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PD: Introductory chapters09 Nov 2007 15:17

 

Dear Reader!

Welcome to the Queen Songwriting Research project! You are expected here to read about Queen

songs, in a rather music oriented way instead of discussing trivias, biographies.

Project history
The project started back in late 2000 with the "repetition" chapter, soon followed by the 

series of song analyses. Through the years the material grew close to the completion. It was

planned to be published in book format. This plan was unfortunately cancelled due to the lack

of interest by both the publishers and Queen management. After all rejections the project had

to get back down to the earth and stay as a non-profit on-line publication.

Released or not, this is probably the most extensive written material dealing with the

Brittish rockband Queen. In book format it would have taken 800 pages. Considering the topic

the length is well-needed. There is too much to be said on the music of Queen. One wonders

why a book like this had not yet been written ages before. It really cried out to get

written. Probably because such a book is difficult to even start without inspiring reference

works. As reference this book uses the mere music and just a couple of interviews.
It has to be admitted, that a number of important details could not be obtained resulting in

a number of guesses and consequetly also some mistakes in the chapters. We have to deal with

this and hope that later they will be corrected.

Scope of work
This research project offers a detailed overview on the musical framework of Queen songs and

albums, and of the band members as musicians. The main part of the "book" analyses each

individual Queen songs one by one, including B-sides, available rarities, Smile songs, and

also some live versions. The last analysed song is "No One But You". Since then Brian May and

Roger Taylor opened a brand new chapter in the history of Queen which is still wide open and

won't be discussed in this QSR.

The first chapters provide you a brief introduction into the "mysterious" world of music

theory. If you have basic knowledge of chords (for example rooky guitar and keyboard

players), you can learn qickly the basic knowledge that is necessary for the comprehension of

the technical talk of the analyses, or at least the most of it. Then we are going to get an

overview of the band members, how did they start performing and writing music, and how their

skills evolved during the legendary years both as instrumentalists and as songwriters.
The middle chapters, which is the main part of the book, are going to analyse the individual

Queen songs in terms of harmony, rhythm, songform, and arrangement.

A big part of this material had not been discussed before, and may work as reference of later

resarches. Tremendeous amount of details is included ranging from "boring" to extremly

interesting observations (a lot of them!). For first look it may seem to be over-detailed,

but it's really just a light work compared to academic works in terms of level of detail.

 A whole chapter is dedicated to the live performances, how they converted their songs for

the stage in the era closed and partly represented by the "Live Killers" album in 1979, and

later on.
Another chapters are dedicated to the special instruments, special playing tecniques, and

special chord progressions featuring in Queen songs.


What is it all good for?

Song analyses are not intended to make you enjoy music better. On the other hand they train

your sense of musical aesthetics, provide you a vaste source of ideas how to write better

songs, and make you able to rate songs and songwriters more fairly by strictly musical

aspects instead of mere bias.
Keep in mind, that close look might make things seem bigger. Reading this book may provoke a

false consequence that there was no contest for Queen. Before creating such a judgement it is

strongly recommended to look around for possible "contest" in bookshops and across the

internet, and learn that Queen were not the only band with creative songwriting talents. On

the other hand the Queen songbook will probably bear the test of wider perspective. Read the

"Bicycle Race" or "Bohemian Rhapsody" analyses to get an instant justification. Our four

songwriters (ie. Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, John Deacon and Brian May) were able to

combine the catchy and creative songwriting on a remarkably high level and on remarkably

grand scale, which is their lasting achivement in the history of popular and rock music.


 


Music theory in nutshell

Some of you may think music theory is beyond you. Think of what Mercury would sing: "It's so

easy when you know the rules" (Play The Game). The basic rules of music theory are easy to

learn from this book which is primarly written for hobby musicians or music students, and

also for songwriters. Many observations showcased in this book needs only very basic

knowledge to comprehend. Another parts require more, but this knowledge fortunately CAN be

obtained from this book! It's easier to learn the rules of music theory exemplified by

familiar songs isn't it?
Let's see the basic theory of harmony, melody, rhythm, structure.


Harmony

The main approach of popular music is "melody over chords", which also dominates the Queen

songbook compared to the melody against melody (counterpoint), melody against riff (somewhere

between the former two). The choice of chords in context of the homekey is an interesting

point of analysis and a key feature of the analyses. This approach enables one to compare

songs in different key easily.

In this book there is hardly any standard notation used. This may be a plus for the ones

(many guitarists) who can't read standard notation. We use alphabetic notation instead,

that's the way how Mercury would notate his own vocal harmony arrangement sketches.


Chord notation used in the analyses:

C : C-Major chord
Am: a-minor chord
C#: Cis-Major Chord
Cb: Ces-Major chord
C/E: C chord with E bass.

