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Chord Structure
9 February 2012
5.39am
Rat Salad
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Just started playing guitar again. Strictly rhythm. To get going, I've looked up chords for Beatles songs. I learned a handful and was pleased. Then I looked up chords for songs by other musicians or groups -- songs I've like and thought were good. Stones, Duran Duran, Jethro Tull, other oldies.  I learned some of them.

This seemed to give me some insight into Beatles song writing because, when learning and playing a Beatles song, I felt an exuberance, and always some surprise. The "right" chords (if there are any) weren't what I expected, and they wandered all over the place in a very pleasing and playful way. I marveled that 17 or 18-year old guys could come up with this. They are intricate with the melody and seem quite sophisticated in a pop way.

Most surprising was that their early stuff was complicated. "Love Me Do" is not, but many of the others are a bit of challenge to play since they progressions aren't obvious (not to me). By comparison, I can play almost any Cream song or Rolling Stones song just by listening to the record. I can't really seem to do that with Beatles. Bm here, C# or F# there, I never know what's coming up to make it right.

It's maybe a glimpse into their mind, and I think it's a glimpse into McCartney's mind. I think (or feel) that this exuberance, this fearlessness and mastery is not Lennon's. You "hear" things like, Paul's songs were "vertical" while John's were more horizontal, and that seems often true when examining melodies. But play the chords, and you see how adventuresome McCartney was, how novel, unexpected, wonderful. Most Johns songs, nice as they may be, are not really interesting to play.

10 February 2012
11.11pm
GniknuS
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Well, I feel like this is the same as the other post, but Paul's songs are more interesting, but John's are certainly very interesting as well. Go play I Am The Walrus, it has one of the most interesting chord progressions ever. No offense but I sincerely doubt that you have figured out most Stones and Cream songs just by listening especially if you have just started playing. It takes time to be able to identify a chord just by listening to it. You should learn keys because that's how you can figure songs out, as great as Paul is he doesn't completely deviate from whatever key he's in because it wouldn't sound right. He and John both are masters of that one chord strategically placed that's outside of the key that completely makes the song.

But I'll gush about Paul because he's fantastic, there's no other word for it. Penny Lane is one of the most intricately structured songs of all time. If you really want to get into Paul, check out his bass lines and then compare him to almost anyone else. How he gets away with some of those riffs and still makes it cool is really due to the Hofner sound and also his innovative approach. Very rarely did Paul just sort of give it half of an effort.

There are many different ways to look at music, Paul's stuff is more complicated than John's or someone like Neil Young's, but that doesn't make Paul "better" than those two. There's a reason why the "obvious" chords are used in so many songs and that's because they evoke the most powerful emotions. John and Neil are two examples of musicians who are better than Paul at evoking those most powerful chords, go look at Paul's two most famous or powerful songs, Let it Be and Hey Jude. Both songs feature very strong major chord usage and strategic minor chord placement.

John's songs are very interesting to play though so again I will recommend getting a real Beatles chord book so you can actually see this. I don't really appreciate the slights at John, especially if you are just saying these things rather than actually knowing what you're talking about.

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25 February 2012
5.17am
Rat Salad
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You are correct. I get in my moods and battle my past prejudices while nursing my new ones.  I should not praise Paul and diss John for several good reasons, some of which you pointed out.  

I'm not new to guitar (just to actually playing it after some years) or music and have played many instruments in bands and orchestras, sang in classical vocal groups, etc. I just don't pick out the "right" chords very well from listening, as you correctly point out as being hard to do.  I can approximate them, but they are seldom just right. I greatly respect those who can. So, I look them up and am pleased to be able to play chords (at least someone's better opinion of the chords) that sound much better than what I can pick out.  My favorite Beatles songs, emotionally, tend to be George's, then John's, as far as I can discern the authorship. I find those I think are Paul's to be simply more adroit, more staged, more Vaudeville, more Broadway, more musical, more timeless, touching on more emotions, less introverted and less rooted in time, and more likely to last -- but we've been through that, and I'm sure we can continue to disagree. 

So, I'm drawn to George and John songs first, but I admire Paul songs more. If that makes sense.

