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Artist Spotlight: Pearl Jam (Thin Air) Great Chord Progression

We’re going to be learning how to play Pearl Jam’s Thin Air today. This is a really cool chord progression that might stump you at first, when you look at it from a theory perspective. It’s in E major (E, A and B)… and yet it has a C major in it!

We call this “flatting the sixth” because normally, the sixth in E major should be C#… however we’re playing C, so that means we’re flatting the sixth.

Despite “breaking” traditional theory, this is actually a really cool technique that you’ll hear from time to time. John Fogerty liked using this trick – you’ll hear it in Green River and Old Man Down the Road.

In Eric Clapton’s version of Cocaine flats the seventh, in a similar fashion to what we just talked about.

Both of these examples use major chords, yet because the distance between the chords is minor it produces a darker, more minor sound.

In the bridge, we’ve got a key change too. Lots going on in this song!