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Odd time signatures
4 October 2010
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PeterWeatherby said:

I finally looked it up because it was driving me crazy: the bridge from "Here Comes The Sun" alternates between 3/8, 5/8, and 4/4.  It's messy.  But it sounds GREAT!

Incidentally, do any of you other musician-types own that gigantic book of Beatles' music called The Complete Scores?  It has musical notation for all of the instrumentation, guitars, bass, drums, horns, strings, whatever.  It's a decent book, even if it does have a few misprints (in both the lyrics and the music); it's hilarious to me to read the "score" for Revolution 9.  Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that transcribing session ... ("Seriously, Olaf, do we have to include this?  I mean, it's not even really a song, is it?"  "Hush, Sven, I'm trying to decide if this ambulance siren should be notated in the key of E-flat, or in F-sharp with accidentals.")


*laughs!*  I thought the same thing: who drew the short straw to transcribe that beast!  You know, one of those "Who's out of the room?  Let's give it to them...."blue-meanie
4 October 2010
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Also--on the Anthology, you can hear John gamely try to play an early version of I'll Be Back in 3/4 time.....*laughs!*

a-hard-days-night-john-1

4 October 2010
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Dear Prudence said:

I cant read music.


From most accounts I read, the Beatles couldn't read music very well--if at all--either, so you're in good company. *smiles!*  Plus, The Beatles Scores have the guitar parts in tablature (no notes, but instead indications of what string/fret to press down on) so you can at least noodle around with them on guitar....
4 October 2010
10.04pm
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EyesofBlue said:

Dear Prudence said:

I cant read music.


From most accounts I read, the Beatles couldn't read music very well--if at all--either, so you're in good company. *smiles!*  Plus, The Beatles Scores have the guitar parts in tablature (no notes, but instead indications of what string/fret to press down on) so you can at least noodle around with them on guitar....

I think like the way they write music.
Dear Prudence Giving you quality -Facepalms- , since August 7, 2010.
17 March 2011
11.42pm
deboraht
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McLerristarr said:

All You Need Is Love has time signatures of 7/4, 4/4 and 6/4.  Apparently it was the first (and one of only two) songs with a 7/4 time signature to reach the top 20 in the USA.

I thought it was 7/8 I have never heard of 7/4

23 March 2011
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In simple terms, the 4 refers to crotchets, the 8 to quavers. So, 7/4 would be seven crotchets in a bar, 7/8 would be seven quavers in a bar. In the case of AYNIL, 7/4 is correct.

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24 July 2011
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Joe said:

I was flying back to the UK from Berlin last night and began singing Two Of Us to myself ("We're on our way home, we're going home"), and started thinking about the unusual time signature changes in the song. Most of it's in 4/4, but with the odd bar of 2/4 and 3/4 dropped in. For example:

  • when they sing "someone's", "arriving", "letters", "latches" etc, it's a bar of 2/4.
  • The "We're on our way home" section is mostly in 3/4, but has a 2/4 bar for "we're going home".

I've had the same problem... I thought it was 4/4 all along...

My Music Blog. One and one don't make two One and one make one.
28 October 2011
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In the "Living in the Material World" documentary, Ringo talks about the  "7 beats" or something to that effect in "Here Comes The Sun."

I wish I had a fuller understanding of these things (thanks Joe for the explanations) to fully appreciate.

Do you think the Beatles were conscious of the time changes?

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28 October 2011
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CranberrySauce
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Well, 'Norwegian Wood' taught me what waltz time was (3/4). That's a pretty famous example, though. 

I'm like Dear Prudence, I can't read music!

Because the wind is high, it blows my mind.
29 October 2011
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I think George was certainly conscious of the changes, as he'd studied Indian music with Ravi Shankar. That's why Here Comes The Sun is so interesting in its rhythms. I'd imagine McCartney was also aware of the rules and how to break them, but Lennon less so.

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9 May 2012
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Ben Ramon
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I remember reading somewhere that George made so much of the "sun, sun, sun here it comes" bit in the middle of Here Comes The Sun because he was aware of the complexity of the timing and how good it sounded, might have been a speculation by Alan Pollack in his musicology notes on the Beatles' songs.

paulsbass said
 But I see how some people find that interesting, so if anyone feels up to it or/and owns the score, bring up the HIAWG time changes!

