Broadway Cadences: The Music Theory of Hazbin Hotel

Broadway Cadences: The Music Theory of Hazbin Hotel

Tommaso Zillio

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how to end a song

You may love Broadway musicals (note: all Disney movies are Broadway musicals...), you may hate them, you may even sincerely say: "I have never thought about Broadway musicals in my life before"...

... but you can not deny that the composers of these musicals know their music theory thoroughly and they can apply it to the songs they write like nobody else.

Every little choice in harmony, instrumentation, dynamic, tempo, etc. is made in service of the story they are telling.

And especially, they really know how to end their songs (more on this below)

How do I know all this? Because I played in several musical theater productions (hey, they pay well, and the end-of-show parties are out of this world...) and so I learned quite a lot about:

  • How professional composers use music theory to create emotions and expectations in their audience (you would notice too after learning a few hundred songs... a single show can contain up to 50 musical numbers...)

  • How to adapt your guitar playing to any style, make things up in real time, being able to play in any situation and condition, and still have a good time.

Today I'm going to talk about the first of these two points (*).

I am going to take 3 songs from Hazbin Hotel, a musical TV series that recently debuted on Amazon Prime, and I'm going to analyze them no, I'm going to do something way more radical.

I'm going to take just the last few chords of each song... yes, just the bombastic ending... and I'm going to show you:

  • how these last few ending chords use crazy music theory tricks that sound amazing, and

  • how these last few ending chords express exactly the situation that the protagonist is in, and her feelings about it

Best of all: after you see this in-depth analysis, you can do something similar with your songs. You too will be able to end your songs like a boss.

Imagine how good it will feel when you are writing a song, and go "wait, I know the perfect way to end this"...

Watch the video here:

(*) The second point is covered in my course Complete Chord Mastery for guitar.

P.S. This video is a bit longer than usual (lots of information!) and the lyrics of the songs are not PG-13. But if you have the time and can tolerate a few f-bombs (sung by a choir, no less), you will be rewarded with harmonic secrets that are not explained in any music theory book.

P.P.S. This article is not a recommendation to watch the show. It's also not a recommendation to not watch the show. Do your research before viewing it, it may or may not be your cup of tea. I am in it for the songs.

Video Transcription

Hello Internet! So nice to see you! Today I'm gonna talk to you about Broadway cadences. What's a cadence? A cadence is when a phrase or a song in your music is ending and there are specific chord progression that signal this closure to the listener.

You've heard them, you know them, you love them, okay? The most common one is what we call the authentic cadence, which is essentially 5 to 1. In the key of C there will be G7 to C, so I can play a C, a G7, an a C.

You've heard this, this is the most basic, obvious cadence, okay? 5 to 1 and it ends, okay? But since 5 to 1 is actually pretty boring because you've heard it everywhere, I mean it's the textbook thing.

People have found ways to make those cadences more complex, more interesting and definitely more emotional. And the people who know best how to do these are Broadway composers, people who write music for musical shows.

Those people really know all the tricks in music theory. I've been playing in a few productions of a few musical shows and dude, they really know their music theory. There's always something to be learned.

To show you some interesting cadences today I'm pretty complex too. I'm going to analyze some songs from a musical show which is, has been Hotel from Amazon Prime. You can find the show on Amazon Prime.

The show has been quite controversial but the songs are good, okay? And I'm gonna take the ending of those three songs and showing you what the composers are doing, okay? Now, due to the nature of the show, which is not a kid's show, okay, the following video will contain some F -bombs, okay?

I'm telling you immediately the video today is not PG -13, for two reasons. I mean the songs contain, I'm not gonna say any of those, but the songs contain the F -bombs and I'm not gonna censor them for two reasons.

First, because if I put some silence in the song, it's gonna be a little bit more difficult to understand. So, I'm gonna try to make a video It's going to be much harder for you to hear the chords and the progression.