Cdim: C diminished chord
Chalfdim: half Diminished chord
C1: a single C-natural note
C3: a third dyad. Often referred as C (if the third is Major third)
C5: fifth dyad, often referred as power chord.
C6: C Major triad plus 6th degree (usually on top)
C7: C seventh. C-Major chord plus minor 7th degree.
Cmaj7: C with major 7th added (CEGB)
C9: C ninth. C-Major chord plus a D (2nd or 9th degree) on top.
C11: This is C suspended 4th and minor 7th.
C(6): The backing track plays C Major chord, while the lead instrument or vocal holds a 6th

degree.
C5,7: This is mainly a C7 chord omitting the third degree.
C*: This refers either to a riff centered around the C-natural note or a complex chord with C

root which can more precisely be defined by spelling it out.
/C: the previous chord repeated, but the bass is moved to C.


The degrees of notes in C-Major:

C: 1st degree often referred as "root".
D: 2nd degree (9th degree when played on top)
E: 3rd degree
F: 4th degree (11th degree when played on top and combined with minor 7th)
G: 5th degree
A: 6th degree
Bb: minor 7th degree often referred as flat-7th or b7th in Major key.
B: Major 7th degree
Eb: b3rd degree.

The C, D, E, F, G, A, B notes are the so called diatonic notes in a given homekey.
We can find that the songs are containing many non-diatonic notes (eg. Bb and Eb).


Chord functions:
Out of the seven diatonic notes of a given key grouping them into triades (1st degree + 3rd

degree + 5th degree), we can build three Major and three minor chords. In context of that

given key these six chords are assigned harmonic functions. In the key of C-major these

functions are:

C : I the tonic chord (C-E-G)
Dm: ii  supertonic (rarely referred by this name in this book) (D-F-A)
Em: iii mediant (rarely referred by this name in this book) (E-G-B)
F : IV  subdominant (F-A-C)
G : V  dominant (G-B-D)
Am: vi submediant (rarely referred by this name in this book) (A-C-E)

These are the so-called diatonic chord funstions. See for example "One Year Of Love" where

you'll see this six basic chords in the homekey of this song.
But usually in nearly all Queen songs you'll find non diatonic chords as well. For example

the C chord in the "Fat Bottomed Girls" which is in D-Major.
The tonic chord often opens the song and closes it, which helps one getting oriented harmony

-wise.


Chord functions in a-minor:

Am: i   tonic
C : III
Dm: iv 
Em: v   dominant
E : V   dominant
F : VI
G : VII


Note the capitals refer to Major chords. The minor function will be rarely referred by name

in this book.

The song analyses will dispaly the chords of the song bar by bar. These bars are grouped in

phrases. The phrases are grouped in sections.
 Below the traditional name of the chord you will see the function number (roman number). For

example the "mama just killed a man..." phrase off "Bohemian Rhapsody". The transcription of

these four bars:

| Eb  | Cm   | Fm   | - Bb |
| I   | vi   | ii   | - V  |


The "-" means that the previous chord is sustained in the first half of the fourth measure.


Keys:
The diatonic set of pitches in a given key is seven notes. In C-Major it is:

C D E F G A B.

The key of a-minor uses the same seven notes except when G# is used instead of G for

providing leading tone to A-natural. They say that the a-minor is the relative minor key of C

Major key and also C-Major is the relative Major key of a-minor.


The pitch-set of F-Major is:

F G A Bb C D E

The difference compared that of the C Major scale is one flat ("b"): the Bb note. The keys

with only one flat (or sharp) difference are called neighbour keys.

Now take the pitch set of G-Major:
G A B C D E F#. The difference compared to C Major scale is one sharp ("#"). This is also a

case of neighbour keys (C-Major vs. G-Major).

The home keys and their number of sharps and flats:

d#-minor, F#-Major: five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#)
g#-minor, B-Major: four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#)
c#-minor, E-Major: three sharps (F#, C#, G#)
f#-minor, A-Major: two sharps (F#, C#)
e-minor, G-Major: one sharp (F#)
a-minor, C-Major: no sharp, no flats
d-minor, F-Major: one flat (Bb)
g-minor, Bb-Major: two flats (Bb, Eb)
c-minor, Eb-Major: three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
f-minor, Ab-Major: four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
bb-minor, Db-Major: five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)


Guitar friendly and piano-friendly keys.

The above listed 22 keys can be grouped into guitar-friendly and also piano-friendly keys.

Some keys are neither piano or guitar friendly (eg. Db-Major),
which does not mean they don't use it in guitar or piano songs.


In the guitar friendly keys most of the basic chords (ie: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi) can be

played as open chords, without barre, where the index finger has to push down 5-6 strings

simultainously. The most frequently used open chords are:

A, Am, B7, C, D, Dm, E, Em, G.

