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Sebastian: Analysis of Queen & relatedsongs, part I06 Nov 2004 01:01

Nice title :)

Ok, first of all, I`ve got a doubt about the "no" part in Bo Rhap: which is the second last chord? Is it major or minor? In the analysis it`s written Bbm, but when we discussed it again in the "cross arrangements" thread it was transcribed as Bb.

Anyway, I analyse it as if it`s Bbm for the next lines:


If we look at the functional harmony it`d be like this (ignoring the chord alterations):

| bvii | bV | VII | bVII | bIII | v | I |

Interesting that only the last note of the progression is diatonic. The question is: how did Freddie make that crazy thing sound "natural"? It`s actually a combination of details:

- Note the non diatonic notes: The first chord, Bm, has 2 of its 3 notes outside the key. The second one has all the three of them (ignoring the fact it`s actually A7, and G does belong to the scale). Anyway, the progress of non-diatonic notes is 2-3-2-1-2-1-0. Interesting and very classical-like.

- Interesting relation between the chords: bV is the V of VII, the following chord. In the same way, bVII is the dominant of bIII. That kept the cohesion.

Another way to interpret the harmonic functions is by reading the first three bars in the key of D Major, and the last four in Eb Dorian (5 flats instead of just 3):

 Chords  : | Bm | A | D | Db | Gb | Bbm | Eb |
D Major  : | vi | V | I |
Eb Dorian: .............|bVII|bIII|  v  | I  |

In that case, we find no "alien" chords because bVII, bIII and v are inside the Dorian scale of E Flat (enharmonically equivalent to B Flat Minor). Then the secret of the amazing sound of the part would be in the keys:

We were before in Bb (2 flats), the last chord done by the vocals was the dominant; hence, a person`s brain expect the tonic again. Instead Freddie changed the key to D (2 sharps instead of 2 flats). Before you know it, the new key is Eb Dorian (5 flats), which creates the "change of gear" uplifting effect. Finally we "camp" in Eb Ionian (3 flats).

There`s something else: last time the listener got a Dominant not followed by the Tonic. That creates a tension effect, since the brain automatically expects that next time the tonic appears at the end of a phrase, it "has to" be finally followed by the Tonic, so the harmony is closed with a resolution. Similar trick to what Axl did at the false-end of November Rain, he leaves the listener with a bigger expectation, with turns out in a more magnificent and "triumphant" finale. Those people would be great for incidental music in horror movies :)

Anyway, Freddie applied the same concept: Next time the dominant appeared at the end of the phrase was in "for me". But this time he did "satisfy" the listener by following with the tonic (in an amazing powerful rock section). That resolution was right in time: if he "played with the listener`s expectations" again the tension would be already too big and the interest would be lost. Nice psychoacoustic game.

1.Sebastian 06 Nov 2004 03:54
Hearing it closely, in Surround Left Roger sings D and then Eb. Hence the second last chord would be Bb Major. But, in Surround Right Brian sings Db (which would mean the chord is Bbm). What I think is that this is one of the "accidents" that turned out pretty well. Roy did mention that they left some parts with one semitone of distance, which were "forbidden" in rock but "allowed" in classical music
2.PD 08 Nov 2004 09:46
Yes I was wrong with that B* chord. From the top of my head I cant remember which is right (m/M) but you have probabaly transcribed it right. I dont have the song within my reach to check.
The "dorian" interpretation makes some sense, but keep in mind that at that point the listener has already lost both the tonal center and sense of mode, and the only thing you can feel is maybe the steps to fifth.
I also thought about how a such extreme non-functional chord progression can be sound so harmonius. Lets note that great classical composers (and definitely also some rock songwriters for limited extent) also created many chord progressions that were mainly non-functional.
3.Sebastian 08 Nov 2004 10:03
The switch of modes is more common than I used to believe. Glam (and the styles generated from it: Punk, New Wave & Grunge later on) use (subconsciously I guess) Dorian mode a lot, even Aeolian. That way chords aren`t foreign anymore.

> ...keep in mind that at that point the listener has already lost both the tonal center and sense of mode

When listened for the first time it`s true. Hence, in "that" case virtually dozens of other chords in the same places would have worked the same. But the mode effects work for the listener to still find it "logical" after repetitions (during which the brain already has recovered, subconsiously, the sense of mode and the tonal centre), which was fundamental for the success of the song as a world hit imo.

Something I hadn`t noticed yet is the use of 1-6-4-5 cliche in the verse of Millionaire Waltz. Surprises come and go everytime
4.Sebastian 05 Dec 2004 13:43


Probably the least complicated in the album, but one of the most lovely (a very difficult thing to achieve).


Verse - Verse ` - Chorus
------- Verse --- Chorus`
------- Verse --- Chorus``


| I    | V     | V     | (x2)

The difference between Verse & Verse` is that the first begins with a two-measure Eb Scale. Of course that transcription is only for the basic chords, Mike decorated it with many passing ones.


| I       | V      | vi      | V-V   V |
| I   V-vi| vi  | IV     | I      | V     | I     | --> First chorus
| I   V-vi| vi  | IV     | I      | V     | I     | VI     | --> Second chorus
| I   V-vi| vi  | IV     | I      | V     |  --> Third chorus

Key changes to II after second chorus

5.Sebastian 13 Mar 2005 15:20
As for Bo Rhap, another part where my Dorian theory appears is during the verse modulation. Imo the key is changed from Bb to Eb Dorian and then the mode is switched to Ionian for "mamma oooh". The chords are Adim > Ab7 > Gmaj7b5, having five flats instead of three, then for the "chorus" the mode is "normal".

The end of rock riff I interpret as series of cut-off IV>V>I cadences, first in Bb, then Db, then E and then Eb resulting in the Eb>F>Gb>Ab>A>B>Ab>Bb progression. Another Bb to Eb key-change with "passing" modulations.
6.Sebastian 07 Jun 2005 14:27

The intro of Death On Two Legs, harmonically, can be read as:

Db: ii   IV   I  -  iii
G:                       IV  vi  I

Which would turn into a modulation to bV, same as Bo Rhap. Same album, same composer

7.BrianMay 07 Jun 2005 18:58
Sometimes I really wonder if Freddie had any idea what he was doing, maybe he just put some chords in a row and thought that it sounded nice, unaware that he was doing Dorian or ionian modes. Maybe he was more advanced in making up complex things without being aware of the musicallity because he liked listening to classical music. If you listen to a certain kind of music a lot you can make music like that even if you don't know anything about it
8.Sebastian 07 Jun 2005 23:23
You're right, it's highly possible that he wasn't aware of that, he just did it subconsciously.
9.BrianMay 08 Jun 2005 16:45
Most of the times writing works the best when you don't know anything about it. Cause when you do know a lot of theory you tend to less write with the heart and more with the brain
10.PD 08 Jun 2005 18:45

I tend to interpret the intro being without established key. But there is some possibility to interpret it in short lived keys:

   Ebm  Gb  Db  Fm  C Em  G
eb: i  III  VII...
          f: VI  i  V ...
                    b: iv VI

the revised article is still being completed...

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