The Art of Simplicity was a piece written by Chris Grant Jr for his Music History Class at Berklee College of Music. Chris Gran t Jr is a up and coming musical artist/entrepreneur. Later in the week Laracuente Ledger will be having an exclusive interview with Chris Grant Jr. So be on the lookout for that exclusive interview. But on to his piece
The Art of Simplicity
An analysis of Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Jack Norworth and Albert Von’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame is a classic American tune sang and loved by millions of fans all around the country (if not the world). It was first sung by Norworth’s wife Nora Bayes (wiki.com). The song is tailor made for the ballpark and although there are other baseball songs including America’s first pop hit “Slide Kelly Slide” (wiki.com), it remains the go-to song for baseball fans. It’s hard to imagine that a guy writing a simple song after seeing a billboard on a subway in New York could turn it into a smash hit, selling over 10 million copies in sheet music and/or records. In addition, after Happy Birthday and the National Anthem, Take Me Out to the Ballgame is the most frequently sung song in America (qctimes.com). In order to understand why and how this tune is so popular, we’ll be taking a look at the song’s arrangement, melody, lyrics, and timing.
When we look at the song’s arrangement, we see it’s crafted in a simple and easy-to-sing style. It’s in the key of C: a very common and easy key with no sharps or flats. There are never more than three notes in each measure, keeping it at an even steady pace and allowing people, young and old, to chime in. The whole song is contained in one, single, octave. Again, this makes singing the tune easier on singers who don’t posses the immaculate vocal range of your favorite pop singer. All these elements join forces to make singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame a walk in the park (pun intended).
Turning our attention to the melody, we see, again that the commitment to simplicity is strong. Although, there are exciting one-octave jumps in the first, fifth, and seventeenth measures of the chorus, most of the song, simply climbs up and down; never by more than a third. This not only appeals to anyone singing the tune but also to people interested in playing the tune on their favorite instrument. We see with Take Me Out to the Ballgame , as we do in many songs, that simplicity is key and sometimes less is more.
What is a great song without great lyrics? I believe part of what makes Take Me Out to the Ballgame such an addictive classic is that almost anyone can can relate to the lyrics. According to a Gallup poll, 60% (or 6 out of 10) Americans identify as sports fans (news.gallup.com). What’s interesting about this bonafide baseball anthem is that the word “baseball” is not even in the title of the song! In fact, if it were not for the lyrics “ one , two, three strikes, you’re out…” and perhaps, the mention of peanuts and crackerjacks, you may not even realize what sport it’s actually talking about. I, actually remember playing little league basketball and football and hearing some fans and coaches humming Take Me Out to the Ballgame as we took the field or court. Common themes in most professional sports are large crowds, food, rooting for the home team, and, of course, a ball. The, perhaps intentionally vague lyrics of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, certainly give it appeal to any sports fan.
Finally, when taking a gander at the timing of the tune, we see a 3/4 time signature. This timing was made most popular by the Waltz from the mid-18th to the early 19th century (bbc.co.uk). It’s a pretty popular time signature to use besides 4/4. It helps the song move at a familiar pace and keeps the energy high, which is ideal for a song that would be sang at sporting events. As if it wasn’t already clear, Jack and Albert’s use of 3/4 time again serves to reinforce the simplicity of tune.
By putting all this information together, I believe we can see and understand a little more clearly what makes Take Me Out to the Ball Game such a success. By arranging the song in the key of C, writing no more than three notes per measure, and keeping it contained in one octave, Jack and Albert ensure that the song is in everyone’s vocal range. Making the melody, all but a simple singing of the C scale, they ensure that their masterpiece is not only easy to sing, but easy to play on any instrument as well. And finally, Jack and Albert’s perhaps unintentional use of pretty vague lyrics, allow the tune to relate to almost any sports fan. When we add all these thing together, it’s not so hard to see why Take Me Out to the Ballgame was, and still is a smash success.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Me_Out_to_the_Ball_Game . February 21, 2018. February 23, 2018.
“King Kelly”. Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Kelly . February 21, 2018.
February 23, 2018
“12 little-known facts about ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’”. The Quad-City Times. http://qctimes.com/news/local/little-known-facts-about-take-me-out-to-the-ball/article_9afd7f09-c5bb-5104-8e14-87778d56f2bc.html . April 11, 2008 . February 23, 2018
Jeffery M. Jones . “As Industry Grows, Percentage of U.S. Sports Fans Steady”. Gallup. http://news.gallup.com/poll/183689/industry-grows-percentage-sports-fans-steady.aspx June 17, 2015. February 23, 2018.
“GCSE Bitesize: Waltz”. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/music/music_dance/paired_dance1.shtml . February 23, 2018