The ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ opening chord

A Hard Day's Night single - United KingdomRecorded: 16 April 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 10 July 1964 (UK), 26 June 1964 (US)

George Harrison: Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar
John Lennon: Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: Hofner violin bass
Ringo Starr: snare drum, cymbal
George Martin: Steinway grand piano

The distinctive chord which opens A Hard Day's Night became one of the most iconic sounds in The Beatles' output. Instantly recognisable, it was the perfect beginning to the group's debut feature film.

A Hard Day's Night - A Hard Day's Night

We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

There have been a number of theories as to the identity of the chord. Over the years, suggestions have included the following:

  • A dominant 9th of F in the key of C
  • G-C-F-Bb-D-G
  • C-Bb-D-F-G-C in the key of C
  • A polytriad ii7/V in Ab major
  • G7sus4 (open position)
  • D7sus4 (open position)
  • G7 with added 9th and suspended 4th
  • A superimposition of Dm, F, and G
  • Gsus4/D
  • G11sus4
  • G7sus7/A
  • Dm11 with no 9th
  • Gm7add11
  • G9sus4/D

The chord was confirmed by George Harrison as an Fadd9 during an online chat on 15 February 2001:

Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for A Hard Day's Night?

A: It is F with a G on top (on the 12-string), but you'll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.

In the studio

A Hard Day's Night was recorded at EMI Studios in a session taking place from 7-10pm on 16 April 1964. It took The Beatles nine takes to record, just five of which were complete performances.

The backing track - 12-string electric rhythm guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums - was recorded onto track one of the four-track tape, and Lennon and McCartney's lead vocal were recorded live on track two. They added more vocals on three, along with percussion, more drums and acoustic guitar; and George Martin's piano and the jangling guitar that ended the song were on track four.

Track three of the four-track tape was filled with acoustic guitar, bongos played by Norman Smith, more vocals by Lennon and McCartney, and cowbell. The recording was finished with a solo, played by George Martin on piano and George Harrison on guitar, on track four, plus an extra bass guitar part after the solo, underneath the line "so why on earth should I moan".


Using audio spectrum analysis and close listening of the Love surround sound mix, the notes of the various instruments have been isolated to a high degree of probability.

The Fadd9 chord, as played by Harrison on his 12-string Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar, was as follows:

E ----3----
B ----1----
G ----2----
D ----3----
A ----o----
E ----1----

The Fadd9 on the electric 12-string guitar was crucial to the power of the chord, giving it a richness which would otherwise have been absent. The notes fretted on the top four strings were also used for the arpeggio at the end of the song, although this was recorded as an overdub on a different track of the tape.

As Harrison pointed out, his 12-string wasn't the only instrument to be heard during the chord. John Lennon also performed an Fadd9, using a Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic guitar.

Close listening reveals a cymbal and snare drum buried in the mix, and notes performed on the bass and piano.

Paul McCartney added a D note, played on the fifth fret of the A string on his Hofner violin bass. This note is an octave lower than an open D string on a six-string guitar, and had a crucial effect on the overall sound of the chord.

George Martin played a Steinway grand piano on A Hard Day's Night, and contributed to the opening chord. Computer analysis has suggested that Martin played five notes: D2, G2, D3, G3 and C4 (middle C is C4). Furthermore, the sustain pedal was held down, allowing further harmonics to emerge.

(Sincere thanks to Wayne Harrison)

Reproducing the chord

In 2011 Randy Bachman, formerly of Bachman Turner Overdrive, revealed that Giles Martin had played him the song's individual multitracks at Abbey Road Studios, and was able to demonstrate the guitar and bass parts.

Since the song's guitars had originally been grouped together on one track of the 1964 four-track tape, and Giles Martin was using Pro Tools at the time, it seems likely that the instruments had been separated by Martin during the creation of the 2006 Love album, to create the surround sound mix for the Cirque du Soleil production.

Bachman claimed that the chord was G7sus4, although he mistakenly identified Lennon's chord as a Dsus4. Crucially, he also failed to take into account the piano, which altered the nature of the chord. Adding a G on the bottom string is the easiest way to reproduce the sound without a piano, although it is not what The Beatles actually played.

Although all the instruments would be required for an accurate replication of the chord, the most commonly used version for a solo guitar is a G7sus4: a chord barred at the 3rd fret.