So second, because in general, I am opposed to censoring in general. Okay, I don't care. You either like an artist and consume their art or you don't like an artist who don't consume their art, but don't ask people to censor themselves.

Okay, so you've been warned. Okay, the following contains not PG -13 language, but it's going to contain a lot of information. We are going to move fast. I'm going to give you a ton of information today.

So follow me because this is good. So we're going to have a deal here. Okay, your part of the deal is that you follow me. Okay. And you don't complain in the comments about the not PG -13 language. Okay.

In return. In return, I tell you what I know. Do we have a deal? So do we have a deal? Okay. So let's see. I'm gonna start immediately with a complex cadence. And then I'm gonna, so you can hear how complex this stuff can be.

And then I'm gonna show you some simple ones and I'm gonna see what the complex one is. So the complex one is this. This is the ending of the first song in the first episode of the show. Okay, and this is the happy Disney princess song in hell.

And so it's kind of, well, I'll actually listen first and then we talk exactly about what this is. Okay, this is just the ending of the song. So first of all, compliments for the pipes. Okay, the singer is Erica Henningsen.

She's a great singer. I mean, it's always a pleasure for a musician to hear somebody holding a note that well for such a long time. It's like, wow, great, congratulations. Thank you, Erica. What's happening in here?

It's a fairly complex chord progression. From the moment she hold that last note, the chords under are changing. And it's very, very complex, honestly. And it's amazing. I mean, it really transports you.

Okay, so... Happy Disney! Right, she really transports you through this whole emotional journey and it's just the last note. Okay, this is a cadence. This is an ending cadence. Okay, and I'm gonna show you what technically is happening and then I'm gonna show you also what is happening emotionally because that's important, okay?

But first, you have to start on a few simple cadences. So I'm gonna show you the simple... super simple authentic cadence, C, G7, C. Okay, so one, five, one, two, make it more complex. The composer started adding substitution and little tricks either to the G7 chord, so the fifth chord of the key, or the first chord of the key, in this case.

So two typical tricks are these. Rather than playing G7 to C, you play some other chord before G7 that is essentially a G7 modified. So it's typical to go like a G4, and G7, then C. So suspend the fifth chord.

It's also typical to play a C with a bass of G. Oops, I'll do it again. C with a bass of G, then G7, and then C. Okay. This C with a bass of G contains a note G, but at the bass C and A. So what am I saying?

C, G, C and E, I'm sorry, because I'm already thinking in the next key, I'm sorry, because the song is in the key of G, so I'm already thinking in the key of G. I'm sorry, let's stay in the key of C.

This C with a bass of G again contains G at the bass, then the C note, which is the fourth of G and the E note, which is the sixth of G. So it's kind of a 6 -4 suspended, okay? Then the G7, then the C.

So you can elaborate the G7, the fifth chord in the key, or you can elaborate the first chord in the key, in which case you get, you evade the cadence for a moment and then you resolve it. A typical thing to do is this, so the G7, G7, this, and this C.

What is this? This is an F with a bass of C. It's the fourth chord in the key, okay? And then the C major. The fourth chord in the key act like a 6 -4. Again, there is the F note, which is the fourth of C and the A note, which is the sixth of C.

You are just suspended in the chord, essentially, okay? And you can do both. You can suspend the G7, suspend the first chord, suspend the fifth, and suspend the first. Complex. I can write them down, okay?

No problem. So you have them. I'm going to use this super high technology. So if I could have again, so five, two, one, I can have simply G7 to a C, but I can have a C with a base of G, then G7, and then I can have an F with a base of C, then a C.

So, 5 to 1, the basic version, the more complex version where I suspend every chord. That's the super basic variation, but I can also create more complex variation. For F over C, I could actually borrow this from the minor key, so I can borrow the chord from C minor, and then I have instead an F minor with a base of C, okay, having this.

So, that's suspend the fifth chord, and this, and then that's again an F with a base of C, and then the C. Now, if you're thinking So, Maestro, give me the tubs of that, okay? I'm gonna tell you this.