While "I Am The Walrus" is certainly interesting, "She Loves You" is perhaps more interesting and quite surprising. But given when it was conceived, who knows who really wrote which parts, contributed this and that?  Those were probably truly Lennon-McCartney, or McCartney-Lennon, compositions.  

Of course, I will agree with you and disagree with myself. I naturally prefer rather basic and emotional chord progressions as you mention in your next-to-last paragraph. If I'm not mistaken, The Stones' "Gimme Shelter" is literally only three chords, but they evoke in me a powerful and mesmerizing emotion. I think "Sympathy for the Devil" has only four chords, and they did wonders with it! No Stones song has an interesting melody, but I like the music for the emotional quality.

My favorite band has always been The Who, and I can usually pick out exactly what they're playing although I can't really play it (I can't be Townsend). I think "Tommy" is an album hugely unrecognized for its many good qualities), and "Live at Leeds" is simply the best album in the world! And nothing about it is adroit, pleasant, melodious, intricate, interesting, or tuneful. 

25 February 2012
11.21pm
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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That's a thought-provoking post.

It's true that sometimes the simplest songs are the most effective.

Even within the Beatle cannon, a song like "Eleanor Rigby"  basically has only has 2 chords.

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
26 February 2012
6.51pm
McLennonSon
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Rishikesh
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A bit off-topic, but;


Rat Salad said

If I'm not mistaken, The Stones' "Gimme Shelter" is literally only three chords, but they evoke in me a powerful and mesmerizing emotion. 

Actually there are 6 chords if count with the suspended ones too.

And back on topic.

 

Analyzing the chord structure is one of my favorite things to do, but analyzing all the melodies is hell of a job. I just recently got the book "The Beatles Complete Scores" where you can look all the correct melodies in the bass, additional drum fills and more, which tends to be an fine book for me. 

 

The chord structure on "All I've Got To Do" is one of the most underrated songs you could analyze. Starting on the mystical chord E+ leading to the chord C#m and back to E is imo very Beach Boys-ish with a happy-sad song.

 

The chord structures the Beatles collected from their "musical library" made them into geniuses, no doubt.

My Music Blog. One and one don't make two One and one make one.
26 February 2012
9.36pm
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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Playing an instrument lets you appreciate the Beatles on a whole other level…

Love the chord progression on "If I Fell"

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
10 March 2012
12.30am
Rat Salad
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Actually there are 6 chords if count with the suspended ones too.

Analyzing the chord structure is one of my favorite things to do, but analyzing all the melodies is hell of a job. I just recently got the book "The Beatles Complete Scores" where you can look all the correct melodies in the bass, additional drum fills and more, which tends to be an fine book for me.  

The chord structure on "All I've Got To Do" is one of the most underrated songs you could analyze. Starting on the mystical chord E+ leading to the chord C#m and back to E is imo very Beach Boys-ish with a happy-sad song. 

The chord structures the Beatles collected from their "musical library" made them into geniuses, no doubt.

 

I don't count suspended, augmented, 7th, dropped-3rd, etc. Too lazy. Can't hear them anyway. I looked up E+ and can't play it in a way that makes any sense.  E to C#m is drop of a third, yes? And major to minor. 

"She Loves You." Whatever the chords, "You think you lost your love" ends in a minor (sad). "I saw her yesterday" ends in a major (happy). Repeated -- She's thinking of you (sad), and she has a message (happy). Sad-Uplift, sad-uplift. SHE SAID SHE LOVES YOU--big major. "And you know that can't be bad" in a minor, like, the dude needs convincing, there's some question about this?  It's a question, not a statement. And so on. It's almost funny. 

The song is so up-and-down and funny, the only logical sequel is "You're Going To Lose That Girl" where the narrator becomes more honest as he discovers divulges his real interest in this girl and the lack of interest on the part of recipient ("you" again, in both songs). In "She Love You," he's trying to be a friend but testing the waters (how sincere is the listener, is "you"). In "You're Gonna Lose that Girl," he's making his move. Same chick, same situation. One more chance, dude.

