Frank Zappa's musical language
Frank Zappa's musical language
A study of the music of Frank Zappa

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


For documentation purposes I'm having some copies of this site printed and send to libraries. The 4th and 5th editions are downloadable as a pdf file. Editions 1-3 are available on paper (cover printed, pages Xerox copied, see the bottom of this page for samples). You can contact me for buying your own copy of these printed editions.

4th and 5th Edition downloadable as pdf

Recent changes and corrections:
- The analysis of Treacherous cretins has been refined.
- The titles "Shut up 'n play yer guitar" and "Shut up 'n play yer guitar some more" are turned around in the FZ Guitar book, compared to the album.
- Dance me this (title song): the "flute" comes from throat singing too.
- Dog breath: section C has been renewed.
- But who was Fulcanelli? is correctly listed as Mixolydian in my Mixolydian list in Brett Clement's response to me, but I appear to have taken this over incorrectly as Lydian in the 5th pdf version of my study.
- The opening of Winos do not march has been added: it's a VII-I alternation in G Mixolydian, with G as pedal note for both chords.
- The "Outside now again" example has been renewed.
- Two corrections/additions have been added to "Frogs with dirty little lips".
- In the Summer of 2015 I listed the Hungry freaks solo as Dorian only in my table with instrumental songs/passages. This has been refined since my inclusion of some transcribed bars from this song in my May 2016 update. There's more to it than I first thought. Regarding "Harry you're a beast" I seem to have miswritten myself in this table, where I put the tonic A in the Aeolian column instead of the Mixolydian column (and the C# Locrian remark doesn't belong there). The song is obviously in A Mixolydian (as also indicated by Clement).
- Stucco homes is Mixolydian only and Pinnochio's furniture is better called Dorian.
- Exercise #4 has been renewed.
- Bar 1 from my "I'm stealing the towels example" should be notated differently.
- The "It must be a camel" example has been renewed as a result of the ZFT releasing the recording of the basic tracks. Several inaccuracies have been corrected.

Changes and corrections included in this site upon the 4th pdf version:
- The quintuplet from The black page #1 did not go literally like that into The black page (1987) in a slower version. The rhythm got changed too.
- Peaches en regalia: I miswrote myself in bar 6. Cm-5 en Cm should be F#m-5 and F#m.
- Little umbrellas: opening chord progression has been corrected.
- The perfect stranger (Boulez version): in the percussion-beats line the notation for half and whole note pauses got switched.
- Montana: some detail corrections.
- 200 years old: the scale is G Dorian instead of minor. Big leg Emma is in E.
- Sad Jane: a couple of details were wrong.
- Ride my face to Chicago: I miswrote myself, I-IV should be I-V.
- Variant I processional march: identification of the example as E dorian should better be as D.
- Original duke of prunes: the transcription is renewed, with as consequence that the keys/chords should be identified differently. The G-A bass alternation for theme A from 1975 was off too.
- I promise not to come in your mouth: chord in bar 7 is of course Ebmaj7 and not Em.
- Description of the Be-bop tango, Piquantique version, has been renewed (there were some writing errors and inaccuracies in it as it was).
- 1st Debra kadebra example: notation of bar 1 corrected (the downbeat lies at a different position).
- Stucco Homes should be called D Mixolydian only. Other than during While you were out, the F natural appears only occasionally.
- Penis dimension: bar 6 does not go like bar 2.
- Toad of the short forrest: the G is natural most of the time (the midi file has it correct).
- Lost in a whirlpool: renewed.

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

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

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

Covers of the 2001 and 2007 editions.

Content of the 2007 edition.

Page sample:

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