[Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

Nick Braae braae.nick at gmail.com
Wed Apr 10 13:41:46 PDT 2013

Hi all,

I am carrying out some extensive analysis of British rock band Queen's music for my PhD. In a number of Freddie Mercury-penned songs, he employs a particular harmonic device/cliche, in which one note of the chord (usually the root or flat-seventh) acts as a pedal and two other voices ascend stepwise through a major third with a chromatic passing note. In C major, it would be something like this:

Upper Voice: 		 C			C 		C		C		
Middle Voice:		E			F		Gb		G
Lower Voice:			C			D		Eb		E, resolving (probably) to F major.

From a theoretical perspective, it's simple voice-leading with a chromatic passing note, and it can evidently be voiced differently (as Freddie did throughout Bohemian Rhapsody or as ABBA do in So Long, for example). But I wonder whether anybody knows the stylistic origins of this particular voicing (i.e. pedal note as the top voice)? I have a sense of it being a barbershop, or ragtime, or vaudeville piano technique, but if anyone had come across this before in older popular contexts, I would be delighted to hear about it (you can reply to the list, or to me directly at braae.nick at gmail.com).
Thanks very much,


Nick Braae

PhD Candidate
University of Waikato
New Zealand
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