E ----3----
B ----3----
G ----5----
D ----3----
A ----5----
E ----3----

This lacks the crucial A note from Harrison's and Lennon's chords. This can be approximated by playing a G7sus4/A, again barred at the 3rd fret:

E ----3----
B ----3----
G ----5----
D ----3----
A ----5----
E ----5----

79 responses on “The ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ opening chord

      1. Darkhors3

        i agree, to be the fifth Beatle, at a minimum you must be adding to the music of the Beatles. It cannot be someone involved with management, promotion, gear, etc. For me that leaves Billy Preston and George Martin. I go for George. The Beatles would have always been a great band, they would have always been successful. BUT, to my mind, they would have sounded differently without George Martin.

    1. Mchael Isaac

      Hi folks, to get the essence of the chord quicky and easily play Am7/D
      Or guitar plays Am7 and the bass plays D. Is a straight lift from Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock and could also be written D9sus4.
      The sound on the beatles original is more complex due to the layering of muliple guitars but the sound is simply recreated by Am7/D.

        1. Michael Groetzinger

          Chad, I quite agree, the F note is indispensable. May I suggest this slight alteration? F- A- D- A- C- G// Of course this isn’t perfect, but I find the D at least hints at Paul’s D on the bass in the listener’s ear….so we at least have the important F, D, and the open strings give that jangly effect. It’s a mirage, but I think an effective one. Try it on and let me know what you think. One thing we all can agree on, No way did George play that shape that’s been suggested elsewhere, that being F- A- Bflat- A- C- G. That is a devilishly unlikely, not to mention ungainly, need 6 fingers to pull it off…Yes, the thumb could be called upon but it’s…just wrong.

        1. Mark Byrne

          I have to agree. Ringo’s drumming was crucial to The Beatles’ sound. His style was unique and his feel for tempo is unquestionable. As for George Martin, he was undoubtedly integral to the sound of all those songs we know and love still to this day.

  1. Randy Freed

    Randy Bachman (BTO & The Guess Who) was just on Breakfast w/ The Beatles (NY radio show) speaking of private tour of Abbey Rd given to him by Giles Martin. He asked to hear the individual tracks of the chord and said it was:
    George’s 12 string- F w/ hi AND LOW G notes (thumb over low E string)
    John- Dsus4!!!???
    Paul Bass- C!!!?
    Giles dad piano- G & C
    Fourier got nothin vs access to tracks. Someone should try to confirm.

    1. Joe Post author

      Interesting. Presumably these were the demixed files which were used for the surround sound mixes for the Love soundtrack.

      The original multitracks wouldn’t have enabled him to isolate more than the piano, acoustic guitar and possibly the drums, which were overdubbed later. All the rest were recorded onto the same track. I’m not sure what software they used to demix the songs for Love – I believe it was a variety. Fourier transform may well have figured somewhere down the line.

    2. Kevin

      If we take a good look at this problem, we see the following have not been discussed:

      1.) The chord played before and the chord played after the mystery chord in question will assist us in a proper analysis.

      2.) Since this is the first chord of the song, we need only look to the second chord of the song, which might be any of the diatonic chords in the key.

      Let’s look at what Giles revealed to Randy:
      1.) George’s 12 string- F w/ hi AND LOW G notes (thumb over low E string)
      This just gives us two “g” notes an octave apart

      2.) John- Dsus4
      A Dsus4 chord in root position is (1-4-5) or the noted DGA

      3.) Paul Bass- C
      We have to be careful here! If Paul’s note sounds below the chord, it will be the bass note and will change the entire relationship of the other notes. More on this in a moment

      4.) Giles dad piano- G & C
      Again, where are they placed in the over all register of the chord?

      First of all, let’s see what a general analysis would reveal by looking at all the notes at once, with out the repeats:


      Occam’s Razor dictates we choose the simplest answer. If we simply take these notes and analyze according to what we use as the “1” or bass note of the chord, we should get somewhere fast!

      Take the first version and move the bottom note to the top; repeat until you have the first chord one octave higher. These are called inversions and a 4-note chord will have:

      1st inv
      2nd inv
      3rd inv

      GDAC – Root
      DACG – 1st
      ACGD – 2nd
      CGDA – 3rd
      GDAC – Root (one octave higher)

      While these good be inversions of the same chord, because we are dealing in 4th, the inversion could actually CHANGE the chord structure.

