March 9th, 2008


Roger Taylor makes the Hemiola Rock

I was mining the multitrack recordings of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for drum hits, and noticed the rockout section towards the end had a unique beat for rock:

What's unusual about it is the kick is straight triplets and the snare/hats are in 4. This is known as a Hemiola. I'd never noticed this before listening to the whole song. Being able to play a hemiola with such verve is no mean trick -- my junior high school orchestra conductor used to embarrass people by asking them to slap hemiola on their knees. Being able to do this right means being able to hear the 3 and the 4 distinctly in your head.

The classic idea of swing in rhythm involves pushing back the odd numbered 16th notes towards overlapping with the closest eight note triplet, and the full band sound of this passage is full of swing, but I'd never noticed the kick being straight triplets before.

There are other revelations in the multitracks -- well not huge surprises, but interesting: Freddy Mercury saying "Oh fuck it" after the final gong, the fact that the guitar bass and drum tracks were recorded live in the studio with loads of bleed-through, and how perfectly Freddy Mercury sang without benefit of Auto-tune ....