The guitar friendly keys range from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three sharps (E-Major). If

you browse though the songs of Deacon, May and Taylor, you'll find that nearly all of their

songs are written in guitar-friendly keys, even the ones that were written on piano or synth.
There are many guitar songs that are not in guitar friendly keys. The majorirty of these songs use alternate tuning (Eb-tuning, capo) or varyspeed.

The so-called piano friendly keys are ranged approximately from one flat (d-minor, F-Major)

to three flats (c#-minor, Eb-Major). Many of Mercury's piano songs are written in these keys, but far not as exclusively as the others preferance of guitar friendly keys.
The keys that include 2 or 3 "black" notes anatomically match up better with the human hand. The pianist can keep their shorter fingers (thumb and pinky), on white keys and keep their longer fingers on black keys. It's a more natural position for the fingers than the key of C, which uses all white notes, and which forces you to contort the hand a little more. This experience applies for the more advenced players. Rooky players need years to recognise the pianofriendliness of these keys. For them the pianofriendliness means that each basic chords have the same black-and-white key pattern. The sharp-side keys (also with 2-3 black keys)***

 


Modulations, key changes

In the majority of Queen song we will find that the initially established key is changing

during the song. For example "Teo Torriate" starts in d-minor, but the bridge is in D-Major.
Based on the relation of the source and destination keys, we can creat different types of

modulations. The most frequently used types of modulations we are going to examplify with

many non-Queen examples:


PARALLEL KEY MODULATION (I to i, i to I)
This is probably the most easily recognisable of all types.
Queen: Teo Torriate,
Freddie Mercury: Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow,
Elton John: I'm Still Standing
Beatles: Fool On The Hill,
GnR: November Rain (Coda)
Juanes: La Camisa Negra
Metallica: Low Man's Lyric
Roxette: Sleeping In My Car
Michael Jackson: Black Or White
Pet Shop Boys: Suburbia
Village People: In The Navy
Romeo And Juliette, french musical, main theme
The Cardigans: Lovefool
Ace Of Base: The Sign
Boney M: Bahama Mama
Adriano Celentano: Azzurro
Vangelis: 1492
Lou Reed: Perfect Day
Herman's Hermits: No Milk Today
Joe Cocker: Night Calls
Sailors: Girls, Girls, Girls
Del Shannon: Runaway
The Platters: My Prayer
Hank Williams: Kaw-liga
W. A. Mozart: Rondo Alla Turka


RELATIVE KEY MODULATION (I to vi, i to III). This is also a frequently used modulation type.

It does not change the number of sharped/flatted notes (except the sharpened 7th in the minor

scale).
There are songs where it is a mean of creating contrast between sections ("All Dead,All

Dead"). In other cases it is merely a hard to notice displacement of the harmonic "gravity

center" toward the relative key ("You Are My Best Friend").

Queen: Jesus, All Dead, All Dead
Beatles: And I Love Her.
Bobby Vinton: Trouble Is My Middle Name 1963
George Gershvin: I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'
Grease soundtrack: You Are The One That I Want
Abba: SOS
Bob Marley: You Could Be Loved
Celine Dion: That's The Way It Is
U2: One
Metallica: One (not perfect example because the Major key (D) is mixolydian)
Roxette: Fading Like A Flower
REM: Everybody Hurts
Fool's Garden: Yellow Lemontree
Freddie Mercury: Living On My Own
Johann Krieger: Minuett


NEIGHBOUR KEY MODULATIONS (I to IV, I to V, i to iv, i to v, I to ii, I to iii, i to VII, i

to VI) A frequent destination of modulations are the "neighbour" keys (neighbour in context

of the circle of fifths). Only one sharp/flat is the differnce between the pitch-set of the

target and destination.

Major to Major
Queen: Who Needs You,
Beatles: From Me To You
Erasure: Sometimes
Abba: Honey Honey
Carl Carlton: Everlasting Love
 
minor to minor
No Doubt: Don't Speak
Madonna: La Isla Bonita
Queen: Who Wants To Live Forever, The Prophet's Song

Major to minor
George Michael: Praying For Time
Beatles: For No One
Freddie Mercury: Living On My Own (Bridge)
Elvis Presley: I Cant Help Fallin In Love (?)

minor to Major:
Level 42: Running In The Family
Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Ludig v. Beethoven: Für Elise

 


Combinations of parallel and relative modulations:

I-VI = modulation to the parallel major key of the relative minor key (eg. C > A).
Mamas And The Papas: Dream A Little Dream Of Me
The Communards: Don't Leave Me This Way
Beatles: Something
Bay City Rollers: Bye Bye Baby
Soulsisters: The Way To Your Heart


I-bIII  the opposite direction
Limahl: Neverending Story
Gerry And The Pacemakers: Walk Hand In Hand With Me
Simon And Garfunkel: Mrs Robinson (?)

i-iii: Tony Braxton: Unbreak My Heart.

