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Sebastian: Periods, Theory & Others...04 Mar 2007 00:48
> Next album (A Day At The Races, 1976) was not a big surprise being a direct continuation of its predecessor - the only time this happened in Queen's history.

Yes and no. 'Innuendo' is very much a continuation to 'The Miracle'.

> The musical path from News Of The World (1977) to The Game (1980) was more or less straight.

Not quite, only the changes were tad subtler. But there was still an evolution specially regarding Roger and John.

> The Game album (1980) is considered to mark the border between the "no-synth" and the "modern" era of Queen because of feats like:
- narrowed down style-spectrum.


> Flash Gordon (1980) is not a proper Queen album and cannot be compared to anything else they did. It was quite experimental with some symphonic, though completely synth, orchestration.

That's quite debatable imo. First of all orchestra wasn't completely synth although still largely so. An important step here is that for the first time they worked with an arranger outside the band.

> Many songs didn't have a guitar solo or any guitar at all

No guitar solo - true. But all songs have guitar (even 'Body Language'). Otoh there are many without acoustic drums or electric bass.

> Freddie, on the other hand, wrote less for Queen, due to both his solo career and his illness.

That's mathematically correct (less songs in the '82-'91 period than '72-'81), but it sort of happened with all of them except Roger.

> Except these points, we can't talk about clear musical evolution in this period rather than only album-by-album changes.

I think yor articles demonstrate that there was an evolution in both performance and songwriting. A '75 Freddie wouldn't be able to score the orchestra 'Was It All Worth It', and an '81 Roger wouldn't compose 'Days Of Our Lives'.

> the lads returned to their rock roots on Innuendo.

Yes and no. That point was a recurring theme in Queen's post-Space productions. When 'Works' was issued, they considered it their return. Same for 'Magic' (albeit the "comeback" spirit was much more noticeable regarding the tour than the actual album) and 'Miracle' (Rog and Brian promoted it as being an album of "live" backing tracks). While 'Innuendo' was definitely not as poppy as any of their 80s projects, it was still full of electronics and computers. Many drum parts are mostly or at least half programmed, same with bass.

> Most of it started as a capella performances by Freddie who wanted to work as much as he could in his last months and leave enough material for the band to release one last album.

Actually, less than 25% was post-Innuendo, and as far as we know, those tracks were done as finished versions already (i.e. with guitar, bass, drums and keyboards), except perhaps 'Fool Me'.

> But real music-understanding people (those accepting, even unconsciously, the criteria above) simply cannot deny the greatness of Queen. If they do, they either don't know the band or aren't music-understanding at all

That last statement is quite strong imo, and it ruins an otherwise great article.

> bar-blues:  My Melancholy Blues
symphony: The Kiss (only one minute)
soul: One Year Of Love
Latino: Who Needs You
opera: Bohemian Rhapsody (freestyle art-rock), Golden Boy (solo, Mercury)

I beg to differ with those. 'Bo Rhap's interlude is imo rather a mock-operetta than a mock-opera (in spite of the absence of dialogue). Otoh, 'Lap Of The Gods' is more related to actual opera.
1.PD 05 Mar 2007 09:22
First let me assure everyone, that the "periods" article are going to be completly rewritten. The recent article will be used as a starting point.

> Yes and no. 'Innuendo' is very much a continuation to 'The Miracle'.
I always felt a distinct difference between the two albums. Miracle had a flavor appealing more for the younger audience, while Innuendo was a more serious work. That was my first impression back then and I still feel so.

> The musical path from News Of The World (1977) to The Game (1980) was more or
less straight.
I referred mostly on the more minimalistic songwriting and the use of ostinato.

>But there was still an evolution specially regarding Roger and John.
This period is a distinct songwriting period one for both of them.

>> The Game album (1980) - narrowed down style-spectrum.

> Flash Gordon (1980) first time they worked with an arranger outside the band.
An important point of departure. Also for live.

> But all songs have guitar (even 'Body Language').

>  A '75 Freddie wouldn't be able to score the orchestra 'Was It All Worth It'
I think he would! In terms of complexity it is not in higher class than many harmonies he did in '75. IMHO.

>'81 Roger wouldn't compose 'Days Of Our Lives'.
Yes. But keep in mind, that this song was something unexpected even in 1991.

> That point was a recurring theme in Queen's post-Space productions.
> their return. Same for 'Magic'
For me that was something quite modern up-to-date stuff without the feeling of "return".

> Actually, less than 25% was post-Innuendo,
yeah. and important point to add...

> But real music-understanding people (those accepting, even unconsciously, the
> criteria above) simply cannot deny the greatness of Queen. If they do, they either
> don't know the band or aren't music-understanding at all
I'm going to omit that remark.

> 'Bo Rhap's interlude is imo rather a mock-operetta than a mock-opera
For my ears it is too dramatic and too subtle for an operetta.

> Otoh, 'Lap Of The Gods' is more related to actual opera.
The intro you mean?

2.Sebastian 05 Mar 2007 13:14
Worth It - My point was more related to style practice than actual complexity. Fred's incursions into classical music were more European-flavoured in the 70s, while from mid-80s onwards he applied some American-esque ideas too (e.g. 'Mr Bad Guy' title track).

Lap - Yes the intro, before the start of the actual lyrics. Even omitting the screaming it does sound operatic.
3.PD 03 Apr 2007 15:45

This is a sketch of what is going to be the introduction and the theory in nutshell chapter.
To be completed, continued, revised etc...


Dear Reader!