      Let’s do a sidebar example before we continue:

      The notes DFAC are a D-7 chord; or 1-b3-5-b7
      The notes FACD are a completely different chord; an F6 chord; or 1-3-5-6

      And depending how the F6 is played and what chord comes before and after, we might just analyze is as a minor 7th!!!

      Ok, back to the Beatles.

      We will call the bottom note the “1” of the chord and go from there.

      GDAC Some kind of G chord? In that case we have 1-5-9-4 which we could name a Gsus4 (9)
      DACG Some kind of D chord? In that case we have 1-5-b 7-4 which we could call a D7sus4
      ACGD Some kind of A chord? In that case we have 1-b3-b7-11(or 4) which we would call a A-7(11)
      CGDA Some kind of C chord? In that case we have 1-5-9-6 which we might call a C6/9 chord

      The answer? The chord in question is D7sus4, and here’s why.

      The three other chords have complicated harmonic analyses. The Gsus(9) is ok, but the chord is missing it’s b7 and has the tension of a 9 in it. Typical usage would dictate we have all four notes of a 7th chord (in this case GCDF) before we add a tension. This chord has the tension of the 9 with no b7. Off with it’s head!!!

      A-7(11) is ok, but there is no 5th in the chord (E). The 5th is often dropped because unless you are dealing with a diminished or min7th(b5) chord, the 5th doesn’t DO much.

      However, if we listen to the chord, it’s pretty clear that there is no A in the bass. In fact, Giles shows Paul playing a C in the bass, so this chord is not the answer. Off with it’s head.

      The C6/9 chord is a chord that we all have seen before and of course it’s standard fair in jazz. But this particular version has no third degree (E) in it. The 3rd of the chord cannot be left out (unless you WANT vagueness) because the 3rd tells us whether the chord is major or minor. And even though Paul is playing a C, it does not force the chord into becoming some type of C chord. Off with its head.

      No, the answer is clearly D7sus4.

      Why? Two very strong reasons…

      1.) The analysis of 1-5-b 7-4 is absolutely typical and normal. If we did it in exact order, it would be written like this: 1-4-5-b7. Root, 4, 5, flat 7 with the 4 replacing the 3rd (G replaces F#).

      In other words, this analysis has no missing notes, no chords without 5ths and all the other aspects that make the other chords suspect.

      2.) Now, here is the killer reason. The second chord of the song is G, which makes the D7sus4 the V7sus4 chord in the key of G.

      V to I is called a dominant cadence and is the most common cadence in western music.

      Now, for the cool stuff.

      If Paul played the b7 (C) in the bass, then the analysis would actually be D7sus4/C, or a V7sus4/C. What this does is to TRICK OUR EAR into hearing the chord as some kind of IV chord; IV to I is called a plagal cadence (the amen cadence).

      Plus the use of 12-strings and a great voicing using different instruments in different ranges makes the chord seem even more exotic.

      You hear Plagal movement in the bass. You hear Dominant movement elsewhere. You land on the I chord in G major and the song takes off from there.

      Man! What a great song!

      1. Rob Adams

        I definitely appreciate your contribution here. Though much of your terminology is beyond my own knowledge and training you managed to convey your points very well. I agree with your analysis.

  2. Billy Marten

    One important factor was that George had a slightly unconventional tuning on his 12-string Rickenbacker. Instead of the two third strings being unison (which is the convention these days), he tuned them an octave apart, like the 4th, 5th and 6th strings. This meant that when he played that Fadd9, the second high-tuned g string sounded as an additional high ‘a’ note ringing out at the top above even the ‘g’ notes from the pair of top e strings, and this gave the chord the very bell-like shimmering sound that has been so hard to reproduce.

    1. chazzan

      Whose 12-string would that be? The G course in octaves is still convention with the folks who build my instruments and strings.
      As far as the analysis goes, you can stack thirds to get all kinds of answers, but what does the ear say? Does this chord really sound like “functional” harmony, or just a “color” based on I? To me, it’s always seemed the latter, so I’ll vote G9add4/D (counting Paul’s bass note as the bottom for fun). Overcomplicated on paper, maybe, but that’s where me ear leans. Why “add4”? Well, there’s no previous chord from which to carry a suspension–how’s that for theory wonkism?

      1. wade

        Ric 360/12’s were set up and and shipped from the factory with a wound third, as the convention for unwound thirds on ANY guitar happened later in the instrument’s development.

        Ric 12 string sets are still packaged this way.

