Original Sin
Songs From The West Coast
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Solo Piano Live -
Last Call With Carson Daly
Key: Db Structure: A-B-C-A-B-C-C

Elton keeps adding to the long list of great ballads that he's written. Original Sin is a beautiful and touching, melancholy interpretation of Bernie's smooth, sincere and heartfelt lyrics. There are some great lines in this song, recalling the best of Bernie's imagery-driven lyrics.

The melody of this song is a thing of profound beauty that when combined with Elton's aching delivery, brings to life Bernie's lyrics. There are several moments that touch me in this song, but especially when he soars up to "And tell me why, I shudder inside" he might as well just be reaching straight into my soul.

This particular version of Original Sin was performed by Elton solo on the Last Call With Carson Daly show, March 29, 2002. As you know, the piano is fairly muted in the studio version. So what we have here is your basic Elton playing style with all the intimacy, warmth and fullness that he brings to his solo piano performances. Sorry I don't have an mp3 of this to share.

Elton's Playing
The song is in the key of Db, giving the song a richness and a distinct quality, as well as reflecting the lower registers that Elton sings in these days. It's a great example of Elton's "default" style of playing. If you're not scared of the flats, this is a great piece for learning Elton. Here's the intro.

And why do I say this is great example of Elton's basic playing style?

  1. He uses his standard rhythmic syncopation - coming in on the upbeat before the 3 in most bars. (see bars 1-8 above)
  2. He uses his standard approach to working with chord inversions, usually choosing an inversion that puts the thumb or little finger on a white note. He works with a 4-note octave version of each chord, usually sustaining the note played either by the thumb or little finger, whichever comes first. (bar 5)
  3. We have as always a wonderful variety of piano riffs. Elton's riffs are usually on interior notes while the bass and top note stay on a drone note.
  4. We find the usual interplay between the left and right hands - the left hand completing what the right hand starts.
  5. MOST of the time, when Elton plays a chord, he leads with the little finger, putting an accent on the top note.
  6. As always, his left hand is very controlled, blending with the right hand rather than being used in a percussive fashion.

Harmonic Structure
Harmonically this is a very simple song and I'll try to illustrate why I say that. Elton sticks to a straight 8-bar structure and the song stays within the Db key signature.

The intro is basically a I to V progression - just about as simple a setup as you can have for a song. The Ebm and the slash chord Db/Ab provide some harmonic variation, but the basic I - V structure guides the harmony direction.

|| Db | Ebm Db | Db/Ab Ab | Ab || 2 times

The verse follows a I - IV - V - vi - IV - V route. Since the vi is the relative minor of I, this could be further simplified to a I - IV - V - I - IV - V. Again it doesn't get much simpler.

|| Db | Gb | Ab | Ab | Bbm | Gb/Bb | Ab | Ab || 2 times

The pre-chorus, which is a setup for the chorus, switches the emphasis of the song to the sub-dominant Gb. This is of course just one step up on the Circle-of-4ths from the Db. And then what we have is some diatonic noodling. This pre-chorus can be simplified to a IV - V - IV - V pattern. By dropping to the relative minors of Ab (i.e. Fm7) and Gb (i.e. Ebm7) Elton makes this basic harmony more interesting.

|| Gb | Gb | Ab | Fm7 | Gb | Ebm7 | Ab | Ab ||

The chorus soars through a I - V - vi - iii - IV - V - I - I pattern. The first 2 bars of this pattern are Db and Ab. The 2nd 2 bars use the relative minors of these chords, i.e. Bbm and Fm. This gives you a parallel harmonic motion to the motion in the first 2 bars, using the minor keys. Listen for this simple but beautiful parallel relationship. The chorus then ends with the simple IV - V - I.

|| Db | Ab | Bbm | Fm7 | Gb | Ab | Db | Db |

| Db | Ab | Bbm | Fm7 | Gb | Ab || back to intro

This is just an all around well-crafted song: simple, elegant and with gorgeous lyrics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.