Your Song
Here and There - Reissued
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Live Solo Piano Version
Key: Eb Structure: A-A-B-A-A-B

In my book, Your Song is the granddaddy of them all - the song that launched the Elton John phenomena. A major hit, yes. It is and will forever be one of Elton’s signature songs. Your Song firmly established several trademarks of the Elton style, trademarks that continue to this day. To understand them, is to gain insight. In this lengthy analysis, I’ll share what I've learned.

Over the years, Elton tinkers with and modifies how he plays his songs. And thus, over the course of his career, you will find many different arrangements of Your Song. I've chosen this particular version from the Here and There album as the most representative of how most people think of it. But perhaps someday I'll put together some of his other arrangements for the sake of comparison.

Because of its length, you can jump ahead to the following sections:

Basic Elements of Elton’s Style
The Key of Eb
The Intro
The Verse
The Lyrics
The Chorus
Performance Tips


There are several important keys to understanding Your Song and most of Elton’s other important works. They are

o Harmonic lines,
o Great Riffs or Hooks
o Melody and
o Rhythm

The harmonic lines in Elton’s songs, that is the pattern of shifting chords, generally have a good amount of movement and can be complex by pop and rock standards. We’re not comparing Elton’s harmonies to those found in jazz, contemporary classical, or abstract idioms, but to pop. As a pianist, a lot of times I find his harmonies to be naturally idiosyncratic to the piano. By its very architecture (the pattern of black notes and white notes), the piano has a natural harmonic palette that is different than, for instance, guitar-oriented music.

Riffs and hooks are crucial to the pop and rock idiom. They are the defining flourish of a song. A mediocre hook can diminish a great song. A great hook can elevate a mediocre song. There maybe no other 20th century songwriter who has created as many great opening riffs as Elton John has. But besides these great intros, Elton’s playing style is dominated by lots of little riffs. These little riffs incorporate passing tones and suspensions, creating harmonic interest.

I by no means have a good understanding of what goes into great melodies, but I do know that Elton John creates great melodies. He is able to craft melodies with all types of lyrics that range from dense to ever so brief. He’s not beholden to a 4 or 8-bar structure. He is only monotone when it’s by design. His songs build to melodic climaxes. He is capable of evoking all different sorts of emotions. His songs are memorable, distinctive and singable.

And finally there is the rhythmic element. Elton’s trademark playing style centers on 4 or 5 standard rhythmic patterns that he employs in his playing. Your Song introduced what I tend to call the "default" Elton John style. Figure 1 illustrates this pattern which involves the extensive use of rhythmic anticipation, i.e. hitting the chord on the upbeat before the downbeat and then holding it through the downbeat. You will find it in many dozens of his songs.

Other artists, Billy Joel for instance, work hard at not locking into a set approach to their piano accompaniment. But for Elton, he has consciously chosen to define himself and his music by repeating this stylistic approach. Mind you, he didn't invent this style, he just made it his signature style.


By putting the song in the key of Eb, Your Song stood out from much of what was heard on the radio in 1970. Remember, this was the era of the sensitive guitarist / songwriter (James Taylor, Cat Stevens, etc.). There are no guitar songs in Eb. The key of Eb belongs to Elton.

But there is another reason for Eb. It’s also a very comfortable key for a pianist. Any key that includes 2 or 3 black notes matches up very well anatomically with the human hand. The pianist can keep their littlest digits, the thumb and 5th finger, on white keys and keep their longer fingers on black keys. It’s a much more natural feeling than the key of C, which uses all white notes, and which forces you to contort the hand a little more.

This approach to hand placement also governs the chord inversions that Elton uses. He almost invariably grabs the chord inversion that places his 5th finger or his thumb on a white key. This serves as an anchor while the other fingers arpeggiate notes from the chord. This creates that characteristic sound.

The time signature of the song can be a little confusing to figure out. The song definitely has an 8th note pulse to it, which leads one to believe that a 4/8 or 8/8 time signature is called for. That really doesn’t work though with the relaxed ballad feel of the song, so you end up going back to the standard 4/4 timing.


O.K. let’s start with the intro. Elton’s hit songs generally start with a RIFF FROM GOD. I am not a religious person mind you, but Elton is tapped into a higher power. No one and I mean no one has written so many instantly memorable opening lines. You can tell you’re listening to an Elton song within a bar, I mean within about 2 seconds. It’s uncanny. Here’s the classic intro to Your Song as performed on the 1976 album Here and There and in particular, the Riff from God.

The harmony of the intro relies on the use of what's called a pedal point. The Eb is held in the bass while the chords shift from I to IV to V to IV. This establishes harmonic motion while still keeping the listener locked into the tonic. The Bb / Eb chord (called a slash chord) in particular resonates somewhat like an EbM9, but the motion of the chords says that it’s not, it’s a Bb.

An interesting aspect of this intro: You can play almost any notes from the chord and it still sounds like Your Song. It’s the rhythm, that Elton John default rhythm style, and that pedal point harmony. They completely define the intro. Go ahead try it!


The verse begins with a restatement of the intro, but this time without the pedal point. Elton moves through Eb, then Ab (with the added major 7th) and then Bb, just as he does in the intro. But the Bb chord has a D-bass, signaling that he intends to diverge from the intro at this point. D is the dominant of G, and he uses that to take us to the Gm7 chord, the relative minor of Bb. Of course the three upper notes of the Gm7 chord are the Bb major chord.

This sets us up for a long diatonic linear progression starting from Cm. Elton holds the Cm chord while the bass descends through Bb and A. This is a well-known tension building progression that resolves nicely into AbM7. The top three notes of the AbM7 are the Cm chord.

