1 November 2012
When, beginning about a year ago (about the time I joined Beatles Bible), I was getting back into Beatles songs after a fallow lull lasting literally decades, I first learned about "passing chords".
I would define "passing chords" as chords that are not "real" chords, used to transition between "real" chord changes.
Part of what makes a "passing chord" is that it may be fewer notes used: instead of a full-bodied six notes on a full guitar chord (or even up to 8 or 10 notes on a keyboard using all fingers), it may be only three notes. Another indication of a passing chord is that it is basically the same chord as the one preceding it (and/or the one following it), but will have a different bass note, or a note or two added or substituted -- thus G and Em share a lot in common and depending on the fingering one could go from G6 to Em with a G bass and they may sound subtly different but are essentially the same.
So more generally, a "passing chord" is a way of playing essentially the same thing, but making it sound like something different is happening. This avoids a more radical chord change where you don't want it.
The song that really woke me up about all this is "Hello, Goodbye". Lots of subtle use of passing chords at various junctures there.
The first part involves all "real" chord changes:
F6 C G7 Am
You say yes__ I say no_ You say stop and I say go go go
G7 Am G7 Am
Then the chorus goes through variations of G and C that are denoted as distinct
but are really passing chords, with of course real chords intermingled
(the F, the Ab, the Bb -- all quite novel chord changes):
G7 C/G G7 F/G C
You say goodbye and I say hel-lo
C/B Am7 Am7/G F Ab
hel-lo hel-lo I don't know why you say goodbye
C C/B Am7 Am7/G F
I say hello hel-lo hel-lo I don't know why you say
goodbye_ I say hello.
P.S.: Today, I finally figured out the bass descant near the end before the "Lay-La" coda:
basically it goes from the routine Ab to continue Ab, then steps down to G, Gb, F,
finally to a low E which I assume would be a C with an E bass.
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