Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

November 19, 2016

Real Chords #2: The Moody Blues, "Dawn Is a Feeling"

We continue our Real Chords series with this gem, the opening number from The Moodies' classic Days of Future Passed. Before we get into it, I offer the caveat that I've arranged the song for guitar; on the recording, no guitar is present. I hear piano, mellotron, drums and bass, and that instrumentation is confirmed by the song's Wikipedia entry. But unless you plan on dragging a mellotron to your local open stage—and if you are, do let me know; that I'd love to see—you will, I hope, find this arrangement to your liking.

A few notes on the composition itself: as is common with material from what I call the golden age of songwriting (roughly 1965-75), we have here a gorgeous melody accompanied by a dreamy chord progression, all courtesy keyboardist Mike Pinder. Particularly noteworthy for me is his inventive use of dominant sevenths, chords that more often than not turn up as drippy clichés in most popular music. He also wisely cedes the lead vocal to Justin Hayward, whose silky, quivering baritone suits the melody perfectly. (Pinder gets his vocal turn in the bridge, and the shift in voice is simply brilliant. For full effect, you really need to seek out the original vinyl mix to hear the reverb on his vocal; on the CD mix, it's dry.)

And again, as mentioned in previous posts, online chord charts will lead you astray even if they seem close to the mark. Yes, the song is actually in C minor, but no guitarist needs to play it in open position unless you enjoy twisting your fingers through a sequence like Eb Ab Db7. To see what I mean try this version, then compare it to mine below.

Here, then, are the real chords to "Dawn Is a Feeling," written by Mike Pinder and arranged for guitar by yours truly:

Capo 3
  • Verse: Am E C7 Fmaj7 Bb7
  • Chorus: E7 Am E7 Am E
  • Bridge: Dm Dm/C#* C Bm E (Am Am/G D/F# E) x2
* Fingering, low to high: xx0221. My online chord namer calls this "DmM7" or D minor major 7th, which makes no freaking sense. I may not be using the slash correctly given that the C# isn't on the bottom, but whatever: it's just a Dm with a C# in place of the high D.

Notes: I prefer playing the E7 in this song as 020100: one, it's easier and two, I think it sounds better than 022130, the alternative. Your choice as to which you like best. I find the Bb7—which is barred at the 4th fret, i.e. one fret above the capo—difficult to play, due to the technical limitations of my guitar or (more likely) the guitarist. Hopefully you won't have as rough a time with it. I'm also playing the root notes of the Am/G and D/F# with my pinky and thumb respectively. It's not exactly smooth yet, but I'm working on it.

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