The Book

Introduction What is it all good for? Scope of work Project History

Music theory in nutshell Harmony Chord notation used in the analyses The degrees of notes Chord functions Keys, Sharps and flats, neighbour keys Guitar friendly and piano-friendly keys Modulations, key changes Parallel key modulations Relative key modulations Neighbour key modulations Combined modulations Step-up/down modulations Unusual modulations Key-shifts Pivot Modulation Borrowed chords Cliche chord progressions Modes Ambigous harmony Rhythms Exercies Syncopations Shuffle beat Metrical modulations, metrical anomalies Compound meters Disorienting Rhythms Songforms General aesthatics of popular and rock music

Repetitions and variants

Queen - The four of them as musicians Brian May Roger Taylor Freddie Mercury John Deacon

Songwriting Analyses Smile Ibex "No Synth" era expandcollapse Queen Keep Yourself Alive Doing All Right Great King Rat My Fairy King Liar The Night Comes Down Modern Times Rock'n'roll Son And Daughter Jesus Seven Seas Of Rhye Silver Salmon Hangman Mad The Swine expandcollapse Queen II Procession Father To Son White Queen (As It Began) Some Day One Day The Loser In The End Ogre Battle The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke Nevermore March Of The Black Queen Funny How Love Is Seven Seas Of Rhye See What A Fool I've Been expandcollapse Sheer Heart Attack Brighton Rock Killer Queen Tenement Funster Flick Of The Wrist Lily Of The Valley Now I'm Here In The Lap Of The Gods Stone Cold Crazy Dear Friends Misfire Bring Back That Leroy Brown She Makes Me In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited expandcollapse A Night At The Opera Death On Two Legs Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon I'm In Love With My Car You're My Best Friend Sweet Lady '39 Seaside Rendezvous The Prophet's Song Love Of My Life Good Company Bohemian Rhapsody God Save The Queen expandcollapse A Day At The Races Tie Your Mother Down You Take My Breath Away Long Away The Millionaire Waltz You And I Somebody To Love White Man Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy Drowse Teo Torriate expandcollapse News Of The World We Will Rock You We Are The Champions Sheer Heart Attack All Dead All Dead Spread Your Wings Fight From The Inside Get Down Make Love Sleeping On The Sidewalk Who Needs You It's Late My Melancholy Blues Feelings expandcollapse Jazz Mustapha Fat Bottomed Girls Jealousy Bicycle Race If You Can't Beat Them Let Me Entertain You Dead On Time In Only Seven Days Dreamers Ball Fun It Leaving Home Ain't Easy Don't Stop Me Now More Of That Jazz Live performances in the 70s Modern-era Queen expandcollapse The Game Play The Game Dragon Attack Another One Bites The Dust Need Your Loving Tonight Crazy Little Thing Called Love Rock It (prime Jive) Don't Try Suicide Sail Away Sweet Sister Coming Soon Save Me Human Body Sandbox expandcollapse Flash Gordon Flash's Theme In The Space Capsule Ming's Theme The Ring Football Fight In The Death Cell Execution Of Flash The Kiss Arboria Escape From The Swamp Flash To The Rescue Vultan's Theme Battle Theme The Wedding March Marriage Of Dale And Ming Flash's Theme Reprise Crash Dive On Mingo City The Hero expandcollapse Hot Space Staying Power Dancer Back Chat Body Language Action This Day Put Out The Fire Life Is Real Calling All Girls Las Palabras De Amor Cool Cat Under Pressure Soul Brother expandcollapse The Works Radio Ga Ga Tear It Up It's A Hard Life Man On The Prowl Machines (or 'Back To Humans') I Want To Break Free Keep Passing The Open Windows Hammer To Fall Is This The World We Created? I Go Crazy expandcollapse A Kind Of Magic One Vision A Kind Of Magic One Year Of Love Pain Is So Close To Pleasure Friends Will Be Friends Who Wants To Live Forever Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme) Don't Lose Your Head Princes Of The Universe expandcollapse The Miracle Party Khashoggi's Ship The Miracle I Want It All The Invisible Man Breakthru Rain Must Fall Scandal My Baby Does Me Was It All Worth It Hang On In There Chinese Torture Hijack My Heart My Life Has Been Saved Stealin' New Life Is Born Dog With A Bone Guess We're Fallin Out expandcollapse Innuendo Innuendo I'm Going Slightly Mad Headlong I Can't Live With You Don't Try So Hard Ride The Wild Wind All God's People These Are The Days Of Our Lives Delilah The Hitman Bijou The Show Must Go On Lost Opportunity Face It Alone Self Made Man My Secret Fantasy expandcollapse Made In Heaven It's A Beautiful Day Made In Heaven Let Me Live Mother Love My Life Has Been Saved I Was Born To Love You Heaven For Everyone Too Much Love Will Kill You You Don't Fool Me A Winter's Tale My Life Has Been Saved It's A Beautiful Day (reprise) No-One But You Live performances in the 80s

