If you don’t know the music of Sia, you’re missing a real treat. Her music is a perfect example of how songwriters need only venture minimally outside the box to create fantastic music. “Soon We’ll Be Found” is a case in point. By using simple harmonic modulations and other formal elements, Sia demonstrates simple devices that other songwriters could and should be using.
The first formal element of interest is the use of the two-part verse, the first eight bars being in C minor, with the second eight bars brightening to the relative major:
Cm Fm G Cm Fm G Cm Fm G Ab Bb ||Eb
The Ab and Bb are pivot chords that exists in both keys of C minor and Eb major, providing a seamless way to modulate to the relative major key. The song then proceeds with the second part of the verse, now in major. So songwriters, if you’re writing a song in minor, and are tiring of the constant mood of that key, modulating to the relative major is easy to do with a flat-VII.
The next interesting harmonic device Sia uses is the so-called “modal mixture”, or borrowed chord. The second chord of this part of the verse is Abm, where one would normally use Ab. A borrowed chord is one which normally exists in the minor side of the key, but is “borrowed” to add an interesting harmonic flavour:
Eb Abm Eb Abm Eb Abm Bb G
On we go to the chorus, and the chord progressions here pull the listener back and forth from the key of C minor to Eb major, and back again. You might think that the harmonic structure is more ambiguous in the chorus than it was in the verse, but what’s actually happening is that the chorus represents the melding of two different harmonic organizations we found in the verse. While part 1 of the verse emphasized minor, and part 2 accentuated major, we get both living in close proximity in the chorus. In that sense, the verse harmonic treatment is what allows the chorus to work so well.
Sia has one more interesting goodie for us. It’s not often that we get to hear Augmented Sixth chords in popular music styles; it is usually a classification of chord reserved for classical composers. An Aug 6th is a chord usually built on the flat-VI degree of the scale, and most often resolves to the dominant chord. In this song, we find it in the bridge. The first time we hear it (at 2′ 24″) it simply moves immediately to Cm, but the second time, (2′ 35″) it resolves to G in preparation for the return of C minor. The Aug 6th is a really useful “predominant” chord that gives you a new way of approaching the dominant chord other than from IV.
These devices are very simple to use, and require almost nothing more than a bit of musical imagination. They add a sense of creativity to your music without throwing the balance too far toward unpredictable, and turn something mundane into something that captivates the listener.
If you want to learn more about the structure of great music, Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books show you all the ways you can be making your songs really work. Click here to read more.