If I have to give you the tubs of everything I'm gonna play today, I'm gonna stay here for hours and hours and hours. The reality, man, is that if, when I say something like F with a base of C, the way to play that chord doesn't just pop up in your mind and you play it, possibly in a more than one position, then you need to study this stuff.

You need to study how to go from the symbol of the chord to the chord. I mean, you don't need this kind of negativity in your life, right? You don't need to always wonder, F with a base of C, if I don't have the tablature, I'm not going to be able to play it.

Come on. Okay, we are musicians. We need to learn our trade. If that's your problem, if you're like, I have no idea how to play this, you have to take my course, Complete Chord Mastery, immediately, okay?

I know that's a shameless plug, but that's also the real solution, okay? You cannot always rely on tablatures. You cannot always rely on the kindness of strangers to give you exactly not by not what they're doing.

You need to be able to see the stuff and change it because everything I'm gonna show you today, it's gonna, you may have to find different ways of playing it on the guitar. As you're gonna see, I mean, the super complex cadence in Hasby and Hotel, it's played with a full orchestra.

How do I arrange it on guitar? I need to know my chords. I cannot just rely on tablature. Makes sense. Okay. Now, let's see what is happening in Hasby and Hotel. Let's hear these cadence another time.

Okay. Should be more or less from here. No. From here. Wow. So, what is happening here? She is starting on the fourth chord. of the key, the key is G, okay? She isn't the key of G, that's the ending chord.

The amazing part is that the held note, the note she's holding, it's not G, it's not the root of the key. That's incredibly important right now, okay? That's incredibly important, I'm gonna see why later, okay?

But she's holding this G chord. The song is gonna ending in this G chord, and she's holding this note here, okay? Indeed, I can probably play that note together with her. See? If this D, and the last chord is G, so far so good.

The problem is, thank you, Tomaso. I gave you the last chord. What is everything else? Just before she holds that note, a C chord is playing with the fourth chord in the key, now. She's playing the...

Okay, she's oscillating within the B and the C note. And then she's holding this D. Okay, so she's starting on the fourth chord of the key, which is kind of typical to do just before a cadence. And then all hell break lose, kind of literally, okay?

She's playing... What's happening is this. That's the progression. What did I just play? So she starts from C. I'm going to write C on my whiteboard here. Then she's gonna play, well, the orchestra is gonna play, a G with a bass of B.

I'm gonna show this to you in a moment, a C again, D with a bass of F sharp, a G. Okay, then we're gonna have a G minor 7 with a bass of D. Then we're gonna have an incredible C sharp major 7, flat 9.

And then it's gonna end on a G. So the chord progression, she's singing over each D's. Okay, I'm gonna hold this for a moment. Okay, you can take a screenshot of this and again, low tech, but useful.

So what's happening? Well, and she's starting holding the D note already from the first C. Okay, now of course, if I show the D note here, that's a C, a 9, okay, blah, blah, blah. I'm not even counting that specific note.

I'm just showing you what is the underlying chord progression. So what's happening? This is happening. First, the song is giving you two weak cadences, one after each other and in different keys. Okay, this is kind of a musical seduction process.

Okay, the song is giving you something but not all of it, just a little and then it's taking it back, okay, because the first cadence is this, it's this G to C, it's a five to one in the key of C, which is not the key of the song, it's the fourth, okay, and it's a weak one because the bass is B as opposed to have this G chord in root position.

Okay, this is, it's this part here. Okay, so weak cadence in C, then there is the exact same weak cadence in G major, the fifth but in first inversion, the fifth chord D, but in first inversion, so the bass is F sharp, going to G, so two weak cadence.

And this is just again to wet your appetite. Okay. To give you And then we get the final stretch and the final stretch is this. You have this G minor seventh with a bass of D. What is this? Well, remember before when I was doing the suspending of the seventh chord, I was putting the first chord but with a bass of the fifth note.

So in this case, if I were to do this in the key of G, this suspended chord would be a G because it's the first chord with a bass of D. So the standard suspended chord would be G with a bass of D. The standard suspended fifth chord would be this G with a bass of D.

Okay. Instead, we get this is G minor seventh over D. So I am borrowing the first chord from the minor key and put in the bass of D to signal that it's kind of a suspension of the fifth chord. It sounds amazing actually.

Okay. So they're kind of piling two tricks on top of each other using the suspended fifth chord, but borrowing the notes from the minor key. Beautiful. Normally, you would use this chord, then you would go into a D seven and a G.

But you can hear how old this, how old this cadence is. I just played sound. It's not modern. It's not exciting because it's been, this trick has been overused. I mean, again, start from a G. Okay. So instead, they put this incredible chord here.

That's an incredible chord. I've listened to it, I transcribed practically everything else in this video in nearly real time because I know all those cliches, but these I had to check because I like that cannot be that, cannot be that.

I check, I've asked other people, I've run the song through a spectrum analyzer to be sure it's this. What is this? What is this? And by the way, if you play this chord alone, it sounds kind of horrible because it contains a C sharp, a C natural and a D.

So, and a cluster and then there is this F note here, okay, which honestly should be spelled as an E sharp, but let's not go into there. So what is that? This is a tritone substitution of the first chord.

Yeah. Tritone of the first chord. Tritone of the first chord. Okay, the first chord, it's G major. Okay, so the song treat this chord, that's a suspended five, and then resolve the suspended five directly on the first chord, but instead, rather than just resolving it, that resolves it to the tritone substitution first.

This is the tritone substitution of this G, because it's a major seventh, it's not a seventh chord, so it has to be a tritone substitution of this G. Okay, now you may have other interpretations, curious to hear them, but essentially, the resolution five to one happened between this chord to this chord, but since this chord is the wrong chord, being the tritone substitution of one, not the one, it just prolongs the tension, and then you go to G and make things right.

Okay, wow, so again. G minor seventh over D. C sharp major seventh flat nine. G. What's the meaning of all that? Why they're doing all this? Well, this is the first song in the show, okay? So they are kind of foreshadowing the whole conflict that's gonna come later, and how there's gonna be some false ending, okay?

That's the first one, it's a false ending, so sometimes it seems like you resolve your problems, but you didn't, or you resolve them in the wrong key, okay? And then there is another false solution. Before going into weird places, and in minor, so in dark and sad part of the story, and then something completely weird, before you actually end up in the right place.

That's typical to put this kind of stuff in the first song, okay? And the beauty of this is that, again, the note that the singer is holding is not the first note of the key, it's not the tonic. So the song ends, but the music is over.

melody doesn't, the melody ends on the wrong note. This is kind of a signal that the Disney princess here, the heroine, is not in the right place and she is singing the wrong note. The solution, her ideas, her attitude will require some adjustment in the rest of the story.

All of this is signal through music and this is done reliably and consistently in all kinds of musicals. So, yep, that's how it works. So just the ending of this song is opening up the rest of the story.

And again, this is the first song in the first episode of the show. Make sense? And this song kind of reminds me of Good Morning Baltimore from the Hairspray musical, because the whole song is the Disney princess going around hell in this case.

saying how much she likes hell even if hell is actually a horrible place. Okay, kind of good morning Baltimore is the protagonist going through Baltimore and loving every horrible detail of the city.

Nothing against Baltimore. It's the song. Okay, so that's the first song. Then later in the show, we are gonna have the battle song, the fight song. There is a fight song in every musical, okay? And that fight song as another cadence is not, I mean, it's not a specific, typical cadence for the fight song, but even then there must be something and you're gonna see how these gives a specific feeling and a specific message.

So let's hear just the ending of the fight song, which is ready for this. I think it's on episode seven of the show. And I clicked the wrong button for a second. Yeah, good. Go to war, prepare to fight, we're ready for this.

I really hope that I'm ready for this. So it's the this that it's important, okay? Let's hit this. Okay. Normally the part before it's, okay, that's that this song is in the key of E. That's important.

Why? Because the fight song is never in the key of the first song. Never. Because we are in a different point in the story. So one way to signal that is that the key is different. Again, that's something that's not consistently in all musicals.

We are in the key of E, okay? And you will think that they will all resolve immediately into the in 21. And they actually do when they start singing this, the first chord. is the one, the E major chord, and the top note, E is the E note.

So it's kind of there are already on the ending chord. But other than stopping on the ending chord, the tonic chord with the tonic note on top, they start sliding down. Okay. Because there is this kind of uncertainty if they're gonna win the fight or not.

You want to give this idea and especially the uncertainty in the confidence of the heroin, like she does not know, she really hopes she's ready for this, but she doesn't know. So there is this kind of sliding feeling.

Okay. And the chords go this way. So there is an E. Then there is something else, and I'm gonna explain. And then a little phrase. And the ending, which is the E major. Great! What's happening here? What are they playing in this little thing?

It's again kind of a cliché. The chords are playing, these are playing an E major chord, so far so good, and then playing an E7 with a bass of D, which is not in the key. I'm going to show you why. Why?

Then an A with a bass of C sharp, then an A minor with a bass of C. Implicit, they're going to be a B later, and then they're going to end on an E. So first chord, it's E. First chord of the key, and the key of E.

Then we have this E7 slash D. This is a seventh chord in third inversion, and it's the fifth of the A major chord. So we are temporarily shifting from the key of E major to the key of A major and resolving this.

So we have a little cadence in a different key, but it's very weak because the seventh is at the bass, and the third is at the bass. And then look at the bass. The bass on the E chord is E, and the bass is going down.

E, D, C sharp, C. E, now we borrowed this A minor from the E minor key, the parallel minor of E. Again, typical trick. If we keep going, the bass will go down on a B, and B would be the fifth chord of the key of E, giving a complete resolution, and then we end on the E, which is the final chord, which is the first chord of the key.

Okay. So, typical thing. If I played the whole thing without the interruption of the little phrase she's singing, the whole thing sounded this way. I have the E, E7 bass of D. A bass of C sharp, A bass of C, and then normally in classical music you would put B7 and then the E again.

But you hear how again old -fashioned this sounds. So instead they just interrupt the cadence there and they put... They just eliminate the fifth chord, but they keep all this descending thing. Okay.

Okay. Typical thing to do. Again, I'm gonna put it here. You guys take a screenshot. This is gold. Okay. Those little tricks here are kind of gold. Okay. And that's the battle song. And then later, now we're gonna analyze the very ending of the show.

Okay. The very last song of the show. Finally. Okay. Again, F -bomb alert. The finale. The end of the show. And on the same theme as the first song of the show and with the same phrase and very similar lyrics.

The only difference is that in the first song she thought that today was going to be a happy day in hell and then this last song is tomorrow is going to be a happy day in hell. Okay, but the harmony is completely different.

Let's hear it. Wait, there we go. And then tomorrow it will be a fucking happy day in hell. And this closes the show. What's happening? In the first song she... Oh, by the way, we are in the key of G again, like the first song.

That's opening and closing the show on the same key. Okay, and that's important because the first time in the first song we were in the key of G and the cadence misses the tonic note. We end on the fifth note, like we were saying before.

But now, now we're in the key of G, okay, and they are singing the G note. So they are actually going to end. They hit the right note, finally, after everything that happens in the show, they hit the right note.

But what's happening in this cadence? It's pretty complex, okay? So... The first thing that happens here is that there is this kind of a descending... Okay. It is kind of descending. Okay. And we are coming actually from the key of C.

That is an F natural here. The top note are these B and C just like it wasn't the first song. Now, okay, just wasn't the first song. But now the important point that we land on this C. And then we have this little G over B, just like we had in the first song.

