Home / Joe Satriani Vs. Coldplay: A Tale Of Two Songs

Joe Satriani Vs. Coldplay: A Tale Of Two Songs

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The recent commotion over whether or not Coldplay ripped off guitar whiz Joe Satriani is nothing less than surprising and mystifying. My bewilderment has nothing to do with Coldplay however, but with Satriani, the guitar teacher-turned instrumental rock god.

Last week, after months of not hearing back from Coldplay (who are in the midst of a major world tour), he went to a federal court in Los Angeles and filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against them, claiming that the English rock stars’ #1 2008 hit song “Viva La Vida” lifted material from his own 2004 instrumental “If I Could Fly.”

Both are great, midtempo songs, no question. I have listened to both countless times. But one is an orchestral, grandiose pop song with relatively little guitar work (“Viva”) while the other is straight up steady bass, drums, and wailing guitar-based instrumental rocker (“If I Could Fly”).

More to the point: there is practically no basis for this rather frivolous lawsuit. And coming from someone who knows the ins and outs of musical composition in rock better than most, it boggles the mind why Satriani thinks the Coldplay song sounds so much like his work.

There are brief patterns of similarity in both songs too be sure, so without boring you (musicians or non-musicians) with a lot of advanced musical theory jargon and notation, I will try and breakdown the few similarities and big differences these two great songs have, differences that should’ve convinced Satch right away that there was nothing major to make a fuss about, let alone go to federal court over.

For Coldplay to be successfully sued, Satriani would have to prove the band had access to his work and that the band’s song in question sounds “substantially” similar to Satch’s composition, among other criteria. I (and Coldplay) would argue that even if on repeated occasions, the Coldplay song has a couple of note progressions that sound similar to a a couple of note progressions in Satch’s song, that they are not “substantial” enough to constitute plagiarism. 

Here’s how they are substantially different. “Viva” is in the key of F minor, while “Fly” is in B minor (as best I can tell). “Viva’s” verse and chorus music stays in the same key, while “Fly’s” verses and choruses are noticeably different in notes and chords (verses: G-F#, G-F#-B; chorus:E-A-D-B; post-chorus/outro bass notes: G-A, A-F#-G).

But even if one were to do what a YouTube user did–deceptively speed up “Viva La Vida” one half step and lower the original pitch of Satch’s song by six half steps to make them unnaturally sound alike–you would still hear that no more than 3 consecutive notes in Satch’s expressive riffs in “Fly” (starting at the :49-second mark and again at the 2-minute mark) and Coldplay leader Chris Martin’s vocals in “Viva” seem to match up note-for-note, beat-for-beat at any time. And here is the key: that is ONLY if you cut out Martin’s repeating the first note multiple times with different lyrics at the start of each verse line and ignore any notes Martin sings to continue the melody after hitting those three common notes.

The truth is, you have to evaluate someone’s ENTIRE melodic progression, from start to finish, to fairly judge it as a ripoff or not of another’s work.

So maybe you (or Joe) are thinking, it’s not just Martin’s vocals allegedly mimicking Satch’s guitar licks that I hear, it’s the song’s chord progressions that are similar. Well, let’s look at that too.

First of all, Coldplay’s and Satch’s rhythm sections are constructed differently. While Satriani has a regular drummer laying down a steady beat on “Fly,” Coldplay has a constant, almost techno-like beat going throughout “Viva.”

On bass, Satriani’s song has a deeper sound, courtesy of a five-string, while Coldplay uses a standard four-string bass, which lays down considerably lighter notes on its tunes. And as far as guitar is concerned, there are no guitar chord progressions in “Viva” to mimic Satriani’s, as Coldplay’s Johnny Buckland uses bright riffs and melodies to compliment the orchestral sound of his band’s hit. Satriani, on the other hand, uses acoustic guitar chords to compliment his electrifying electric guitar solos on “Fly.”

So where do the two songs’ non-vocal similarities begin and end? Perhaps “Viva’s” most used four consecutive bass notes sound similar to the four-part melodic progression in the two choruses of “If I Could Fly.” But even then, the actual bass notes on both tunes don’t come close to matching up, even if a couple of their intervals look similar..

“Viva’s” main bass line is Db-Eb-Ab-F. The intervals would then be up a major 2nd (Db-Eb), down a perfect 5th (Eb-Ab) and down a minor third (Ab-F). “Fly’s” relevant and repetitive (chorus) bass line around the :49 mark to about the 1:14 mark is E-A-D-B. The intervals would be up a perfect 4th (E-A), down a perfect fifth (A-D), and down a minor third (D-B).

Speaking of intervals, what people (and Satch) are hearing that they think is a ripoff is a common occurrence: two artists using the same consecutive interval steps as part of a melody. For Satch, at the :49 second mark and again at the 2-minute mark of “Fly,” he hits and rests an F# for 6 sixteenth notes/3 eighth notes long (on guitar) and then goes up one half step to G (a minor second interval), then down a minor third (1 and 1/2 steps) to E.

For Chris Martin and Coldplay, after repetitively singing C# anywhere from four to six times throughout “Viva,” he hits and rests a C# for 6 sixteenth notes/3 eighth notes long and then also goes up a half step (to D) and then down a minor third (to B) before singing other words and notes to finish his verse lines (aka his melodies). But again, you can’t separate that note progression (C#-D-B by Coldplay) from the rest of the melody. Context is everything, even in music.

There are probably hundreds if not thousands of pop, punk rock and blues-based songs out there that sound so much alike and that have many more consecutive notes and chords than these two. Musicians in those groups could reasonably accuse each other of being rip-off artists if they took the time to listen closely enough and think it’s worth it financially to go to court over.

Why Joe Satriani feels the need to seek a jury trial and recover profits over this one song that one could reasonably prove did not copy his material only he knows. Perhaps he lost patience with Coldplay and his legal team after not having his calls returned? Maybe he thinks the band’s silence on this issue proves they are guilty of stealing from him? Whatever the reason, it’s hardly justifiable. But hey, at least it’s not as laughable as little known band Creaky Boards’ similar claim from earlier this year that “Viva” rips one of their songs off. But they, unlike Satriani were wise enough not to sue.

So, that said, do yourself a favor and find a copy of the Satriani and Coldplay tracks and then compare them yourself – don’t evaluate them based on that highly misleading YouTube clip. I guarantee you’ll feel the same way I do that whatever brief similarities you’ll find, there is no copyright infringement to be found regarding “Viva La Vida.” This isn’t Vanilla Ice ripping off Queen/David Bowie we’re talking about.

In closing, it is my opinion that this lawsuit by Satriani is the biggest mistake he’s made in years, and he ought to be ashamed of himself for it, the same way The Rolling Stones ought to be ashamed of not allowing The Verve to make a penny on “Bittersweet Symphony” based on the younger band’s use of a sample of some obscure orchestral mix of the Stones song “The Last Time” that had little input from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

But it was also a mistake for Coldplay to wait so long to respond to Satch’s charges. They finally did the other day and not only rejected these plagiarism charges but called any similarities between their works as “surprising” to them as they were to the instrumentalist and “entirely coincidental.” You can read Coldplay’s full statement on the band’s website. Now, Satriani ought to directly talk to the members of Coldplay about the charges and come to an understanding of each other’s work. Hopefully then, Joe Satriani will finally come to his senses and drop this ridiculous lawsuit altogether.

UPDATE: The case was dismissed from court and settled confidentially between the two parties, with Coldplay not being required to admit any wrongdoing.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.
  • Charlie Doherty

    What a joke! I called an “Em7 a Gmaj7”? Where, in Mars? You need to train your ears James, stop making things up and get a clue and actually LISTEN to the ENTIRE 6:33-minute “If I Could Fly” song. The VERY FIRST CHORD of “Fly” is a GMaj7 (and goes to F#maj-something, then Bmaj11 or something, doesn’t matter), NOT Em7, which only appears starting at the :49 second mark for a couple of measures, and then around the 2 minute mark for a couple of more measures.

    You also harp on shit that doesn’t matter, like songs having the same rhythm. Only a “subsntial” matching of a given melody should matter when considering a ripoff. All this talk of progressions is a waste of our time, except for me pointing out to you that these songs have VERY brief similarities in notes and progressions.

    There is only a three-note (when taken out of context on “Viva’s” part) and two-interval progression that both songs match up on at any type, even when transposed into the same key (C#-D-Bb in “Viva” and be transposed to F#-G-E but you would be cutting out other key parts of “Viva’s lyrical melodies before and afterward, and you CAN’T do that when you’re judging a ripoff).

    But I think you and I agree that even though it doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things, the bass lines of Coldplay’s song, when transposed to the same key share three of the four same notes and therefore two of the same three intervals (but not the first note and interval as I explained earlier) as the Satch bass lines at the :49 and 2 minute marks.

    You and I just have to agree to disagree on this. These short similarities are not “substantial” and therefore DO NOT make any song a rip off of another, let alone this one (“Viva”), but you seem to think so. Good for you.

  • James Pownall

    THE FIRST CHORD IS CLEARLY AN EM7!! Now it appears you’re just making things up!

    “And by the way James. You don’t even realize what signifies a minor chord, and you’re telling me I don’t know my shit?”

    Where did that come from? You just called an Em7 a Gmaj7, and i don’t “realize what signifies a minor chord”?

    “At no point does a capital M signify a minor. Not where I come from. Look at any notation guide, even in Guitar World and you’ll see “Em” is E minor.”

    I capitalized it, so what? You can obviously ascertain what i was saying, you’re just jumping around the issue. Whenever i write my own music i’ve used capital M and it hasn’t been a problem for anyone.

    Ughhh, here we fucking go again! The song is the same progression in a different key! Obviously the chords, on paper, are different: they’re in different keys. But when you put them in the same key to evalutate them, you can see it’s the same! And i already have acknowledged the notes used within the songs, and compared them, and found them to be the same. As well as this, the rhythmic contour is the same for both melodies, accenting aside. If you only think that two short intervals are the basis of this case, you really need to train your ears.

  • Charlie Doherty

    You haven’t countered any of it. All you’ve done is show off your theory knowledge and make totally unrelated, off-base points to the actual notes in these songs. I’ve written the actual notes and you haven’t acknowledged them.

    You don’t even know that the first “chord” of “If I Could Fly” is a GMaj7, which is totally different than the Db major that begins “Viva.”

    And by the way James. You don’t even realize what signifies a minor chord, and you’re telling me I don’t know my shit?

    At no point does a capital M signify a minor. Not where I come from. Look at any notation guide, even in Guitar World and you’ll see “Em” is E minor.

    You can keep this up but won’t get anywhere unless you acknowledge the actual notes Chris Martin sings and the guitar notes Satriani’s guitar sings. Those are at the heart of this frivolous lawsuit. I’ve already written their parts out and proven that the difference outweigh the (short two interval) similarities. Find them in the article or in the comments section.

  • James Pownall

    You’re actually wrong. E minor 7 is written EM7, E major 7 is written EMaj7. Secondly, i’ve already explained how the first chord of each songs function in the same way, and you’ve completely ignored it. To prove this to you, play through the “Viva” chords, but substitute the Db Major for a BbM7 using the following voicing:


    It’s not the exact same chord, but functions in the same way due to the fact that this chord can be considered an extension of Db Major due it being comprised of a Db major triad with a 6.