Appendix Special instruments Special effects Special playing techniques Classical quotes Musical terms Index References

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Keep Yourself Alive

Composer: Brian May
Meter: 4/4
Keys: A Mixolydian major, F Mixolydian major, (C#-major), D-major, F-major, (E Mixolydian major), B-major,

Intro | Verse | Verse'| Chorus | Break 1 (including solo1) |
      | Verse | Verse'| Chorus | Break 2 (drum solo, solo2)|
                      | Chorus | Break 3 (dialogue, solo3) |
                      | Chorus | Chorus | Chorus | Chorus | Outro |

In spite its pol-position in the Queen canon, this song is not the first song Brian had written as he already had some experience in songwriting and arranging by this time with his earlier bands. You can recognize that this is not a typical rookie composition. The song is "pure" rock although we have much more keys and harmonies than the standard heavy metal of those years. On the other hand, we see mostly the usual I IV V chords being used. The choruses feature the only minor harmony (vi). In terms of chords, the trickiest part of the song is the middle of the verses with borrowed chords from the distant key of C#-(or G#) major. This kind of harmonic gambit was not usual in the early era of heavy metal. In fact this harmonic card-trick and the comparatively large number of keys never really became a trademark of Brian May even though we can find further examples of this. This "variety" can be explained as an indirect result of the many different sections. 
The verses are in F Mixolydian Major, the Choruses are in D-Major. The intro and Break 1 are in Mixolydian A-Major (Intro, Break 1). The latter two are enharmonic equvalents sharing the same set of notes. The framework of Break 2 is the same as the one of the Chorus shifted up to F-major. The same key-shift (D-major to F-major) appears in the "Four Choruses" section. B-major (which, however, shares a similar tone set with F Mixolydian major) appears only in the end of the song. The key of E-Mixolydian major in Break 3 is not established properly.
The song has catchy melodies "supported" by many a repetition: with four verses and seven choruses this song is one of the most repetitive Queen songs (among the radio-pop it's just moderately repetitive, though). No wonder this number was the natural choice for a first (and only) single off the album.

The intro is instrumental and comparatively long. The concept is that the instruments enter one after another, resulting in a gradually thickening sound. Some preceding examples of this concept: "Tequila" (The Champs), "Day Tripper" (Beatles), "Smoke On The Water" (Deep Purple). The song starts with Brian picking palm muted chopped tremolo rhythms (an F note) on guitar mixed to left. The 1/16th notes build up groups of uneven length (1,3,5,...) with 1/16 long gaps between them. That's become a trademark of modern heavy metal.
This one note figure works as the declaration of root, but when Brian shifts from F up to A (second guitar joins in) in the fourth measure is like a declaration of "let's play the song better in A instead of F". The opening F subtly foreshadows the verses in F Major. 
Following the emphases (and the gaps) of the rhythm guitar, you can pick up the uneven beats. Our ear vacillates between intrepreting emphased beats as being the first or the third one in the measures. Brian May seems to have wanted to trick the listener as he placed the reference points sometimes on the first and sometimes on the third beat. According to this transcription the very first played note is a second beat. Let's count the measures from here. 
The guitar slides up to A by the first beat of the fourth measure. On the third beat of this measure enters the second guitar track. Soon this guitar starts playing the catchy riff from the first beat of the sixth measure. Guitar 1 keeps strumming the A note as a pedal bass and uses extra emphasis backing up the riffs played by the other guitar. The two measure riff is repeated six times in a row. The key is A-major Mixolydian, which is clearer if you check the pitch-content of Break 1 that is harmonically closely related to this part of the intro. Drumstick noise enters at the third beat of the seventh measure. Another guitar track (mixed in the middle) enters, backing the above-mentioned two. It appears first before the fourth riff. One measure later bass and more drums also enter on downbeat. The last riff ends differently.

                     half measure
  |   ...   C5   D5 | G      C7 | F      | -    |
A:         bIII  IV | bVII ...
F:|            V/V/V| V/V     V | I      | -    |

The F-Major key is established by a four piece chain of fifths.