i-vi (more precisely i to #vi): Boney M: Kalimba De Luna

--------------------------------------

Modulations that move two steps along the circle of fiths. (I to II, I to bVII, i to ii)

I to bVII
Mott The Hopple: All The Young Dudes
Bon Jovi: Always
Beatles: Penny Lane

I-II
Queen: We Are The Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody (ending)
Rod Stewart: Every Beat Of My Heart
Belinda Carlisle: Leave A Light On For Me
Beach Boys: Dont Worry Baby
Bee Gees: Secret Love
Shania Twain: That Don't Impress Me Much

i > IV
Lovin Spoonful: Summer In The City.
This "two keys down" modulation is executed in two quick steps: a "modulation" (just one

chord: i > I) to the parallel key (three keys down) and a neighbour modulation (one step

back: I = V) similarly as in We Are The Champions (Chorus to Verse: F > f > c#). In the

latter it is done in the
opposite direction and much slower.

i > ii
Metallica: Call Of Ktulu (outro: d > e > d, abrupt modulations)

i > bII This jump too takes two keys.

-------------------------------------------
unusual modulations - none of the usual ones:

i > bii
Enrique Iglesias & Whithney Houston: Could I Have Kissed Forever

I-bII: Beatles: If I Fell

i - bii: Eric Clapton: Layla (c# E d)

I-bVI
Queen: Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy, The March Of The Black Queen (outro)
Billy Joel: Uptown Girl
Frank Sinatra: Love And Marriage
Roy Orbison: Pretty Woman


KEY SHIFT:

Probably the simplest way of changing the key. Most of the examples take a half or
whole step upwards.

Abba: I Do I Do I Do,
Beatles: And I Love Her,
Madness: House Of Fun,
Celine Dion: My Heart Goes On
Communards: Dont Leave Me This Way
Michael Jackson: Heal The World
Queen: Keep Yourself Alive,


Pivot modulation

In some cases the modulation is executed smoothly by using chords that are native in both

source and destination keys. This is called pivot modulation, and the common chords are

called pivot chords.


Modes, scales
For start take the notes of the C-Major key respectively:

C,   D,   E,   F,   G,   A,   B,  (C)
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th

This is the C-Major scale ascending, also known as ionian mode. In the Queen songbook we will

not find strictly ionian song. Some guest notes will always be there. "Dear Friends" is one

of the msot diatonic song, but there appears a "" note in the harmony in the last measures.


In rock songs (converted to C-Major) we will often find Bb note instead of B. Degree-wise it

is the flattened 7th degree. With this substitution we get the so-called mixolydian mode.
Beside the b7th note they often use flattened 3rd instead of the natural 3rd. With these two

substitution we get the dorian mode. With the further substitution of b6th note we get the

aolian mode, which is the pitch set of the c-minor scale.
There are further modes but they are rarely used in pop/rock music except maybe the phrygian

mode which is characteristic by its starting with a half step.
In modal songs the modes are often mixed. For example the lead melody may extensively use the

b3rd degree, while the harmony may use extensively the Major 3rd degree (in the Major tonic

chord).
The songs with modal infections are usually transcibed as being in Major-key, sometimes even

the dorian mode songs (usually just song fragments).
In a clearly mixolydian harmony the six basic chords would be:

I, ii, iii, IV, v, bVII.

Usually we will find modal chords mixed with the Major basic chords. For example "Fat

Bottomed Girls" (key: D-Major) features both C (bVII) and A (V) chords.

Borrowed Chords
Beside the six basic chord functions we can find others. The most frequently used ones: bVII,

bIII, bVI, iv. In the key of C-Major these chords are Bb, Eb, Ab, Gm respectively. Note that

these chords are native in the key of c-minor where their function is VII, III, VI, iv

respectively. They say these chords are borrowed to the C-Major key from its parallel minor

key.
Another frequent borrowed chord is II (D chord in context of C Major key). The chord can be

threated as being borrwed from one of the the neigbour keys: G-Major. The bVII chord (Bb

chord in context of C Major key) also can be threated as being borrowed from the neighbour

key of F-Major. It's a matter of interpretation. Sometimes it really sounds like a brief

change of key, for example in Drowse (bVI > bVII > I)


Rhythms

Before we go to the basic theory of rhythms let's do some tricky exercies! Be proud if you

passed them without problem!

1) Now I'm Here: go to the monster riff and try to toe-tap along the beats!

2) Bohemian Rhapsody: go to start of the the opera section and start counting the 1-2-3-4

beats aloud througout the whole opera section!
3) Sleeping In The Sidewalk
  a) try to pick up the 1-2-3-4 beat of the intro
  b) Notice the hard to hear "1-2-3" count-in and try to continue:
     1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1... If you do it right, the song will start on an "1" beat!
  c) For guitarists: try to learn the solo (or hum it rhythm-correctly) toe-tapping along the

1-2-3-4 beats.
4) You And I - intro
  a) Try to pick up the 4/4 beat. Once the rhythm section (ie: bass and drums) enters you may

hear that your timing is out of synchron.
  b) Now using the second half of the intro try to learn the correct timing!
  c) Now get back to the start of the song and try to pick up the beats! Have you succeded?