Happiness Is A Warm Gun starts in a simple 4/4, then cuts itself off half a bar early to drop into the EVIL RIFF and "I need a fix" bit which is in 3/4. Then the "mother superior jumped the gun" would appear to be in 3/4, but every other instance of the repeated line the last bar comprises 4 beats. If you count along to it, it goes 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 on the first, third and fifth times but then alternates to 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3-4 on the second, fourth and sixth times. Then the doo-wop bit is in 4/4 but shifts to 3/4 on the "when I hold you" to marvelous musical effect in my opinion. Ringo, however, seems to stay in 4/4 which adds a very strange staggered feel to the rhythm. It moves back to 4/4 again for the last bit of the song but ends somehow on the first beat of the bar? Always been confused by this bit to be honest... but that's what I hear.

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9 May 2012
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I mentioned Happiness and Good Morning in the very first post.

Someone posted this in the comments section of the HIAWG song page. I've not checked it but presume it's about right.

 She's not a girl who misses much... (0:00-0:14):

o 4 bars of 4/4.

* She's well acquainted with the velvet touch... (0:14-0:45):

o 1 bar of 4/4

o 1 bar of 2/4

o 5 bars of 4/4

o 1 bar of 5/4

o 1 bar of 4/4.

* I need a fix cos I'm goin' down... (0:45-1:13):

o twice through a 3 bars/4 bars/4 bars series of 3/8 (i.e. 22 bars of 3/8).

* Mother superior, jump the gun... (1:13-1:35):

o thrice through a bar each of 9/8 and 10/8.

* Happiness Is A Warm Gun... (1:35-2:43):

o 4 bars of 4/4

o 3 bars of 12/8 (with the drums doing 4 bars of 4/4 and 1 bar of 2/4!)

o 5 bars of 4/4 (the final bar entering free time)

o 1 bar of 2/4 (in free time)

o 5 bars of 4/4

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6 June 2012
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Artie Fisk
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Well, there are odd time signatures and ODD time signatures.  Really, counting 7/4 isn't hard, because you don't count sevens.  You count a four and a three.  In All You Need Is Love, during the verses, you just count alternating fours and threes, with the fours first.  The weird thing about time signatures is when they change, at least for me.  AYNIL changes in the last part of the verse, and then again at the end of the chorus.  Those are the tricky bits, more than the 7/4 part. As in She Said, She Said, it's the transition that's hard, especially in a band situation.  Used to try to play that one with my old band, and it wasn't ever easy. 

 

In Good Morning, Good Morning, it's another story. The time changes from measure to measure in the verse, so that you can't really EVER count it, or at least I can't. I'm metrically deficient. Always have been.  I was a Music Theory and Comp major in college, before I switched to English, and was pretty good at analyzing harmony, but HOPELESS at meter and rhythm. I used to have to enlist my drummer to help me.   With GMGM, I just have to feel it, and hope I'm feeling it right.  I can't possibly ever count while I'm singing, and counting while I play only works in practice.  I used to work with a guy who'd been a percussionist with orchestras, and was a "time signature geek," as he used to put it. He, of course, said that GMGM was "Easy.  Interesting, actually.  But easy.  Be great for a marching band." After I got done shooting dirty looks at him, he explained it to me, and counted it, no sweat, the first time he heard it.  I still can't hear it properly, to be honest.  Wish I could.  Are there any percussionists or time signature geeks in here who can count it?

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7 June 2012
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Good questions, but as an amateur guitarist, I could never figure out how people figure out whether a song is in this or that meter (and why it matters).

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7 June 2012
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You figure it out by counting along to it and seeing how many counts are in each bar- for instance, the most common time signature is 4/4. For instance when Paul goes "1 2 3 4!" at the beginning of I Saw Her Standing There, you can count 1234 at that same pace throughout the whole song, 4 beats for each bar. Conversely, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is in 3/4, because you count 1 2 3 1 2 3 throughout it. Money by Pink Floyd is in 7/4, bit more unusual, you can count 7 throughout it.

As for why it matters? Well... it's how music works. Same as asking why string theory matters (although a little more simple).

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7 June 2012
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Ben Ramon, thanks.

I always got the "4" (as in 1 2 3 4) but I never understood the "/4" as in "3/4 time"

I guess it's just a notation and you can ignore the /4 part.

Thanks again.

I suppose I can now weigh in on the matter of the meter in "Happiness Is AWG"

(matter of the meter?)