    How can’t you see that the similarities outweigh the differences? So far i’ve been able to counter all your evidence.

  • Charlie Doherty

    “Now the main point that you’ve raised is the different accenting of the notes used in both songs, and that’s correct. But the changes between the notes occur at relatively the same time in each song.”

    Incorrect again. Dude, just give it up already. You’re sounding like a conspiracy theorist now.

  • Charlie Doherty

    Coldplay’s bass player uses a four-string bass. I’ve seen them live on TV (check out a Youtube clip of a random performance and see for yourself).

  • Charlie Doherty

    And about your theory, listen dude, you’re not telling me anything I already don’t know and learned back in high school.

    While I’m at it, I hope you meant to write E minor 7. You wrote “EM7,” which with a capital M means MAJOR 7. As you should know, E minor is the relative minor of G major. E major/EM7 does not match up with G major (in terms of all the notes).

    Also, keep in mind that Satch’s chorus’ first interval jump (E to A) is a perfect 4th, while Coldplay’s is consistently a major 2nd (Db to Eb).

    Where both are the same in the relevant parts of these songs is the interval jumps from chords II-III (down a perfect 5th) and from chords III-IV (down a minor 3rd). Is that grounds for a lawsuit? Hell no!

    The point is, you can transpose any number of songs, especially on commercial radio and say they rip off somebody. It’s really pointless to continue doing so here. Either you understand there is no rip off here or you don’t.

  • James Pownall

    I was talking about simply the tones used rather than the amount of times they are used. Now the main point that you’ve raised is the different accenting of the notes used in both songs, and that’s correct. But the changes between the notes occur at relatively the same time in each song. In my next post i’ll post the relation between then rhythmic timing of the tone changes in notation to make it clearer.

    I understand what you’re saying about the tuning thing, but you’re being very broad and only thinking about songs that are written in Eb. Many songs incorporate the keys of Eb and C# without using Eb standard tuning, Dream Theater’s “Take The Time” and Symphony X’s “Divine Wings of Tragedy” come to mind. There’s no rule on this. Also, the bass player could be using a five-string bass, which would make more sense.

  • Charlie Doherty

    Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear about the Db to Eb use. Lots of guitarists use it, but not in songs that are in the key of E major in E standard tuning. You wouldn’t see Tony Iommi using Eb to Db on “Paranoid” in standard E tuning. That’s why he goes from E to D (then quickly goes to G-something, then back to D before finishing on E again). Just as an example.

  • Charlie Doherty

    “The main vocal melody of “Viva” and the main guitar melody in “If I Could Fly” also share the same notes when transposed into the same key.

    For the Coldplay tune, the notes are C, Db, Bb, Ab and F.

    For the Satch tune, the notes are F#, G, E, D and B.”

    Incorrect, sir. You are missing a ton of notes, which on a music sheet I would tab out for anyone who cares.

    As best I can do without one, here’s a Coldplay common lyrical melody in the song, using mostly 16th notes: C-C-C-C(hold for one additional 16th note)-C (hold the last “C” for 5 16th notes long)-Db(hold one additional 16th note)-Bb (hold for five more 16th notes), Bb(hold one more 16th note)-Ab-Bb (hold for two more 16ths, Ab-Bb-Ab-Eb-F.

    Satch’s “Fly” on guitar around the :49 second mark: F#(hold for 6 16th notes)-bend up to G-E, D-E, D-E, E-D-E-(bend up to)F#, D-B.

    I know it well because I’ve played it countless times (as well as other great Satch songs over the years).

  • James Pownall

    Fair enough on the point of Eb tuning, i hadn’t listened to the song closely enough to hear that. But that statement about people not using Db and Eb at the start of the song is just incredibly wrong and narrow-minded. There are countless songs that start on these notes that don’t use Eb tuning.

    Also, i take your lack of response to my explanation of the theory as acceptance of its correctness?

  • James Pownall


    You need to put them into the same key to understand the similarities. It’s like comparing fractions; it’s made much clearer if both have the same denominator. In this case, the musical key is the denominator.

  • Charlie Doherty

    James, as far as how I can tell the song is in Eb standard tuning, at least on bass, it’s because, starting around the 1:10 mark of “Viva” the bass comes in and that the lowest note is a low Eb, which tells me it’s an open Eb on the low E string (the bass player later switches it up a bit to use a higher-sounding Ab and Eb and adds a Bb-C progression in there around the 1:27-28 mark).

    Besides, whether on guitar or bass, most people don’t use Db and Eb as the starting point on a song if you are in standard tuning. Instead, you’d just use D and E.

  • Charlie Doherty

    James, you don’t get it. Stop transposing these tunes! You can’t get a true analysis of these songs that way!

  • James Pownall

    I was referring to the bass line in its transposed form, not it’s original form. You’ve again ignored the fact that they function in the same way. This is seen when you transpose them into the same key. Lets explore it:


    (chords) Em7, A major, DMaj7, BMin
    (bass line) E, A, D, B

    (chords, transposed to B minor) G major, A major, D major (or 7, not positive), B minor
    (bass, transposed to B minor) G, A, D, B

    Lets compare them chord by chord, note by note.

    Chord I
    EM7 & G major
    E & G bass notes

    EM7 is comprised of a G major triad with an E, or 1-flat3-5-flat7. So G major is incorporated into EM7, which allows us to understand why they function in the same way and sound similar in the scheme of the song. A G major is comprised of a I-III-V. These notes also happen to be the flat3-5-flat7 in the key of E, the notes which make up an EM7. Understand?

    The E and G bass notes are indeed different, yet due to G being in both a G major chord and an E minor 7, it functions in the same way, and vice versa with the E bass note.

    A major & A bass note – Satch
    A major & A bass note – Coldplay

    The same, needs no further exploration.

    Chord III
    D major & D bass note- Satch
    D major & D bass note- Coldplay

    The same again, no need to explore this.

    Chord IV
    B minor and B bass – Satch
    B minor and B bass – Colplday

    The same, once again.

    Also, i don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that Coldplay uses Eb Standard tuning in this song, considering most of it is in synth and it’s in the key of F minor.

    The main vocal melody of “Viva” and the main guitar melody in “If I Could Fly” also share the same notes when transposed into the same key.

    For the Coldplay tune, the notes are C, Db, Bb, Ab and F.

    For the Satch tune, the notes are F#, G, E, D and B.

    If we shift the Coldplay tune from F minor to B minor, the notes then become, F#, G, E, D and B.

    As well as this, they follow a similar rhythmic contour, which you have agreed with in earlier posts, yet dismissed due to the fact that they had “different notes”. Now, can you see that they share the same notes when transposed?

    Are you trying to argue that despite sharing all of these elements, the difference in key seperates them? So if i transposed “Viva” into D minor, i’d be safe from a lawsuit?

  • Charlie Doherty

    There is no G in “Viva,” pal, not in the bass lines or anywhere else. Since the guitars and bass are in Eb standard tuning, (and I actually have my guitar in hand now unlike before), the main bass lines are: Db-Eb (open E on the sixth string) and then Ab-F.

    Satch’s bass and guitars are in E standard tuning, and you can’t question the relevant bass lines I laid out before. They are different than “Viva’s” in terms of intervals and actual notes. End of story.

  • Charlie Doherty

    *”instead of Db-D-B” I meant to say.

  • Charlie Doherty

    James, you have no idea what you are talking about. I’m the one using the actual notes in both songs (I may be a half step off, but am going on memory alone, so give me a break if it’s really C-Db-Bb instead of D#-D-B.) You are making them up or using the guitar teacher from Youtube’s flawed analysis as your own.

  • James Pownall

    “They don’t matchup as a rip off of any kind (Satch’s chorus bass line: E-A-D-B; relevant Coldplay bass line: C-D-G-E). Not even close (in notes and intervals).”

    C-D-G-E?? Where did you pull those notes from? You’ve transposed it into E Minor rather than B minor. The CORRECT bass notes for Viva La Vida are G-A-D-B, which functions in the same way as the Satriani song due to the fact that G is the minor 3rd in an EM7 chord.

    And where did you get this idea that there is a Db to D in the Coldplay tune? The vocal line does not use that pitch in any part. This is due to the song being in the key F minor, which doesn’t have a major six (D).

    How can you claim to have a knowledge of music theory yet make so many mistakes?

    As for punk and blues, i’m sure there are countless cases of lawsuits similar to this one, they just aren’t as publicised. I also think that people consider blues to be more of an open domain area than commercial music, due to the fact that it would be near impossible to track down the original creator of the certain blues formats e.g twelve-bar, etc..

  • Charlie Doherty

    Do you know how many millions of songs have similarities based on “interval levels”? Jeez Louise. And sorry, I’m not buying the bass lines argument either, either the actual notes or transposed notes.

    They don’t matchup as a rip off of any kind (Satch’s chorus bass line: E-A-D-B; relevant Coldplay bass line: C-D-G-E). Not even close (in notes and intervals).

    The only, and I mean, the ONLY progression “Viva” has in common with a few seconds of a “If I Could Fly” solo is that Chris Martin’s vocal goes up a half step from D flat to D, which he holds out for about 5 sixteenth notes long, and then goes down 1 1/2 steps to B. But that’s ONLY if you discount him repeating the first notes with different lyrics to start the progression, which he does every single time. And you can’t discount any notes if you’re considering a song a ripoff or not.

    I’m sure if you transpose a Bette Midler vocal or two you could claim she’s ripping off Satch too (or the other way around!). Point is that a similar (and very short) intervallic progression doesn’t make one song a ripoff of another.

    And I still say these two songs are separate gems with one, two-second similarity. Plain and simple.

    Millions of punk and blues songs rip each other off. Spend your time looking into that.

  • James Pownall

    I read this article just out of curiosity, and i’ve been up all night reading through the comments. And i’ve got to say, you’ve really got it wrong Charlie. I know it’s about 6 months since the last post here, but i can’t just let other people read through most of this and have them think you’re correct.

    My first point of concern is you insisting that the Coldplay tune doesn’t have “actual chords”. Although the chords are not played on the one instrument, they are outlined through the polyphonic structure of the song. How can you even argue that there is no chordal structure or outlining?

    Secondly, drop the “different bass lines” argument. You claim the guitar teacher is wrong for ignoring this, but you clearly ignored that he was comparing them on a interval-based level, rather than a diatonic tonal level. In doing so, you did not think to transpose the Coldplay bass line into the same key as Satriani’s song. If you did so, you’d realise that it outlines the same chordal changes. It would be a bass line of G, A, D and B. This just happens to be the same as those chords that the instructor “made up”!

    The contour of the vocal line and satriani’s lead guitar are incredibly similar, and also share the same intervalic progression. I’m playing them through on my guitar now; they are identical aside from the difference in key.

    Your problem is you’re not thinking in an intervalic structure; you’re seeing it purely in a tonal form. And when you look at it on paper in such a form, the songs are obviously going to seem different. Similar tempo? Sure, an easy coincidence. Same chord progression? Sure, there’s only so many 4-chord variations that are viable in the commercial world. Similar lead line? It’s a possible coincidence assuming it’s in a different context. But near identical in all three aspects? That’s too much for me to handle.

