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PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS FORUM IS TAKEN FROM PREVIOUS VERSION OF QUEEN SONGS SITE.
Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: ArrangementsBookmark and Share

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Sebastian: Arrangements02 Apr 2003 15:58

hi, can you help me again? I'm trying to study the differences between the arrangements of different people, like you do, but with more specific things. For example, how did Roger arrange bass lines and how did Brian do so, etc. I want to do this with other bands as well in order to record an album with 'that's how x song would sound if x band/artist made it"

I can tell you what I know about Queen and you tell me where am I getting wrong:

John used to do simpler arrangements. For acoustic guitars he tends to be very raucous ('You and I'), and melodic sometimes ('In Only Seven Days', 'Spread Your Wings'), and most of times he plays those parts, I guess that it's because he has a better idea of how they should be. On bass he's very melodic ('7 Days', 'Best Friend'). He uses to leave electric guitars in charge of the main riffs ('Misfire', 'Cool Cat', 'Back Chat'). For solos I only know one that he does: Misfire. Can you tell me about it please? how is the arrangement of it? and the scales, modes and stuff?. And for the pianos, I think Freddie arranged them. On vocals most of the arrangements are clearly from Fred ('You And I' for example).

Roger is the most simple, bass uses to double rhythm guitars ('Sheer Heart Attack', 'Modern Times', 'Action'), which hardly ever change from a fixed set of notes. I think the solos are arranged or improvised by Brian. Piano lines on Roger's songs use to play chords, no more, like on 'Tenement' or 'Car'. Harmonies are mostly three part, not very hard to do actually.

How am I so far?

1.PD 02 Apr 2003 18:22
Hm. It's hard to get a grip on the Queen arangements, because they were quite varied depending on what they thought the song needed. A recurrent element in their arrangement was the way that the arrangement got thicker (more harmonies), or at least different by every repetition of a section. For example the drums in Fat Bottomed Girls gets more busy toward the end.

Regarding the harmonies: most of the guitar block harmonies were three parted. The vocal harmonies were changing. Roger had a distinct style arranging harmonies (at least up to Hot Space). I still have to study to find out what makes them so Roger-esque (except his distinct voice).
Those Queen harmonies are not always simple. The used dissonances in crafty way. I suspect that some harmonies (eg. vocal harmnies in Good Company and Bohemian Rhapsody) needed planning, and not the kind one can creat simultaiously. In many pop/rock song I'm able to sing any of the harmony lines more or less simultaiously. With many Queen harmonies I have diffcoulties doing this.
Roger mentioned they sometimes (eg in Killer Queen) experimented with different inversions to find the best voicing. An example of a plain simple vocal harmony is the Hammer To Fall, where the harmony strictly follows the guitar. In many Queen harmonies they put something sophisticated.
It's worth to check out "Man From Manhatten" to see how an ordinary song sounds arranged by Queen (mainly by Freddie and Brian). The harmonies often just harmonize segments of the tune. Brian often harmonizes only just the ending of his solos. Much more I can't tell you at the moment.
2.Sebastian 02 Apr 2003 20:07
thank you for all those things

now, in addition

> Regarding the harmonies: most of the guitar block harmonies were three parted.

Yes, Brian mostly arranged three-parts for both guitar and voices ('Fat Bottomed Girls', 'Tie Your Mother Down', 'Keep Yourself Alive').

> Roger had a distinct style arranging harmonies (at least up to Hot Space).

From the Works onwards Freddie would arrange almost all the songs Roger made for Queen, one exception is Invisible Man, whose arranger was John

> The used dissonances in crafty way.

Yes, mostly Freddie, like on 'Bo Rhap', they're very weird. Freddie was always the most musical, I'm sure he was behind a lot of guitar harmonies and even he must have suggested some ideas of 'Procession' and 'White Queen'

> I suspect that some harmonies (eg. vocal harmnies in Good Company and Bohemian Rhapsody) needed planning, and not the kind one can creat simultaiously.

