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Intro to the Song Book

emg | history | the works | contact | home | 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Intro to
emg | history | the works | contact | home | 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Intro to

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

Intro to the Steely Dan Song Book

(a long time ago)

[For info on more recent SD Song Books go here]

Standing at the third sun-dappled crossroads of our career, having freshly glimpsed the thirty- fifth heaven, having kept our vow to put nails in our corporate ass, and, what is more, having been up all night smoking packs and packs of Delicados Ovalados, hecho en Mexico, we salute you: the loyal fandom of the Steely Dan band (hopefully that includes you, Mr. Sy Feldman of Warner Bros. Publications in New York City).

Because we are so rarely allowed to air our views on the printed page, we would like to take this opportunity to get a few things off our chest. First, these replies to some fan mail: To C.K. of Fair Lawn, New Jersey: Certainly not. The rather novel type oaf interview you have repeatedly requested cannot possibly be arranged, even in the state of California. To J. "S" Baxter of Los Angeles: Sorry, Jeff, but our royalties haven't come in either. And finally, to Ruthie, age fourteen, R.D. 52, Eugene, Oregon: No; yes; no; about seven and a half inches; sure thing, you bet; Mahalo Hilton, October 25th and 26th, ask at the desk.

In the course of our back-breaking public appearance schedule all across this great nation, many young musicians and composers have asked for guidance regarding some oaf the more technical problems, both musical and lyrical, encountered in the reproduction of our songs. Unfortunately, we are usually accosted in concert halls, while riding in station wagons, loitering in coffee shops, airports, etc., and these questions most often go unanswered. At this time, with a "Little help from our friends", we are prepared to present not only the correct and complete lyrics for the songs in this book, but also an invaluable interpretive aid to be used in conjunction with these exclusive renderings for piano and/or guitar: The revelation and explanation of the dynamic µ major chord!

The µ major (moo major) chord is the most frequently used stylistic device in the arsenal of music effects responsible for defining and maintaining the distinctive Steely Dan sound. Without the µ major chord it would be impossible to achieve the airy, modern, almost jazzy quality that the sensitive listener can detect in just about every Steely Dan recording. The µ major chord is constructed as follows:

Intro to the Song Book

Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Note the substitution of a major second in
Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Note the substitution of a major second in

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

Note the substitution of a major second in place of a conventional tonic in the chord structure (in the case of a µ major, B natural for an A natural in the right hand). Of course, this chord can be built on each of the twelve root pitches found in most western music. Some of our more harmonically sophisticated readers may know this chord by one of several other names such as "deus de musica (1st expansion)", "major triad avec neoplastic distension", or "'M' Lords Consonance". Used only sporadically in most contemporary popular music, we have found this little honey to be a sine qua non in almost every song we have written to date. All the members of Steely Dan, past and present, have come to believe, as we do, that the luminous, mystic quality of the µ major chord is capable of greatly enriching the musical vocabulary of our otherwise discordant era. Virtually any piano owner can experience this sonority in the privacy of his or her own home if she or he is willing to take the trouble, when confronted with a major triad, to come down on the keyboard with his or her thumb just slightly to the right of where it would normally land. Once you become accustomed to this wholesome harmonic mindbath, you'll soon find yourself sneaking seconds into minor seventh chords and stacking fourths like a Hindemith gone haywire in Harlem. Inversions of the µ major may be formed in the usual manner with one caveat: the voicing of the second and third scale tones, which is the essence oaf the chord's appeal, should always occur as a whole tone dissonance.

We are painfully aware of the fact that even the most lucid explanations of simple musical ideas re by themselves meaningless to the rare guitar player who may be willing to expand his conception and technique. Through years of bitter experience, working with our own rock and roll orchestra, we have come to know that the noble savage armed with a screaming Stratocaster or a vintage les Paul, if he is to be made to understand, must be addressed in the peculiar language associated with his chosen instrument. In many cases, even this is not enough; and a "brother" (another guitarist) must be brought in to translate and hopefully, to ease the sometimes nasty relationship that tends to develop between the well-meaning, earnest, highly trained composer/musician and the pragmatic, possibly bisexual, guitar player. For these reasons, we now pass the pen to a first line guitarist and colleague, , Mr. Denny Dias, who should be well known to you all, and who studied for many years with Downbeat and Metronome Poll Winner of the Fifties, Mr. Billy Bauer. (non-guitarists may skip the following section.)

Hi! I'm really glad to be writing this part of the music book because it took me years and

Intro to the Song Book

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

years to get the hang of these funny chords and I figure I can save a lot of people a lot of time. The reason it took me so long is because I had to figure it out for myself. Walter knows some oaf these chords but always seems to have his hand on the wrong fret or something, and Donald is, as my girlfriend Debbie puts it, "the worst guitar player I ever heard." So they wouldn't be much help. These µ major chords aren't easy to play on the guitar, believe me, but once I realized that my playing wouldn't really cook with the band until I could play them, without thinking, and all the keys and in any position, I got my stuff together pretty fast. What I'm putting down here is a complete rundown of the µ major chords I use in my playing. Even Billy Bauer probably didn't know some of these.

Here's the first µ major chord:

know some of these. Here's the first µ major chord: Strum this one a little and

Strum this one a little and get used to the sound. Compare it to an E major chord

and get used to the sound. Compare it to an E major chord And see if

And see if you can hear the difference. Now by playing this same voicing on the fifth fret,

Intro to the Song Book

Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM you get an A µ major chord, and

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

you get an A µ major chord, and you can play the right µ major chord for any tonic note by starting with that note on the low E string (6th string), barring across that entire fret, and making this voicing with whatever fingers you have left. This next chord has its tonic on the 5th (A) string.

left. This next chord has its tonic on the 5th (A) string. The same chord but

The same chord but as a bar chord.

Here's another one.

string. The same chord but as a bar chord. Here's another one. http://www.steelydan.com/songbook.html Page 4 of

Intro to the Song Book

Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Relax your left hand for three minutes, then
Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM Relax your left hand for three minutes, then

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

Relax your left hand for three minutes, then try this one.

Relax your left hand for three minutes, then try this one. The same voicing barred (good

The same voicing barred (good luck).

then try this one. The same voicing barred (good luck). Those of you with jazz chops

Those of you with jazz chops may like this 4-string chord with a major third on the bottom.

Intro to the Song Book

Intro to the Song Book 5/18/14, 1:22 AM I guess that's all of them. What you

5/18/14, 1:22 AM

I guess that's all of them. What you have to do is practice these chords until you get so good that you can automatically substitute the right µ major chord voicing for any major triad in the Steely Dan Songbook, or whatever they're going to call it, without thinking. How do you know which voicing is the right now? Usually I use the one that's easiest to get to from where I am on the neck so I don't have to move my hand back and forth a lot, especially when it's humid like Hicksville, or hot and dry like Woodland Hills. Usually that's the way I do it, even in some of the real jazz sessions I've been playing. But, in the studio or on the road, Donald and Walter will make me play a µ major chord that's real high or real awkward or something and I'm never sure why they want that particular one--but they have the final decision. I guess you can choose any one you want, because how are they going to know about that?

Thank you, "Brother" Dias. I suppose it's only fair to warn you people that lately we have been visiting many of the excellent nightclubs and discotheques all around the country without prior notification and, if you're up on the bandstand playing an unaesthetic voicing of the µ major chord in, say, Rikki or Reelin in the Years, we're going to notice the minute we walk in and so will anybody else with half an ear (nice try, Denny). So tighten up.

*5/96*

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