#2
The Beatles' use of non-diatonic chords has had a lasting influence on British rock music (see the Smiths, Blur...) and these Nirvana songs display a similar non-commitment to their diatonic key signatures. Both About a Girl and Lithium use harmony from both E major and E minor.

Despite being in E minor, About a Girl has quite a novel Beatles-esque modulation to the relative minor of E major(C#m) in the chorus and uses bluesy altered chords(G and C) from the parallel minor(Em) to get back to E minor for the next verse. See the last 3 bars of "Please Please Me" for similar bluesy chord movement. The Beatles would often modulate suddenly away from the home key, but immediately start winding back to the tonic. See the chorus of Lady Madonna for an example of this.

Another typically Lennonian trope is to have melodies that follow vocal inflections and exclamations(I read the news today, oh boy!) Combine this with the fact that the Beatles were once disparagingly known as the "Yeah Yeah Yeahs" following their hit "She Loves You" and the chorus of Lithium can seem a little Beatlesy.

I think, though, that there is more of a David Bowie influence than the Beatles. Compare the repeated "I do" idea in About a Girl, with the 2-syllable phrases which litter the Ziggy Stardust album ("Five Years", "Hey Man", "Come on," "Alright"...)

I don't see much similarity in form, as Nirvana favoured verse-chorus form while the Beatles more often used bridges and middle-eights, intros and outros etc.

As a Beatles nut and a Nirvana fan, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Also why you reckon Come as you are reminds you of the Beatles?
Last edited by Declan87 at Jul 22, 2014,
#5
Quote by Declan87
Despite being in E major, About a Girl has quite a novel Beatles-esque modulation to the relative minor(C#m) in the chorus and uses bluesy altered chords(G and C) from the parallel minor(Em) to get back to E major for the next verse.


Did you mean "despite being in E minor" and "get back to E minor for the next verse"?

The verses of "About a Girl" have the progression Em - G. And the vocal line uses the minor 3rd. So the verses are minor, but the chorus uses chords based on notes from the E major scale, though these are modified as well, as the C#, G#, and F# chords are all major.

Nevertheless, I agree it's Beatlesque.

I remember Ozzy once commenting that the "hello, hello, hello, hello" part in "Smells like Teen Spirit" comes from John Lennon. And in retrospect, I can picture Lennon singing that.

I also agree that "Lithium" sounds Beatlesque.

And then there's "Something in the Way" versus "Something"......
#6
Quote by vikkyvik
Did you mean "despite being in E minor" and "get back to E minor for the next verse"?

The verses of "About a Girl" have the progression Em - G. And the vocal line uses the minor 3rd. So the verses are minor, but the chorus uses chords based on notes from the E major scale, though these are modified as well, as the C#, G#, and F# chords are all major.

Just listened to the song and the verses are indeed in E minor! I'll edit my post to reflect this
#7
Quote by GirlGerms
Hey guys I am currently doing an essay exploring whether there are any similarities between Nirvana songs and Beatles' songs. It's been a difficult investigation but I think songs like "About A Girl", "Lithium" and "Come As You Are" bear some resemblances to Beatles' songs. Does anyone know with regards to specific music theory whether any Nirvana songs are similar to Beatles' songs? This can be chord progressions, vocal melody, form etc.

Thanks for your help, really struggling with this one!

Elaborate please. What makes you think "About A Girl", "Lithium" and "Come As You Are" bare some resemblances to Beatles songs. It's better if you show us what you're thinking and we can discuss those ideas than if you just ask us to do your homework for you.

Also if you push and stretch far enough you can find links between just about any two bands, especially if one of those bands is the Beatles. They covered a lot of ground.

However, even if you find that the links between the music itself is tenuous I think it'd be worth mentioning that stronger parallels can be drawn in regard to the influence they had on the music scene and general culture of their respective generations.
Si
#8
As a card carrying Nirvana fan I can see a lot of similarities between Nirvanas catalogue of songs and The Beatles. There In Utero album has a stronger Rolling Stones feel to it but that's not for this chat.

'Pretty' songs such as About a Girl, Come As You Are, All Apologies, Lounge Act, On A Plain have a beatles-like feel to it. But then again, a truck load of 'modern' music does also.
#9
I think people should do their own homework.

Study a Nirvana song. Figure out what's going on theoretically. Study some Beatles songs looking for the same idea. (There are some great resources online about what's going on theoretically with Beatles songs).
#10
Thanks so much guys for your responses which are incredibly helpful. I have to do this essay even though I have limited music theory knowledge so it's quite tough. I am basically talking about how pop (The Beatles mostly but also a little of R.E.M) influenced Kurt's songwriting, but I must be specific about music theory. Declan87, thanks your response was so helpful!!

I was listening to About A Girl and I think his singing melody is just using a pentatonic; I am not sure if there are any Beatles' songs with this similarity. Thinking about it again, actually Come As You Are doesn't sound very Beatlesque but Lithium certainly does; that melody sounds so much like something the Beatles would write. Drain You is another track I can imagine The Beatles writing except of course without the distortion and switching out the power chords of course. I'd even say the melody in Sliver is Beatlesque even though there are some clear punk influences too in that song.
#11
Quote by GirlGerms
Thanks so much guys for your responses which are incredibly helpful. I have to do this essay even though I have limited music theory knowledge so it's quite tough. I am basically talking about how pop (The Beatles mostly but also a little of R.E.M) influenced Kurt's songwriting, but I must be specific about music theory. Declan87, thanks your response was so helpful!!

I was listening to About A Girl and I think his singing melody is just using a pentatonic; I am not sure if there are any Beatles' songs with this similarity. Thinking about it again, actually Come As You Are doesn't sound very Beatlesque but Lithium certainly does; that melody sounds so much like something the Beatles would write. Drain You is another track I can imagine The Beatles writing except of course without the distortion and switching out the power chords of course. I'd even say the melody in Sliver is Beatlesque even though there are some clear punk influences too in that song.


John Lennon loved using the pentatonic scale for melody. Jealous Guy uses it almost exclusively.

Threre's a good documentary on youtube by Howard Goodall that covers Beatles songwriting from a theoretical standpoint.

Edit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQS91wVdvYc
#12
Quote by MapOfYourHead
John Lennon loved using the pentatonic scale for melody. Jealous Guy uses it almost exclusively.

Threre's a good documentary on youtube by Howard Goodall that covers Beatles songwriting from a theoretical standpoint.

Edit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQS91wVdvYc


Thank you so much for the vid - very helpful!