        Their arrangement of courses is also different than most conventional 12 strings, with the higher course of each side placed on top. These two things are what gave the Ric 360/12 its distinctive tone from the very beginning.

      2. Fred

        Not “add 4” but “sus 4” … “add 4” means the 3rd is present with the 4th added, but there is no B in this chord. The use of a suspended 4th which doesn’t resolve (or suspend from a previous chord), that is, a free-floating, nonfunctional suspended 4th chord, is very common in all kinds of music, especially since the turn of the 20th century.

        And to get totally wonky, instead of “9” it probably should be a “sus 2” since the A is below the top note of the chord, that note being a G … as a 9th the A would be above that G. But if the A is not a 9th, we’d have to get that F back in there by adding the 7th. So, to be as accurate as possible, the chord symbol would be G7sus4sus2/D. But that’s pretty wonky!

        And because that D is in the bass anchoring everything, I sometimes wonder if the chord might just be a Dm11 … the only problem with that is that a 9th would be implied but I don’t hear an E in the chord. So maybe Dm11no9 … ? Now, THAT’S wonky!

        Randy Bachman’s explanation is a little sketchy on details, but, man, when they play the chord it sounds exactly right!

  3. noisepicker

    Unless he had a very unusual 3rd finger, I think the “opening chord” is fretted like this:

    E —-4—- <—— not 3
    B —-1—-
    G —-2—-
    D —-3—-
    A —-x—-
    E —-x—-

    …if only the Beatles had written this out before hand instead of just playing, then maybe I would give all of this “Musical CSI” some respect.

    1. Joe Post author

      If Harrison was playing the fourth fret on the top E string, that would give a G sharp. It’s not what he mentioned in the 2001 interview quoted above, nor does it sound right.

      1. James Ferrell

        Right, I think Noisepicker mistakenly thought the numbers represented fingers rather than frets.

        p.s. I love this discussion–all this analysis over one chord! But what a chord it is!

  4. scobie

    Wow, am just a casual fan who plays guitar (er, major chords, mostly; just strumming); have to say am pretty impressed with all of this discussion. You guys are freaking smart.

  5. gotagoodreason

    Magical mystery chord…
    Great analysis, it really is a Dm7sus4 (not D7sus4 since a plain ‘F’ can be clearly heard) but I’m surprised that no one talked about takes 1 to 8 of the song which can be found on various bootlegs. These help a lot as we hear the chord without George Martin’s piano (overdubbed later on the master take). John and George seem to play the same chord, Paul definitely playing a D on bass.
    Actually, and not less surprisingly, no one seems to have noticed that George’s arpeggio at the end of the song is built on the very same notes that those of the intro chord !
    E —-3—-
    B —-1—-
    G —-2—-
    D —-0—-
    A —-x—-
    E —-x—-
    E —-1—-
    B —-1—-
    G —-2—-
    D —-0—-
    A —-x—-
    E —-x—-
    ad lib…

    All very logical in the end !

        1. Alan Cohen

          Ah yes, thank you Vonbontee, as I recall the quote “…harmonic interest is atypical of their quicker songs, too, and one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony, melody and lunch, so firmly are the major gin and tonic sevenths and ninths built like tens into their tunes, and the flat labia minora key switches, so natural is the hairy Aeolian cadence at the end of ‘Not a Second Tiny Tim’ (the chord regression which ends Gleason’s Song of the Girth)…”

  6. wade

    Recently I’ve taken up the Sitar, a beautiful instrument which George was famously fond of. As began wrapping my head around the standard Ravi Shankhar tuning, it suddenly dawned on me that the 7 main strings, strummed openly, replicate this chord. It practically begs you to play “A Hard Day’s Night”. I know they began adding sitars to recordings later than this recording, but I’ve begun to wonder if an early interest in sitar didn’t inspire this famous chord. I’ve never seen anything mentioned about it, but it’s an odd coincidence. Hmm

      1. wade

        And the coincidence just gets odder. I did a little search on George’s “first encounter with the sitar” and conventional wisdom has it that yes, it was on the set for “Help,” fooling around between takes while filming the indian restaurant scene.

        The music for the scene, a reimagined, indianized medley of Beatles songs, is credited to “The George Martin Orchestra.” This indicates that the OTHER George certainly knew enough of the natural lay of the instrument at the time to score music for it. And the first song of the indian medley on the HELP album is… “A HARD DAY’S NIGHT!” Though the chord wasn’t in the version I heard, apparently something about it showing up naturally on sitar begged George Martin to score the melody. I’m looking for a copy of the film now to find out what was actually played on camera.

        India being colonized by Great Britain, indian restaurants offering entertainment played on indian classical instruments would have been more common in early 60’s London than in the states. George Martin, a widely experienced producer/arranger at the time, had all types of novelty musicians/instruments running through his studios in addition to recording the Beatles from the very beginning. So it’s possible the sound at least was in the Beatle’s ears at the time the song was originally being arranged for recording. With as much influence as George Martin had on arrangements, I’m wondering if he may have suggested the voicing or if it was something the Beatles overheard in the studio hallways.

        It’s an interesting point to ponder. Certainly a lot of serendipity swirling around it for consipiracy theorists to kick at. Not that I love conspiracy theorists. Next someone will say Paul is dead.

        1. Joe Post author

          The incidental music for Help! was written by Ken Thorne, and as you say was performed by the George Martin Orchestra. It wasn’t scored by Martin. The piece in question was called Another Hard Day’s Night, and is available on the Capitol box set volume two.

          If you’re interested, here’s more on The Beatles and India.

  7. johnny hayles

    this is not rocket science folks…george often fretted the low G on the 3rd fret of the E6th…in fact he would often play a G chord in an open manner with his thumb on 3rd fret E6th and his first finger on 3rd fret E1st carl perkins style…but back to the point it’s just an F chord combined with his open G thus the 9th…the low C in the F is covered with his thumb as well…3rd fret A string…lennon is playing Dsus4…in effect adding another 9th to george’s chord….mcartney is way up high for sure…no doubt a D on the 12th fret on the D.

  8. johnny hayles

    of course let’s not fret over this…i just play an open C combined with george’s open G….sort of all the same now isn’t it….potato…pototo…let it ring and go right into G.

    1. Joe

      Obviously this discussion has been going on for quite a while but I believe I have a relevant addition. Kevin (with the D7sus4 comment) appears to be close but not quite complete. I have also looked up the analysis in Wikipedia originating from Middleton and it is also close by not quite correct as well.

      The Beatles had a Rockabilly, Traditional, and Blues background also being mentored by George Martin on classical music theory. Their music is multi-layered and far more sophisticated than is often recognized.

      Hard Day’s Night, based on watching a video of John Lennon playing the chords – as well excellent analysis at – is almost certainly a pop music experimentation with a Mixolydian Blues (ref: The tonic chord (based on John Lennon’s live performance) is G major, which makes this G Mixolydian.

      Also, the exhaustive ahdnchord – analysis (which is consistent with Lennon’s video), shows that the collection of notes in the first chord are: D, F, A, C, G.

      With this many notes, this chord can have many names, but the actual impression on the human ear and the emotions is defined by the context (i.e. the key or mode). Therefore, the actual names don’t mean anything until you define the key/mode as intended by Lennon & McCartney.

      Opening a piece of music with the Dominant chord (i.e. the fifth chord in the key) is a bold move, and one used effectively in classical music.

      The Dominant chord in Mixolydian, is Dm7 (D minor seventh), and if you add a high G note, then you get a Dm7sus4 – which is composed of D, F, A, C, G (exactly the same collection discovered in the ahdnchord-analysis)

      If this is correct (and I am fairly certain it is) then the opening chord must be named Dm7sus4. With different parts of the chord being played by different instruments. This is a dramatic Dominant intro into a G Mixolydian Blues composition. In my opinion, Lennon & McCartney composed a brilliant piece of music, but the arrangement was indeed an ensemble effort with Martin’s and Harrison’s contributions.

      1. Jake Was Here

        It sounded to me like they were trying to play the IV, V, and VIIb chords simultaneously; the presence of C, D, and F would explain that. It’s as if they’re hitting every note that could resolve into the root G, playing IV->I, V->I, and VIIb->I at the same moment.

  9. jimbo

    Thinking out the box… I think a little cinematic joke is at play here as the opening chord could be a doff of the hat to the last chord of the 007 theme? George M would certainly have the musical sophistication to “amend” the creepy flavour of the min/major 9 to something more moptoppish.

