Patterns. We love them. It’s what we’re good at, looking for them, recognizing them, breaking them down, building them up. It’s what’s allowed us to come so far in such a short time relative to the other inhabitants of the oblate spheroid well all share, but it’s not as easy as our simple love of patterns. How boring would it be if all we did was notice and strive for only perfect repetition? Don’t get me wrong, these kinds of patterns have their place, but what peaks our curiosity isn’t only redundancy (that would put us to sleep). It’s when a pattern gets interrupted that we tend to sit up and take notice. “Why did that happen? Why is that there? Does this thing that doesn’t belog mean an end to the pattern, or is it just part of a larger pattern I can’t quite figure out yet?”
E-7 | F#-7 | E-7 | F#-7 |
Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 |
A-7 | D7 | Gmaj7 | Cmaj7 |
Gmaj7 | Cmaj7 |F#-7 b5 | B7b5 : |
Bang that out on a piano, a guitar, a banjo, pipe organ, or a gamelan and, if you follow the pattern, you’ll hear something pleasant. Still, after awhile you’ll get tired of listening to it. Throwing in some in-key melody will keep your interest, but what if you do something altogether unexpected? What if the rhythm section played the progression in a different style every time around? What if you play the melody in a different rhythm or in a different key? What if everyone playing played the all the wrong notes at first and as the piece progressed they’d slowly blend in the right ones until, at the end, everything would come together the way is should?
It doesn’t always work out, but when you try to smash a square peg into a round hole and it works, you’ve got something memorable, if not a work of genius.
Other Noteworthy “Pattern” Entries: