The World’s Most-Used Musical Sequence

The long-running radio program, Spinning on Air, did a show on the world’s most-used musical sequence: the Andalusian Cadence.

Also known as the Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord—sometimes written as i-bVII-bVI-V (or, in the key of A, the descending sequence A, G, F, E)—this sequence of four notes, this musical pattern, chord progression, or bass line shows up throughout the ages in all styles and genres, underlying music that ranges from sad to joyful, delicate to badass.

The sequence is usually “hidden” in the accompaniment of the song, underlying the melody. As I listened to the program last night, I got my iPad and tried to recreate the notes with the keyboard in GarageBand. Listen to the result.

You can hear it in songs that date from 500 years ago and some very familiar pop hits. The program’s host, David Garland, compiled about fifty examples, and the commenters added a bunch more to the list.

Listen to the whole program and enjoy uncovering the most-used sequence of musical notes.

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