For help: the very first note marks the downbeat.
5) Save Me: try to hold the 4/4 beats throughout the second half of the verses.
6) Bicycle Race: guitar fanfares at: try to count along the 3/4 beats!
7) Don't STop Me Now: try to count along the 4/4 beats during the intro.
8) Who Needs You: try to count along the 4/4 beats during the Verse.

What we have seen here were examples of syncopations and disorienting rhythms. The "Now I'm

Here" riff is a syncopated rhythm, Who Needs You has a syncopated tune. This means that many

quarter beats are left empthy while many notes (syllables) fall between two beats.

Syncopations abound in pop and rock music (a contrasting element with the classical music

where they are sparely or not used). In this book we are going to visualize syncopations with

the means of "beat-map" instead of standard rhythm notation. The "Now I'm Here" example will

look this way:

Disorienting rhythms are very clever things. As an exercise try to creat:
 a) a repeating tune in 5/4! Was it easy, wasn't it?
 b) Now try to creat tune with disorienting rhythm! Test it on your friends!

Most people find b) more difficoult



Post was edited on 12 Nov 2007 15:38
1.Sebastian 09 Nov 2007 20:00

> The middle chapters, which is the main part of the book, are going to analyse the individual Queen songs in terms of harmony, rhythm, songform, and arrangement.

I've been thinking lately that a very important side has been often overlooked: melody. I hope some time you (or anybody else) may begin a thorough research on that aspect.

> Song analyses are not intended to make you enjoy music better. On the other hand they train your sense of musical aesthetics, provide you a vaste source of ideas how to write better songs, and make you able to rate songs and songwriters more fairly by strictly musical aspects instead of mere bias.

Love this paragraph. Straight and direct, and with nice word-flow.

> Before creating such a judgement it is strongly recommended to look around for possible "contest" in bookshops and across the internet, and learn that Queen were not the only band with creative songwriting talents.

Ditto.

> Out of the seven diatonic notes of a given key grouping them into triades (1st degree + 3rd degree + 5th degree), we can build three Major and three minor chords.

So far the explanation was perfect for amateurs, but now you should define *diatonic* and *key* before using them effortlessly IMO.

> They say that the a-minor is the parallel minor key of C Major key and also C-Major is the parallel Major key of a-minor.

It's the relative, isn't it?

> The guitar friendly keys range from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three sharps (E-Major). If you browse though the songs of Deacon, May and Taylor, you'll find that nearly all of their songs are written in guitar-friendly keys, even the ones that were written on piano or synth.

Perhaps you could comment on the usual trick many bands do of tuning the guitars differently, so the song ends up sounding in F#, B, D#m ... although they're played with open chords. Queen fell for that sometimes too, although some were cases of varispeed ('39, Another One Bites the Dust).

> Many of Mercury's piano songs are written in these keys, but far not as exclusively as the others preferance of guitar friendly keys.

While not a crucial point, I think this should be checked more closely.

> Juanes: La Camisa Negra

My daughter likes that one, unfortunately ... Btw how did you compile such an extensive list? Did you run through all those songs one by one? That's impressive, like the net-melody thing.

> I to bVII
Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody (ending)

That one's I to II (Eb to F).



Post was edited on 09 Nov 2007 20:55
2.PD 10 Nov 2007 06:24

Melody:
For some extent I do analyse it: range and rhythm, pointing out scalar or pentatonic fragments. We have to take melody in the list.

"It's the relative, isn't it?"
of course.

"Btw how did you compile such an extensive list"
I hear a tune on the radio, and I hear the key change in it. Usually I can determine the type of modulation if its relative or parallel. The others I have to re-check at home.

"Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody (ending)" That one's I to II (Eb to F).
Yep. Thanks.

 

3.PD 12 Nov 2007 15:37

Added "borrowed chords"
Added some lines to "piano/guitar friendly keys".

One thing is still not clear for me:
The key of D and A too have 2 or 3 black keys. Does anyone know why these are less pianofriendly then the Bb and Eb Major keys on the flat-side?



Post was edited on 13 Nov 2007 13:11
4.angel 13 Nov 2007 10:49
Deleted by angel
5.angel 13 Nov 2007 13:50

Sorry for the blank post... I was at the university and their explorers have got almost everything blocked (except the plain text...) So I somehow wasn´t able to type into the table...