3 April 2012
11.14am
Ben Ramon
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Rat Salad said

It's maybe a glimpse into their mind, and I think it's a glimpse into McCartney's mind. I think (or feel) that this exuberance, this fearlessness and mastery is not Lennon's. You "hear" things like, Paul's songs were "vertical" while John's were more horizontal, and that seems often true when examining melodies. But play the chords, and you see how adventuresome McCartney was, how novel, unexpected, wonderful. Most Johns songs, nice as they may be, are not really interesting to play.

I don't think this is necessarily true- Julia in particular has always caught my attention as a John song with a relatively complex and very beautiful chord progression (probably because it was written in India when he was improving as a guitarist). Nowhere Man too takes my fancy, with the initial use of A which then in the next line becomes A minor, putting a nice little dark twist in the melody. McCartney's chord-sequence masterstroke for me though is Penny Lane, which compliments the lyrics wonderfully, you get this happy painting of a sunny place on the B chord with the descending bassline and then suddenly CRASH! this B minor chord, half the instruments seem to drop out and existential gloom seeps into the portrait of the townsfolk with "and all the people that come and go…" and then back to the cheery major again on "stop and say hello." Genius.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
4 April 2012
3.57am
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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Ben Ramon said, "McCartney's chord-sequence masterstroke for me though is Penny Lane"

 

I get the sense that many, if not most, people on this forum think relatively poorly of "Penny Lane."

But I agree with Ben Ramon. I never noticed the chord structure but the imagery and melody have always been enough to put this song among my favorites.

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
4 April 2012
1.02pm
Ben Ramon
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I can understand people thinking poorly of Penny Lane but if you ask me it's a definitive baroque-pop classic, lovely instrumentation and a very good case of ammunition against people who think Macca is a poor lyricist or cannot marry music and words in an effective way.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
4 April 2012
5.19pm
McLennonSon
In the middle of the roundabout
Rishikesh
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Rat Salad said;

 

 

Actually there are 6 chords if count with the suspended ones too.

Analyzing the chord structure is one of my favorite things to do, but analyzing all the melodies is hell of a job. I just recently got the book "The Beatles Complete Scores" where you can look all the correct melodies in the bass, additional drum fills and more, which tends to be an fine book for me.  

The chord structure on "All I've Got To Do" is one of the most underrated songs you could analyze. Starting on the mystical chord E+ leading to the chord C#m and back to E is imo very Beach Boys-ish with a happy-sad song. 

The chord structures the Beatles collected from their "musical library" made them into geniuses, no doubt.

I don't count suspended, augmented, 7th, dropped-3rd, etc. Too lazy. Can't hear them anyway. I looked up E+ and can't play it in a way that makes any sense.  E to C#m is drop of a third, yes? And major to minor. 

E+ is the same chord like an augmented chord. a-hard-days-night-john-5a-hard-days-night-john-5a-hard-days-night-john-5

My Music Blog. One and one don't make two One and one make one.
4 April 2012
10.40pm
meanmistermustard
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paulsbass said

I get the sense that many, if not most, people on this forum think relatively poorly of "Penny Lane."

Interesting. How did you get that sense??

And how and why would anyone think poorly of this song?!

Possibly from me for one. Never got the love-in the song gets, its nice to listen to but stirs up little emotion or anything in me. One of the songs in the 'good track but there is far better aka ho hum' category.

When i listened to the MMT album (which now does not occur since i cut it up in my itunes library) it was the song i had to hear to get from Strawberry Fields to Baby Youre A Rich Man. Now its the song that is generally overlooked like Hello, Goodbye or With A Little Help. Still nowhere as dreadful and spine shivering brace yourself for the awfulness that is Hold Me Tight tho.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
4 April 2012
11.16pm
Ben Ramon
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paulsbass said:

And since this thread is about chords, first masterstroke is the change from A to Aminor (original might be in Bb, I just play it in A), and then following chords which are basically Am with F# and then F and then E4 – E

It's originally in B, but I totally agree with you about the brilliance of the chord progression.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
5 April 2012
9.20am
Ben Ramon
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paulsbass said

meanmistermustard said
Still nowhere as dreadful and spine shivering brace yourself for the awfulness that is Hold Me Tight tho.

How gracious. If there's anything "dreadful" about PL for you, may it be, to each his own.

But why do you name one of the most elaborate, most acclaimed and most successful songs from their creative and commercial peak along with one of the weakest tracks from one of their earliest and weakest albums??