He continues with scale tone movement in the bass, letting the chord harmony follow the bass. The most notable chord in this series is the G7/B, which is a chromatic step up from Bb. G7 is the natural dominant chord for Cm, the relative minor of Eb. From this point, Elton jumps right back into Eb, where he walks up to the suspended Bb turnaround riff that takes us to another verse.

The structure of the verse (based on 4/4 time) is 8 bars with a 2-beat added tag. I was not certain where to place those two extra beats, they flow so seamlessly. I finally decided to put them in the 7th bar of the verse, isolating the 8th bar since it operates as a turnaround.

Elton’s playing has always fascinated me. Part of it has to do with how rich his sound is. The piano players from the 50s (Jerry Lee, Fats Domino, Little Richard) and the 60s (Brian Wilson, Paul Revere) pretty much just played their chords straight. If the song called for a C chord, they played a C chord - period. By contrast, Elton incorporates passing tones and suspensions into little riffs, continuously adding color and harmonic interest.

Mostly he uses the added 9th (or 2nd if you prefer) or the 4th of the chord, resolving them most of the time to the 3rd. These are called respectively a 9-to-3 or 4-to-3 resolution riff. He’ll place them on an accented beat to highlight them before resolving. Elton’s got a million variations of these little riffs and he’s able to interchange them on the fly.

As you all know, I don’t spend much time considering the lyrics of Bernie Taupin. But Elton’s best songs always have lyrics that really touch a lot of people on a personal level. At their best, they create an emotion, a feeling, or an attitude that pulls people into another place from where they are. It’s like being taken on a ride, a spiritual ride, in which you and others connect in this new place that the lyrics describe. Elton is the medium who transports you there.

Your Song has that magic. Its words spin a gentle, heartfelt, and honest tale of a working class guy who ponders the various ways that he might express his love. Ultimately he knows that his gift is for creating songs. He offers up his song in a humble, sort of shy and nervous way. "I hope you don’t mind." "You can tell everybody this is your song."


The chorus starts off with a Bb/D, a nice strong move away from the Eb center of the verse. Throughout the song, Elton uses these slash chords. I think this just shows what a developed sense of harmony Elton had, even at fairly early stage. The slash chords accomplish two things. First of all, they’re not as stable as a root chord. They beg for movement to somewhere else. Second of all, they create a horizontal line that’s much smoother than one that jumps around. It’s part of the richness that Elton injects into his piano work.

In this version of Your Song, Elton uses an Eb bass under the Cm chord. I’m not sure how often he does this versus going down to the C bass. I've heard it both ways.

In the middle of the chorus he does a nice little run that I’ve called an Fm6/Ab. The notes are C-D-F-Ab. It has a diminished sound to it and I could have called this chord a D half-diminished 7th or Dø7. The half-diminished refers to the fact that the 7th interval (C) is a minor 7th up from D rather than a diminished 7th interval. I don’t which one is more correct. How about an Ab13b5? Do you like that better? Anyway, it’s really kind of a jazz move don’t you think?

Elton ends the chorus with a I-IV-ii-V progression.


Elton is exacting and VERY disciplined in his playing. For the beginning pianist, it is important to strive for a real precision both rhythmically and dynamically. For the more advanced pianist, there is a subtle looseness within the context of his precision that adds some real snap and pop to his playing.

For the Beginning Pianist:

  • When playing a chord, all notes must sound at precisely the same time. It’s easy to strike a black note a little earlier than a white note, or if your hand is not in position, to come in a little late with the thumb or 5th finger. DON’T DO THAT! It’s a 2-step process. Set your hand and fingers in position, hand centered over the chord, then strike downward on the notes all at the same time. With a little concentration and practice, you’ll do this automatically in a continuous smooth motion.
  • Elton’s sixteenth-note rhythm is precise like clockwork. Set your metronome to the eighth note’s speed and work at it.
  • Elton’s dynamics are also very uniform. Just like with a scale, each sixteenth note should be as loud as the one before or the one after it. Especially if you’re playing a chord, you don’t want it to overwhelm the single notes in between. Because it has two or more notes, a chord automatically has more presence than a single note. I have to consciously play the chords a little softer to get the right balance. Work on this aspect first. Accents can be added later.
  • The left hand has kind of a bouncy rhythm that must be seamlessly integrated with the right hand. Don’t pound the low note, stroke it. The upper note must blend in with the right hand notes.
  • DO NOT over pedal Elton. Yes he uses it. But he also plays with a very legato style. He holds anchor notes of the chord. Look at the voicings in my transcripts. He overlaps the individual notes. Play legato more and play the pedal less.

For the Advanced Pianist:

  • There’s a slight roll to Elton’s chords. This is a very subtle roll, not like an arpeggio movement. If the chord uses his thumb, he rolls down towards his thumb. The thumb comes in just a tick later and usually louder than the other notes in the chord. If there’s no thumb, he’ll roll upwards towards the fifth finger.
  • Contrary to the advice I give the beginning pianist, Elton doesn’t play like a robot. There are plenty of slight hesitations and anticipations in his playing at the individual 8th and 16th note level. It gives his playing feel. Generally speaking though, his tempo is rock solid.
  • When Elton accents a note or chord, it’s often pretty exaggerated, at least by classical standards. You'll hear these notes popping out at you and interplaying with the melody line.
  • Elton almost always works around a 4-note chord. Always position your hand over 4 notes. Even if he only plays 3, he will work in the 4th note with his broken arpeggio accompaniment style.


There it is - the granddaddy of all Elton's hit songs. I hope this analysis has given you further insight into how Elton makes it happen.