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Key (concert):

D minor

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Eric Clapton: Layla - Unplugged (Table view)

Other recordings of Layla:

We have the electric version and the Unplugged version of this song. The harmonic structure is the same in both versions, although there are a few differences. The electric version is recorded a half step higher than the accoustic, putting it into keys that are impossible to play with open chords. I use the keys of the Unplugged version.

The intro has the "half spanish" progression with they chords Dm - C (or Dm/C) - Bb - C - Dm(Ebm - Cb - Db - Ebm in the electric version).


The verse modulates one step down to C#m, which is the relative minor key to E-major. The verse has the chords C#m - G#m - C#m - C - D - E (i-v-i-VII-IIb-IIIb with C#m as root). I think of this a modulation from C#m to E mixolydian. From there it continues with the chords F#m - B - E - A two times. The F#m - B - E would be a ii - V - I progression of E major. But I am not sure how to interpret the phrase when it ends with the A-chord. All the chords belongs to E-major. Had it been A-major, it would normally had been a Bm and not a B. If we group the chords a bit different, we could see the firstF#m - B - E as a ii - V - I progression of E major. From the E chord the continuation will be E - A - F#m - B - E, which will be the I - IV - ii - V -(I), a variation of the I-vi-IV-V / I-vi-ii-V progression in E major. So I stick to the E-major.

The song is about to start on another I - IV - F#m - B round, but it goes E - A - Dm instead of E - A - F#m. I see the three chords E - A - Dm as starting as a I - IV change of E-major, where Eric Clapton take advantage of the double identity of the I-IV change. The E - A change is a I-IV change of E-major, but it can also be seen as a V-I change of A-major. We could say that for a split second we are in the key of A-major, but we don't stay there. It is what I prefer to call a passing key. The A chord changes identity, and the phrase ends as a V - i change of D-minor. And then we are back to the chord structure of the intro.

My interpretation of the key changes of Layla (Unplugged version) as D-minor | C#-minor | E-mixolydian | E-major | (A-major) | D-minor.

In the electric version, the tune changes to a long instrumental after all the verses. Once again in moudlates, and the instrumental is played over a mixolydian chord structure in Db (which would be C if we keep the half step lower key of the Unplugged version.) But I am not going to discuss this chord structure any further.

Progressions

  • ii-V-I
  • I-IV
  • Only as a passing change, but it really illustrate the double identity of the I-IV change.

  • i-VIIb-VIb (VIIb-I)
  • i-VIIb-VIb Minor Half Spanish
  • The intro has the "half spanish" progression with they chords Dm - C (or Dm/C) - Bb - C - Dm(Ebm - Cb - Db - Ebm in the electric version).

    Special chords

    Modulation

    Up 1/2 - minor

    Verse in C#m, modulates to Dm in chorus

    Down 1/2 minor

    Modulates from Dm in the intro to C#m in the verse

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