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Analyzing the Perfect Chords from We are the Champions" by Queen

This video is a musical analysis of the chord progression in We are the Champions by Queen. We will see things like key changes/modulations, modal mixture, secondary dominants, and secondary leading tone chords. Lots of complex changes for a song that might seem basic on the surface. The following topics are touched upon, and you can go further into any of these topics by watching the lessons I've taught on them.

Transcription

Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

In 1977 Queen released the song We Are the Champions and to this day it is still a relevant and iconic Anthem. There are a lot of reasons why this song is so popular and so well received and I think one of those reasons is because of the absolutely perfect chord progression, it is constructed from so in this video, what I want to do is take a deep look at that chord progression and trying to figure out how and why it works and how it relates back to some of the music theory that I've taught on this channel. We're going to see some things like secondary dominant chords modulations and modal mixture as well as some things that I've actually never seen before so to get started. Let's Take a look at these first few chords that introduce our verse section. It sounds like this. We have a C minor and then we have this collection of notes, which is a see an F of B flat and a d and these two chords are played in 6/8 time and the melody over the top sound something like this paid my do.

I'm at the time.

So what we can here is that we have a strong C minor tonality write C minor feels like home right now. So we might want to just make the assumption that we're in the key of C Meyer and clearly our first chord is C minor the second chord though this C F B flat and D. What core do we call this? Well, it could have a few different names. And the first chord I'm thinking of is it's clearly just a B flat major Triad these three notes are B flat major Triad and then we're just playing a see on the base so we could call this just a B-flat / See that's a totally acceptable cord name and if you look at the key of C minor which we think we're in right now, you'll see B flat is just the seventh chord in the key of C minor. If I'm in c minor I can go back to the B flat major and it sounds just fine.

However, this isn't quite what I'm hearing. When I hear this gourd. I'm actually hearing more of a five chord in the key of C minor. The five chord is G minor and you can extend it to a G minor 7 and later on the base is actually going to play some g notes, so I actually want to Corporate this collection of notes. I want to interpret this as a G minor 7 / C because later on we are going to hear it as a context of G minor and it feels more like a one to five change. Here's a C minor to G minor and that feels more like what we were just hearing then if I play a 1 to a 7 to be flat so long story short. We're just going to call this chord progression C minor and then we're going to call it G minor 7 / C but I would accept other names that are as well. So we're going to cycle between those two chords a few times and then we're going to introduce an E flat major chord, which is going to be really bright really warm. It's going to kind of feel like the sun is coming out and the melody on top and bad mistakes.

I made a few now E flat major is the three chord in c minor and E flat major is the relative major key of C minor. So I'm going to think of this as a relative modulation because all of a sudden E flat really feels like home and when we use all these chords and C minor Feels Like Home Where the key of C minor but if we use all these chords in E-flat major feels like home. We're in the key of E flat major. They are the same key, but the tonality really makes a difference. What is home base for now? And for the rest of the song C minor will no longer be our home base. So it's kind of deceptive to say that we're in the key of C minor from now on I'm going to call this the key of E flat major and I'm going to retroactively change those Roman numerals instead of calling this a one to a five.

I'm actually going to call it a six chord to a 3 quart because that's really what it would be if we think of E flat. Major Hazard tonic, but that soft little progression changes into something really exciting and energetic to kind of give us momentum going into the chorus. So we're going to go from this E flat major to a B-flat over D to C minor to an F to a B-flat and if we look at those chords one by one it makes perfect sense. E-flat Sartre adak be flat over D. Well, that's just our 5 chord. We've inverted our 5 chord though. And then we stopped off at the 6 chord notice that it doesn't feel like home, right? It did feel like home. But right now it just feels like a pit stop to get to F7 and then F7 we're going to go to B flat which is the dominant chord. Now that F7 was out of key that has seven is a secondary dominant. It leaves the key temporarily but it resolves us to that B flat chord, which is our five.

So F7 is the five of five the five seven of five just a secondary dominant that helps us resolve back to this five chord.