There are two pairs of verses in the song. The second ones of the pairs end differently in order to lead the melody smoothly to the chorus. The verses start with an upbeat and are eight measures long each. The rhythm of the lead melody is syncopated. The phrases sometimes overlap each other and create the feeling of a dialogue. The mode is mixolydian, as the melody keeps using the flat-7th degree (Eb) instead of the natural 7th (E).

chords   |F(7)   |Bb  F   | F7 /A | Bb   F |
guitar   |F1     |F1      | F1    | Bb   F |
       F:|I      |IV      | I     | IV   I |

   | C      | C#(7)   | G#         | C      |
F :| V      | bVI     | bIII       | V      |

This is a very short section with only four measures. The harmony is in D-major. Vocal harmonies can be heard only in this section.

|D      |D  A   |D F#7  Bm G | A   D |
|I      |I  V   |I V/vi vi IV| V   I |

In the third measure we can hear a kind of counter-point relation between the guitar, the bass, and the lead vocal:

      lead guitar :|A  Bb  B  D |
             bass :|D  Db  B  G |
      lead melody :|Gb  E  D  Gb|
rhythm gtr chords :|D5 F#5 B5 G5|

The combination of I > V-of-vi > vi is a standard cadence that can be found in many songs (e.g. the bridge of "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley).

"Four choruses"
Before tho Outro we have a chain of four choruses that shift the keys to D, F, D, B-Major respectively. Besides this, these choruses are more or less identical. Extra element is a guitar choir in the top range, similar to the one that can be heard during the second guitar solo, but this time it is three-parted. In "Brighton Rock" (1974) there's a guitar choir of similar concept and tone. Another addition is the solo guitar. Two of the key-shifts are step down (three half steps). In pop songs this is unusual (e.g. "Our House" by the Madness) as they usually shift keys upward. Queen examples: "Pain Is So Close To Pleasure", "Breakthru".

Break 1
This first break is instrumental, fourteen and a half measures long (2 + 2*2 + 4 + 1.5 + 1 + 2). The key is D-major except in the last two measures. As in the intro, a static A is played continuously by the guitar. It keeps playing during almost the entire Break 1. The use of pedal-bass is long-time Brian May trademark ("Flash", "One Vision" intro). In the third measure enters the second guitar and plays two Riffs. Then, in the seventh measure, comes the first guitar solo (form: AABC + Riff). It looks like Brian arranged a two- (three- towards its end) parted guitar harmony for only one guitar with double and triple stops. Similar concept was used in the guitar solo of the live version of "You're My Best Friend". The other guitar still plays the A on bottom. The solo ends with the Riff variation that closed the intro, and its last measure is a halved one. So, the D chord enters on the first beat of the next 4/4 measure and is sustained until next measure where an F chord closes the Break 1 (sustained through the last two measures). The difference from the intro's ending is that this time there are no leading chords before the F chord.

Break 2

This part starts with a drum solo followed by a guitar solo. Similar solo-block can be found in "Dragon Attack" (1980, drums, bass, guitar). Both the solos are eight measures long. Behind the guitar solo we find the same harmonic pattern as in the Chorus played twice and transposed to F-major. In the first measure we can find a D-chord, a short cyclic guitar-figure, and then the upbeat of the solo itself. It starts as a three-part harmony. The harmonic relation between the guitar parts is sometimes close and sometimes not. The latter approach is early trademark Brian (see also "Mad The Swine" and "See What A Fool I've Been"). During the second half of the guitar solo we can hear a two-part guitar choir mixed in the middle. The very last note of Break 2 is an A in order to shift the key down to D-major again for the next Chorus.

Break 3
It is eight measures long. The first two measures contain a sustained E5 chord. Next four measures start with a guitar riff that resembles the "big" Riff. This riff orients us to interpret E as the tonic. Then comes a pentatonic vocal dialogue between Roger and Brian. The last two measures contain a mini guitar solo that is a three-part harmonized, 13-graded ascending scale. The top part is the leader, and the bass doubles it two octaves below. It starts its way up using the E-major scale, but towards the end it goes mostly with chromatic steps. The final notes in harmony produce an A chord, a good leader chord to the upcoming chorus.

Guitar 1 plays a static F-note similarly to the song's beginning. Guitar 2 plays F5 chords with the even beats being lightly stressed. Fade-out is applied.

About the demo-version
The architecture is almost the same; only some details are different. The intro is shorter. The melody variations of the Verse are almost the same as in the album version. In Break 1 there is pentatonic guitar solo instead of the harmonic solo1. In Break 2 the three-part guitar solo is more or less different. In Break 3 there is more guitar behind the dialogue. The version I've heard is mixed down by the end of the last chorus (the one in B-major), omitting the Outro. These Trident demos in 1971 show Brian's first available attempts to arrange three-part guitar harmonies. With pre-Queen band called Smile, in the song "Earth", Brian already experimented with two-track guitar solo, but in that one only the first few notes were in harmony.