#1
Hey!
Yesterday I started analyzing Staiway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and there are some things in there that I just can't understand with my knowledge of music theory so that's why I need you guys!
Anyways, this is what I have figured out so far:
Intro:
The intro starts off with an Am, which is also the key of the song. It then changes to a chord that I haven't been able to identify (help please!), then to a C with G in the root, then to D major with F# in the root (hmm D major isn't in the key of Am is it?), and finally to an Fmaj7. The most interesting thing about this is that the bass note is moving a half-step down for each chord (almost like a descending stairway..;D), still I don't get how they thought of what kind of chord they would use when they knew the root (such as the 2nd chord). It then goes to C -> D -> Fmaj7 -> C -> G -> D.
I read somewhere that the intro was borrowed from the song Taurus by the band Spirit.

Verses:
Nothing really interesting here except the chord right before the chorus (x2003x) which troubled me for some time, but I believe it's an Em7 with an omitted root, making a cadence to the Am7 in the chorus, am I right about this?

Chorus:
Also not much of interest, only thing that bugs me is that D major chord which they tend to use a lot.. I have always thought that D major sounds better in the key of Am and C, but the theory thinks otherwise, any explanation would be nice.

I haven't really got time to analyzie much further, but from a quick look at it they seem to use that D a lot in the breakdown too, and the solo just looks like some noodling around in the Am pentatonic box.

So, am I right in what I have written and is there something important I have missed. Also what's up with that D major (with F# not being in the key of Am) and that second chord in the intro.

Thankful for answers!
//Muffinz
You'll Never Walk Alone!
#2
Could be A harmonic minor, in which case the F# is prominent, and then the D would become major.
Quote by santa_man99
THANK you. I love you forever.


Quote by DrFuzz
Why are you researching for Christmas? It's only Ma- HOLY CRAP WHERE'S 2009 GONE!?!?!?


Quote by ilikepirates
You're right, that is weird. You win.
#3
You're right about it from the technical point of view. But what you're missing is that this isn't classical music and the rules aren't firm - you can use an F# when playing in Am. You seem to be getting worried about it, for not much gain. Rock music doesn't have to follow the same rules as classical music, nor are those rules necessarily applicable anyway.

The second chord is AmM7 (that is, Am with a major 7th (the G#) on top).

Also, when you're talking about roots, write C/G instead of C with a root of G. It saves time and space.
Marshall amplifiers are the truest purveyors of rock and roll known to man.

"And give a man an amplifier and a synthesizer, and he doesn't become whoever, you know. He doesn't become us."

Holy crap, check this out!
#5
Quote by Muffinz
Hey!
Verses:
Nothing really interesting here except the chord right before the chorus (x2003x) which troubled me for some time, but I believe it's an Em7 with an omitted root, making a cadence to the Am7 in the chorus, am I right about this?


I've always just looked at that as a first inversion of a G major
Fender American Vintage '62 Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul Custom
TC Electronic Polytune
Danelectro Blue Paisley
EHX Big Muff Pi w/ Tone Wicker
Dunlop Crybaby
EHX Deluxe Memory Boy
Egnater Tweaker

Quote by Jackal58
Yer pretty fly for a Canadian.
#6
Quote by Muffinz
Hey!
Yesterday I started analyzing Staiway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and there are some things in there that I just can't understand with my knowledge of music theory so that's why I need you guys!
Anyways, this is what I have figured out so far:
Intro:
The intro starts off with an Am, which is also the key of the song. It then changes to a chord that I haven't been able to identify (help please!), then to a C with G in the root, then to D major with F# in the root (hmm D major isn't in the key of Am is it?), and finally to an Fmaj7. The most interesting thing about this is that the bass note is moving a half-step down for each chord (almost like a descending stairway..;D), still I don't get how they thought of what kind of chord they would use when they knew the root (such as the 2nd chord). It then goes to C -> D -> Fmaj7 -> C -> G -> D.
I read somewhere that the intro was borrowed from the song Taurus by the band Spirit.


Yes, the intro is a descending bassline, but if you wanted a name for the second chord, it could be Eaug. Making a i-V-i-IV-VI-V-i.

Quote by Muffinz

Verses:
Nothing really interesting here except the chord right before the chorus (x2003x) which troubled me for some time, but I believe it's an Em7 with an omitted root, making a cadence to the Am7 in the chorus, am I right about this?


It's more likely this was played as a G chord, but it actually acts as Em7.

Quote by Muffinz

Chorus:
Also not much of interest, only thing that bugs me is that D major chord which they tend to use a lot.. I have always thought that D major sounds better in the key of Am and C, but the theory thinks otherwise, any explanation would be nice.