    One more thing about the chord progression! Another thing you may say is, “well G major and EM7 are different chords, case dismissed!”, but you would be wrong. An EM7 is comprised of a G Major triad with an E. One could argue that EM7 is an inversion of G Major. In both songs they function in the same way. (I know, slightly out of order to talk about this now, but it was bugging me and i forgot to mention it earlier).

    But by far the most ridiculous thing i read in this comments section was the remark, “Remember, Coldplay and Satch come from different countries. Why would they (Coldplay, from England) seek out an obscure track from an American artist they have nothing in common with?”.

    First of all, I’m from Australia, and i’ve heard of Coldplay and have some of there stuff. But they are from England, and i have nothing in common with Coldplay….oh my God i’ve somehow fractured the space-time continuum! *universes collapses on itself*… But continuing, who are you to say Coldplay have nothing in common with Satriani, and even if that is the case, why does it matter? I’m a fan of Joe Satriani, and i’ve seeked out his work, and he’s from another country (gasp!), and all i have in common with him is that we both share a love for playing guitar and for the art of music. Coldplay have almost certainly more in common with him, both being in the commercial realm.

    Anyway, rant over, anger diffused. For anyone who ever reads this, always remember that it’s always important to investigate further!

  • Charlie Doherty

    There’s a lot more than that that goes into determining (legally) what is and what is not a ripoff – and accessibility is one of them. So you could say anybody has “access” to another artist’s released work. But how to you prove that in a court case?

    Remember, Coldplay and Satch come from different countries. Why would they (Coldplay, from England) seek out an obscure track from an American artist they have nothing in common with?

    I believe courts should NEVER have the final say on artistic plagiarism disputes and am glad these two parties settled out of court without anyone admitting wrongdoing. Both sides could have handled this better (Coldplay especially, by taking Satch seriously when he first complained about “Viva”). But it’s done and over with. Coldplay haters will still hate Coldplay. And Satch lovers will still love the guy’s work to death.


  • Wasssssup

    “For Coldplay to be successfully sued, Satriani would have to prove the band had access to his work”

    …Really? The fact Satch’s song was out for at least 3 years before Coldplay came out with their song isn’t “access to the work”?

  • Charlie

    And if you don’t know what I’m talking about Joe, watch the teacher in the 7-minute mark make up a G major chord, A major chord, D major seventh + 9 chord and b minor chord that don’t exist in “Viva” right after playing the chorus of Satch’s “If I Could Fly,” which is E minor 7, A major, D major seventh + 9, and B minor. “Viva” has one-note guitar lines, that’s it (no actual chords).

    The bass (always one note at a time here) goes a completely different route, even if it’s a similar tempo as “Fly.” But thousands of songs have the same tempo so that’s nothing. And that bass line is: D flat, E flat, A flat, F (minor). Can Andrew the Youtube teacher explain how that rips off Satch? No way.

  • Charlie

    Joe, thanks for your comment (#100, no less and congrats for that). But yes, he is the “Youtube” teacher I referred to in earlier comments. He presents the strongest case that the two songs have too much in common to not be plagiaristic but he is wrong in his analysis and makes up chords in the Coldplay song that do not exist to make a crucial point! The songs do not have the same melody and chords.

    That is crucial and he fails to demonstrate the exact guitar chords Coldplay plays, nor does he demonstrate how Coldplay’s singer imitates a Satriani guitar line. I could go on but I’ve said enough here.

  • Joe Rubino

    I’m not a fan of either Coldplay or Joe, but I don’t see what the issue is. Anybody saying “no” is either tone-deaf or an unabashed Coldplay fan. The songs are so similar that, to a person who didn’t know which was published first, Joe’s could be thought to be an instrumental version of Coldplay’s hit. Charlie- you need to do yourself a favor and go onto You Tube and see the Guitar Instructor from Canada who, in two very long videos (9 minutes and 7 minutes), broke down both songs scientifically to demonstrate their similarity. He illustrated stunning similarities in tempo, chords, and melody. You can bet that Joe got paid on this one.

  • Considering the document has been sealed, what else could it mean? And not to keep disagreeing with you, but I don’t presume that just because they paid Satch to go away means they admit guilt. The costs to deal with lawsuits can be a lot.

    However, with all their money, I don’t see why they didn’t fight, if they are 100% in the right as you state. It’s a bad precedent, but there must be some room for concern on their part, and they likely learned something from George Harrison’s case/travesty.

  • Charlie D

    El Bicho, I respect you’re opinion but you’re wrong here. It’s not clear yet a “financial settlement” has been reached yet. But it sure looks like it.

    If Coldplay did just throw money at Satch (in Michael Jackson-like fashion) knowing that will make the lawsuit go away, not only is that a stupid mistake, it says something about the legal system in this country, and in many people’s minds (including yours El Bicho, I know) automatically means Coldplay is privately admitting to plagiarism.

    That’s wrong, of course but everyone has the right to their opinion. Mine happens to be based on musical facts and common sense, not gut instinct or bias towards or against an artist like many others out there (especially Coldplay haters).

    I would love to get my fellow Satch fans in a room with a chalkboard and go over note by note both songs and maybe, just maybe then they will see why these songs (“Viva” and “Fly”) don’t have a single piece of music or melody that matches up note for note. The only similarities you’re hearing are what I’ve described in the article and in countless comments here, including the one before last (#96).

    I could give a crap about Coldplay in general but I hate it when musicians get unjustly sued, especially when the accuser is someone I’ve been listening to and learning the music of for over 15 years and should know better than me. [I’ve taught guitar and piano privately on the side over the years but he was a professional guitar teacher for pete’s sake!]

    I know I’ve explained this a thousand times now but if I could talk to Joe Satriani himself, I’d love for the man himself to tell me exactly how Chris Martin’s often-repeated melody of C-C#-Bb is a rip of his tune’s progression of F#-G-E.

    True, the first notes of these progressions (C for Martin, F# for Satch) are held out/paused for exactly five eighth notes long and that the progression goes up a half step and down one-and-a-half steps from those first notes. But if you listen to blues standards (with its I-IV-V progressions), you should know THIS similarity is nothing to be concerned about.

    What is Martin supposed to do, hold out/pause that “C” note for two or three eighth notes instead of five? Give me a break. [You’re average Top 40 pop rock song has tons more similarities to past hits that could be construed as ripoffs than this, which isn’t even close to a ripoff, just a short structural similarity common in most music.]

    Satch. Is. Suing. Over. This. Simple. Three-note-progression. See how ridiculous he is now for suing?

    Not only are the notes and melody not the same, but legally speaking, he can’t say Coldplay took “substantial portions” of his material. Case closed, and (ill-advised) payoff or not, rightly “dismissed.”

  • “Satriani suit dismissed!”

    Nice try. More like ‘Satriani suit settled for an undisclosed amount with no admittance of wrongdoing!’ if you read the article you linked to. If he was 100% wrong, then Coldplay should have fought it. They didn’t.

  • Charlie Doherty

    UPDATE 9/15/09: Satriani suit dismissed! And rightly so. I’m still a big time fan of his but he was and still is totally, 100% wrong about Coldplay stealing his music.

    For him to say the “second” he heard “Viva” that he knew it was a rip off of one of his songs just doesn’t make any sense.

    The only similarity – from a musical notation standpoint – between the two songs is vocalist Chris Martin, throughout the song, holding out an eighth note for five notes, going up a half pitch then down 1 1/2 pitches (or notes), while Satch does that same progression a few times on his instrumental “If I Could Fly,” particularly at the start of the song’s two choruses.

    That’s it. That’s the similarity – but not even CLOSE to the same notes, as I’ve explained elsewhere since this needless controversy started.

  • So not Quadrophenic

    Also, forgot to add this, Satriani seems to just be fussing over this one. Chord progression and melodic arc are not justifiable reasons for a suit, and there are many cases where there are two songs that are far more close than these two. There is an Avenged Sevenfold song that sounds almost identical to the Rolling Stones song, “Paint it Black,” and I don’t see the Stones suing them. Satriani also seems to forget that the arrangement in the songs is radically different-and in the end, they don’t sound very similar. In places, they look similar, but only very rarely do they actually sound alike.

  • Marcia Neil

    There is no plagiarism when two or more songs (or two or more album themes) originate from the same source — there are only different performers who agree or are coerced into public performances.

  • So not Quadrophenic

    Now, I’ve done a bit of research on this~and still don’t know who to side with. Both have things going for them.
    I admit, my knowledge of music theory is rudimentary, but I have looked into this quite a bit.
    Coldplay’s arguments rely mainly on the definition of music plagiarism itself. The snippet that supposedly was plagiarized is about 7 seconds in length-and is almost exactly the same. The chord progression differs at the beginning, and the rest is the same, and the actual rhythm of the snippet is near identical. Of course, Satriani accents it differently, but it could be argued that that part is substantially similar. However, not the entire song, which is required. So, by legal standards, Coldplay is safe.
    Satriani, however, could argue that because that similarity is present discernibly in multiple places in the song that it is substantially similar. There is also a striking similarity in the melodic arc of the song in some places, thoes which I am too addled and lazt to find.

    I apologize in advance for any typos, beccause I suck abysmally at typing.

  • fxg

    you suck donkey ass

  • Marcia Neil

    Many musicians and other performers know they should not have royalty payments when performing other people’s music, and many company owners want a lot of money so that the company ‘runs’ itself using employees. When two or more songs sound alike, they come from the same source, which is not necessarily directly from the performers/dedications named. Some performers/dedications might well create more superlative music than the tunes they publicly perform and are dedicated to them.

  • Charlie

    Also Pat (and others), you want a more debatable case for copyright infringement? Try comparing Janet Jackson’s piano chords on “Again” with Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be.” I hear at least three-to-four chords in a row on “Again” that at one point are sequentially like the start of “Let It Be.” Should Paul have sued? I don’t know. Probably not.

    The point of me bring this up is that unlike Satriani vs Coldplay, at least Sir Paul, if he did sue, could point to 3-4 piano chords/sequence of notes in a row (on Janet’s “Again,” which is in the key of C major) that sound almost exactly like one of his main progressions (on “L.I.B.,” also in C major). The same can not be said of “Viva” as compared to “If I Could Fly.”

  • Charlie

    Pat, if you think the “melodic arc” of “Viva” starts out the same as “Fly,” please write out the notes. Think for yourself and not from the flawed YouTube teacher (who did indeed make up guitar chords that are not present in “Viva” to make a case of theoretical similarities that are not present between the two songs).

    Like I’ve said elsewhere, Coldplay can easily prove through independent creation that every part of “Viva” is original content, from the strings, the airy electric guitar bits, bass and drums and vocals.

    Also Pat, you are very much offbase about what I’ve said in this forum. If I come off as having an attitude, it’s because people here have been rudely attacking me. I have a right to defend myself! And, never once did I “hail” Coldplay. So not only are you offbase, you’re a liar. If anything, I “hail” Satriani but am willing to hold my admiration of his work back and readers in this forum have shown their appreciation for my unbiased analysis of this very serious case.

    If you saw my record collection (no Coldplay, lots of Satriani cassettes, CDs, DVDs and signature guitar picks I use daily), you would think I should be biased TOWARD Joe Satriani. But you see, I clearly am not. I listen to two songs, and analyze based them based on 20 years of musical knowledge, learning songs and arrangements by ear and by notation. That’s it.

    Now Pat, like I’ve said to quite a few others who have yet to answer my challenge, if you think Coldplay ripped off Satriani, prove it with actual musical notation (as best you can do it without a music sheet).

