[Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

joellester at aol.com joellester at aol.com
Wed Apr 10 17:49:58 PDT 2013

In its diatonic form (for instance, C& E in the bass and tenor moving to D & F and then E & G, all under a heldupper-voice C, creating the appearance of an unresolved seventh chord when D & F sound against the held upper-voice C) is a very old usage, discussed by thoroughbass writersof the 17th and 18th centuries.  
C.P.E. Bach, for instance, describes thisusage (with the bass either ascending scale-steps 1-2-3 or descending scale-steps 3-2-1) in his initial remarks on "The Chord of the Seventh"(chapter 13 in the second volume of his Versuch; pages 265-266 of WilliamMitchell's English translation).  As hewrites (in Mitchell's English translation), "The passing seventh alone mayremain stationery," and then illustrates this with both an ascending bass(C-D-E) and a descending bass (E-D-C).  
Joel Lester
Mannes College of Music

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Braae <braae.nick at gmail.com>
To: Smt-talk <Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>
Sent: Wed, Apr 10, 2013 5:05 pm
Subject: [Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

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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Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

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