Now those first three chords are extremely common where you have your one chord and then you convert your five chord and then you play your six chord and a lot of times we'll just follow that up with like a and that's like really common really cliche not really unique what is unique though this to interrupted with a secondary dominant I feel like that gives it a lot more interest right there and also if you look at just those last few chords there C minor to five-seven to be flat that's a two five one in the key of B flat so we have that little movement there helping us land on to be flat and B flat is the dominant chord right we're in the key of E flat and we've played this beef that chord they're going to hang out on this B flat chord for a little too long and you know what that supposed to do right 5 chords are supposed to take us back to our tonic and we're supposed to land there and that's not what they give you instead they give you this out of the middle of nowhere and jump you up to a seat which is totally had a key but see will launch you into the key of F and that's where the choruses are going to begin now over that five chord there's a lot happening and you actually have to listen very closely to hear it all going on But essentially Freddie Mercury ends up singing these little Triads here. He's got like an A flat major Triad and then an e augmented Triad and then an F minor Triad and that's all kind of pivoting back to that that B flat chord. So he's singing like a C B flat C B flat C B flat the same time. He's singing an A flat to f a flat to f a flat to F. And then the low Harmony just goes flat and then F and you put those together you get this.

Weird little chromatic thing going on and it's all happening over the note B flat but I want to bring up you don't want to always be using chord names to try to describe everything.

Sometimes you just want to look at the sheet music because to try to parse this as a chord progression when each one of these little Triads I'm talking about only takes up like an eighth note. It doesn't really seem like an efficient or convenient way to convey this information.

So hopefully you get the idea of what's going on there, but actually compressing it all into a coordinating to like strumming your guitar. I don't really think is that tactical of an idea anyways moving on we had our hilarious 5 chord the jumps up to see and that is going to be the five seven of to but it just helps us modulate into that key of f so now we're a whole step higher than we were before and we get to play our course, which is actually a very simple chord progression F major a minor D minor and then B flat to D to C. And that's just a tonic a one chord and then a three chord six chord and then the 4 and the That's really simple stuff. I mean, that's so simple you might have accidentally written it when you were following my three rules on how to write a chord progression.

It's really basic generic cliche stuff. But I do want to bring up the fact that this F major to a minor that's a really sad change. That's about as sad of a chord change is you're going to find in a major key going from the one to the three and I've made an entire video on that change from the tonic to the media. And even after that we go to the sad D Minor.

So like what's all that sad stuff doing in my song about Victory, right? It doesn't that seem a little out of place. Well, this is explained in the lyrics and hopefully you get the idea. I paid my dues. It's been no bed of roses will keep on fighting till the end not will keep on relaxing and being awesome till the end. We have to keep this up and that's a burden right any Champion anybody who's experienced a real Victory knows that it came at the expense of a lot of Blood Sweat and Tears and pain and I think a real champions Anthem would reflect that the dark side of that success as well. I feel that almost be arrogant and in a Appropriate to write a victory song. That's all just like big major chords and epic and you know, it doesn't really reflect the reality of what a real Victory looks like and I feel like that that emotional sorrow within this Victory song might be one of the reasons why we resonate with it. So well anyways after we do that really basic progression F A minor D and then the 4 and the 5 we do almost the same thing for another F and then another a minor but now we just go straight to the B flat and then we do this lovely scale run.

And what we did there is just walk down the F major scale. We went A and G and then we stopped off on F-sharp instead instead of landing on F now on that F sharp. We're going to play an F sharp diminished chord and you might wonder where that comes from. But if you look what happens next we're going to end up on a G minor 7 chord and that's the 2 chord and you can basically approach any chord in the key from a half step underneath it just by playing a diminished seventh are so if I wanted to get to my 2 chord, right my two chords G minor 7 if I want to get here a great way to do it is to The dominant chord of G minor 7. That would be D7.

That'll take me back to G minor 7, but I could also do a secondary leading tone chord and you just go back a half step to F sharp and you play a full diminished chord there or even a half diminished would work as well. But a full diminished is going to give us that really nice crunchy resolution back to our G minor 7.

Now, we could also parse this F sharp diminished seventh as being a D7 flat 9. It's just being played at over F sharp. There's a lot of tones that are similar there the only The thing is in F sharp diminished. You don't have access to an open denote a regular D. And in D7 flat 9 you do and Brian met actually at the very last second. He lets a dino ring through so it might give it more Credence or more credibility to this idea of a D7 flat 9. But really, I'd accept either cord name right there. They both serve the same purpose. They both serve dominant function to get us to G minor 7 for the next part of the song that we And right there it is a G minor 7 but the vocal harmonies over that next part actually end up spelling out a little bit of a C7 over my G minor 7 and that's all diatonic. That's all going to be in the key that to court and everything that's happening on top of it has not left the key.