  • Pat

    Also worth mentioning, you are very snobbish to the people commenting here that don’t agree with you. I’d think you would know better, being the author of this opinion piece, as that discourages future readership and especially commenting.

    That said, you are clearly not “unbiased” or “genuine” or anything to that tune as you keep claiming. In every post, you hail Coldplay and degrade Satriani, promote Coldplay and insult Satriani. You clearly have a very strong bias, regardless if you try to make up for it by saying that you like some of his music.

  • Pat

    And by far too similar, I actually mean “almost exactly the same.” IE. The melodic arcs start with the same notes, the middle of the arc of both songs form perfect fifths with the other, then ends with three out of four of the same notes.

    That’s just the start. This is detailed in the Youtube teacher’s (correct) analysis in his second video.

  • Pat

    charlie, your “debunking” of the Youtube teacher’s analysis that you are so proud of is completely off-base. He didn’t “make up chord structures” or anything like that. He transposed Viva from Ab to F minor for various reasons (see his second video, you silly goose).

    That said, the song is obviously a rip off. The melodic arcs are far too similar.

  • charlie

    Hey Peter, feel free to prove note-by-note how Coldplay ripped off Satriani. Otherwise, you’ve got nothing on me or anyone else trying to make a genuine, unbiased assessment of these two songs.

  • Peter Katsiannis

    You should not be writing about music.

    To put your self above the musical sensibilities of Joe Satriani is bad enough.

    Your eloquent ignorance is as vulgar as Coldplay’s blatant and thorough ripoff.

  • charlie

    Earthworm, thanks so much for reaching out to me. Honestly (and I mean that sincerely), I believe Coldplay will and should prevail in this case.

    Why? Because through “independent creation,” the defendant (Coldplay) could easily prove how “Viva’s” song structure bares little to no similarities and certainly no “substantial” infringement upon any melody of Satch’s “If I Could Fly,” as the Bee Gees did successfully in Selle v. Gibb, which dealt with its song “How Deep Is Your Love” having similarity to an unknown composer’s melody, but ultimately no copyright infringement.

    Again, I am shocked, even sickened to my stomach that two artists I like are involved in a lawsuit with each other and that Satriani, of all people, can’t see the difference between similar song structure and a pure rip-off.

    More puzzling is that Satriani, nor his legal staff have pointed to anything specifically about the Coldplay song that rips him off; it isn’t the lyrics, or any specific part, but “the song itself.”

    That won’t and shouldn’t fly in a copyright infringement case. And I bet that once he/his legal team tries and makes his case in court that Coldplay ripped him off, the jury won’t buy it, no matter how much in depth music theory he may try and throw at them (like the wildly inaccurate infamous YouTube teacher I called out in an earlier comment, who made up similar chordal similarities in his comparison of the two songs).

    No matter what happens, I hope Coldplay and its management learn a valuable lesson from all this: take copyright infringement accusations seriously and head-on from the outset. Even if you think there’s nothing to them, don’t ever assume such allegations will just go away if you ignore them (publicly or privately) long enough. That was Coldplay’s mistake. The longer they took to respond to Satch, the more reason they had of suspicion that the band was guilty of plagiarism (wrong as they are).

    I will rest easy knowing the facts are on Coldplay’s side, but will a jury come to this same conclusion? We shall find out.

  • Denobulan Earthworm

    I am pleased to see your truly diplomatic approach to this case and I admire that. So seeing that you seem to have a very unbiased analysis, and the leading knowledge that you do of ths situation: As a member of a hypothetical jury, who do you believe takes the cake on this one. Putting aside all rediculous claims about the presumed psychological intentions of either artists, and the notion that Satch is just “washed up”.

  • charlie

    Denobulan, see comment #46 – that youtube guitar teacher made up chord similarities that DO NO EXIST (on Coldplay’s guitarist’s part). Your analysis, though I give you an b for effort, is so offbase and inaccurate (and irrelevant as far as common rhythms are considered) that it’s not worth breaking down. Besides, I’m tired of doing it again and again.

    I tell you what, why don’t you write out the actual chord structures, please. These two songs don’t have a single note in common. Prove me wrong by writing out the actual notes of the relevant sections of both songs.

  • Denobulan Earthworm

    Ok seriously, upon a pretty thorough analysis of both tunes here’s what I’ve got from my (a musician for 8 years) interpretation:

    Music in its simplest terms is broken into 3 basic creative components:

    1.Harmony – 2.Melody – 3.Rythm

    When comparing each of these components in direct contrast, it doesn’t look so good for Coldplay.

    Rhythm – When compared on a METRNOME “Fly” and “Viva” are almost set at IDENTICAL tempos…off by 1 or 2 beats per minute. That is a minescule difference that no naked ear could pick out.

    Satriani 1 – Coldplay 0

    The way the rhythm is syncopated (the way the beats deviate from the simple 1-2-3-4 : 1-2-3-4 etc… pattern) are VERY similar…creating a similar groove and feel:

    ex. d = eighth note r = rest
    “They both closely follow this pattern”
    4/4 | d r d r d d r d | r d r d d r d r |

    Satriani 2 – Coldplay 0

    Harmony – If you take apart the chord structure, “viva” shares the EXACT progression excerpting one minor difference: there is a chord substitution for the first chord. This substitution is just another way of playing the same thing, creating the same feel. To the naked ear the difference is unapparent as well as technically similar. It would be useless for me to explain this to someone unfamiliar with the theory in this field.

    Satriani 3 – Coldplay 0

    The “key” is irrelevant, any musician with a paper and pen or just an instrument could easily transpose (take from one key to another) a piece of music. You learn this in grade 10 music class. If I transposed a piece of someone else’s music and called it my own…I would probably go to court and lose on purpose, out of pure shame.

    Satriani 4 – Coldplay 0

    Melody – The Coldplay tune is very simple and there are no real depth changes as far as the piece of music goes while the Satriani tune goes through various sections BUT, the head of “viva” song contains VERY SIMILAR pitching in the melody lines and in one case the melody is pitched the SAME WAY as “fly”. The fact that the melody is sung in “viva” as opposed to played on guitar in “fly”, makes no difference. Look at it this way: The “Music” is still there whether you play it on guitar, sing it, bang it out on pitched pots and pans…what I’m getting at it that if you played both tunes on the same instrument say…piano for example, you’ll find them to sound VERY similar. One could argue that the presentation of the music, which is quite different, counts for something but this is not a case about stealing the arrangement and sounds, it’s is the theft of the music itself.

    Satriani 5 – Coldplay 1 (awarded a point for the difference in presentation)

    There is a
    great video that backs this up
    on youtube…

    I’ve never heard a two songs this close from genres so distant. Coldplay, quite new and very popular have achieved great commercial success with “viva” at #1 for quite some time now. They’ve proven to know how to play the game of industry and latch onto a niche and fly with it.
    Satriani revolutionized the guitar back in the 80’s (with the album “surfing with the alien” and continued to do so for a very long time. And to my knowledge, this isn’t the first time Coldplay has been suspected of ripping off music from other artists. If i was the judge, I’d of banged that little hammer thing along time ago!

  • Charlie

    Look El Bicho, the ABKCO lawsuit was totally uncalled for, but I really think Jagger/Richards could have convinced the greedy Allen Klein/ABKCO guys – who only sued The Verve once “B.S.” became a hit – to settle for at least a 50/50 split of royalties for “B.S.” with The Verve, who wrote 95% of the song. I may not have “proof,” but I feel there’s no way that company sued without input or some level of support from the Stones, since songwriting credits for this song reverted back to Jagger/Richards when all was said and done.

    I’m not the biggest The Verve fan in the world, but bullshit like that really pisses me off, as does Keith Richards’ quote in a 1998 Q magazine interview responding to whether it was right to take 100% of all royalties: “If they can write a better song, they can keep all the money.” This, coming from a guy who hasn’t written more than 3 or so memorable songs in 20 years! Again, Q Magazine interview Richards about this, not Allen Klein or ABKCO, so don’t tell me he and The Stones had nothing to do with that lawsuit against The Verve. Sorry, but in my opinion, there’s just no way Allen Klein went ahead with it without Keith Richards or Mick Jagger’s blessing.

  • The publishing royalties of “BS” were turned over to Allen Klein and ABKCO who owns the copyright to “The Last Time,” not to The Stones. I don’t see what proof you have that simply by asking Mick and/or Keith could have stopped Klein, so no it’s not accurate to say they “allowed” it.

    Besides, if The Verve had any legal standing, they wouldn’t have settled out of court with such a lop-sided deal. Oldham filed a separate lawsuit 18 months later.

    Now, whoever own the copyright to The Staple Singers’ “This Maybe The Last Time” should have sued ABKCO, if they didn’t.

  • El Bicho, I didn’t say The Rolling Stones filed the lawsuit (though they unjustly benefited from it, which I’ll explain below). So, what I wrote about the Stones stands as accurate. Though I didn’t mention the record company by name in my article, yes, The Stones “allowed” ABKCO Records to successfully sue The Verve over their use of an orchestral remix (of “The Last Time”) that the Stones didn’t write and then got complete songwriting credits to a song (“Bittersweet Symphony”) they didn’t deserve. That is accurate.

    They (The Stones) could’ve tried to stop this lawsuit if they cared to do the right thing or at least shared songwriting credits and royalties, but for whatever reasons, chose not to and thus left The Verve without any profits from the single.

    You see, The Verve HAD the license to use the Andrew Oldham Orchestra sample for “Bittersweet Symphony,” then was told (via the ABKCO lawsuit) they used “too much” of it, which is bullshit. The result? Jagger/Richards got songwriting credit, and The Verve completely lost it.

    And that was and still is wrong. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals of “Bittersweet” are all The Verve’s creation, as are some of the other sonic elements of the song. Only the strings were Oldham’s, and they properly (until the lawsuit claimed otherwise) licensed those strings.

    The Stones/Oldham were going to make some money off “Bittersweet” anyway due to the proper licensing The Verve were originally granted, but once it became a hit, ABKCO basically got greedy and wanted to get them and The Stones complete profits for the whole song. Needless to say, I’ve lost a little respect for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards because of this.

  • So Satriani is wrong to file a lawsuit that in part claims to know what Coldplay was thinking in their creation of the song, but the writer knows what was in Satriani’s mind in terms of the timing of filing the lawsuit?

    btw the statement “The Rolling Stones ought to be ashamed…” is wildly inaccurate because The Stones didn’t file suit. They don’t own the copyright to the song; ABKCO Records does.

  • I apologize if I’ve said this in previous comments (too lazy to look now), but you know who should consider suing who? AC/DC should be suing Jet, whose hit song “Cold Hard Bitch” clearly rips off (at least 3-5 successive chords and maybe more from) AC/DC’s hit “Shoot To Thrill.” Or Aerosmith, who could easily sue rock legend Neil Young, as Young’s 9/11 tribute song “Let’s Roll” has a main riff that almost exactly rips off Aerosmith’s “Last Child”‘s main verse guitar riff.

    But there’s a reason you don’t go to court over these rip offs: jurors, the average of whom aren’t ear-trained musicians, no matter how well advised, shouldn’t and can’t be trusted to settle musically creative disputes. I still think George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” didn’t rip off the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” either, but he lost his lawsuit. I hope (and don’t believe) Coldplay doesn’t suffer that same injustice.