That's right, 'Teo Torriate' is another example

I think it's a good idea to start making the differences of vocal harmonies. In fact I think Freddie was the only one that worked on them so hard, he was the "choir master". Some of the bounces of backing vocals on Fred's songs are so huge ('Princes Of The Universe', 'Somebody To Love'), with about six-parts, while on Brian's, Roger's and John's arrangements they hardly go bigger than three.

The first album only has one harmony which is four-part: Jesus. My Fairy King had several bounces crossing with each other, but none of them are bigger than three-part. Great King Rat and Son And Daughter are two-part. There's a part on Liar, one of those screams which is five-part though. All the others are three-part, which is understandable because, as John said, the album was mostly putting on the tapes what they used to do live, that's why the harmony was done in the live settings: Roger, Freddie, Brian. The part that makes me think a lot is the ending of 'Doin' All Right', it doesn't sound like Brian or Freddie to me.

On 'Father To Son' it's mostly three-part, they could have been done naturally, without rehearsals. On the bridge there are some voices from Freddie which are doing "father father father" each time higher. I find it as a very Freddie thing, we can find it on 'Bo Rhap' and 'All Dead'. The ending of that song counts with some four parts on some parts, but they all sound Roger.

'Funny How Love Is' has three-part harmonies, but they're not very horizontal, having some changes very well positioned. Freddie was an expert of that. Brian made that too, on 'Fat Bottomed Girls' for example.

'Nevermore' at the end has a seven part harmony covering two octaves. That's the largest range Freddie had used on the same part until then. That's a clear difference, not of arrangements, but of interpretation. If you put a four-part harmony done exclusively by Roger, they just sound like one Roger, with echo, on 'Action' for example or 'Invisible Man'. When a huge harmony is done by Fred on his tender side, it sounds like an angelical choir.

'White Queen' also includes that kind of choir. It seems to me that Freddie was more keen of doing that kinds of stuff, so it must be him. 'Someday One Day' has a similar choir, but done by Brian, it sounds weird to listen to Brian doing falsettos, but he made them so damn good. I'm wondering who may have done the arrangements during the guitar solo, and who sang them. They're all a very crystal voice, so we can exclude Roger and John totally. Maybe it's a combination of Brian and Freddie. The arrangement I don't know who made it, but whoever was (Fred or Brian) is the one who also arranged the ending of 'Doin' All Right'

'Ogre' and 'Loser' are not very complex though, while the symphony of Fairy Feller's is so clever. On the harpsichord solo the harmonies use the same concept of the 'angelical choirs', but they're sung by Roger, Fred and Brian instead of just Fred. Roger's voice makes them sound more harsh and operatic, Brian is getting the high notes really hard so it gives it a different touch, more dramatic I think, that's why Fred used them for Bo Rhap. On the "tatterdemalion and the junketer" the second voice is so nice. It's the earliest example of such a clever counterpoint I find in vocal harmonies in Queen.

Again for 'Black Queen', Freddie used the others and they gave it an operatic touch. Those days Freddie couldn't sound like a soprano, he always sounded like a child when made falsetto, like on the "spread out your wings you are an angel", where the backing vocals are by him. Later on 80s and 90s his voice would be more raspy, and then he could do great female soprano screaming voices ('Exercises in Free Love' for example), so he stopped using the others for the operatic things (like 'Hard Life' or 'All God's People')

OK, that's enough for today, tell me what do you think and later we can wo to Sheer Heart Attack
3.PD 02 Apr 2003 21:10
Just a short remark. I counted "only" four voices in the intro of "Princes". Except a few example (Bohrap-Belzeboob, Somebody To Love) the harmonies didn't include parallel octaves, and the vertical range of the vocal harmonies stays within one octave, which limited the number of used harmony parts to 3-4. For example the intros of Breakthrou (4+lead), Bohemian Rhapsody, You Take My Breath Away (and "Princes").
I guess Nevermore has 3 or 4 parts in harmony. The vertical range of that harmony is not filled.
Jesus: yeah it sound like four parts or so.
4.Sebastian 03 Apr 2003 13:43
I finished my thing about vocal harmonies, and here's my conclusion, hope it helps to your song analysis (I don't want to put that on my page, it's not very related to the other topics).