However, right after that we go into the best two measures of the entire song. We borrow the four chord, which is B flat minor and we borrow that from F minor. What we also did is we added the natural 6 then from B flat.

A flat minor 6 really beautiful chord and I want you to look at the notes of this B flat minor 6. We have a B-flat a d-flat and F and a g those four notes spell out a B-flat minor Sixth and those are the notes that Freddie Mercury is belting out as part of the Harmony lines. Now, if you took just that F note, and if you flattered it, if you basically play a B-flat minor 6 find all the apps and flat them they become he's and you're left with the notes of a full diminished chord of diminished.

Court and that could be a B flat diminished and E-flat diminished in any diminish the gee I don't care what name you call it because it's gonna kind of be a little murky here. But Brian May Justice ends up through those notes if you listened his guitar part, he plays B flat d flat E G and that's happening while Freddie Mercury is singing the notes of this B flat minor 6 chord and eventually those harmonies kind of change a little bit to match the diminished tonality afterwards.

So really what we've got is a measure of B flat minor 6 and then the diminished really comes out. We have an e diminished with an added 11 because that's the note that Freddie Mercury singing singing that note a on top and then it goes to Regular G full diminished.

So again B flat minor 6 and then e diminished with an added 11 and then G diminished to take us back to F. That's a really nice resolution e diminished at 11g diminished F major now once we get to that F major, there's going to be a lot going. On here and what I want to do is just let's listen to it first and then we'll try to pick apart these chords one by one we start with that F major no no time for the losers cause we are the champions and we go through those chords one by one while first let's just take a look at the melody. We want to kind of divorce the Melody from the chords hear the melody is very simple. It's just in the key of f we have the third note of the f scale and then the roots and then the fourth so it's third. I brewed for third root simple.

And then we do the same thing except it kind of switches to minor. We have flatted 3rd root 4th flatted 3rd root. So I'm kind of dividing this melody into two parts, right? We've got stuff that kind of outlines a major tonic. We've got a major third and a root and then we have stuff that outlines a minor topic.

So I expect some modal mixture will be involved just by looking at that Melody. Now, if you look at the Baseline just look at the bass notes, you'll notice that the first note is going to be F and then it goes up the notes of the F minor scale we go. G which is shared between F major and F minor and then we go to an A flat and then a B flat and then eventually we end up on a c and this reminds me of like an opposite of a lament base. We talked about the lament base in George Harrison something and it'll meant base here would be a walk down from F to that that Fifth and whatever way we want to do it. We could kind of get a similar effect by walking down to our five but it doesn't have that Victorious effect. Does it right climbing up is going to give Of us a little bit more of that successful feel and that's what's going on here the base coming up every single note and actually getting into a little bit of minor territory to get us to that five chord. Now the actual chords here. We have an F major just our topic and then this next door is a real Messier. We've got an E flat with an added nine and a sharp eleven, but it's all being played over a g and there's really no way I can play all those notes together on the guitar. So here's my little abbreviated version of it. And if you're wondering where that cord comes from, I would just think of it as being borrowed from mix of It's pretty common to bring in a flat seven chord while your major tonic is still kind of intact here. And since we still have the major third being present and all of a sudden there's this flat seven chord. I feel like it's good idea to parse that Court as being from mixolydian. Now, the next chord is a flat 6 and this could come from the parallel minor, right? It could come from F minor, but I want to think of it as being from F Dorian instead because if you look at the next word, the next chord is B flat 7 and B flat seven is actually diatonic to Dorian as well. So you could think of this a flat 6 is being borrowed from minor and then you could think of this B flat seven as being barred from Dorian and I think it's easier to think of them both as being borrowed from Dorian. Also, you could just say hey, we took this B flat and we made it blue Z by making it a seventh chord. I personally think that's a completely valid interpretation because when you just throw that that seventh chord in there it just blew these up any cord and not everything has to make harmonic function sense. Sometimes you can just kind of add tension to a chord by adding in something like that flat 7 now finally when that's all done it takes us to our C7.

Sus 4 which is supposed to be like our big tents dominant chord and it still has tension, right? It does want to take us back to a few can feel that that it's it's building us up for that. But the fact that it's suspended for means it's missing out on the extra tension that's present with that major 3rd.

