There are both similarities and differences between theapproach Queen and Led Zeppelin have taken to write the melody and the rhythmin their respective pieces. Queen’s piece ‘Killer Queen’ and Led Zeppelin’spiece ‘Stairway to Heaven’ were both written in the 1970’s – with Zeppelin’s in1971 and Queen’s in 1974 – with both pieces taking on the rock style format. Inboth pieces, there is vocals, piano, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums andpercussion (including finger snaps and the tambourine); however, Led Zeppelinadded a twelve-string guitar to their piece. In terms of melody, Queen’s piece themelody initially moves step by step (conjunct or stepwise) and with smallerintervals, however, the leaps get progressively bigger or wider (disjunct),this means that you are able to follow the song more easily and as you get intothe song the jumps get bigger. However, Led Zeppelin’s piece uses conjunct movementswhen the band is singing but during the instrumentals, there are some bigleaps.Queen’s piece has a little bit of wordpainting including the upward slide to emphasize the sarcastic use of the word ‘queen’in the chorus, the phaser effect, which is an electronicsound processor used to filter a signal, tomake ‘laser beam’ sound unwordly two bars later. However, in Led Zeppelin’spiece, the song doesn’t include any word painting of any kind.
In both Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’ and LedZeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the texture that they have used is a homophonictexture. This is because both of these pieces of music have a very clear melodywith chords supporting them. However in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ itis melody-dominated even though the melodic line doesn’t follow the melodyline.
Queen’s’Killer Queen’ has an anacrusis and it is found at the beginning of every verseand chorus. An anacrusis is one or more unstressed note before the first bar line of a piece orpassage. Also Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ uses some anacrusis too.In terms of rhythm, Killer Queen is much faster than Stairway toHeaven as it has a tempo of 112 dotted crotchet beats per minute (bpm); however,it is only moderately fast. Led Zeppelin’s piece says slowly at the top of it sois less than 100 bpm which is very slow and is actually 82 bpm.
In ‘KillerQueen’, the time signature is mainly 12/8 compound quadruple time, however, itdoes insert a few bars of 6/8, which has the effect of extending the phraselength. On the other hand, ‘Stairway to Heaven is only a 4/4 time which issimple time. In Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’ the rhythm isquite swung which means that the pairs of quavers should be played with the first oneslightly longer than the second. Swingtiming is where the beat is split into two-third plus one-third subdivisions (aratio of 2:1), swung rhythms have a more laid back, cruisy feel. However in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the rhythmis straight, which is where the beat is split into equal subdivisions (a ratioof 1:1) for playing notes.
Straight rhythms have more of a driving regular rhythm. In both Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’ and LedZeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ syncopation is quite frequent. The definitionof syncopation is a temporary displacementof the regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weakbeat. Also, both pieces use triplets, for example in ‘Killer Queen’Queen uses them in bar 18 and in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Led Zeppelin uses them inbars 17, 19, 22 and 23. Overall, I believethat there are more melodies in Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’, especially when theguitars are playing different parts as the piece is very layered then.
However,there are some layers at the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’when the recorders are used. I also find ‘Killer Queen’ more enjoyable tolisten to and the lyrics are also easier to learn as I find the melody nicer tohear.