Parallel chords in Peter Gunn Theme by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me about that nasty synth sound Keith Emerson uses on the track Peter Gunn Theme. I remember that track quite well because when I was a teenager I bought a cassette of Emerson, Lake & Palmer with this track on it. Here’s the YouTube version of it:

What’s going on here? Well, Keith is playing a chord melody pattern. Using parallel chords, using the same chord which is simply transposed within the melody. Although the melody, the top notes of those chords, stay within the modal scale, many of the other notes will not be modal and this creates that lovely tension. That’s the beauty of parallel chords: they are modal and not modal at the same time. Which creates a super interesting tension.

Let me show you how that works in Reason:

I know, the synth sound is not the same as Keith’s, but it’s all in the chords. What Keith is playing here are simple major chords with a bass note which is a whole note higher. First chord is G/A, so a G major chord with a A as bass: A D G B. The top high note, the B, works as a melody. This chord is simply transposed in parallel for playing the whole melody.

I am a huge fan of parallel chords myself. Check for example my parallel chord patches I have created for Reason which can be found in the Factory Sounds folder in Reason:

  • One Finger Herbie.cmb
  • The Alan Smithee One Note Orchestra.cmb

P.S. Kristoffer Wallman created the The Alan Smithee One Note Orchestra Xt.cmb and The Alan Smithee One Note Orchestra Jz.cmb as alternate versions of my patch. Very cool!


Also published on Medium.

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