About the piano (un)friendly keys... I think it´s strongly debatable. I love piano and I must say that I also love to play in sharp keys instead of the flat ones like many others. For instance when we take B-major, the fingering is 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 (5 or 1) and if you try to play it, you´ll see that it´s perfectly flattering to fingers... The thumb always goes on white key and other fingers on black keys and there´s no need to somehow change the direction of your wrist or to step with your thumb under your 4th finger - like for instance in case of Eb major... That is my subjective feeling, because it is highly subjective I think.

Now to what I´ve primary wanted to post. The whole situation with the book really makes me unbelievably angry about QP... Recently, they released Queen Rock Montreal with absolutely terrible picture etc. but they are not interested in something which is in fact the main factor which actually made them rich - the Queen music itself.... I don´t know if they realize it or just ignore, but it´s really terrible what kind of people are surrounding such great musicians... From Jacky Gunn, who repeatedly sends fans fake autographs, to Mr. Beach... Let´s leave this topic for now, because I don´t want to fuck up myself the whole day...

Just a few details:

I´m sorry, Denes, but I still somehow can´t get over the "halfdim" expression. Maybe it´s totally common on the internet but for instance me - a student of music - have never seen chord expression like this... I don´t mean that you should change it - absolutely not, but I´d recommend you to explain this term. I still don´t know if C halfdim is a septachord or kvintachord? Is it like C-Eb-Gb-Bb? Or just Cm5-?

And a second detail:

"Am: i   tonic
C : III
Dm: iv 
Em: v   dominant
E : V   dominant
F : VI
G : VII"

Did you have any reason not to write "subdominant" for the iv degre, or just forget?

And this is important: there´s a mistake in your chart of keys, you forgot D-major and each sharp key is wrong (always one sharp left). Can you see it? Just to be sure:

d#-minor, F#-Major: five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#) - no, there are 6 sharps (+ e#)
g#-minor, B-Major: four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#) - no, there are 5 sharps (+a#)
c#-minor, E-Major: three sharps (F#, C#, G#)  ... etc
f#-minor, A-Major: two sharps (F#, C#) ...
e-minor, G-Major: one sharp (F#) ...
---- D-major, b-minor is missing ---
a-minor, C-Major: no sharp, no flats
d-minor, F-Major: one flat (Bb)
g-minor, Bb-Major: two flats (Bb, Eb)
c-minor, Eb-Major: three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
f-minor, Ab-Major: four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
bb-minor, Db-Major: five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)

But these are only details, otherwise this will be a great work, Denes, you should be given a Nobel Prize for it, really. (And thanks to you I would be able to write my diploma work :-)))

PS: how do you type a cross? I always use copy/paste :-/



Post was edited on 13 Nov 2007 14:08
6.Sebastian 02 Dec 2007 12:46

>The guitar friendly keys range from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three sharps (E-Major).

I don't think "F" is a guitar-friendly key. Not in vain 'Yesterday' is usually performed in G, and 'Love of My Life' was transposed to D. OTOH D-minor does appear frequently (in folkloric music, for instance), but C#m doesn't. So I think guitar-friendly keys are "from no flats or sharps (C, Am) to two sharps (D, Bm), plus E and Dm".

 

> If you browse though the songs of Deacon, May and Taylor, you'll find that nearly all of their songs are written in guitar-friendly keys, even the ones that were written on piano or synth.

I suggest it to be rephrased to "if you browse through the songs by Deacon, May or Taylor, you'll find that nearly all of them are in guitar-friendly keys, even those written at piano or synth".

> There are many guitar songs that are not in guitar friendly keys. The majorirty of these songs use alternate tuning (Eb-tuning, capo) or varyspeed.

I think this comment should go before the "Deacon, May and Taylor" thing, because it may be confusing otherwise. A set of examples wouldn't hurt ;)

> The so-called piano friendly keys are ranged approximately from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three flats (c#-minor, Eb-Major).

Actually, I think it's from one flat to four flats. Ab is quite frequent in (classical) piano music: Chopin, Beethoven... Fm also appears in several works by Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven, and it is a favourite key of many piano composers. Now, Freddie seldom wrote in those keys (compared to Cm/Eb or Gm/Bb) but that's another matter ...

> "Dear Friends" is one of the msot diatonic song, but there appears a "" note in the harmony in the last measures.

I think it's a tritone (played by the piano during "anew").

> In rock songs (converted to C-Major) we will often find Bb note instead of B. Degree-wise it is the flattened 7th degree. With this substitution we get the so-called mixolydian mode.

That's because rock music often has blues roots.

> The key of D and A too have 2 or 3 black keys. Does anyone know why these are less pianofriendly then the Bb and Eb Major keys on the flat-side?