Roger and John didn't actually arrange vocal parts. They just sang, or chose who were going to sing, and that was doing natural harmonies, eg You're My Best Friend, or I'm In Love With My Car. Neither of them ever bothered to write down a different line to each voice

Brian never did either, unless Fat Bottomed Girls is arranged by him (which I doubt very much), on that one the harmony is not totally lineal, although it can be also done just by ear, without any planning. What Brian did arrange, not only on vocal but on instruments, was the canon things, he was the canon-man of the band

That would mean Prophet's Song was his arrangement, and that makes sense

Now Freddie has a #1 trademark: very fat harmonies, depending on the song all of them would be included or it would be just Fred. Examples of that: White Queen, In The Lap Of The Gods, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc.

Another one: harmonies that are ascending, eg Bohemian Rhapsody right before the solo, or father to son before Roger starts to sing. Sometimes Freddie arranged ascending things and then compensated it with descending ("come come come come play the game play the game play the game play the game"), although not very often.

The cascading harmonies are also a Freddie thing, and so are the oscillating ones (like on a part of 'Black Queen'). Finally Fred was the only one that arranged really deep voices (first verse of 'The Wrist' or a line of 'Lily Of The Valley'), although on a couple of Brian's songs there are voices pretty low, but not so low as on Fred's arrangements

Finally, Freddie used to put harmonies between the solos (like on the guitar solo of 'It's A Hard Life', 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Misfire' or the harpsichord solo of 'Fairy Feller's Master Stroke'). That would make me believe that he arranged the harmonies on the solo of 'Hammer'
5.PD 03 Apr 2003 18:14
I think that both Roger and Brian (and John too co-) arranged vocal harmonies, especially in their own songs. The vocal harmonies in "Loser" some of the harmonies in "Coming Soon" and "Action". I strongly suspect that the main arranger of most of Brian's songs was Brian himself especially the ones he sung. No One But You and Doing All Right are obvious examples for non-Freddie arrangement.
I suspect that some harmonies were created as a teamwork on rehearsals, and probably John too had ideas sometimes.
A nice Brian contribution (I guess) can be heard in Heaven For Everyone in the final harmonized "this could be HFE" phrase in themiddle of the song.
One of my favourite arrangements (vocal and guitar) is Who Needs You. Three part harmonies everywhere, never overlapping eachother.
I've transcribed many harmonies (even vocal harmonies) into tablatures in order (partly) to make them visual for me. What I know about Queen harmonies I learned from these transcriptions. Others with good sight reading can study harmonies via scores.

Back to harmony arrangemenst: two major approach:
1) The lead vocal parts are harmonized. You have to decide what bits need harmonic reinforcement, then arrange the harmonies.

2) The backing harmonies that don't follow the lead vocal. First you have to decide where to put them: ususally where there is no lead vocal, and there is no guitar harmony either (counter-example: You're My Best Friend: the vocal and guitar harmonies often overlap). If the harmonies go behind the lead vocal, they ususally just provide simple chordal backing. (Eg. in "I'm In Love With My Car"). The harmonies that fill the gaps between the melodic phrases are born as single tune that they harmonise. That's why I don't think we could draw too deep consequences from the direction (upwards or downwards) of the harmonies. The harmonies are following a single "backbone" tune, and all four of them were able to creat both ascending and descending tunes. As for the cascading ones: Brian also did some, and in an interview he told (in context of the guitar solo in Killer Queen) he got the idea from Mantovani. Later he told (in the Bohrap documentary, that the Galileos too were influenced by Mantovani, so probably Freddie too was into doing them.
Or did you mean the kind of cascaded harmonies that close the acapella intro of "You Take My Breath Away"?

There are harmonies that just refuse to follow shemes.
6.Sebastian 03 Apr 2003 21:33
> I think that both Roger and Brian (and John too co-) arranged vocal harmonies

I don't mean they didn't, I mean that the only one that used details different to just horizontal three-parted choirs was Fred. It's like on the Beatles, you can hardly find counterpoints or stuff.

