Leaving Home Aint Easy

Composer: Brian May
Keys: A-major, D-major, f#-minor
Meter: 8/8 (3/8 + 3/8 + 2/8) with occasional anomalies

  Intro | Verse | Verse' | Chorus | Bridge (Intro') |
  Chorus' | Chorus (second half)|

The song is mainly a folk-ballad, and definitely one of Brian's more clever compositions. Strummed acoustic guitar is the dominant instrument, but three-part vocal and guitar harmonies also play important roles. It's unusual that the Verse is not repeated in the second half of the song. The long intro with lead vocal added is recycled as Bridge, similarly as later in "One Vision", but this time the lead melody strictly follows one of the inner voices of the harmony. Both Verse and Chorus sections are repeated with major form modifications and contain more repetead (sub-)phrases. The Bridge with the falsetto-like sped-up voice (it's all Brian - he sings all the harmony parts, too) is a bit out of the character of the folk-style. Examples for May-songs featuring bridge with lead vocal in the falsetto-range: "Sail Away Sweet Sister", '39.

Section By Section Walkthrough

Intro and Bridge
The instrumental Intro is 14 (2+12) measures long and begins with simple A5 chord on acoustic guitar (triple-tracked). The one measure rhythm-pattern keeps playing ostinato-like till the last measures. The A note works as static bass for the chords. If you try to hit 4/4 beats you may have minor difficulties because the third beat is "empty". The beat of the song divides the measure into three parts (3+3+2). The same pattern can be found in the songs Some Day One Day, In Only Seven Days, and numerous non-Queen songs.

  (3+3+2) pattern: 1     2    3
              4/4: 1   2   3   4
strumming pattern: *  ** *  ** * * | (16/16)

From the third measure three-part guitar harmonies play jazzy chords together with an extra track of acoustic guitar, which completes some diminished chords to sevenths (eg. Bdim + G = G7). The three-part guitar harmonies with bent (or bottleneck-slide) chords and fine volume control emulate the sound of a pedal-steel guitar. On measure 9 enter drums and bass. In the harmonic map below I will omit the chord inversions and the "A" in the bass:

| A5   | -    |

| F7   | G7   | Bdim | A   |
| bVI  | bVII | iidim| I   |

| F7   | G7     | Eb   F | Eb   F |
| bVI  | bVII   | bV  bVI| bV  bVI|
| G   A | G   D | A Dm/A | A    |
|bVII I |bVII V | I iv   | I    |   

The first chord and the pedal bass orients one's ear to consider it to be the home key. The Bridge - with basically the same harmonic shape - is also introduced by the key of A-major. This section features a chord progression that disturbs the tonal feel: for example measures 9-12 present an Eb > F > G > A chord stream. We have some chords of non-standard function, and they sound really "exotic" due to the dissonance with the static bottom-note, which keeps the key of A-major "alive". J.S. Bach utilized this effect in many of his preludes, but it's not an unknown element in pop-music, either. Pedal bass is a musical device that Brian used the most frequently in the band, most excessively on the Flash Gordon album. The last chord sequence is the minor version of Brian's favorite guitar lick: playing A and D/A next to each other (eg. "Hammer To Fall" ). The Bridge is mostly identical to the intro but omits its first two measures. The ending is shortened from the 11th measure:

| G   A | G  A   |

The lead vocal shares the same melody with the top part of the "steel-guitar" harmonies. In the second half of the Bridge enter two voices in harmony.
The static bass is now played by the bass guitar.

Similarly to the Intro, the meter of 4/4 doesn't work well; the 3+3+2 beat does. The first verse is eleven measures long. Some inner repetitions (two measure-triplets) can be heard in the Verse; the harmonic map below shows exactly how these go. The first two chords (Em ,A) set the key to D-major, even though the actual tonic does not appear. Soon the C#>F#m changes the key to f#-minor (relative minor of A-major), but at the end of the first verse D > G chords lead back to the key of D-major. The chord progression builds up from four pairs of chords where the second pair's root is five steps below the first one's: E>A, C#>F#, B>E, D>(A)>G.

  | Em7  A | Em7  A | Em7  A | C#m F#m |
D:| ii   V | ii   V | ii   V |
                 f#:|    III |  v   i  |

   | Bm  E  | Bm  E  | Bm  E  | C# F#m |C#7addD F#m |
f#:| iv VII | iv VII | iv VII | V   i  |  V      i  |

 crd:| Dmaj7  A  G | -    |
  f#:|  VI   III   |
   D:|   I    V IV | -    |

The last two measures mutate into a different rhythmic shape/strumming-pattern, which is out of the beat for both 4/4 and the Bulgarian rhythm:

*  *  *  * **** | (16/8)

(Upbeat of the next Verse falls on '7')

Second verse is the same as the fisrt until the seventh measure. From here:

  | Bm    | Dmaj7  | E +7  |
A:| ii    |IVmaj7  | V     |

This ending shortens the second verse to nine measures.

The lead melody is carried by antiphonal vocals: three-part vocal harmonies (with lead on the top); the single-tracked lead vocal only "comments" it in the gaps. The melody of the title phrase (A) appears four times, and the phrasing of this section goes like this:

A |"comment1"| A |"comment2"| A-extended | A (with different ending chord)

The vocal harmonies - being more audible than the acoustic guitar - also contribute much to provide the chordal background. The first Chorus is square 16 measures long:

bass:| A..F#..G..F#...
 crd:| A    | A11  | D    |   E |
   A:| I    | I11  | IV   |   V |

| A    | A11   | D  F#7 | Bm  F7 |
| I    | I11   |IV  V/ii| ii bVI |

| A    | E7    | A    | Dm/A  A |
| I    | V     | I    |  iv   I |

The 11th and 12th measures feature chromatically ascending lead melody. During these two measures the rhythm pattern is different: 3+4|4+4.
Rhythmic "drop-out" is resulted by the first syllable being sustained one 1/8 beat shorter than the others.
The bass adds the appogiatura-note F# (6th) during the chords A > A11.
The second chorus extends the D > F#7 > Bm > F7 chord progression and its chromatic motion (A>...>E), which can be best heard in the lead vocal.

...| A  D | F7    E7 | D   |+6   |
A: | I IV |flat-VI V |IV   | -   |

Let's compare the periodicity of degrees in this chromatic motion with the ones in "Now I'm Here" (NIH, 1974) and "Flash" (1980). Bridge-1 +bass. The chords are written in ().

LHAE  : A (D)|A# (F#)| B (Bm)| C (F)| C# (A)| D (D)|D# (F7)| E (E) |
degree: 5    | 3     | 1     | 5    | 3     | 1    | 7     | 1     |

NIH   : B (G)| C (C) | C# (A)| D (D)| D# (B)| E (E)| F (C) |F# (F#)|
Flash : E (C)| F (F) | F# (D)| G (G)| G# (E)| A (A)|
degree: 3    | 1     | 3     | 1    | 3     | 1    | 3     | 1     |

Back to "Leaving Home..."
This extension features the same drop-out described just before:

|3+4|4+4|4+4|4+4|last two measures|.

The last chord is "open": it needs and gets resolution in the next section.
The last section is the same as the ending of the first Chorus. Only the arrangement is different: "steel-guitar" harmonies create the same harmonies that the vocals did before. The ending slows down and the last chord is already out of tempo/meter.