  • charlie

    Lono, thanks for your kind words, though below I will show you why you should agree with me on this. And Dr. Dreadful, you’re on to something. Isn’t it funny how Satriani filed his lawsuit the day after Coldplay snatched up some Grammy nominations for this song and album? I didn’t include this fact in my article because I can’t prove Satch had this in mind, but no doubt it had to be in the back of his mind.

    What I can’t believe (and never will) is that Satch instantly thought this Coldplay song ripped him off and that a few fans emailed him thinking the same way. (He has said he spent years trying to finish writing “Fly” and is apparently upset that someone has written anything even remotely similar to a song he starting writing in 1990, since the “Flying In A Blue Dream” sessions. Geez!)

    The fact is, there is no succession of 7 notes that match up at any point in these 2 songs, which is what one commenter on my blog http://www.chucko33.blogspot.com told me needs to be proven to qualify for copyright infringement. Chris Martin sings 4 C sharps, then a 1/2 step up to D and down 2 steps to B-flat before ending his verses in a lower register.

    Satriani’s guitar (in the 2 choruses of “Fly”) its onset goes: F-sharp, then a 1/2 step up to G and then 1 and 1/2 steps down to E. This is a similar but clearly inexact pattern to Chris Martin’s main verse vocals, and only if you don’t count Martin’s first 3 C sharps that introduce those verses. But you CAN’T skip notes when alleging copyright infringement, and if you play these patterns together with or without pitch alteration, you won’t hear similarities, just musical chaos.

    This case isn’t even a close call. Coldplay is 100$ innocent here. And I’m way more a Satch fan than I’ll ever be a Coldplay fan. [I actually used my white Joe Satriani Signature guitar picks to compare the songs’ patterns on my guitar. How ironic, I know]

  • Isn’t it odd that these lawsuits always just happen to involve a song that was a massive hit?

    I can’t remember ever hearing about one that was over an obscure track tucked away in the middle of an album.

    Coldplay didn’t steal ‘A Whisper’ from someone? Come on, whoever you are out there – sue!!!

  • I was going to put up a big piece on this, and so wanted to do research to see if anyone else had. I liked your piece, it was thoughtful (which is critical to me). Interestingly, I disagree though. I do think the hooks sound too similar to be dismissed.

    My verdict is guilty, but I don’t necessarily think it was done with malice.

    However, after reading the comments here, I forget how pissy and war like everyone gets. So, I will just post back at home so I don’t have a hundred people telling me how much I suck (even if it is true).

    anyhow, thanks for the post! It was a good read.

  • jack

    sariani is just rubbish and runnin out of money
    so he finds somethin vaguely similair and points it out the day after the band get 7 grammy nominations

  • Thanx for the the compliment, but I gotta be honest – like most promo photos, this one too was airbrushed – gotta look young to impress the hepcats, y’know. It’s all in fun – I figure neither Satriani nor Coldplay nor any other rock gods are gonna care what happens in this little part of the universe anyways.

  • Marcia Neil

    Have a look at JC’s website — the youngster appears to be ready and waiting for a new pre-recorded song with his name on it, so all the college grads (or not!) can toil away listening to it and assigning the correct notes by ear, writing out the scores, printing out sheet music and mass-marketing discs/tapes that feature the find while JC might pass time performing a rendition on stage to collect a paycheck or donate to charity.

  • Charlie

    Well well well, I see that the comments section here is still alive and kickin’ (as is the overall readership, which is very cool).

    To many of you, lately keysplayer, thank you very much for your responsible input.

    And to some others, like Dennis, please do not insult anyone’s intelligence here and instead, back up your views (like keysplayer said) with your own demonstration of how “Fly” and “Viva” are similar, music theory-wise. I had years of music training and lessons in theory as a pre-teen, a teenager and continue to study it. I purposely did not write this article using musical language that the average viewer wouldn’t grasp (like “intervals” and “relative minors”) and instead laid out my song comparisons in mostly layman’s terms.

    I am a fan of both Satriani’s and Coldplay’s but have only bought Satriani records and videos cuz he’s in my Top 5 favorite artists of all time – Coldplay is not one of my favorites but I greatly respect their work, much as it has been maligned by some over the years.

    But for this article, I had no trouble putting any biases aside to examine the melodies and chords of these great songs in order to see if Satriani really had legitimate grounds to sue here. He does not, as I and some others have demonstrated. (See my other comments, particularly at #46 for further, more musically detailed examinations of how these two songs are fundamentally different if you’ve already read my article).

  • “Furthermore, the performers of album-theme ‘Coldplay’ are being sued solely because they are British; that is the real legal issue.”

    Because you can’t sue them if they’re retarted – which means of course, they’ve been tarted twice.

  • Marcia Neil

    Furthermore, the performers of album-theme ‘Coldplay’ are being sued solely because they are British; that is the real legal issue.

  • Marcia Neil

    We’re talking suites, not copying — a suite continues in time. Later songs in a suite are not copies of former songs — they are continuations of themes (one album/set = one theme) or new themes begun in an overall suite. The RIAA doesn’t worry about suites in popular music mass-production — they worry about sales.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    wise choice.


    Spurned by someone whose choice in handles is both despicable & retarted…HA!!

    Honestly, Coldplay doesn’t produce anything that needs music theory to prove that it just plain out sucks @$$! The mere fact that they are more popular than the Creaky Boards Group already defies logic…

  • “‘Brian aka Guppusmaximus’, that’s despicable. I’ll try my best to ignore anything you say from now on.”

    wise choice.

    btw, Bruce A. Richardson is retarted.

  • JC Mosquito

    Because rock guitart is scary.

  • …because your retarted if…”

    anyone ever notice the higher than normal percentage of rock guitar-related comments that have this bit in ’em? scary.

  • keysplayer

    Thank you for the highly educated single run-on sentence you’ve graced us with Dennis. From your myspace page which you’ve been kind enough to post, I see you’ve been studying at your community college for under 2 years, and from the proliferation of guitar references on your page (and yes I see that you play other instruments too), don’t you suspect the slight possibility that you’re a bit blindly biased towards Satriani, whether he’s right or wrong? From what you’ve written at least, that would seem to be the case.

    Dennis, since you have established yourself as an expert in music theory, if you believe that you can post “better” music theory to prove your point, please do so my friend. Post your “correct” music theory, right here, right now. Post proof that the chord progressions in question are unique in any way, and that more than a common, simple sequence of 3-4 notes is identical between both songs. Those 3-4 notes, by the way, are the same ones all the other songs that have been pointed out have too (Creaky Boards, Enanitos Verdes – Frances Limon, etc).

    Lest you intend to strike back by calling me more harsh names like “retarted”, let me reemphasize that I’m not defending or accusing Coldplay or Satriani. My intent is only to discuss the “correct” music theory, which to date has been in short supply.

    And “Brian aka Guppusmaximus”, that’s despicable. I’ll try my best to ignore anything you say from now on.

    To everyone: I came across an interesting discussion on the NorthernSounds forum the other day, which has some very thought-provoking comments about people judging music (the comments of Bruce A. Richardson are interesting, in particular).

  • I study music theory for a living and go to school for it… The author who wrote this has no music theory in which to back up what they said, I mean i had trouble not laughing through this article. Coldplay like it or not did rip off Satch and, they will settle or satch will win. To win in court they wouldve had to have had prior time to hear,”if i could Fly” which they did as it came out in 2004 4 whole years ago… weird isn’t it… also they have to have similarites and if your a coldplay fan of course you deny they sound the same but are you really trying to tell us all that the chorus in, “If i could fly” isnt the same as the lyric and melody of “vida la vida” Joe has everything he needs to win this sorry you cold play fans he will win try this out, for you people that like coldplay out there listen to “if i could fly” and really ask yourself if they didnt copy it because your retarted if you dont think so I hate to say it but your little hero’s coldplay did copy them and will lose thats all i gotta say peace…

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    t’s become annoying to me seeing so many people ready to burn Coldplay at the stake…

    I’d rather see them Drawn and Quartered or perhaps a nice Keelhauling.

  • No, keysplayer, but watch out for John Fogerty…!

  • Marcia Neil

    The songs are all-vocal, and instrument performances only mimic them.

  • keysplayer

    Haha awesome 🙂 This conclusively proves the point I’ve always maintained, that mixing baseball and music theory can lead to copyright infringement if you’re not careful 😀 Be really careful if you hit a home run though as that’s guaranteed trouble (you’ll violate that part of some other Satriani song where it goes something like… um… root, 5th, I think it was?).

  • I read somewhere if you play Steve Miller’s Take the Money and Run, Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London softly enough, you’ll find they’re all versions of John Cage’s 4’33”, especially where the X minor 7th crosses the mixolydian accidental melody at the top of the ninth with runners on base.

  • keysplayer

    First, thanks for this post, it was enjoyable to read. You’ve done your homework and worked through the real notes and music theory, and if anyone disagrees with what you’ve said, let them also post music theory to contest it. It’s become annoying to me seeing so many people ready to burn Coldplay at the stake, based off of highly modified “mashup” videos and half-baked music theory that someone else told them. I’m not out to side with either artist, but rather to help correct the misinformation.

    I wanted to add an additional comment about the YouTube guitar teacher’s analysis of the two songs, since people seem to blindly accept what he says as correct (by the way, I’m a world-famous scientist who’s opinion you can totally trust, and I’d like to show you all these complex equations to show you that the world is actually flat… er ok I’m not, but same issue… don’t assume he’s correct simply because he’s a music teacher naming off seemingly complex music theory examples). I am absolutely certain that his chord progression analysis is substantially wrong. Many (as noted here on this page, on YouTube, and on his blog) have politely posted the correct chord analysis for him, but instead he’s still trying to defend his incorrect chords. This just adds fuel to the flames.

    Firstly, my comments are targeted at pop/rock/etc music, and I’ll exclude my comments below from necessarily applying to classical music, as I love classical as well but have no experience writing it myself.

    The correct keys are Ab major (Viva) and D major (Fly), and the core of each progression is a IV V I and ii V I, respectively. The additional chords in a few spots (e.g. IV in Fly, vi at the end of Viva’s progression, etc) are the same simple additions of countless other songs, and constitute nothing unique at all. A chord progression is not properly analyzed based on what the melody or soloist is doing over the top of it. A chord progression “is what it is”. You can definitely analyze the melody separately from the chord progression though – you could say, “this line of the melody is an F lydian scale played over the vi chord” or something… but you cannot say “well the melody is playing F lydian here, so even though the chord in the previous identical part of the progression was the IV chord, in this case it’s the vi chord” (of course I’m making up completely random examples – that might sound horrid haha). No, the progression simply “is what it is” and you can apply any kind of fancy theory analysis to explain just what the melody is doing over the top of that progression, after the fact. Given the near ubiquitous nature of these progressions, it is almost a guarantee that the melodies (of both songs in question) were written against the chord changes, not the other way around.

    If you “did” write a melody first, and then had to come up with the chord progression to go with it, you would still (for the benefit of the other musicians in your band who have to figure out and play it) use correct application of music theory/key center, and use the most basic and straight-forward approach possible (e.g. you give the guitarist a vi chord, and it’s up to him to decide what mode he feels like soloing over it with).