I have no problems with other people having different opinions, but I don't get all of yours…

Thankfully, I don't have to!

 It was a positive comparison- I believe he was saying that while he doesn't like Penny Lane much, it's a lot better than Hold Me Tight, which is a fair opinion to hold. Personally I've never had a problem with Hold Me Tight but I think we'd all agree Penny Lane is a better song! a-hard-days-night-george-9

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
5 April 2012
12.37pm
meanmistermustard
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Its fine for folks to love Penny Lane ive just never got it and i was actually comparing PL with Hello, Goodbye and With a Little Help, which are incidently from the same time period (not that that was deliberate in any way shape or form), in that i find it ok just nothing spectacular.

Maybe its a family thing as none of my family are big fans of PL either.

And incidently i prefer Love Me Do to She's Leaving Home tho i appreciate SLH far more after hearing the multitracks. John and Paul's vocals are lush fitting together wonderfully and the string score is not as clingly and overly sickly as i once believed.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
9 April 2012
7.13am
Rat Salad
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I don't prefer McCartney songs, as songs, at least not the latter ones. I prefer the Lennon and Harrison ones. As arrangements, they are less adventurous but more introspective, moody, angry. But Paul's are more amibitious, more Broadway, more polished, more likely to last, and apparently more copied and appreciated by other performers. They flatter the audience and produce a better show.

As chords, I can anticipate Lennon's and Harrison's. Not Pauls, but I'm no expert. Penny Lane, while not very intersting to me emotionally, is certainly a good and unexpected piece of writing.

15 January 2013
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rcsnydley
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A great book to check out if you'd like to know about the chords the Beatles used in their writing. 

The Song Writing Secrets of The Beatles by Dominic Pedler

16 January 2013
4.20am
Funny Paper
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As far as innovation and complexity with chord progressions, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder blow John and Paul utterly out of the water.

Just sayin'.

 

 

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16 January 2013
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Into the Sky with Diamonds
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Stevie Wonder I completely see.

What would be some James Taylor examples?

 

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16 January 2013
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Into the Sky with Diamonds said
Stevie Wonder I completely see.

What would be some James Taylor examples?

 

just a few examples:

Chanson Francaise:

E6 – A9 – G#m7 – C#9 – G#m7 – C#m7 – F#m9

D9 – E6 – F#m7 – A/B – E6 – A9 – G#m7 – (repeat rest of above)

B(add C#) – F#m9 – Baug – E (add F#) – E6 – Am7 – D9

G#aug – G#7 – C#m – G#7aug5 – C#m – F#9 – A(add B) – D9 – E6, etc.

 

Only a Dream in Rio

D(add E) – E/G# – A – B – A/C# – D(add E) -

F#m7 – B – E/G# – A

(repeat to A, then)

A#aug7 – Bm7 – Em9 – Gma7 – (this repeats, then)

E/G# – A – F#/A# – B – F#/A# – B – B#7aug – C#m7 – D(add E) – B/D# – E – C#/E# – F#m7 – Ama7 – Bsus

 

Love Songs

Ama7 – D – D/E – Ama7 – D – Gma7 – Cma7 – F/G – Cma7 – Bm7 – E7sus – E7 – (then)

Cma7 – Bm7 – E9 – A7 – D7 – G7sus – G7 – C7 – F7 – Bbma7 – Bm7 – C(add D) – A – D – D/E Ama7 – D – Gma7 – Cma7 -

(then a cool ending sequence) – F/G – D/E – Ama9 – Esus (riff back to F/G; repeats and fades out)

 

Secret O' Life:

A9 – E7sus – A9 -Bm7 – E7 – Em9 – A7 – D6 – C#m7 – F#9 – C#m9 – F#7aug5 – Bm7 – D/E – E/F# – Bm7 – E7aug5 – A9 – Em7 – A7 – D6 (etc)

[that F#9 chord is barred and the little finger has to stretch way up the neck to press down on the 9th note (G#) -- JT told the story of how he was drunk with Jimmy Buffett one day and he tried to chop a coconut with a machete and cut his hand and for many months he could not play that chord any longer...]

 

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
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