So I really like 7sus4 cords to me. They're very like Halo and unresolved.

And and I know there's a lot of space that space in there that I really enjoy and what's funny here is that, you know, we're supposed to resolve back. With major, right? That's why we're where we were at and they kind of hinted that but if you really listen, they just play the F bass note and then the piano rings out the rest of an F minor chord. So after that surprise resolution to F minor we bring in a B flat major chord get a little bit of a Dorian tonality developing back to F minor and then we go to that ambiguous chord. We saw the intro and all of these notes are in Dorian. They're all in F Dorian and what we end up doing is playing that ambiguous quarter. And hanging out there and letting our ear just kind of reset back to C minor or E-flat major whatever you want to call it.

And I think that's pretty funny because F Dorian an E flat or actually the same key so we didn't actually perform a key change here, but we certainly have performed a relative modulation, you know to call F minor our tonic and then all of a sudden see minor is now our tonic and pretty soon. He Flats going to be our topic quite a bit of relative modulation there in just a small amount of time that don't you think it's only appropriate that after all those crazy. Daisy complex chords, we are left with a mind-numbing Lee simple format and structure. It's literally just Verse Chorus Verse Chorus chorus end and come on these guys know what they're doing. They know how to write complicated structure Bohemian Rhapsody in broke every single structural rule for radio play and it still ended up working so they could have made something complicated and wrapped all of this into some, you know, Arcane 15 minutes structure, but do you really think it would become the victory Anthem if they had done that, you know, this is supposed to be played right after the title. Fight this is supposed to be played at the championship match and everyone's going to be singing along. They don't bore us they get to the chorus. It's perfectly manufactured for consumption.

And even though it is a very commercial and acceptable and you know well-received song. There's just morbid complexity within that chord progression and I really enjoy music like that. I enjoy music than might sound simple on the outside and is very acceptable and very easy to digest but if you go deep inside there, it just gets scary and I feel like that's like my Favorite form of art is it's it's simple on the outside, but you get deep inside there and you realize there's a lot more complexity than you may have recognized initially. Now. I just want to talk about the things that I learned from analyzing this chord progression. They're going to stick with me for a while. First off is that ridiculous modulation if you really listen to it, I just think it's completely unexpected. I mean, I'd heard the song a billion times before but I never really listened to it and listening to it. I literally laughed at hearing that surprised C major and I were the key of E flat and you've got the dominant chord. It's building you up its building you up and then all of a sudden have them Know where the see just a pop you into F.

It's really funny. It's a comical and unexpected change and it works really really well. I'm also kind of embarrassed at the fact that I never put together this connection between minor six chords and diminished 7th chords, essentially if you take the fifth of any minor 6 chord and flat at all of a sudden becomes a diminished 7th chord, that's an interesting little unique property. Their diminished chords are weird like that. They have a lot of relationships to other chords like altered dominance. Also, if you take any note of a full diminished chord and you flat any tone in it, it becomes some inversion.

Of a dominant seventh chord and speaking of diminish. What was really weird to me? Was that e diminished with an added 11?

It's really not that appropriate to be naming diminished chords with added tones on top. A lot of times. It's going to be functioning as a five chord or something else like that. But really there's no harm in saying hey play a diminished chord and add a hi Melody tone on top of it. But I really began to question. You know, how much of our vocal Melody should we be compressing into our chord vocabulary, you know, if you're in a band and one guitar players playing a C and your piano players playing Annie You're singing the note G. Well altogether that forms a c-major chord, but nobody in the band is actually playing a c-major chord. So do you really want to notate that as a c-major chord or do you just want to look at the sheet music and see how it all works out? I think both interpretations are valid since I really only play one instrument. I am totally cool with the idea of saying hey, let's try to compress all of this information and give it one chord name. So I really had a lot of fun and I learned a lot by going through this chord progression, and I hope you did too. If you did you have to thank my awesome patreon supporters for making this. Video possible and most of my other ones they have been my sponsors for a while really the only sponsors. I'd like to work with and they deserve your gratitude and mine if you'd like to join them you can there are links Below in the description, but if you can't do that, that's fine. I would appreciate a like a comment and subscribe all that kind of stuff really helps me out. So thanks for watching and I will see you next time.

 





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