    As an added weight to the opinions of those who feel the progressions are different than those he proposed, please feel free to view published sheet music of both songs (there are sample pages online), which are all in the keys others have suggested (Ab and D), and would be analyzed correctly as such. Even all the free tabs/chord sheets I was able to find for both songs are correctly analyzed this way.

    Anyhow, I’m going to write more to respond on the creativeguitar blog, discussing the melodic analysis (of which the first excessively simple bar matches as he says, and honestly nothing else does if you take the time to look note by note instead of “assuming”). I’m also writing a full article of my own to assess the melodies note by note, posting notation, audio, and midi examples, etc.

    I, like many fellow musicians I’ve talked to about this, would prefer Satriani to fail in this particular lawsuit. If someone can sue me and win over 3-4 completely non-unique notes of a melody played over the most common chord changes in the world, I’d best start looking for a new career 😉 Or at least get a really great lawyer 🙂

  • Nothing Marcia writes has much to do with anything…!

  • Charlie

    I’m not sure what terrorism in India (as awful as it is) has to do with musical comparisons, but thanks for your input.

  • Marcia Neil

    Being led into a lawsuit and courtroom to benefit oneself and attorney representatives and being led into a courtroom to investigate the entertainment industry as a whole are not so different when such investigation becomes necessary one way or another. ‘Ravi Shankar’ and ‘BJ Thomas’ tunes sound alike but terrorism in India is the action.

  • zingzing

    condor: “But my original point to ZZ is that Bach IS part of the overall picture, Bach is foundational, as are many other early composers. To discard those or minimalize the great contributions is showing or feigning ignorance of the overall holistic artform.”

    of course bach is part of the picture. no one is denying that. and no one is saying that he wasn’t a brilliant composer. one can recognize importance and influence without having to be a fan of the person behind it.

    say i’m a big fan of cubism. certainly european portrait art of the 18th century played into that. without that portrait art, many facets of what cubists chose to reject or retain would not be there. but it doesn’t mean that a fan of cubist art has to be a fan of portrait art.

    certainly bach and his classical peers were important, and fundamental to what was to become 20th century music. without what they added to the musical language, music as we know it wouldn’t exist.

    but i just find them more interesting on paper than coming out of speakers or at the concert hall. and i also find that it’s the rejection of their ideas that interests me more than the continuation of them. yes, i know that a lot of music that i do like is, whether or not it is acknowledged, a continuation of their ideas. but it is the active rejection that turns me on. continuation of classical ideas is par for the course. it’s going to happen, just because all music comes from somewhere, and classical is what came before.

  • Charlie

    JC Mosquito, you’re absolutely correct: the guitar teacher in the YouTube video Tom linked to SHOULD know better. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about bat first but then makes shit up to prove his points. I admire how hard he tried though. I’ll give him that.

  • Condor

    “music has moved a long ways in the last 200 years.” Zingzing

    It’s still a “tree” with branches and… the everfeeding, foundational roots. You can’t ignore the roots, despite what your non-authoritative source tries to dictate in a public forum (i.e. “the residents” quote).

    Jc alludes to Bach as “Bach didn’t invent modal scaling or improvisational playing , which is pretty essential to a lot of western music” which I agree with, there are lots of influences incorporated into western musicsince Bach’s era, there’s abosolutely not doubt of that. But my original point to ZZ is that Bach IS part of the overall picture, Bach is foundational, as are many other early composers. To discard those or minimalize the great contributions is showing or feigning ignorance of the overall holistic artform.

    Additionally, I’m not so sure Bach didn’t improvise, he may have and managed to put it to paper for the ages, others certainly did. Artists today have the technology to let go on the fly, digitalize it, then print out using scoring apps. Which, in my mind makes the generations past so much more incredible, that they could process their thoughts from the instrument to the manuscript accurately, albeit slowly, but documented nonetheless.

    ’nuff said.

  • charlie

    Tom, of course I disagree with you here but greatly appreciate your point-of-view on this.

    But see, after reading and watching your YouTube link, you have to understand the guy in that video’s flaws in the comparisons between the Coldplay and Satriani songs: the underlying instrumental parts do not match up note for note, chord for chord, at any time.

    And Tom, at the 6:55 mark of that video, while making comparisons between the two songs’ structures, he absolutely made up guitar chords in “Viva” that don’t exist! [He started playing a G major chord – what he calls the VI – and then played “Fly’s” riffs again as if they were present in “Viva” as well, which they aren’t] That kills one of his main points about the basic melodies of the two tracks being the same or too similar.

    And his first point of how interesting it was that both songs have around the same (136) tempo is a non-starter. Millions of songs have the same or similar tempo. So, according to his outline of music, 1) rhythm 2) melody 3) harmony, he’s 0-2 and doesn’t even consider #3 (for good reason).

    Here is the real deal instrumentally (since I already broke down the “harmony” aspect, the Coldplay vocal-to-Satch electric guitar comparison earlier and found only a measly consecutive 3-4 note match, which means next to nothing in terms of plagiarism): I believe the Satriani chords for “Fly”s 2 choruses starting at :49 seconds and later at the 1:45 mark (on acoustic guitars) go something like: Em7, A major, D Major7+9th(orSUS), B minor. [The YouTube guy got that part right]

    However, “Viva’s” choruses/verses/any other song part have no similar guitar chords, and since we know the synths/keyboards/drums don’t imitate Satriani, the only other real comparison to make is between the songs’ bass guitar parts. And since “Viva’s” verse progressions aren’t much different from the choruses, one of the main bass progressions you hear again and again goes something like this: D flat (Db), E flat (Eb), A flat (Ab) and F.

    Satriani’s five-string bass (unlike Coldplay’s four-string bass) goes like this for the two choruses: (open) E, slide from G to A, low D on your fifth, heaviest bass string, and low (open) B string on your fifth, heaviest bass string.

    So what we have here are two completely different progressions on bass, guitar parts that don’t match up, drums/beats that are different (even if they carry a similar tempo) and very little harmonic similarities between these two great songs.

    NOW you (and hopefully others) should see why I think the two songs are fundamentally different and why it was a big mistake for Joe Satriani (one of my all-time favorite guitarists) to file this lawsuit.

  • The guitar teacher guy on youtube ought to know better. Many songs share similar tempos and chord changes but their melodies set them apart from each other.

  • Sorry, Charlie, you are way off – Satriani is perfectly within his rights to go after Coldplay on this one, and this guitar teacher has very compelling proof as to why. It’s much more than the solo that most people are focusing on – it’s the very basic structure of the song itself. Watch the video and you’ll see for yourself, but if you’re impatient, skip to 6:40 and he’ll demonstrate exactly where the songs are nearly identical. I have a feeling many of you who are saying it’s only coincidental may change your minds after seeing this. Not that Coldplay intentionally stole the melody, but that the two songs are basically the same at their core, and that is all Joe has to prove in court. You can commit murder and not intend to do it . . . but you’ve still killed someone, even accidentally, right?

    Now, does that mean I think it’s in Joe’s best interest to do this? Not necessarily. I think he would have been better off just letting this lie, making a point to bring it up in interviews and letting it make its way into public knowledge. And Coldplay should have been less smug than they’ve been about the whole thing, in general, which may have played a part in why Joe opted to go forward with it. They should have said, “Mea culpa,” paid up, given him a credit, and been done with it. It would probably have cost less than this lawsuit is going to cost them.

  • bliffle

    Ha ha. This is funny. The whole piracy thing is now rebounding against the ‘artists’ and their whore-mongers, the Record Companies.

    A’hoist their own petard!

  • i actually wrote “The Black Page” but decided to leave Zappa alone. lawsuits are so messy.

  • Sorry, Dr D – forgot you were in on this earlier.

    I had a similar thing happen – a net acquaintance in Germany wrote essentially the same melody & chord change as a good friend of mine ‘cross town within about a month of each other. There’s no way either had anything to do with the other. As you said, to qualify as theft I would think it has to be pretty intentional.

  • I’m right here, Skeeter, but I’m pretty sure I never mentioned The Residents.

    Look, our Western music scale only contains eight notes, plus flats and sharps. It’s entirely possible to compose a phrase or even an entire song that bears a close resemblance to someone else’s even though you might never have heard it.

    For instance, the track ‘Here She Comes’ by The Las is strikingly similar to a song my friend Jules wrote several years before that single was released. I’m fairly confident that The Las never heard Jules’s song since he’s not even a serious musician and doesn’t record or perform. But the last thing to cross my mind would be to suspect The Las of plagiarism because that song has a fairly simple and replicable melody.

    Even if they had somehow heard it, that doesn’t mean they plagiarized it. It could simply have been the case that they heard the tune somewhere – perhaps Jules was rehearsing in his bedroom with the window open and one of the band members happened to be walking by the house, caught a snatch and subconsciously stowed it away in his brain. He could easily have resurrected it later in the completely honest belief that he’d thought of it himself.

    Plagiarism has to be conscious theft, and that’s pretty difficult to prove, especially with such a simple form of communication as music.

  • No, you can’t just make a key and tempo change and call it your own. Musical plagiarism is a fine line – music is built up of phrases of notes (or melody) in a harmonic context and it depends how much of it is the same and how well you can convince the judge – better yet, the general public.

    Actually, track down the sad story of Solomon Linda and see how music can be taken away in a plain daylight robbery. He wrote the original Wimoweh (he Lions Sleeps Tonight).

    (Et ou es le “doc?”)

  • zingzing


  • zingzing

    “well tempered clavior” is just a catolog of our fucked up idea of harmony. it’s important within that idea, i’ll give it that, but anyone who’s moved beyond those definitions is going to look at bach as old hat.

    music has moved a long ways in the last 200 years.

  • ElCoco

    I know nothing about music…But according to the author’s article…If I take a song from another artist and change the instruments and the tempo or even the key, I am “composing” a new song?

  • zingzing

    ok condor. wanna play? yes, i do know enough to know that bach’s “well-tempered clavier” was something played in all 24 keys of what we westerners think is harmony. it’s very famous. but it is really just equal temperament, which is not anything close to real harmony.

    yes, it’s a system we have come to know, but it’s not true harmony. have you heard true harmony? do you know what happens when true harmony occurs?

    go listen to la monte young’s “well-tuned piano.” that’s true harmony, in every key, all at once, on one piano. let’s see bach do that. thing is, he never would have thought to do that. but that’s not his fault. he was…

    as doc says, the residents say he’s dead. and the residents are (really) quite an authority on music. (look them up.) (thanks doc.)

    i know my shit, so you better come up with something better than that. and yes, i have traveled plenty, maybe not to the places you have, but you haven’t traveled to the places i have, i’m sure. and yes, i listen to library of congress stuff quite a bit. and i have been to new orleans, and got quite drunk there.

    look, you aren’t going to get anywhere trying to say i haven’t listened to enough stuff. music is my thing, and challenging myself in every musical way is something i do almost every chance i get. i’ve heard bach. you’ll have to come up with something better.

    bach is not the father of anything. he’s just another cog in the machine. it all comes from somewhere, and so did he.

    and so did the one that made him.

  • Didn’t the Residents have the last word on this – “Bach is Dead (Bach Bach Bach)”?

    But, as far as I understand it (not having had the benefits of a college musical education, unless you count episodes similar to the Louie Louie scene in Animal House), Bach didn’t invent modal scaling or improvisational playing, which is pretty essential to a lot of western music, including styles based on folk, blues, Celtic and African roots.

