Hallelujah Cymber Lily Quinn, Hilo Hawaii HarpistIf you’ve been with me a while, you know that until this very moment, all of my music has been my own, composed and improvised, recorded just for you. Part of the reason for that is that the byzantine world of getting licenses to play other people’s music was really difficult. In the old days, I’d write letter to the publisher to ask permission, and then wait. And wait. And WAIT. For nothing.

Now with the wizardry of the internet, it is possible to get song licenses in just a few days. And thus, the world of “everyone else’s songs” is finally open to me.


Leonard Cohen was a curmudgeon and a poet first, and a singer later. His version of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” has become an anthem of love. But when you look at the lyrics, it’s a song about the Old Testament king, David, who was a harpist and musician first and a great leader second. It seems totally natural that this song would sound great on the harp.

Is there a Hidden Message in Hallelujah?

According to ClassicFM.com writer Sofia Rizzi, Leonard Cohen hid a sneaky message in his lyrics, and it’s all reflected in the music.

Below are the lyrics of the first verse:

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

It’s all about chords, music, numbers, minor and major. But what does it all mean?

What is the “The Secret Chord” in Hallelujah?

The ‘secret chord’ is a biblical reference. David was a King from the Hebrew bible, and although we all mostly remember him for being the underdog who defeated Goliath when he was a young man, he was, first and foremost, a musician.

King David Cymber Lily Quinn Hilo Hawaii HarpistIn 1 Samuel 16:23, the Bible reads: “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.” 

So we know David played a ‘secret chord’, whatever that may be.

What is “The fourth, fifth, minor fall and major lift”?

The line ‘the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall, the major lift’ is in fact a description of the chord sequence taking place under those words. Here’s the breakdown:

  • ‘The fourth’: This phrase sits on the fourth chord of the scale, or sub-dominant chord (IV) of F major.
  • ‘The fifth’: The melody moves up one note to the fifth chord of the scale, the dominant (V) of G major.
  • ‘The minor fall’: Again, the melody moves up one note here to the sixth chord, the submediant (vi) of A minor. The ‘fall’ in this phrase is referring to the minor, or ‘fallen’ third of the chord.
  • ‘The major lift’: This is a first inversion chord of the fourth, or sub-dominant (IV) of F major. The ‘lift’ refers to the chord changing from a minor to a major chord, and in the process ‘lifting’ the harmony. There is only one changing notes in this chord, it moves from A–C–E to A–C–F.

So is David’s ‘secret chord’ in fact the underlying chord progression of the song – which in essence makes up the whole song? You decide.


My version of “Hallelujah” is the first cut of a longer CD that will be coming out later this year. I will be posting tunes as I finish them, and the tunes will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD only to my blog readers. Don’t delay in downloading, though. Once the CD is finished, all the songs will be taken down and put into a CD for purchase. So as the reader of my blog, you get these songs for free.

(To download, right click and save to your computer).


Do you love this tune? Want to hear more? Write me and let me know your favorite tunes, and I’ll see what I can do about including them.

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