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Rush Working Man theory

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Needenaneden, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. Needenaneden


    Feb 22, 2011
    Can anyone tell me the theory behind Rush Working Man bass. I know it's in E but my theory must be pretty bad because after that I don't even know it is major or minor.
  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    E major
  3. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Nope. E minor. The opening riff consists of the notes E A C D. The second riff is E B, D A, then G D.

    E major: E F# G# A B C# D#
    E minor: E F# G A B C D

    Has more in common with E minor, don't it?

    I should add that this song is clearly in the blues rock style, and one of the hallmarks of the blues is the blurring of modality. A typical blues phrase can easily contain E major, E minor, E mixolydian, and E whatever else within a couple of bars. Looking at the blues progression E7 A7 B7... The sum of those is E F# G G# A B C# D D#. That's three notes away from a chromatic scale, just from the chords, and then you add blue notes and the thing is entirely chromatic. The chromaticism and modal ambiguity makes blues harmony crunchy. Think of blues as completely chromatic, but with a few common chords structures in there to serve as a tonal skeleton.
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I would say it falls in the large bin of E7(#9) tunes, for the most part.
  5. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    It's about working, man.
  6. Needenaneden


    Feb 22, 2011
    Geez, no wonder I have trouble with Rush theory!
  7. funnyfingers


    Nov 27, 2005
    I take it as E minor and then the notes that are not in that scale are just notes to transition between notes in the scale, almost like a slide. They work here, because they are fast. I think anytime you have multiple half steps in a row they are fast.
  8. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Working Man = Simplest, easiest Rush song ever...
  9. Needenaneden


    Feb 22, 2011
    Easiest song to understand the theory of it?
  10. Red_Label


    Dec 1, 2013
    MT, USA
    Certainly one of their easiest tunes... regarding theory and skills-required to play it.

    Mostly pentatonic minor, classic rock stuff. Very few straight-ahead rock songs like that spent much time in 7-note diatonic land. Geddy certainly uses chromatic passing-tones in there at times (I'm remembering his descending intro into Alex's solo off the top of my head). But it's pretty straight-forward pentatonic minor rock/blues by most accounts.

    Regarding major/minor tonality... major keys/modes generally sound "happy", "joyous", or "elated"... while minor keys/modes generally sound "sad", "melancholy" or "ticked-off". Working Man definitely fits into the latter category.
  11. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    While this is certainly true, I don't think we can use this as a way of determining key with accuracy. We need cold, hard facts.

    Quickly listening to the song I hear in the main riff:

    - Obviously something in E.

    So we look at the next notes: we have D - A - C and D again.

    Let's match all those notes against the root major (E major).

    - D is flat 7 - this puts us in either E7 or E minor territory.

    - A is natural 4 - no help there

    - C is flat 6 - that rules out Major and 7th - which gives me enough info to deduce that we are in E minor.

    So, here's what we learned. Figure out what notes are being used in a riff. Match them up against the major tonic. Find out what is different from the major (if anything) and see what's left.

    As another example let's take Tom Sawyer. When we play the lick we can be pretty sure we're in some sort of E. We have an F#, G, A, B, C and a D in the riff.

    F# = natural 2nd - no help
    G = flat 3rd - bingo!
    A = natural 4th - no help
    B = natural 5th - no help
    C = flat 6th - bingo bingo!
    D = flat 7th - FTW

    Tom Sawyer = E minor

    Make sense? Probably not....:rolleyes:

    edit: I probably should have explained the whole tone, tone, semi-tone thing first for the new guys.... This stuff is really simple folks, keep commin' - it gets easier! Keep asking questions until you understand it!
  12. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    In re-thinking my post indicating that it's E7 with a #9, Working Man probably is closer to E minor than to E7(#9). But your analysis of Working Man assumes that all of the chords you are analyzing are common to the key associated with the I chord (one based on E, in this case). With good old rock and roll, that is not always the case; chords come out of left field, and if they sound good, the tune works. If not...

    Point being that each composition needs to be looked at in sections. Sometimes the sections are small and key changes occur frequently, and at other times, the chords all suggest a single tonal center.
  13. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    well put
  14. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011