Frank Zappa's musical language

Frank Zappa's musical language

A study of the music of Frank Zappa

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I'm interested in mail of an analytical kind about possible errors in this site and other topics about Zappa's music. It's possible to extend this site, where additional chapters can be written by others. I shall give credit to anyone who makes a contribution in the text itself and the changes and corrections list below. You can contact me at:


Note: I'm aware of that the e-mail addresses linked to my zappa-analysis sitename are abused for sending spam. For complaints, check the IP addresses, I have nothing to do with it.

For documentation purposes I'm having some copies of this site printed and send to libraries. The 4th edition is downloadable as a pdf file. Editions 1-3 are available on paper (cover printed, pages Xerox copied, sample). You can contact me for buying your own copy of these printed editions.

4th Edition downloadable as pdf

Recent changes and corrections:
- In the Summer of 2015 I listed the Hungry freaks solo as Dorian only in my table with instrumental songs/passages. This has been refined since my inclusion of some transcribed bars from this song in my May 2016 update. There's more to it than I first thought. Regarding "Harry you're a beast" I seem to have miswritten myself in this table, where I put the tonic A in the Aeolian column instead of the Mixolydian column (and the C# Locrian remark doesn't belong there). The song is obviously in A Mixolydian (as also indicated by Clement).

Changes and corrections included in this site upon the 4th pdf version:
- The quintuplet from The black page #1 did not go literally like that into The black page (1987) in a slower version. The rhythm got changed too.
- Peaches en regalia: I miswrote myself in bar 6. Cm-5 en Cm should be F#m-5 and F#m.
- Little umbrellas: opening chord progression corrected.
- The perfect stranger (Boulez version): in the percussion-beats line the notation for half and whole note pauses got switched.
- Montana: some detail corrections.
- 200 years old: the scale is G Dorian instead of minor.
- Sad Jane: a couple of details were wrong.
- Ride my face to Chicago: I miswrote myself, I-IV should be I-V.
- Variant I processional march: identification of the example as E dorian should better be as D.

Changes and corrections included in this site upon the third release of Spring 2007, ISBN 978-90-806552-2-5:
- Call any vegetable solo (1970): vamp made more precise.
- I've notated the instrument indication below the staff instead of above it in various examples.
- Bogus pomp examples renewed.
- Project X: a miswrote myself here, B minor should be Bb.
- Lost in a whirlpool should be blues in E Dorian.
- Kaiser rolls: bars 11-12 should have an F natural.
- Latex solar beef: notation should better be as B Dorian instead of B minor.
- Don't you ever wash that thing: alteration to G Minor should better be formulated as alteration to notes from G Minor.
- You are what you is: Bb and F as key note.
- The black page bar 17: bass pedal note is Gb instead of Eb.
- Promiscuous: bass line renewed.
- Down in the dew: renewed.
- Legend of the golden arches: transcription renewed. C# pedal part should be B pedal as well.
- Dwarf nebula: some details errors corrected.
In a number of transcriptions the bass line was done too hastily and has been renewed:
- Project X, Mammy nuns, Call any vegetable, The black page (1997).
- Babette, Hot plate heaven, Shall we take ourselves seriously.

Changes and corrections included in this site upon the second release of September 2001, ISBN 90-806552-1-X:
- Times Beach II and III examples renewed and remark "by approximation" added.
- Fine girl and Brown shoes riff renewed.
- Yo' mama: some details changed.
- Run home cues #3: doubts about the correctness of the 5/4 meters added.
- Dancin' fool: 6/4 bar renotated as 3x2/4.
- Echidna's Arf transcription: corrections upon the choice of metres mailed to me by Tom Trapp.
- Filthy habits: writing error in bar 17, 16th pause corrected to 32th pause.
- Augmentations of the site are added as an appendix in the 2003 reprint of the 2nd edition.
- Put a motor in yourself: sketches made more accurate.
- Two of the five Ruben and the Jets fragments, Anything and Deseri, aren't by Zappa himself, but by collaborators Paul Buff and Ray Collins. My apology to them. I would have taken other examples if I had realized this before; their names are now mentioned.
- You didn't try to call me: notation changed.
- Conclusion: sonata form specified as sonata form with various movements.

Changes and corrections included in this site upon the first release of May 2000, ISBN 90-9013158-2:
- Mo 'n Herbs vacation: starting time for the melody in part I added (2:18).
- Meter division of the Florentine Pogen transcription changed (advised by Justin Birchell).
- Transcription of Don't you ever wash that thing, 0:00 till 0:14: triplets replaced by 2/32 and 1/16 and bar 3, writing down error for the beats: three eighth notes replaced by three sixteenth notes.
- Between multi-scale melodies and atonality: sentence "The combinations in major are C,..." reformulated to "The combinations (in major keys) are notes of C,..."
- Billy the mountain: key of the opening changed from B flat Dorian to D flat Lydian (the bass pedal note is D flat instead of B flat).
- Phrase from Wild love: Ludwig transcription replaced by one of my own.
- I ain't got no heart: The harmony of the second theme is different (I and IV should be IV and V).

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