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7 June 2012
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Ben Ramon
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Well the "/4" sometimes changes; basically the second number denotes what the value is of the note you are counting. All of the ones I mentioned above have 4 because they are crotchets (or quarter notes). If it was 6/8, for instance, you'd be counting quavers or eighth notes.

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10 June 2012
8.20pm
Artie Fisk
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Well, /4 indicates that a quarter note gets one beat, whereas /8 indicates that an eighth note gets one beat.  Sometimes, it's kind of arbitrary. 

 

For example, if you're counting in 3/4 time (3 beats to a measure, with a quarter note getting one beat), you would count it in three groups of two quavers with an accent on the first beat (ONE and two and three and) for each measure.  There are three distinct pulses in each measure. 

In 6/8 time (6 beats to the measure, an eighth note getting one beat), on the other hand, you'd be counting two sets of three quavers, with a strong accent on the first beat and a medial accent on the fourth (ONE two three, two two three).

 

A quaver is an eighth note, btw.

 

So, country waltzes are usually in 3/4, but jazz waltzes are usually 6/8.  For your ears, it's usually a matter of tempo and the accents. If you hear accents equally strong every three beats, and the tempo is medium to slow, it's usually 3/4.  If the accents alternate, strong with weaker, with a strong one every six beats, and the tempo is relatively fast, it's usually 6/8.  It's a matter of three groups of two versus two groups of three, if that makes any sense.

 

I don't think there are any Beatles songs in 6/8.  Could be wrong.  I grew up with the Milton Okun-arranged "Beatlemania" books of Beatles sheet music (and he really did a lousy job, in retrospect), but one thing he had correct, or so I now believe, was putting "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" in 12/8 time, which I never really understood until recently.  12/8 means that you're counting relatively fast threes, with a strong accent on every twelfth beat.  In that song, the strongest accents are on, in the first verse, the words "Here," "Turn," "If," and "Feeling," if that helps to clarify.  The other accents (on the words "stand," "head," "hand," and so on) are medial accents (less strong than the ones that occur every 12 beats.  How did he decide that? I guess by listening and then looking at the words that begin each clause or sentence, each syntactic unit.  Most of the rest of the time, though, Okun was a CHUMP, who changed keys arbitrarily (putting Eight Days A Week in Bb? REALLY?) and got some chords just plain WRONG. 

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10 June 2012
8.37pm
Artie Fisk
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Just looked at Alan Pollack's take on the time signature of Good Morning, Good Morning, and he seems right. He scans it thusly:

 

Each verse starts with a measure of 3, a measure of 4, and then a measure of 3.  So, while John is singing "Nothing to do to save his life, call his wife in," it's a total of 10 beats. 

The second line ("Nothing to say but 'What a day, how's your boy been?" and the little horn lick) is a measure of 3, a measure of 5, and a measure of 4. 11 beats total. 

The third line ("Nothing to do, it's up to you") is a measure of 5 and a measure of 4. 9 beats total.

The fourth line ("I've got nothing to say but 'It's OK, Good Morning, Good Morning.'") is two measures of 3 and two measures of 4.  14 beats total. 

So, if you want to think of it visually, in terms of time signature, it'd be:

|  3/4  |  4/4  |  3/4  |

|  3/4  |  5/4  |  4/4  |

|  5/4  |  4/4  |

|  3/4  |  3/4  |  4/4  |  4/4  |

 

It does, indeed, make sense if you listen and count it this way.  Things are more regular in the bridge, but the verse is so chaotic and random-seeming that it always throws me. 

 

Ultimately, I have to conclude that John just heard it this way in his head, and played it how he heard it.  I can't imagine him counting it like that.  Must have been really hard to teach to the band.  And it's such a great song.  You don't realize how interesting and complex it is until you try to play it or analyze it.  Lots of Beatles songs work that way.  And none of them could read music.  

 

I'm really glad that Alan Pollack did the work.  He's got some pretty goshdarn good ears. 

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10 June 2012
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Joe
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Yep, Pollack's articles are brilliant. I've thought about republishing them on this site - apparently it's OK to do so with a correct credit and back link (ie creative commons, though I don't think he used the term).

Isn't Oh! Darling in 6/8? What about the end of I Want You (SSH), Baby's In Black, Yes It Is, the final bit of MMT?

EDIT: Although George described it as a waltz, I always though I Me Mine was in 6/8. How about Long Long Long? I think that might actually be 3/4, on reflection. And I'm undecided about Yer Blues - that could be 4/4 with a swing beat, or perhaps 12/8.

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