What Songs Do You Recognize in the First 5 Seconds?

Themes and variation

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Everyone on the planet has at least a handful of songs that they’d recognize almost instantly if the first few seconds come on. You know you do, can you think of a few songs that might perk your ears up right now?

Sometimes it’s because of that very particular, iconic lick in the intro. Then again, it could be the use of an incredibly unique sound or instrument that only that one song starts with. And, of course, there are some songs that quickly ring a bell because of our personal connections to them.

For the most recent episode of our podcast, Mahea and I sat down with Brian Funk (musician, educator, podcast host, and keeper of a very musical family name) to discuss this very topic, “Songs You Can Recognize in the First Five Seconds.” We also explored some of the reasons the first few bars of each of our selections left such major imprints on our minds.

Join us and check out the 29th episode of Themes and Variation below:

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episode grid

And don’t forget to check out these fantastic links from our guest, Brian Funk!

Episode 29 Highlights

1. Brian on the consistent relevancy of The Cars.

Brian: “There’s a number of songs that I’ve come across in this deep dive where I’m like ‘I can’t believe this came out in 1984 or 1982 like.’ ‘Cause it’s got like an 808 drumbeat and like you know these really cool synth sounds and you’re just like ‘How? This sounds like it came out yesterday.’ It’s wild.”

2.  Carter on the disputed key of “Say It Ain’t So.”

Carter: “The reason I bring the changes up are that I have seen you know you get those random sites that will list the tempo and the key of a song, I was seeing C minor come up a lot and I would say that this is actually in E-flat major. They share a key signature of course and that’s great, like you know you might see that, those three flats and be like ‘oh that’s C minor for sure.’ The important thing, if you’re new to this kind of thing and you’re trying to figure out harmony and things like that and listening for it, what does home feel like to you when you’re listening to a track? And it’s not you know, the first chord is C minor so you might think ‘well, oh that’s the key of the song’ but E-flat is absolutely tonic and home on this track when I listen to it.”

3. Mahea on the incredible voice of Ella Fitzgerald.

Mahea: “Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Mercury, I don’t even know if I can think of a third voice I’d put in that like, here’s a person who perfectly expressed a sentiment while also happening to have one of the greatest voices we’ll ever hear. Like you said, she’s an amazing storyteller.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Every time we launch a new episode, we create a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the theme. And you can add to it! We want to hear your favorite songs that you can recognize in the first five seconds, so go ahead and add them to the playlist yourself below!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

RJD2: From Samples to Songs

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