  • brad laidman

    Someone give George Harrison back his money

    This Song

  • Condor

    I did say western music…

    Bach is known as the father of western music because he helped shape the the major and minor scales with one of his many masterpieces, The Well-Tempered Clavier. He wrote a piece for every major and minor scale in this work, and since it was in a WELL-TEMPERED clavier, it shaped what a minor a major scale sounds like and what composes them. Major and minor scales are fundamental for wstern music. Hence, the title “The Father of Western Music”. The well tempered clavier helped promote performances of pieces in all the different keys, that was it’s point – to promote equal tempered tuning which was a new idea at the time.

    Bach is the father of western music because of his development of theory, in fact much of what we call “music theory” is in fact sets of guidelines developed from the study of his music.

    He is considered a synthesis of musical styles that came before. His time period was the bridge into counterpoint, meaning parts are complete unto themselves. Most music before him was a series of chords with a melody above, the chords were “pads”. Bach composed the underlying parts to also be there own melodies, hence counterpoint.

    He is also unmatched in the art of writing fugues, which can be a very complicated compositional game after the third part chimes in.

    And yes you didn’t say a thing about Bach, but you did refer to classical music in the negative sense. The point I’m making is that music has a history, it’s linked, it has been constructed over time. To dismiss foundational periods of history in music, shows a complete lack of understanding the underpinnings of what we presently are experiencing in the artform.

    Bach was pivitol, just as Louis Armstrong or Hendrix was pivitol, that said… while Bach was genius… Hendrix was a technical master on his instrument. Armstrong was a mix of both genius and technical mastery.

    Now… about your vast listening experiences. Please share with all the people you don’t really know just how vast and refined your ear has become listening to the infinate number of musical groups you alluded to above. That’s a pretty broadbased statement. Have you been out of country? Perhaps Africa or spent extensive time in the Carribean, perhaps Austin or New Orleans. Or was it the Pacific rim and the other areas around the globe that brought you to your current state of vast musical knowledge and experience? Extensive study of field recordings at the library of congress? A military tour in Europe perhaps? A sister who’s a retired celloist from the LA symphony? An uncle who was plying his jazz skills all over America during the 20′ through the 50’s? Years of slugging it out in bar bands up and down both coasts? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • zingzing

    now condor. i made the point that bach didn’t “invent” music theory. and he didn’t. that was an overstatement.

    music theory, like music itself, grew organically. there are texts from the 12th century, maybe even before, that discuss music theory.

    you’re trying to tell me that music theory was built out of the STUDY of bach’s music? maybe certain problems were solved by people who used bach’s music while studying it, but you’d have to be completely bonkers to really make the statement that bach “invented” musical theory.

    and yes, i have taken college-level musical history classes. so far, you haven’t really convinced me that you have done the same…

    and again. I NEVER SAID A DAMN WORD ABOUT BACH. so what’s this all about?

  • Condor

    “i didn’t say anything about bach. and no one invented musical theory. it already existed. maybe he wrote it down… but i doubt he was anywhere near the first to do that either.” -Zingzing

    Okay, so we’ve established that you haven’t taken a college level music theory (or music history) course.

    College texts and professors would disagree with your statement. You’re confusing the physics of harmony (2nd’s, 3rds, octaves etc…) with putting time, point, counterpoint, music structure (the list goes on) all of which Bach formulated in such a way that others who came after Bach, analyzed the work of Bach (scores and other studies), giving rise to the theories we have today. But Bach laid out the premises naturally, and compounded the “language” time after time, building upon previous material and continuing the musical dialog.

  • Charlie

    Levon, that no name artist is the Creaky Boards group (that’s on You Tube) I referred to in the article and in the comments section. Their accusation is more of a bitter joke and publicity stunt than a serious accusation of plagiarism – they even claim that Chris Martin was at one of their shows, which is preposterous. That guy’s vocals sound like Chris Martin for a second or two, and that’s about it. His song and Coldplay’s go in totally different directions, which is probably why the band refused to air their ENTIRE song on the You Tube clip/comparison countless people have seen.

    Tons of vocalists have melodies that sound like someone else. Think of all the Robert Plant and Kurt Cobain wannabes over the years.

    Remember all those singers–Scott Weiland aside–in the late 90s/early 2000s that sounded like Eddie Vedder? Eddie didn’t sue them (i.e. Scott Stapp of Creed, for one), did he? Creed’s “My Own Prison,” in fact, comes real close to ripping off Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense,” but again, no need for a lawsuit because similarity is different than substantial copying.

    And I seriously doubt than when “Viva La Vida” first came out, that anyone thought they were ripping off anyone, whether it be an obscure band or an equally obscure (and great) Satriani instrumental from an album not too many people outside of loyal Satch fans (like myself) have heard of.

    Usually, when an artist rips someone off, you can recognize it instantly. Off the top of my head, I’d say Jet’s hit “Cold Hard Bitch” is a ripoff of AC/DC, especially “Shoot To Thrill.” (So I would half-jokingly ask:) Anybody want to petition AC/DC to sue Jet now? Heck, AC/DC rips themselves off nowadays.

    Point is, everybody’s been sort of ripping off or taking a riff (or two) and putting their own stamp on it since the invention of rock and roll/rhythm & blues, whose early artists ripped off the black artists like the Fats Dominos of the world. And nobody blinked, let alone sued.

  • Martin’s vocal line sounds like the same exact line that Satch is playing. Different keys yes, but still sounds like the same thing with lyrics to it.

    Wasn’t Coldplay faced with another similar charge of ripping off another song earlier this year? Except, it was some no name artist that claimed they ripped his song off of a video on YouTube.

  • zingzing

    i didn’t say anything about bach. and no one invented musical theory. it already existed. maybe he wrote it down… but i doubt he was anywhere near the first to do that either.

    and i would be mighty impressed if pre-20th century music DIDN’T influence 20th century music. that would take time travel or something, if it wanted to avoid that. but the basis of all music made in western culture would go back much further than that, now wouldn’t it?

    look, i do listen to classical, although not much before the 20th century. after the 20th century rolls around… i would bet my life i listen to more of that stuff than you’ve ever heard of.

    my main problem with mozart, beethovan, bach, etc… the main ones that people bring up when they say “classical” is just that i’m not a big fan of baroque or romantic classical music. and most of those big names fit into that. i don’t even like hearing those qualities (baroque or romantic) in later music, so obviously, it’s got nothing to do with disliking the composer, just… disliking the style.

  • Condor

    “still, mozart? psh. boring old fart. pre-20th century classical is just about the only musical style i have no love for.” ZingZing

    Zinger, if you ever took a Music Theory course you would find out that Bach INVENTED western Musical Theory. He figured it out, wrote the book based his catalog on the ideas and now all we hear in western music is the Bach inspired theoretical renderings. How’s that for some old fart classical master. I’d say pretty impressive. Also, if you spent enough time in the genre’ you would notice the basis of all the music made in western culture.

    And no I’m not just talking about Country and Western!

    Enjoy music, all of it. It helps the brainwaves.

  • JC Mosquito

    Coldplay and Joe Satriani are each good at whatever it is each of them does, but I don’t know if either of them play rock and roll anymore – or if they ever did at all. Really – can you imagine either of them pulling off a decent version of Sister Ray?

    On a tangent – think how much Lou Reed could make suing musicians for playing one chord for more than 4 bars at a stretch if he could establish they’re copping Metal Machine Music…… sorry, I didn’t mean one chord – I meant NO chord.

  • zingzing

    dreadful: “I’m always on the lookout for new gems but these days by the time I find them, they’re usually signed to a major label. Too watered down by that time for your taste, probably.”

    probably. you’re just looking in the wrong places if you can’t find new music before they get to the majors. you’re at a blog site right now. there are shitloads of music blogs out there, with a variety of tastes. some specialize in various genres, where they’ll post the newest tracks (and sometimes, old gems). some post stuff that’s long out of print–full albums even. all for free, so you don’t have to throw money down the drain. (of course, you probably should throw some money at them at some point, or else the whole thing collapses.)

    check out elbo.ws or any other music blog aggregator. hype machine is another. just type in an artist you like, and do that for a while, downloading tracks you don’t have. eventually, you’ll find yourself going to the same 5-10 blogs. then start looking at the other stuff they post. by this time, you know their taste at least somewhat lines up with your own, so you can trust their taste.

    i just found a treasure trove of minimalist and classical music the other day. a few of the albums i already had, but most were artists i’d never heard of, on labels i’d never heard of.

    the internet has changed the way we consume music. it’s like a never-ending, all you can eat buffet. it’s so easy to gorge yourself on music, and you can spend an entire day listening to music you’ve never heard, on labels that don’t even exist anymore, of genres you’ve never even seen mentioned, from countries whose names have changed three times since the album came out. or you can just listen to a bunch of punk rock.

    but for god’s sake, don’t let the major labels stuff coldplay and the like down your throat anymore. doing that is like only eating fast food or only watching hollywood blockbusters or drinking budweiser.

  • charlie

    Dango, name the exact chords and melodies Coldplay stole from Joe Satriani, and I’ll retract this whole article. And as someone who has supposedly published music, you should know that production is a key aspect to one’s sound and why people make comparisons of one artist to another. How else do people get their opinions about Coldplay sounding like U2? (It’s the Edge-like chords/melodies PLUS the production of the songs in general, especially on the band’s latest CD)

    Point is, this case of copyright infringement isn’t even close. And like I said in my article, the Creaky Boards claim is even more absurd. You have to realize that an artist’s work has to be “substantially” similar to another artist’s song to be guilty of plagiarizing, not just influenced by a previous tune or sort of sounding like it for a few seconds.

    All you hear in “Viva” are very brief moments of similarities to Satriani, and they are coincidental at worst or a sign of Satriani influence (but not imitation) at best. But the latter doesn’t make any sense at all since the tunes are written in completely different keys and the guitar work on both songs are totally different. [If you’re going to copy Satriani, you would copy his guitar chops, and I don’t think Coldplay’s guitarist Johnny Buckland would even think for a second that he could play like Joe Satriani, let alone mimic him]

  • And my only problem with Saint Etienne (and David Gray) is that they keep mentioning London landmarks in their songs. Makes me homesick.


  • I forgot about Kate Bush. Yeah, she’s terrific. I actually forgot about a whole lot of artists. I could have listed hundreds of names there, but I would have started sounding like a back catalog.

    Mozart a boring old fart? He died at 34! How old are you? He was the Sid Vicious of his day.

    Look, I’ve done my time in the trenches, been to songwriters’ clubs (capacity: 6 plus your beer and they have to open the window so the artist can fit his guitar onstage), watched acts I enjoyed and never saw any of them come to anything. I’m always on the lookout for new gems but these days by the time I find them, they’re usually signed to a major label. Too watered down by that time for your taste, probably.