With two volumes and ca 800-900 pages this is the largest book written on the Brittish rockband Queen. Considering the topic the length is well-needed. There is too much to be said on the music of Queen to compress it into 200-300 pages. This two volume work offers an overview on the musical framework of Queen songs and albums, and of the band members as musicians.

The first volume covers the early years from the beginning through the end of the "no-synth" period represented by the JAZZ album 1978. The second volume covers the albums from GAME until the farewell recording called "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 book.

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 players), you can learn qickly the basic knowledge that is necessary for comprehend the technical talk of the analyses, or at least the most of it.
For start 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.
The middle chapters, which is the body of the book, are going to analyse the Queen songs in terms of rhythm, songform, and harmony, arrangement. A big part of this material is brand new knowledge resource for the Queen fandom. Tremendeous amount of details will be 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 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.
Then we will have a chapter on each the special instruments, special playing tecniques, and special chord progressions.

Song analyses don't make you enjoy music better. On the other hand they train your sense of musical aesthetics, 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 for you the consequence there was no contest for Queen. Before creating such a judgement it is strongly recommended to look around for possible "contest" in booksops 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" analysis to get an instant justification. These 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.

One wonders why a book like this had not yet been written ages before. Probably because such a book is difficult to start without inspiring reference works. As reference this book uses the mere music and just a couple of interviews. A number of important details could not be obtained resulting in a number of guesses and probably also some mistakes in the chapters. We have to deal with this and hope that later they will be corrected.

Music theory

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 form this book which is primarly written for hobby musicians or music students. 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, rhythm, form.


The main aproach 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.
In this book there is no 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.

The approach of 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
Chalfdim: half Diminished
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 now 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 anc 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.

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.

chord functions in a-minor
Am: i   tonic
Dm: iv 
Em: v   dominant
E : V   dominant
F : VI

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

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

The pitch-set of F-Major is:
F G A Bb C D E. The difference compared to C Major scale is one flat ("b"): the Bb note. The keys with only one flat difference are called neighbour keys.

Now take the pitch set of 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.

The connection between keys, 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)

These keys can be grouped into guitar-friendly and also piano-friendly keys. Some keys are neither piano or guitar friendly (eg. Db-Major)

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 crosses and pushes down 5-6 strings. 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.

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.

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:

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.

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
Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody (ending)
Mott The Hopple: All The Young Dudes
Bon Jovi: Always
Beatles: Penny Lane

Queen: We Are The Champions
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)

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


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,


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.


Before we go to the basic theory of rhythms let's do some tricky exercies! Be proud if you completed it 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) Now 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 lead melody. This means that many beats are left empthy while many notes fall between two beats. Syncopations abound in pop and rock music. 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!


4.Sebastian 04 Apr 2007 04:59

Very nice so far, it's easy to understand and at the same time detailed. The use of examples and exercises is a brilliant idea.

5.Sebastian 04 Apr 2007 20:39

Otoh I think you're being too biased regarding syncopations. There are various of songs with disorienting rhythms that manage to be catchy, even if they're a very low percentage. But there are very very few melodies or riffs in unusual metres that can be easy listeneable (Money, Innuendo, Everything's All Right...)

6.PD 05 Apr 2007 15:20

> Otoh I think you're being too biased regarding syncopations.
Many of the listed rhythmical examples are not disorienting at all.
They are just there to introduce beginners to the world of syncopations.
But there are some disorienting ones.

> There are various of songs with disorienting rhythms that manage to be catchy,
In Beatles songs I could find hardly any truly disorienting rhythm that doesnt
affects the 4/4 (or 3/4) meter. Of course there are many anomalies, momentary
change of meters (eg. Savoy T.).

> even if they're a very low percentage.
Could you tell me popular examples of those very low percentage?
I mean songs in standard 4/4 or 3/4 meter. I have difficoulties with
finding non-Queen examples. See my latest edition of the Bach's Suite in Bm.

> But there are very very few melodies or riffs in unusual metres
> that can be easy listeneable

"Everything is Allright": it uses the 3+3+2+2 cliche (see "Take Five"), thus it is somewhat less alien for our ears. I think songwriters avoidance unusual meters is often casused by a kind of "narrowmindness". A good songwriter (eg. Macca or Freddie) could write a catchy 3+3+2+2 patterned tune probably the same easily as a normal 4/4 piece.

The recipe to creat a riff like "Money":
1) creat a catchy 8/4 riff that both starts and closes on the same
pitch with 1/4 note.
2) Loop it via overlapping the first and last notes.

Creating a catchy riff is not that easy, but if you repeat it 20-30 times in the song, it's a big step to turn it catchy. What I find great in "Money" is not the riff, but the way how the lead melody fits nicely to the riff.

Post was edited on 05 Apr 2007 17:28
7.zaiga 05 Apr 2007 15:48

What about Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" with its 11/8 meter during the bridge? Is that an example of a catchy riff in an unsual metre?

8.PD 05 Apr 2007 17:26

Beatles catalog is rich in metric anomalies. "Here Comes The Sun" is one of the examples for this. It is catchy and anomalous. And a great tune. The disorienting examples that I'm looking for are in constant 4/4 (or 3/4).
Can you point out a Beatles or any popular example. I'm going to include examples in the book, once I find some.

Post was edited on 05 Apr 2007 17:26
9.Daniel 06 Apr 2007 18:00

Well I dont know if this one will work as you want but Whipping Post (11/8) and Black Hearted Woman (7/8) by the Allman Brothers are typical examples of unsual metre in popular songs

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