Hi there! Today in Songtive we’re going to follow our ‘Learning from the Masters’ series reviewing another part of Led Zeppelin’s immortal classic Stairway to Heaven. But first let’s check out what we’ve already gathered from our analysis:
- For analysis purposes the most convenient way to get into it is to get the structure first.
- The introduction will give you the essential information you need: the key, the main theme(s) and the character.
- Verses present the main vocal ideas, and usually are repeated with only a variation in the lyrics, conserving the underlying chord progression to keep the balance and symmetry.
- Chord-melody relationship will provide you information on why things sound appealing to our ears, and is via chord tones and melody’s notes that this relation is established.
These bullet points will be our guidelines for what’s coming next!
From 4:18 a new verse starts, maintaining the same vocal and harmonic ideas we have heard at this point. So how can the same ideas sound fresh if they are being repeated all over? Thanks to the addition of new elements into the texture: the drum set entrance will give interest by the moving sensation its rhythm has.
The verses idea gets to 5:33 to a point where all the material we heard before reach to a climax and culminating point: a repeated Dsus2, D major, Dsus4, C major progression serves as a transition point to one of the most memorable rock solos ever heard!
The solo section starts at 5:56 with a chord progression that will be repeated to the end of the song: A minor – G major – F major. We will extend on this point because of the relevance it has, even when we discussed it in a previous article.
The first interesting to observe is the function of an instrumental solo: it is used as a way of reinforcing the character and the mood of a composition with melodic ideas, as a transitional moment. This one is based on successive little musical ideas (motives, from now on) that will fit the underlying chord progression.
From 5:56 to 6:15 we hear three motives based on the minor pentatonic scale of A minor (use our scale tool to see the notes!), listen how the pitch is getting higher as it continues! From 6:15 to 6:24 we hear the climax of the whole song with a high C note being the peak and a descending scale run that acts as a conclusive tool.
Contrary to the introduction, a coda section (sometimes called outro) will bring closure to all the themes that have been exposed in the whole song. It constitutes a new theme by itself, reaffirming the original key – A minor in this case. It starts at 6:42 with a repeated vocal line consisting of:
A – A – A – C – B – A – G – A (And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls, etc.) being drawn over the A minor – G major – F major chord progression.
And a final guitar solo at 7:26 will come to maintain the original climatic character of the song! A ritardando (which is an Italian musical expression for ‘slowing down`) at 7:41 will tell us that the song is coming to an end, and the final solo vocal line at 7:46 gives the conclusion to an epic song.
So that’s it!
We reviewed many musical elements in this part! I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did! Remember that everything you learn is to be applied to your own music, and here in Songtive we give you the tools you’ll be needing to get those sounds into the real world! In the next article we will get through Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen’s masterpiece! See you next time!