Soothing Use of Wild Intervals as Seen in Dave Matthews Band’s “Satellite”

Dave Matthews Band: Under the Table and Dreaming

I talk about wide intervals a lot, because it’s a great move for grabbing the audience’s attention and creating a drama in your song.  But the downside of wide intervals is it can come across as jarring and, well, dramatic.  So if one is to write a soothing, comforting song but one that doesn’t sound boring/predictable from all the step-wise melodic motions, how do you do it?

Dave Matthews Band’s old favorite “Satellite” is a great example of a contentment-inducing song that features big leaps.  There are two places where you can observe this:

  • The main guitar riff is made up of 5th and 6th jumps, but the pattern and the rhythm are both steady and predictable, offsetting the impact of the jumps.  It does sound a bit mechanical, but that’s actually appropriate in a song bout satellites.  The vocal melody on top is also very static and mostly moves in step-wise motion, too, so they’re not cramming too much interest in one section.
  • The chorus features octave and 9th jumps, which do a good job of focusing you attention on the melody.  This also sets up nice contrasts from the preceding verse and following bridge sections, which are both more tame sounding — the chorus melody just stands out.

In short, wide intervals can be made to sound very soothing if other elements counteract against it to create a balancing act.  In the case of the verse, the gap-heavy riff is offset by its steady rhythm and predictable pattern, and very tame vocal melody.  The chorus melody does appropriately stand out, but the sections before and after go back to being safer so the listener isn’t bombarded with wild melodies left and right (notice the song goes back to the bridge at the end of the song, which ends the song on a comforting note).  This is a great example of incorporating attention-grabbing moves without distracting the overall contentment that the song delivers.