The distance between C and Eb is a minor third, while between D and F# it's a major third. Minor thirds are easier to reach by the fingers, which is why those chords containing C and Eb (Cm, Ab), F and Ab (Fm, Db) or G and Bb (Gm, Eb) are more piano-friendly than those containind D and F# (D, Bm), E and G# (E, C#m) or A and C#(A, F#m). And so the keys related to those chords... Now, D is well-suited for loads of classical compositions, but not many piano things really.  'A' does appear in some piano pieces, but not as often as flat-side keys or even Am.

It's important to note that while C-Major and Am aren't the most ideal keys for guitar and piano respectively, they're still employed quite often. Am remains my favourite key, as you've probably confirmed, Denes ;)

> About the piano (un)friendly keys... I think it´s strongly debatable.

Indeed it may change from one person to another. But we can (for some extent) draw some statistical patterns about keys. Most classical composers pick them because of their "feeling" (e.g. Fm is passionate, Eb is triumphal). I expect popular musicians to write in certain keys more due to intuition and/or vocal ranges (e.g. 'Bo Rhap' in Ab would've been too low in the opera section for Freddie's bass-voice, and in Db it'd have been way too high, plus it's a much more difficult key to play in anyway).

> For instance when we take B-major, the fingering is 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 (5 or 1) and if you try to play it, you´ll see that it´s perfectly flattering to fingers...

No wonder why Chopin used to give it first to his students. He used to say that C was actually the most difficult.

> I´m sorry, Denes, but I still somehow can´t get over the "halfdim" expression.

It's quite common in jazz circles, and in some classical music as well.

> I still don´t know if C halfdim is a septachord or kvintachord? Is it like C-Eb-Gb-Bb? Or just Cm5-?

It's actually Cm7(b5).

7.PD 03 Dec 2007 07:24

"I must say that I also love to play in sharp keys instead of the flat ones like many others."
OK I'm getting re-thinking the related paragraph.

"The thumb always goes on white key and other fingers on black keys"
You've got a good point here to consider.

"The whole situation with the book really makes me unbelievably angry about QP..."
I'm much more frustrated than angry.

" but they are not interested in something which is in fact the main factor
which actually made them rich - the Queen music itself..."
yep. Until you dont have at least a minimal insight to the art of songwriting
and performing you won't see the potential of a project like QSA. I'm afraid
the management lacks this minmimal insight. They are businessmen, not musicians.
Beatles had more luck having a management being open to this type of works.

" the "halfdim" expression Maybe it´s totally common on the internet"
yas it's common on internet, thus I used the term.

"I don´t mean that you should change it"
I dont know any other alternative to call it. Maybe Bm/G# for the G#haldiminished.


"I still don´t know if C halfdim is a septachord or kvintachord? Is it like C-Eb-Gb-Bb? Or just Cm5-?"
C Half-diminished-seventh chord is a combination of four notes: C - Eb - Gb - Bb

" Did you have any reason not to write "subdominant" for the iv degre, or just forget?"
just forgotten.

"there´s a mistake in your chart of keys, you forgot D-major and each sharp key is wrong"
ouch! you're right.

" (And thanks to you I would be able to write my diploma work :-)))"
I'm honoured to participated for a bit for your diplom work.
Is there any chance to see it on-line?

"PS: how do you type a cross?"
copy nad paste. But there is a trick for that, which I forgat.

"I don't think "F" is a guitar-friendly key."
You're right. D-minor is more beloved by guitarists, even though it's not that guitarfriendly.

" Not in vain 'Yesterday' is usually performed in G"
Macca used down-tuned guitar for the record. He composed it in G.

"So I think guitar-friendly keys are "from no flats or sharps (C, Am) to two sharps (D, Bm), plus E and Dm"."
Agreed.

"I suggest it to be rephrased to "if you browse through the songs by Deacon,  May or Taylor, you'll find that nearly all of them are in guitar-friendly keys, even those written at piano or synth".
Accepted.

 

" A set of examples wouldn't hurt ;)"
Gonna add some examples.


> The so-called piano friendly keys are ranged approximately from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three flats (c#-minor, Eb-Major).

"Actually, I think it's from one flat to four flats."
To be rethought by me.

"I think it's a tritone (played by the piano during "anew")."
exactly

"The distance between C and Eb is a minor third, while between D and F# it's a major third. Minor thirds are easier to reach by the fingers, which is why those chords containing C and Eb (Cm, Ab), F and Ab (Fm, Db) or G and Bb (Gm, Eb) are more piano-friendly than those containind D and F# (D, Bm), E and G# (E, C#m) or A and C#(A, F#m). And so the keys related to those chords... Now, D is well-suited for loads of classical compositions, but not many piano things really.  'A' does appear in some piano pieces, but not as often as flat-side keys or even Am.

It's important to note that while C-Major and Am aren't the most ideal keys for guitar and piano respectively, they're still employed quite often. Am remains my favourite key, as you've probably confirmed, Denes ;)"
thank you Seb.

