Kingdom Hearts III “Dearly Beloved”

Hello friends! I have returned briefly as Whimsy Tee to bring you another analysis of a piece of music from the game that started it all… Kingdom Hearts! My boyfriend and I picked up a copy of Kingdom Hearts 3, the FINAL CHAPTER (…or is it!?) of the 17-year-old series.

“Dearly Beloved” has been the starting menu music throughout the entire Kingdom Hearts series, with tons of beautiful variations. Yoko Shimomura is the original composer for the piece, and she has even stated in interviews that it is her favorite composition. Oh yeah! I love when a composer can pinpoint a specific favorite piece they’ve written. For me I’d have to say thus far, “The Path” is my favorite of all of my compositions!

As always, let’s first listen to this beautiful piece, the version that plays in Kingdom Hearts 3:

Ahhhhh that gorgeous melting transformation at 0:50, and another unexpected twist at 1:02… Let’s talk about what exactly is happening there!

“Dearly Beloved” in all of its variations, has been almost entirely in the key of Eb major (coincidentally my favorite key) (or maybe it is not coincidental at all!). The key of Eb major has 3 flats (Bb, Eb, and Ab):

Photo 01 - Eb Major scale:key sig.jpg

In some variations however, it sometimes does some picardy-third magic and transforms the second phrase’s C minor chord (C-Eb-G) to major instead (C-E-G).

Photo 02 - C minor-> C major.jpg

The chord progression of this dearly beloved piece is very, very simple. Using just the one chord, four chord, five chord, and minor six chord, this majestic piece is so easy to figure out and play on an instrument!

Photo 03 - Chord prog in Eb.jpg

Those four chords are the same four that tons of pop songs use, yet the order of the chords is what makes it sound so different. Here’s the chord progression for “Dearly Beloved”, in Eb major:

Photo 04 - chord prog how it is in the piece.jpg

…And that’s LITERALLY IT. And it repeats forever and ever and ever!!

In the Kingdom Hearts 3 version, we have the same starting pitch as the original, which is C natural. However, the key is C major (C-E-G harmony is implied). The starting notes in the melody fit with the key of C, with no flats (Eb, Bb, or Ab), and the rhythms are slightly different. The chords are also different, since we’re in the key of C major.

Photo 05 - C Major scale.jpg

Sometimes composers use a special kind of chord progression in major keys, often at the end of piece (though not always), that uses the flat-six major chord, flat-seven major chord, then resolves to the tonic/major one chord. These three chords are each one whole step apart. In the key of C, scale degree six is A (counting up from C: C, D, E, F, G, A), and scale degree seven is B.

Photo 06 - C Major scale with scale degrees.jpg

So the flat-six is Ab Major, and the flat-seven is Bb Major.

Photo 07 - Flat-six, flat-seven in C Major.jpg

The melting transformation you hear at 0:50 is the chord progression of Ab—Bb, which feels like a bVI—bVII in C Major. Usually in a major key, when the bVI/flat-six—bVII/flat-seven chord progression is used, it is usually resolved on the tonic/I chord (chords Ab-Bb-C).

However, these two chords should look familiar! The flat-six (Ab Major) and flat-seven (Bb Major) in the key of C Major are actually the SAME as the IV (Ab Major) and V (Bb Major) in Eb Major

So instead of resolving to C Major, it goes back to Eb Major (the unexpected twist at 1:02), which is how the original piece begins! We’ve suddenly, seamlessly, returned to the original key! What genius!! ♪

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