> I strongly suspect that the main arranger of most of Brian's songs was Brian himself

I don't think so, although it depends on the era. On the early days it's possible that he made a lot, I'm sure he made all the arrangements on pieces like Good Company, he said that he actually wrote the bass line of Son And Daughter. Anyway, some of the songs have strong Fred's input, like All Dead, White Queen (the harmonies, the guitar can easily be 100% Brian). The think worked both ways, Brian also arranged several things on Fred's songs, like the intro of My Fairy King, the solos of Liar and the backing vocals of The Hitman, they're pretty much from him.

> A nice Brian contribution (I guess) can be heard in Heaven For Everyone in the final
harmonized "this could be HFE" phrase in themiddle of the song.

I think that Roger was behind the vocal arrangements of Winter's Tale, what do you think?

> One of my favourite arrangements (vocal and guitar) is Who Needs You.

John worked almost his entire career with Freddie. I don't think there's any song were John made all the arrangements, he would be the only one without it (Roger must have arranged Sheer Heart Attack and Fight From The Inside in their entirely). For example, You And I or In Only Seven Days have Elton John-influenced pianos, they sound more like a Fred's idea than a John's idea.

In fact the rhythm section of the band changed a lot from time to time. Roger was very much an instintive musician, I just can't picture him writing staffs or even notes on a piece of paper and thinking "that's the bass line, and that's the notes Brian's gonna sing, etc". He was very creative indeed, but not the kind of people that would bother in having everything organised, which is something Brian and Freddie did (at least on the 70s).

Roger's songs started to get more clever when Freddie and other people started to arrange them. Action This Day, Radio Ga Ga and Magic were done with help of Fred on the instrumental arrangements. Fred Mandel also helped a lot with that. Mack also had input, on Machines for example. Breakthrou was mainly written by Roger but the arrangement is a team-work, I think everyone made his own part (a la Guns n' Roses). John was the arranger of 'Invisible Man', but we'll step on that later (ie on the next paragraph). 'Ride The Wild Wind' was again a great team work in terms of arrangements, the guitars for example are very Brian's. 'Days Of Our Lives' had input from David Richards, who played the conga drums

John has been always a very underrated bass player, and guitarist. He also has made some harmonies on guitars (eg 'Misfire'), but again I think that John gave everyone freedom. For example on 'Spread Your Wings' the guitar solo is totally a Brian thing, or the solo of 'If You Can't Beat Them'. Freddie was the "choir master" after all. On the 80s John became a great arranger though, I'm sure the bass solo of Ga Ga is his invention. He also arranged parts of 'Friends Will Be Friends' and helped Roger on 'Invisible Man', he also gave the ideas of the classical ending of 'Beautiful Day' (which is a very nice surprise from him, who used to be more pop-like).

But, as David Richards said, John hardly ever wrote an entire song, he just played them on acoustic guitar or piano to Freddie and Freddie was in charge of the rest. I'm wondering now if Friends Will Be Friends was actually from John, it could be, although Brian said it's Fred's... but according to Phoebe the Mercury/Deacon credit was put because John wanted Fred's help to be shown to the world. That would mean that both Pain and Friends would be from JD.

Regarding Doin' All Right', I think that one was arranged by all of them, the bass is very John's more than Brian's, and some piano parts on the middle are more Fred's style of arranging (it reminds me of 'Flick of The Wrist' or the outro of 'Let Me Live'). If the harmonies are arranged by Brian, it's so nice, because there you have an example of writing an arrangement and not participating on it (although he does on the BBC and live versions)

As Freddie was always next to the console and watching the recordings during the 72-76 period, like he was on One Vision later, it's very probable that he was always giving ideas, hence I think more strongly that he suggested some of the lines of pieces like 'Procession' or 'Someday One Day', even though he didn't participate on them
7.PD 03 Apr 2003 22:43
Regarding Beatles: they actually arranged counterpoint-like harmonies several times. If I Fell is maybe the most famous of all. George Martin arranged many of the the more sophisticated vocal harmonies for them, like Because. That's true.