The F# is a common accidental borrowed from the melodic minor.

Edit: In this case it's actually easier to think of the D being borrowed from the parallel major.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at Aug 7, 2010,
#7
Yeah, all the notes in the chords are in the key of A minor, the bass notes just descend chromatically.
Quote by Night
wtf is a selfie? is that like, touching yourself or something?
Last edited by Wiegenlied at Aug 6, 2010,
#8
The chords in the intro are Am, Am/G#, C/G, D/F# and Fmaj7, Am. The bass of each chord approaches the next by a minor second each time, a strong movement. This creates what's called a smooth chromatic bassline. The flutes in the background follow the bassline.

So the chord progression is really just a fancy version of i-III-IV-VI-i. The iv is raised to an IV to support the bassline, but it's common in other songs anyway to borrow the IV from the Major scale because it leads to V better. It also allows the use of the melodic minor scale before the V without conflict between the F# (melodic minor's natural 6) and the F (iv's third). Overtime we became more accustomed to hearing an IV than an iv.

There are no "rules" being broken here, that's just silly.

Edit: Also the solo is a great example of how powerful the pentatonic scale is.
i don't know why i feel so dry
Last edited by Eastwinn at Aug 6, 2010,
#9
^ good points & analysis

I see that as:

Am - AmM7 - Am7 - ....ect

typical line cliche for a minor chord.


and yeah I know that mMaj7 includes a 9th. (to pre-empt the inevitable pedantical replys)
and you could see the Am7 as C (III)
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 6, 2010,
#10
Quote by GuitarMunky
I see that as:

Am - AmM7 - Am7 - ....ect

typical line cliche for a minor chord.


and yeah I know that mMaj7 includes a 9th. (to pre-empt the inevitable pedantical replys)


Cmin(maj7) = C Eb G B. Where is the 9th you speak of?
Quote by santa_man99
THANK you. I love you forever.


Quote by DrFuzz
Why are you researching for Christmas? It's only Ma- HOLY CRAP WHERE'S 2009 GONE!?!?!?


Quote by ilikepirates
You're right, that is weird. You win.
#11
Quote by Chikao42
Cmin(maj7) = C Eb G B. Where is the 9th you speak of?


AmMaj7 (not CmMaj7)

G#(7) - C(3) - E(5) - B(9)

2nd chord of intro
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 6, 2010,
#13
Quote by rkk94
i think the solo is based on Am diatonic not pentatonic

it's a bit of both.
shred is gaudy music
#14
I'm under the impression that the D major chord is borrowed from the parallel major key. Pretty common, but it's good to know you can always have the choice of those extra chords.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#15
Quote by GuitarMunky
AmMaj7 (not CmMaj7)

G#(7) - C(3) - E(5) - B(9)

2nd chord of intro



How can you have a chord without the root?
Quote by Night
wtf is a selfie? is that like, touching yourself or something?
#16
Quote by GuitarMunky
AmMaj7 (not CmMaj7)

G#(7) - C(3) - E(5) - B(9)

2nd chord of intro


How can you have a chord without the root?

And I did Cmin(maj7) because C major as a scale and a chord is one of the easiest to understand, but okay:

Amin(maj7) - 1 b3 5 7 - A Cb E G.

What you have written out, my good sir, is a G#sus4(maj6).
Quote by santa_man99
THANK you. I love you forever.


Quote by DrFuzz
Why are you researching for Christmas? It's only Ma- HOLY CRAP WHERE'S 2009 GONE!?!?!?


Quote by ilikepirates
You're right, that is weird. You win.
#17
Quote by Wiegenlied
How can you have a chord without the root?



Quote by Chikao42
How can you have a chord without the root?

And I did Cmin(maj7) because C major as a scale and a chord is one of the easiest to understand, but okay:

Amin(maj7) - 1 b3 5 7 - A Cb E G.

What you have written out, my good sir, is a G#sus4(maj6).


chords can and often are voiced without their root...... especially if their is a 9th.

and the b3 = C not Cb

based on the context I would say AmMaj7 (or A mMaj9) is much more accurate then G#sus4(maj6).

* again it includes the 9th. Maybe AmMaj9 is the proper label
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 7, 2010,
#18
Quote by GuitarMunky
chords can and often are voiced without their root...... especially if their is a 9th.

and the b3 = C not Cb


My bad, b3 is C xD

I was stuck in C major, dunno how I missed that.