And C again. So the beginning is that we come from the C chord just like the first song. We move temporarily on G over B and then C. Remember the weak cadence we are giving people. So. just like in the first song, exactly like in the first song, and then, but then we go on a D, sus4.

Fifth suspended. Now, when we suspend the D, the top note is the G note. I'm gonna put the G note on top. That's important. Okay, the sus4 is the G note. So, yeah, the whole, this whole descending scale.

That's the G over B. That's the C again, and you'll get the suspended. Play in, and this in, the D in, and this in, it's the G note over the C, the D chord, the suspension. Normally, you would resolve the suspension, go into a D, and then ending on a G.

That would be the standard classical way. It's boring though, so what do they do? First, they don't resolve the suspension, they hold the suspension. Second, they don't go on the G chord. Instead, they go to an E -flat chord.

The E -flat is the flat sixth chord in the key of G. Why do they go there? Two reasons. The top note of this E -flat, it's the major third of E -flat, which is G. So, they are holding the G from the D suspended four into this E -flat.

Second, the movement from the fifth chord of the key, with this as four. Two at the C. 6th chord of a key, it's called a deceptive cadence. It's a deceptive resolution rather than resolving... D to G, you're resolving...

D to E flat... Well, technically I should resolve these to E minor. D to E minor... Because the E minor would be the 6th chord in G. But we are also on top of that borrowing that chord from the G minor key.

The G minor key. So we're having three tricks on top of each other. One, holding the top note in common, G and G. Two, deceptive resolution. Don't resolve 5 to 1, resolve 5 to 6. Three, borrow the 6th from the G minor key.

Wow! And then, from there, they play the F chord and finally the G chord. The F chord is the flat 7 major chord on the key. It's borrowed from Gm. Playing F, G and Gmajors is sometimes called the backdoor cadence, okay?

And it's another way of resolving, but it feels different because we don't go from the 5th chord, we go to something different. So we are giving people a weak resolution, which is here, like in the first sound.

We are giving people another weak resolution because it's deceptive. So we make them think we're gonna give them a resolution here in this Dsass to E flat. And finally, we give them the resolution just like in the first song, but coming from all the wrong ways, okay?

It's not a straight resolution because in the story before, we came through lots of turns and it's kind of a bittersweet ending for a few reasons, okay? So we're giving them these kind of a wrong resolution, okay?

And it also feels like, you know, E flat, F and G, the movement is going up. Opposite to the fighting song, where the movement was going down, okay? So we are just, tomorrow is looking up, okay? So the music is looking up too.

Music is gonna go E flat, F, G. And they're ending, finally, on the G note, which is the correct note to end, okay? To finish as opposed to the first song of the musical, where they weren't ending on the right song, the right chord.

So... F. I really believe so. So you have the C. G, so you have the C. The G bass of D. C again, suspended D, D suspended 4. you E flat F Final G, let's hear it in the original again, now that you know what's going on So, the sending scale It's just gonna be E I'll start to do it again, I got confused a moment with the chords Now I'm doing that, sorry, there we go G flat, see, this has been a 4 E flat F Final G Boom Okay, so we've seen several complex a chord progression that ends the song and we've seen why they were picking all those songs, all those chord progression for every specific song.

This stuff is not done randomly, it's not done just by ear, it's done because those people know exactly what's the emotional effect of those things and they tailor it specifically to the story. Now if you want to know more about all those chord progression, how to play all these stuff on your guitar, because I mean this stuff is playing on an orchestra, when I was playing the reduction on the guitar, I had to arrange those things around and make them work.

If you want to know all that, I have a chord that's called Complete Chord Mastery, I already mentioned it, have a look at it because it gives you complete command of the fretboard, so when you see those cymbals here you know what to do and it also develops your ear because by playing all those chords you know how they are connected together etc.

And this shows you also the logic with which all those chords are played together. Okay, so have a look at my Chords Complete Chord Mastery, I know it's a shameless plug, okay, and thank you for following so far, this video is probably much much longer than other videos and I hope you had fun and until next time, enjoy!

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