Regarding John: yeah I also guess that his song-sketches were almost always majorly modified/developed. I suspect one of his major contribution to the harmony arrangements was that he would not allow use those too heavily.

As for John being underrated: as guitarist he was not exceptional. He was far better songwriter then guitarist. He had a good fingerstyle technique, he knew some basic funk licks, but nothing really special about his playing.
As a bassplayer: he was/is very fine player, but the music business is full of great bassplayers. He is only underrated compared to the top-10 poll bass-players, because John Deacon is definitely not inferior to the majority of them (technically). He was "perfect" bassplayer, he knew where to play basic or melodic bassline, and he had a great sense of rhythm, and motif-variants.
Regarding "Doing All Right": The hamony arrangement remained mostly the same since the Smile days, that's why no Freddie (and John) involved.
regarding White Queen: the guitar harmonies MAY have an input from Fred, as in the early version of the song the harmonies that are backing the guitar solo on the album cut are played on piano.
8.Sebastian 04 Apr 2003 13:54
Regarding George Martin: I think 'Winding Road' and 'Leaving Home' were great because they used a different arranger. George is so great, is my second favourite musician ever (being George Harrison the first), but being all the orchestral arrangements made by him, they are very predictable at the end, you always know what's going to happen. While on those two songs it's like "what the f**k is that? It's GREAT!"

As for John as guitar player: I don't mean by any chance that he's a jimmy page or something. I just said that even if he's not virtuoso, he's underrated on both ways (bass and guitar)

> The hamony arrangement remained mostly the same since the Smile days, that's why no Freddie (and John) involved.

I hadn't thought about it. Anyway, that kind of harmonies (like on the outro of Doin' All Right') were born when the whole Ibex and Smile bands were together and sang harmonies to some songs like 'World' and 'Paperback', which they used to sing being the whole of them together, so there's a little Fred influence on there.

Regarding White Queen: I think the "piano version" was arranged after they recorded the song. The album version was done on August 1973 and the song was begun to be played (and recorded on BBC) on March 1974. For the guitar harmonies they seem more Brian, but the vocal harmonies are totally Freddie's
9.PD 04 Apr 2003 17:16
Regarding Martin: many people (including McCartney himself) were not satisfied with the Spector-arrangements on Winding Road. I'm not quite against it. I don't think Martin's arrangements were particularly predictable, at least not more than any other arrangers (including Mercury and May). His contribution was very important element of Beatles' magic. I wish I (and many others) knew exactly what were his musical contributions to the songs except the orchestrations. For example the harmonies arranged by him, formal ideas. He was the one who put backwards records first into a song, he arranged the vocal (and orchestral) extravaganzas in Walrus, he suggested speeding up She Loves You, and also suggested some songforms. Many of Beatles's innovations could easily be considered to be Martin's innovation.

Regarding Harrison: I like his later era songs, but his pre-White album songs didn't impress me very much. I liked his "Cloud Nine" album. He had a special style. RIP.

About early harmonies:
I can't remember who were Freddie's mates doing those harmonies in the toilet-room. I can only remember mentioning Beach Boys and Beatles, not particular song (Paperback and World).
Paperback by the way needs five voices to reproduce perfectly, even though three voices can perform it in simplified form (as Beatles also did when performing the song live).

about "White Queen"
There is a piano version that I think is recorded in the studio as a demo, and probably predates the album cut.
10.Sebastian 04 Apr 2003 17:29
Regarding G.M: Of course he's not as predictable as most of rock arrangers. But still his songs sound like "the same" after some time. Like if you listen to queen a lot you'll be bored with all those cresendos. It happens to me at least. But Queen has a little more variety, because they used four or more different arrangers (also David Richards, Mike Moran, Fred Mandel and Ariff Mardin had input). I really liked the Winding Road thing, I think Paul hating it is more that he didn't like that all of those changes were done behind his back

Regarding GH: I liked I Need You and some other stuff, but you're right, from the White onwards he's a genius, Piggies comes to my mind

Brian sometime said that they sung Bee Gees songs like World (that was the World I was referring to) and Words.
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