And chords may be expressed without their root, but the root stays as part of the chord, otherwise its not the chord you specified. The chord you specified was not any type of A chord ever. If you changed enharmonically you could express it as an Ab minor chord.

You could also write the G# as the named root, for example G#/Amin7.
Quote by santa_man99
THANK you. I love you forever.


Quote by DrFuzz
Why are you researching for Christmas? It's only Ma- HOLY CRAP WHERE'S 2009 GONE!?!?!?


Quote by ilikepirates
You're right, that is weird. You win.
#19
Quote by Chikao42
My bad, b3 is C xD

I was stuck in C major, dunno how I missed that.

And chords may be expressed without their root, but the root stays as part of the chord, otherwise its not the chord you specified. The chord you specified was not any type of A chord ever. If you changed enharmonically you could express it as an Ab minor chord.

You could also write the G# as the named root, for example G#/Amin7.



- its not an Ab minor chord. (Ab,Cb,Eb)

- and no you don't need the root in the chord for it to function as that particular chord.

- you wouldn't call it G#/Amin7 (G is the minor 7th and its not in the chord.....also it's not normal to have both 7ths)


You have to consider context/function.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Aug 7, 2010,
#20
First of all the song isnt in A minor. It is in A natural minor, A melodic minor and A dorian.THIS IS WHY THAT "D" CHORD SOUNDS BEAUTIFUL.

These are the intro chords :-
1st - Am (on A)
2nd - Am/Maj7 (on Ab)
3rd - Am (on G)
4th - D (on F#) the "F#" comes from the A dorian
5th - FMaj7 (on F)
6th - G
7th - Am (on E)

Notice the descending chromatic bass line (A-Ab-G-F#-F-G-E) which gives the relaxed
feeling.

Verses:
Nothing really interesting here except the chord right before the chorus (x2003x) which troubled me for some time, but I believe it's an Em7 with an omitted root, making a cadence to the Am7 in the chorus, am I right about this?


No you are wrong but not far from it (in terms of position) it is a Cadd9 (x3203x)

MUSIC THEORY IS NOT WHAT YOU SHOULD STICK TO USE IT AS GUIDELINES. If you were to write a song in any key and would like to put in a chord which does not belong to the key but sounds great then do so. Music is about what sounds good to whoever writes it.
Last edited by kyleneilly at Aug 7, 2010,
#21
^ lol it's in minor, melodic minor and dorian all at the same time

and it's in dorian for the D chord, but the next chord is an Fmaj7. so it just switches to that mode for one chord? lol. the D is defiantly just bored from the relative major
Quote by Night
wtf is a selfie? is that like, touching yourself or something?
#22
its a mixture of the natural, melodic and dorian what is so funny about that ?

if u find that funny u must find it hilarious when people solo independently over each chord
Last edited by kyleneilly at Aug 7, 2010,
#23
Quote by kyleneilly
First of all the song isnt in A minor. It is in A natural minor, A melodic minor and A dorian.THIS IS WHY THAT "D" CHORD SOUNDS BEAUTIFUL.



It's in A minor.

While the key sig denotes a natural minor scale, the key itself is really just the namesake of the tonic triad.
#24
Quote by kyleneilly
its a mixture of the natural, melodic and dorian what is so funny about that ?

if u find that funny u must find it hilarious when people solo independently over each chord


Because that's not really a good way to look at it. That won't help you compose anything like it, just write a melody/"solo" over it.
i don't know why i feel so dry
#25
Quote by Dodeka
It's in A minor.

While the key sig denotes a natural minor scale, the key itself is really just the namesake of the tonic triad.


The song still uses all three thats the point i was trying to get across, anyway thread starters questions have been answered
#26
Well first of all the melodic minor contains the natural 6th that differentiates the dorian mode from the minor scale, so there would be absolutely no need to include that in your mix of scales. Usage of the melodic minor scale wouldn't make sense as like I said it uses an F right after the F#. As has been stated in the thread it's simply chords borrowed from the parallel major scale, or if it makes you happier from it's melodic minor scale.
Quote by Night
wtf is a selfie? is that like, touching yourself or something?
#27
Quote by Wiegenlied
Well first of all the melodic minor contains the natural 6th that differentiates the dorian mode from the minor scale, so there would be absolutely no need to include that in your mix of scales. Usage of the melodic minor scale wouldn't make sense as like I said it uses an F right after the F#. As has been stated in the thread it's simply chords borrowed from the parallel major scale, or if it makes you happier from it's melodic minor scale.


yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, you are correct my apologies i feel like the blue guy
#28
Hey Muffinz!!

