Oct 10, 2014

More Tangerine Changes

My recent post on the harmonic similarities of "Tangerine" and "Doce de Coco" got me thinking about other tunes that have that distinctive "Tangerine" feature of modulating briefly to the key a major third up, in measures 13-14 of a 32-bar form.

Here are some American "Golden Age" standards that do this:

The Touch of your Lips (Ray Noble, 1936 - OK, so he was English)
I Hadn't Anyone Till You (Ray Noble, 1938)
Tangerine  (Victor Schertzinger, 1941)
How About You (Burton Lane, 1941)
I Love You (Cole Porter, 1944)

Brazilian tunes that do this:

Lamentos (Pixinguinha, 1928)
Doce de Coco (B section) (Jacob do Bandolim, 1951)
Noites Cariocas (B section) (Jacob do Bandolim, 1957)
Triste (Jobim, 1967)

I'd always identified that device with "Tangerine," but obviously there are antecedents.

Thanks to Tom Simpson for pointing out the Ray Noble songs. They came earlier, and use the 2-bar modulation in the same spot, bars 13-14. "The Touch of Your Lips" (1936) seems to be the earliest one we have. Thanks also to Keith Bernstein for mentioning Irving Berlin's "Always" (1928), which also uses that device, though not exactly in the same spot in the form.

The harmony to Porter's "I Love You" seems to be a blatant "Tangerine" appropriation from beginning to end, with only a few small differences, including putting in some half-diminished II chords to give it that Cole Porter-ish minorness.

Please leave a comment below if you have a tune to add to the list. I'm looking for a 2-bar modulation up a major third, in bars 13-14.

Of course, most harmonic patterns did not originate with the popular music composers of the early/mid 20th century. Somewhere in the works of Bach or Schubert or Scott Joplin, you can probably find a modulation to the key a major third up, in measures 13-14 of a 32-bar form. If you run across anything like that, let me know!

Charts for "Tangerine" and "Doce de Coco" can be found here.

Finally, here's Pixinguinha's recording of his choro "Lamentos." Great stuff, and pretty advanced for 1928!


  1. Another tune to include: "Always" by Irving Berlin.

    There are lots of tunes that modulate up a minor third

    1. Thanks, Keith. I've rewritten this post a bit after getting yours and others' comments. See above!

    2. There are lots of tunes in AABA form that start the B section a major third up from that of the A sections. Such tunes include: "If Ever I Would Leave You" from the musical "Camelot," "Five Brothers," "Moonlight In Vermont," and "Watch What Happens." These are clearly different from the "Tangerine" changes you described in your post but demonstrate that a modulation to a major third up may be uncommon but is certainly used.