Today’s guitar and music theory lesson will focus on the bridge section to Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like.” If you missed part 1 of this post covering the verse, pre-chorus and chorus sections, then you can read it here. This post will be a guitar lesson as well as a music theory analysis of this section of the song. Furthermore, I have included guitar tab for each of the chords found.
As mentioned in the first post on “That’s What I Like”, this song is in the key of Db major. Here is a reminder of the Db major scale, harmonised into 3, 4 and 5 note chords:
Now that you understand the diatonic chords of the Db major key signature, let’s look at the guitar tab.
“That’s What I Like” Bridge Tab
As you can see from the tab above, this is the most difficult section of the song so far. Chiefly, there are a number of unfamiliar chord types and chord voicings. Additionally, it is 16 bars in length, containing very little repetition. Under those circumstances, it is important to practice this part of the tune slowly, perhaps taking it 4 bars at a time. In fact, this is how I will approach the theory analysis. Firstly, let’s study the relationship of the chords in the first 4 bars in relation to the key signature:
Bars 35 – 38
As I have noted in the table above, the bridge section to “That’s What I Like” starts on chord IV. Generally speaking, this is a common move in pre chorus and bridge sections in pop and rock music. First to point out here is the Db/Eb chord, which is similar in sound to Ebm9. Subsequently, this then moves smoothly up the scale to Fm7. In fact, this chord progression makes great use of major chords with altered bass notes, such as the aforementioned Db/Eb chord, as well as the Ab/Bb in bar 4. On the whole, altering the bass note of a major chord with a different one from the scale help make normal major chords sound more interesting.
Another key point from the first line is the Bb7sus4 chord. In general, chord vi in any key would usually would be a minor chord. However, because it contains the notes Bb, F, Ab and Eb, it is still a diatonic chord in the key of Db.
Bars 39 – 42
|IVMaj9||vim9||iii||ii of Gb||V of Gb|
The next 4 bars of the bridge start out similarly to the first. However, when we get to Abm7, we have our first non diatonic chord of this section. In this case, Mars and his songwriting team are treating the upcoming Gbmaj9 chord in bar 43 as a temporary chord I. This means that the Abm7 is functioning as chord ii, while the Db9 functions as chord V. All in all, this creates a nice ii V I move, which is straight from jazz and gospel music.
Bars 43 – 46
The 3rd line of the bridge begins with a Gbmaj9, before proceeding to F7. As has been noted, in this key, F7 is a secondary dominant, as it is the V chord of VI (Bbm.) Previously, we have seen a similar chord progression on this blog in the song “Peg” by Steely Dan. Additionally, these two chords help to set up the next 3 chords really well.
The Go7 and Ao7 are borrowed from the harmonised Db half whole diminished scale, as they are chords V and VI from this scale. The use of the diminished scale in popular music is uncommon, but in this case it really helps to make this section stand out. As a result, significant tension is added to the harmony. Consequently, this sets up the release of this tension to the relative minor chords in bars 45 and 46. You could also view the preceding F7 chord as another A diminished triad if you ignore the bass note, as it contains the notes A C and Eb. This is a very interesting way to harmonise the vocal melody, and is something you can try in your own music.
Bars 47 – 50
The last 4 bars of the bridge to “That’s What I Like” are a call-back to the earlier parts of the song. In particular is the repetition of the F7#5#9 chord for dramatic effect. In contrast, the rest of the chords remain diatonic, as this section is similar to the pre-chorus.
In summary, “That’s What I Like” is a great example of sophisticated harmony in popular music. Specifically, It makes great use of jazz chords and jazz harmony, with the aforementioned bridge section of particular interest. Even if you are not a fan of Bruno Mars, it is certainly worth borrowing a few ideas from this song. Subsequently, you may find a use for them in your own songwriting. As always, have fun with this one, and I’ll see you next time.