Nice post. I like posts that want a discussion regarding the theory behind songs that I like to think about myself. Specifically where the thread starter has thought about it themselves, is willing to offer their ideas, and asks specific questions.

Speaking of which I did have some thoughts on the topic which I didn't see explored so thought I would offer them up and you can make of them what you will.

I'd like to address the intro and this question...
Quote by Muffinz
I don't get how they thought of what kind of chord they would use when they knew the root (such as the 2nd chord).
I'm not going to presume to know exactly what the guy from Spirit was thinking when he wrote that before showing it to Mr Page. But I can speculate and offer some of my own analysis on what I see and hear.

Whenever I see a magic sequence of chords that I want to know more about I tend to ask myself questions and look for answers. Some of my questions regarding great progressions are sometimes along the lines of these four..
1)What's the tonic? (or What's the key?)
2)What is our "destination"?
3)How do we get there?
4)How do we get back?

We got the tonic - Am.
The destination, in my opinion, is the FMaj7. You could answer differently but to me this is the chord that pulls us farthest away from the tonic before we start heading back.

The next two questions start to really unravel the progression in depth but knowing where we are coming from and where we are going is vital in understanding the choice of chords and notes we use to get there.

See to me those first four chords are an elaborate working out of a way to get from that starting Am to the FMaj7 and in particular an FMaj7 voiced below the Am.

So how exactly do we get there. Well there are two distinct lines here moving in opposite directions.

One is the bass line which, as you observed, moves down chromatically.
It looks like this:
A -> A♭/G♯ -> G -> G♭/F♯ -> F.

Meanwhile you have another line which is moving up diatonically. It looks like this
A -> B -> C -> D -> E
This second line is somewhat disguised as the D is displaced down a full octave resulting in a disjointed line. Despite this disjointed nature it is still very effective -but I'll come back to this.

These two lines give us two of the four notes for each of our chords. Interestingly they are all harmonized by adding a note or two from the Am triad (A C E) or on one occasion one of the notes from the moving bass line is doubled.

The first three are very easy, and everything I've said up till now is very clear in those first three chords. The bass moves down half steps the top voice moves up the Am scale diatonically creating a beautiful contrary motion. The other two voices remain static throughout from that original Am chord voicing.

The fourth chord is where things get interesting. We know we want F♯ as a bass and a we want a D. To harmonize this D Major is an obvious candidate for our purposes. But even then we could voice such a chord like this...
10
7
7
x
9
and still meet the obligations of both the moving lines. But by displacing the D down an octave the top voice is relegated in importance taking a backseat to the falling bass, as a form of consolation the D is now the root of the new chord so still a prominently sound in the chord.

If this move down an octave had to be made this is the best place for it as it is the first full chord change in which all the voices have moved from the previous chord (for this reason I agree with GuitarMunkey in that the first three chords are pretty much all just elaborations of that original Am).

Before this move the fundamental sound of the chord was fairly stable which makes the D quite important as it is the first real pull away from the tonic Am.

Continuing the next step we reach our destination the descending bassline is an F and the ascending line hits E. Fill it out with an A and a C and we have FMaj7. Despite that FMaj7 being simply an Am triad over an F bass it is odd how it doesn't sound like the Am. In fact, if you consider diatonic chord families, in a minor setting the ♭VI is in the subdominant chord family, not the tonic chord family -it's function is to pull away from the tonic.

This of course brings us to the question "how do we get back?" Well in a minor key there are a number of ways to achieve this and one very common trick to get from the ♭VI back to the tonic is ♭VI-♭VII-i. In this case the ♭VII is brief but very clever and very effectively sets us up for a move back to the Am voiced an octave below the first Am. It's an inverted ♭VII. By using a G chord with a B bass he approaches the A root from above and below. It's a G/B but could just as easily be called an Em without a root. Calling on diatonic chord families again we see the ♭VII is part of the dominant family.

In fact if we look at the first three chords as being an elaboration of the tonic Am, the F as a diatonic substitution for the preceeding D and the G/B as a rootless Em then all we really have here is a (not so simple) i IV V i. what just happened?

Anyway those are some of my thoughts on how I see this intro working. And yeah part of me feels foolish for writing for such a long time about something that probably took less time to create. And that's the only reason I'm going to stop now and go play.

Peace out.
Si
#29
Woah, some great replies here! (espescially from 20Tigers, thanks man! )
I think I can see how it all fits together now, but being able to come up with things like this myself is still quite far away... anyways, I'm off to put what I have learned from this thread into practice and write a song following the same concepts as this one, but adding my own special spice to it!
You'll Never Walk Alone!