Perhaps the most striking feature of the song is the predominant eight note bassline that is repeated throughout the entirety of the song – except for the bridge section. Interestingly, Wonder uses a Fender Rhodes electric piano for this bassline, rather than the standard bass guitar. Arguably, this choice of instrument works well to create the Funk style of the song, and also gives the song a more vibrant, upbeat feel, with the unusual and ‘bright’ sounds of the electric piano.
The song is in the key of Db major, and uses the fifth, sixth, second and fourth chords from this scale for the majority of the pieced. The bridge manages to sound noticeably different, making it more effective due to the contrast with the verses and chorus, all the while maintaining the same key, also including the chords of Bb, C, Fm and Abm.
A synthesizer part also runs through ‘I Wish,’ which Wonder created on an Arp 2600. An Arp 2600 was a semi-modular synthesizer, and one of the first of its kind. The fact that it was semi-modular meant that it had some sounds already pre-wired onto the machine, which meant that it was easier to use for musicians and non-musicians alike. Synthesizers drastically changed the way music was created and enabled many to create music who would not have been able to otherwise. Not only do synthesizers produce unique electronic sounds, but they can also mimic a variety of other sounds, such as other instruments, such as pianos, guitars, violins and trumpets to name a few, thus, meaning that people could make music with these instruments in all effect, without having to be able to play these instruments in the first place. The incorporation of another electronic instrument not only adds depth to the song, but again creates a new sound, helping to distinguish the song from the Soul genre, by making the grooving Funk rhythms more prominent.
In typical Funk/Soul style, we can hear a beautiful horn section, working to compliment the melodies with their own syncopated rhythms, particularly in the chorus. The use of syncopation is very effective, as syncopation is essentially an anticipation of a note that would be played almost on the offbeat, which is very different to typical rhythms and beats. The horn section comprised of an Alto saxophone, a Tenor saxophone and two trumpets – thus it was easy to compose harmonies between the instruments for a richer and more powerful sound.
Overall, I believe that Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Wish’ is a perfect example of an American Standard; essentially, a ‘classic,’ a piece of music that perfectly represents the American people, through the fact that it is a hybrid genre, Funk, deriving from Blues and Soul and R&B to name a few, along with its innovative instrumentation and composition, whilst managing to maintain a nostalgic feel that is relatable to all.