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Progressions of Power

 

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Iron Maiden Style

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If you listen to a lot of Iron Maiden, you will start to recognize many of the same chord progressions used in their songs. Let's break down a few of the more common ones.

You'll find that Maiden almost always uses minor keys, and once you read their lyrics, you can start to understand why. Lots of references to classic literature, history, and even political commentary coupled with themes of madness, death, and war, making the minor keys an obvious choice. Certainly one of the most used chord progressions is the I minor to the bVI major to the bVII major. You will hear this all over Maiden tunes in all sorts of keys. Another common progression is the I minor to the bVII major to the IV major.

Maiden have always been known to be somewhat adventurous with their arrangements and parts. Some songs clock in as long as 10 or 11 minutes. They have never been afraid to change tempos during a song, and often exploit the dynamics of the music to grandiose, majestic effect. Many Maiden classics start with a clean guitar, quiet intro, then explode into thundering full-bore riff with the rhythm section pounding behind it. Alot of times the second guitar would be playing a melody on top of this, or the arpeggiated chords will be doubled by the bass. Many maiden songs will start and then reprise at the end with this structure. It's also not uncommon for Maiden to bring the bridge down for a quiet, slower tempo section, providing the listener with a bit of a breather in the middle of some intense music.

Bassist Steve Harris is regarded as the main songwriter in Maiden. It's certainly a unique thing for the bass player to write all the riffs and melodies on the bass, and it's just as unique in that he usually approaches the bass as a lead instrument in the band. As a result, sometimes the guitars are approached with more of a support role instead of a dominant one. You'll find the guitarists happy to goose-egg power chords or simply chug along while the bass carries a riff underneath. This is an important lesson for all guitarists, to always be aware of the other instrument's roles in the music. Always keep an ear on complimenting everybody and contributing to the song without stomping over the vocals or the bass riffs.
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