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Stairway to Heaven Chords and Analysis

The Stairway to Heaven Chords and Analysis is part 5 in a series on How to Write a Song. When you analyze the Stairway chords you see that Jimmy Page used both natural minor and the dorian mode. The D is a chord substitution borrowed from the relative A major scale. This gives the song it's harmonic lift.

This creates a type of modal music. The fancy term is modal interchange when you borrow chords from different scales. For a review see Advanced Music Theory. Also, included are the Stairway to Heaven lyrics.




The bulk of the song is in A natural minor (Aeolian). The chords in this scale are:

i IIdim bIII iv v bVI bVII
Am Bdim C Dm Em F G

Notice that the D throughout the song is not a Dm chord, but a D major chord. This implies the dorian mode. Here are the chords in dorian:

i ii bIII IV v VIdim bVII
Am Bm C D Em F#dim G

It can also mean that the D chord substitution comes from the parallel Ionian major scale.

I ii iii IV V vi VIIdim
A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim

LINE CLICHE (Stairway to Heaven Chords intro)
A line cliche is an ascending or descending chromatic line. It's moving up or down by half steps. The opening to Stairway to Heaven is brilliant with the descending line: A, G#, G, F#, F. The chords are Am, G#aug, C/G, D/F#, Fmaj7.

An inversion is just taking a chord tone other than the root and putting it in the bass.

1st inversion: 3rd in the bass
2nd inversion: 5th in the bass

Thus, in the opening line cliche C/G is a C chord in 2nd inversion with the G (5th) in the bass. D/F# is a D chord in 1st inversion with the F# (3rd) in the bass.



Am G#aug | C/G D/F# | Fmaj7 | Am/B Am

Am G#Aug C/G D/F#
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
Fmaj7 Am/B Am
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
Am G#Aug C/G D/F#
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
Fmaj7 Am/B Am
With a word she can get what she came for.
C D Fmaj7 C G Dsus4 D
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

Am Cmaj7 D Fmaj7 Am
There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
Am C D Fmaj7
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
Fmaj7 Am G#Aug C/G D/F#
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings,
D/F# C Am/B Am
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

D C G/B Asus2 Am
There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
Am C G/B Fmaj7#11 Am
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
Am C G/B Asus2 Am
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
Am C G/B Fmaj7 Am
And the voices of those who stand looking.

Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

D C G/B Asus2 Am
And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
D C G/B Fmaj7#11
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
D C G/B Asus2 Am
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
D C G/B Fmaj7#11
And the forests will echo with laughter.

C G/B Am Am/B (this is Am with the 2nd in the bass)
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
C G/B Fmaj7 Am
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
C G/B Am Am/B
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
C G/B Fmaj7 Am
There's still time to change the road you're on.

Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Am7 Am Dsus2 D Am7 Am Em D C D
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

C G/B Am Am/B
Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,
C G/B Fmaj7 Am
The piper's calling you to join him,
C G/B Am Am/B
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
C G/B Fmaj7 Am
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

C G D Dsus2 D Dsus4

Dsus2 D Dsus4 Dsus2 D Dsus4 Dsus4 D Cadd9

Am Am7 Fmaj7 x8

Am G F G/G#
And as we wind on down the road
Am G F G/G#
Our shadows taller than our soul.
Am G F G/G#
There walks a lady we all know
Am G F G/G#
Who shines white light and wants to show
Am G F G/G#
How everything still turns to gold.
Am G F G/G#
And if you listen very hard
Am G F G/G#
The tune will come to you at last.
Am G F G/G#
When all are one and one is all
Am G F G/G#
To be a rock and not to roll.

Am Am7 x4


And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

*ALSO VISIT: Stairway to Heaven Lyrics Analysis

*I hope my Stairway to Heaven Chords Analysis shed some light on why this is such a classic tune. Let's look at Hotel California!

Continue to Part 6, Hotel California Chords

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