  • zingzing


    i have to praise you for dropping saint etienne in there. god, how i love them.

    i really don’t care about coldplay vs satriani either. both of em suck. so the money’s going somewhere, and some sucky artist is going to profit for some unknown reason. neither one of them deserves it.

    i like radiohead at their most experimental as well. which would be kid a/amnesiac. two perfect albums. but i think their latest is just a perfectly wonderful, solid album. and it has “reckoner” on it, which is probably the greatest pop song of the year.

    regina spektor, i think, is good. a little too cutesy (and maybe a little too specifically female…) for me to totally get behind. kate bush would wipe her ass with spektor’s face, and make some musical brilliance out of it.

    in the end, your “you just don’t like them because they’re popular” is just as reductive as my “your musical appreciation is limited.”

    still, mozart? psh. boring old fart. pre-20th century classical is just about the only musical style i have no love for. things moved so slowly then. there are, of course, exceptions to that rule… but music really took off when it could be recorded, especially in the west.

    a friend of mine actually tells me that beethoven was just as renowned in his day for his improvisational skills as he was for his compositional skills. but we’ll never hear that.

    and led zepplin… ish. god, how i hate them. it’s like some high school nightmare.

    all that said, music, like most art forms, happens first (and best) far away from popular taste. it seeps in, and is watered down, on its way to the top. so, just as a vast majority of major label, top-40 stuff sucks… and just as a majority of underground music sucks… there’s a spot in the underground where everything happens. if it’s acceptable enough, it bubbles up.

    it doesn’t make anyone a snob if they really dig deep into something, finding diamonds, while they find out the surface is just a layer of awful, stinking sludge.

    and not “sludge” in a good way. like fun house.

  • Yes, zing2, it is rant time. Let’s play.

    I like Coldplay. (Although actually ‘Yellow’ is one of my least favorite of their songs.) I also like Regina Spektor, Matthew Good, Madonna, The Bravery, Enya, 4 Strings, U2, Portishead, Missy Higgins, Future Sound of London, Ted Hawkins, Dropkick Murphys, Paolo Nutini, Led Zeppelin, Massive Attack, Jack Johnson, The Verve, Saint Etienne, Matt Costa, Radiohead and bleeding Mozart. (No, that’s not the name of a band (actually it probably is), it’s the actual bloody composer.) Sometimes I like my music to be inventive. (Spektor does this with more panache than anyone.) Sometimes I like it to inspire. Sometimes I just want to be entertained. I don’t particularly give a fuck if one artist has the temerity to use the same two notes in succession as another artist. There are only eight of the bastards – do the bloody math.

    I did like Radiohead at their most experimental but I don’t like bands who fuck around trying to be clever just for the sake of it.

    So if that makes my musical appreciation limited, then bollocks to it.

  • zingzing

    speaking of math… i switched 10 and 40. sentence works better if you replace those numbers with each other. i’m sick. snotting on the keyboard.

  • zingzing

    it’s ranting time!

    look, dreadful. i never liked coldplay, although i’ll cop to thinking that yellow was ok. by the time i actually got around to listening to them, they were already leaving me cold. they’re nothing but the more commercial concerns of radiohead and u2 (who’ve also gone on to do some pretty boring work themselves).

    chris whatsit is a terribly trite lyricist, the music is hooky, but little else, and the attitude of the whole thing again brings on the worst of u2 and radiohead, without the musical innovation to back it up.

    to say it shortly, coldplay is pretty awful. everything that makes pop/rock great is something they totally run into the ground while everything that makes pop/rock suck is something they seem hopelessly attracted to.

    i really do like the occasional top-40 album or artist. i have no problem with such. but it’s not a band becoming popular that makes me hate them. it’s the reason they became popular–they play to everything blandly acceptable by the public.

    i was genuinely happy the day that radiohead hit #1 earlier this year. it felt like a vindication. and the fact that they did it by actually stepping back towards the mainstream (along with a genius marketing plan) only pleased me more. they were going too far off, making these huge statement albums that could only lead them off into pink floyd’s netherworld. radiohead is a rock band, a pop band. they got back to that, and it was a good thing.

    so don’t give me some shit about “inverse music snobbery” when all i say is that coldplay sucks. they do suck. they commit the CARDINAL SIN OF POP: they’re boring.

    i’m a music snob for far more snobbish reasons than that. [go pick up “the glow, pt 2” by microphones if you want to hear some really emotional guitar rock. it’s got amazing production, stunning songwriting and genuine musicality that coldplay could never hope to match–there’s your snobbery.]

    and if you think coldplay is anywhere near the pinnacle of guitar pop, or even pop in general, or rock, or anything, you are sadly, sadly limited in your musical appreciation.

    99.9999999999999% of the stuff out there will never touch the top 10, much less the top 40. so what do you think the chances are that there’s something better out there that doesn’t hit the billboard charts?

    do the math.

  • “yellow” was a good song for a moment when it came out. brian eno’s taste is slipping.

    You know, whenever a band becomes successful there are always a few inverse music snobs who pop up and say things like, “Yeah, the Gypsy Kings did one or two OK songs, but they’ve sold out and their stuff’s not very original. The Temporarily Homeless Junior Civil Servants did all that ten years ago.”

    Which is fine, and I’d love to check out the Temporarily Homeless Junior Civil Servants – I really would – except that some diligent research turns up that their one and only (demo) CD came out on the Memorex label in a limited pressing of 5 copies (all the singer’s student grant would run to) and is only available at Syd and Toni’s garage sale in Lansing, Michigan for 50c (or they’ll throw it in for free if you buy four fridge magnets).

  • zingzing

    isn’t there another band simultaneously saying that coldplay stole this song from them? some band that played at cmj last year.

    meh. the quicker coldplay is sued out of all reason to make music, the better of we’ll all be. “yellow” was a good song for a moment when it came out. brian eno’s taste is slipping.

  • Considering Lucas tried suing the U.S. government for using the term “Star Wars,” he should have been, with Kurosawa as one of the plaintiffs.

  • I’m still waiting for John Mayer to get sued for ripping off People Get Ready with that Change the World song

    That’s just ridiculous, and so is this whole thing. By the same logic, George Lucas would’ve had his ass sued off by whoever first put the phrase “long, long ago” to paper.

  • dango

    ALso, wasn’t it “19th Nervous Breakdown”? Check the chords. I did.

  • dango

    As a musician who has published music and been paid for it, it blows my mind that there is even a question here. What musicians copywrite has nothing to do with production or the sound. It’s chords and melody on one half and lyrics on the other. Aside from that, there’s not much to look at. And if thes two melodies aren’t the same, and the underlying chords not sharing the same relationships within their given songs, then I don’t know what is. It’s so freakin’ the same. Coldplay is going to lose this one, I’m sorry. I like them, and I’ve always thought Satriani too arrogant to be a fan of, but he’s right. The man needs to get paid. You lift chords and melody, and set it to the same exact tempo, it’s over.

  • brad laidman

    There’s a third more compelling contender

    Creaky Boards and they claim Chris Martin was at one of their shows

    but then again I’m still waiting for John Mayer to get sued for ripping off People Get Ready with that Change the World song

  • charlie

    JB, I see where you’re coming from but after the first couple of notes, that Balin track goes off in its own direction and therefore doesn’t sound like “If I Could Fly.” That was a nice find, though!

  • charlie

    Condor, we don’t know the reasons that months went by without answering Satriani’s plagiarizing requests, but if management is responsible, I totally agree with you that Coldplay ought to find a new manager.

  • charlie

    Actually Travis, my musical theory training and knowledge helped me figure out the big differences between these two songs. So if you think you know better, back up your words with your own musical understanding of these tunes, my friend.

    And Brian, though I disagree with you regarding this controversy, I do agree that Coldplay has emulated U2 more than a few times over the years. I would say however, that no one comes closer to ripping U2 off more than Remy Zero and their song “Save Me.”

  • Condor

    To answer the “Big Bad Moon” statement, I would think that there’s probably public domain at work with that riff. Least ways most old blues progressions must be, as they are used quite a bit.

    Classical music is another genre’ that is public domain and Yngwie is probably glad of it.

    I wasn’t countering your opinion piece, but I would question that Satriani lacked the backup to launch a lawsuit against any artist unless there was a research team behind him.

    Additionally, that fact that Coldplay is on tour doesn’t dismiss their managment/legal team from answering the mail. If in fact Coldplay used that “excuse” for a by-your-leave on not responding, they are either negligent, or should be seeking new management.

  • JB

    Listen to ‘Hearts’ by Marty Balin. He should sue Satriani

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Having given your article the reading that was required and actually finding it rather hard to believe that a Satriani & Coldplay song could ever sound alike on any planet, I gave the two songs a listen and couldn’t help myself at :59 in on “If I Could Fly” to comment that it is rather eerie that these two songs sound too much alike. Enough alike that I have to side with Satriani and his decision. Sure, Rock,Punk & Metal bands have had the same basic timing & structure for years but this craptastic band has made its living off of dancing the fine line by almost emulating U2’s signature style & production for quite some time.

    Go get’em Joe!

  • Travis

    This is completely offbase and i would venture to say that the author has no knowledge of musical theory

  • charlie

    Condor, I was careful in how I presented all the facts as I new them. I simply mentioned as fact that Coldplay was in the midst of a major tour when Satriani originally called them about the plagiarism charges – I didn’t say that was the reason they ignored Satch’s questions but I’m sure if the band was sitting at home at the time or in a recording studio near home, you bet they would’ve responded sooner. Nonetheless, I did in fact say at the end of the article that Coldplay should have answered these charges sooner than they did (before Satriani went forward with the lawsuit).

    As far as Satriani is concerned, usually I would defer to a superior, highly intelligent musician like him in cases like this. But after listening to every aspect of both his song and Coldplay’s hit, and figuring out and playing all the guitar/bass parts, other than 3 successive notes in Chris Martin’s vocals sounding influenced by 3 successive notes in “Fly’s” 2 choruses (which is hard to believe, quite frankly), I can’t for the life of me understand what led him to believe Coldplay “plagiarized” his work.

    It’s not like Coldplay is shy or afraid of acknowledging influences, like Travis, Kate Bush and Kraftwerk, whom they got permission from to sample on “Talk,” a song from X&Y that remakes the main melody from Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love”.

    Certainly Satch knows that songs of his like “Big Bad Moon” have 3 chords in succession that are influenced by all kinds of standard I-IV-V blues rock songs – and he would NEVER be accused of plagiarising those songs, would he? (Same goes with other blues-influenced tracks like Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again,” which is similar in formula to “Big Bad Moon”)

    Did Joe fall for the deceptive YouTube mix of “Viva” and “Fly”? I hope not (and doubt it). Did he really have a good listen to unedited versions of both tracks? I would think so but we just don’t know. And until I hear or see specific examples of where Satriani thinks Coldplay ripped him off, I firmly believe Satriani made a major mistake in taking whatever he heard in Coldplay’s music to federal court. It’s stupid and just not worth it and I believe eventually, he will realize that too.

  • Condor

    Are you seriously contending that Satriani launched a frivolous lawsuit without any background or due diligence applied? One would think that musicologists may have been involved, or perhaps copyists etc…

    As for Coldplay not responding to questions regarding the suit due to “being mid-tour” I would have to take issue with the fact that they do have managment in place to handle inquiries whilst the lads are forging through the rigors of touring.

    It’s not that you may be correct in your opinion, but one would think that Satriani would have to have some back up to the allegations. Perhaps some scholarly insight those in the copywrite business associated with musical copywrite infringment.

    Whatever the case may be, it would probably not be based on opinion, but fact.

    Then again Geo Harrison lost the “She’s So Fine/My Sweet Lord” lawsuit, based on two chords in a minor key. Wow.