The Most Familiar Cadence In Western Music Has A Very Funny Name

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These four chords (er, the relationship between them) are responsible for *NSYNC's 'Bye Bye Bye' as well as 'Greensleeves.'

The Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord is not, in fact, the name of an instrument invented by Dr. Seuss -- though if it was, it would make four notes, descending (ahem) from the tonic, down a whole step, down a whole step, down a half step to the fifth.

In other words, it would create the sound of the bass in this song:

David Garland, host of WNYC's Spinning On Air, has compiled more than 50 tracks that feature this distinctive musical footprint known as the Andalusian Cadence. In a conversation with Soundcheck's John Schaefer, Garland argues that the Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord may be the most-used theme in Western music, and he explains how -- and why -- you can hear this sonic architecture in everything from "Greensleeves" to *NSYNC.

Visit the Spinning On Air episode page to see David Garland's 50+ track playlist featuring the "Andalusian Cadence."