8.angel 03 Dec 2007 11:31

> The so-called piano friendly keys are ranged approximately from one flat (d-minor, F-Major) to three flats (c#-minor, Eb-Major). Actually, I think it's from one flat to four flats. Ab is quite frequent in (classical) piano music: Chopin, Beethoven... Fm also appears in several works by Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven, and it is a favourite key of many piano composers. Now, Freddie seldom wrote in those keys (compared to Cm/Eb or Gm/Bb) but that's another matter ... Indeed it may change from one person to another. But we can (for some extent) draw some statistical patterns about keys. Most classical composers pick them because of their "feeling" (e.g. Fm is passionate, Eb is triumphal). I expect popular musicians to write in certain keys more due to intuition and/or vocal ranges (e.g. 'Bo Rhap' in Ab would've been too low in the opera section for Freddie's bass-voice, and in Db it'd have been way too high, plus it's a much more difficult key to play in anyway).

I think there is one more think which may play some role. In baroque music there were lots of (sorry I don´t know the exact term) "signs" in music... Let me explain, for instance the F#m key was used for Holy Trinity (three crosses) and Fm was used for very strong, unbearable pain, sorrow, Eb for triumph, as you noted, Seb, etc. May be it has some value in this topic, may be not. 
And just a quotation: Freddie also used Ab/Fm... Bicycle Race, I think, and definitely Somebody To Love which are both rather important. And of course in music with voice it is definitely true that the keys are used according to the vocal-cords aspect.

> I´m sorry, Denes, but I still somehow can´t get over the "halfdim" expression.
It's quite common in jazz circles, and in some classical music as well.
> I still don´t know if C halfdim is a septachord or kvintachord? Is it like C-Eb-Gb-Bb? Or just Cm5-?
It's actually Cm7(b5).

All right, then, thank you, guys, for filling a hole in my musical knowledge. And the "Cm7(b5)" or "Ebm/C" expressions are IMO very good for those who don´t know the halfdim term, like me. Both totally clear.

>"The whole situation with the book really makes me unbelievably angry about QP..." 
I'm much more frustrated than angry.

Completely understand. I cannot really imagine being in your shoes. Years and years of hard and really good valuable work and then - ignorance...

" (And thanks to you I would be able to write my diploma work :-)))"
I'm honoured to participated for a bit for your diplom work.
Is there any chance to see it on-line?

I promise I will do it. I´d be very pleased if I could co-work with you a little bit at least. But I know your time is running very quickly. My future diploma-mentor (a composer from our music department) was very surprised that there is almost nothing published about Queen or FM music, so I told him about you and Seb and invisible people like that and he was very surprised and then willing to become a mentor of a diploma work of that topic. He even said that it´s totally all right that there would be almost no book reference in my work (all from the internet). I cannot wait to start work on it, but being so busy in school and ran out of money these days makes me worry first about crucial things and then about what I really enjoy...

9.Sebastian 03 Dec 2007 23:20

> yas it's common on internet, thus I used the term.

It's logical considering it's sort of an on-line book.

> You're right. D-minor is more beloved by guitarists, even though it's not that guitarfriendly.

The fact the Dm chord is much easier to play than F may be the reason. It seems plain stupid, but who knows...

>> "So I think guitar-friendly keys are "from no flats or sharps (C, Am) to two sharps (D, Bm), plus E and Dm"."
>Agreed.

I've noticed that C#m is very uncommon (except for some pop, which is IMO more due to vocal ranges). It'd be nice to know why...

> Freddie also used Ab/Fm... Bicycle Race, I think, and definitely Somebody To Love which are both rather important.

Yes, and he's used Fm and/or Ab in some other pieces, but he relied on Cm, Eb, Gm and Bb much more often. Or even G ;)

> And of course in music with voice it is definitely true that the keys are used according to the vocal-cords aspect.

Or depending on the leading instrument too. Fm is great for flute, D is perfect for bowed strings, and so on.

> All right, then, thank you, guys, for filling a hole in my musical knowledge. And the "Cm7(b5)" or "Ebm/C" expressions are IMO very good for those who don´t know the halfdim term, like me. Both totally clear.

The Tristan chord may be interpreted as Fhalfdim as well.

I think a good side-project (for any of us) could be making some stats about songwriters' favourite keys, with percentages and stuff. It'd surely take a while, but it'd be nice.

10.Sebastian 21 Jun 2008 14:33

By the way, about F: on stage, Paul plays I Will in E. Hey Jude, as far as I remember, keeps the key, but he plays that on the piano anyway...

Running through my collection of classical-guitar sheets (most of which are grade exam pieces), I only found three compositions in F Major: two etudes by Fernando Sor, and a concerto by Mauro Giuliani (he's also got etudes in each key). But indeed, as expected, most pieces are in Em, G, D, A and E. D-minor: not very often, actually, except for works originally written for other instruments.

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