  10. Jeff

    You can easily end this debate by simply watching a live performance of the Beatles playing Hard Day’s Night. John plays an Fadd9 by strumming the notes F A F A C G (he used his thumb to play the F note on the 6th string). There is no D note in the chord. With George stating is was an Fadd9, then we know both John and George played the same chord. However, Paul added the D note on his bass. So, if playing solo and want to reproduce the same sound, just play the chord in the following manner…F A D A C G. Then you have all of the right notes.

    1. Patrick

      With a chord such as this, without context ( and since it’s just being struck, a stand alone chord, it really has no context ) naming it is going be difficult, but not impossible. The simple trick is to play the essential notes being played, as they are in the recording, on the piano, and just by listening, letting the piano tell me which chord, I am hearing. Affter doing this, I say that the chord a D minor 11 with the E not being played, so to be technically correct, a Dm7add11. I think the E could have easily been played and without altering the integrity of the sound ( just a personal preference ) but they chose not to. But my guess is that the musician’s really didn’t care what the name of the chord was, perhaps they didn’t even know. So….that’s the chord folks. Dm7add11. The 11 is really what gives the chord is “suspended” feel and with the D in the bass and the 11th on top, and the fact that it sounds like a suspended chord proving that the G note is an 11 ( it can’t be a sus4, because of the F ), there is no doubt that it is a Dm7add11.

      1. Jeffrey

        Yay! Patrick you got it! Can also be called Dm11 even if the 9th (E) is not included. Sorry, but what a bunch of morons in the previous posts. One guy actually credits them for being so smart. Everybody is wrong and needs a good course on chord naming theory. I’ll bet they all think they’re so smart too. Maybe less now. Good job Pat!

  11. Guy

    Wow. I will never again hear this song without thinking of this discussion. I loved all of it, the educated gobblediguk as well as the less sophisticated posts. I love the passion the Beatles can (still) evoke. Once again, thanks Joe for the site and to everyone who contributes to the discussions which are fabulous.

  12. Solo strummer

    That’s a really interesting and useful discussion! When playing the song on solo guitar (as I like to), then the chord described by George doesn’t sound quite right, since it does not include the D played on the bass guitar, hence, I find that the D7sus4 option with an F bass (100213) captures the feel of the chord better.

    …then we get into the tricky area of transposing the song, and playing that opening chord. Paul had a higher singing range than John, and so, while John sang most of the song, Paul sang the middle 8 (which had higher notes than the verses). If you want to sing the whole song by yourself, then you probably need a more impressive singing range than the Beatles themselves. I find that the original key of G is too high for me (if I want to sing the whole song without resorting to a weedy falsetto in the middle 8), and so, I play the song in D. For the opening chord I play an A7sus4 (002030), which works pretty well – it’s still the V7sus4, and the open A gives that (transposed) bass guitar note. I think the open E on the 1st string (alongside the lower E on the 4th string) introduces something of the double-string, 12-string effect heard on the record too.

  13. Free Society

    A lot of this analysis here is inaccurate, but Randy Bachman is correct. The D note is the “5th” in the key of G, and is essential to understanding why a D-rooted chord makes sense, and is such a good intro to the G-based song structure. John Lennon does play a D sus4, chord, while Harrison plays an F add 9 chord (G added). So both guitars have a G ringing on the top, but the D Sus4 from John informs the D lineage of this chord, and includes some open strings which are essential. Paul is also playing a D for the bass which proves the main point (the bass is -NOT- playing a C note, and this isn’t even what Randy said). So get two guitars, one playing a D-sus-4, and the other playing a F-add-9 (G note), and then play D for the bass note. You will be pleased with the results.

  14. gerard cutler (@gerry_c)

    Agree with Dm7+11, which is also all the notes of a pentatonic scale – think of thumping your fists on all the black notes of a piano.
    I submit that it is also the dominant chord of this song, at any rate for the first 8 bars of the 12-bar verse. Key of G, it goes down to F on the word ‘working..’ then back to G. The rawest example of this mode is ‘My Generation’ – Two major chords a tone apart; the higher one clearly the root, then down a tone to the dominant. See also the Kinks’ first two singles.
    The minor equivalent is the Dorian mode (think Dm –C-Dm, rather than Dm-A7). Familiar at the time in ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘She’s Not There’, ‘Greensleeves’.
    The major version will also have a name (all the modes do) but I don’t know it offhand. John later used the ‘G-F-G’ more simply in ‘Norwegian Wood’.
    So playing the dominant chord to open, albeit with a Fifth in the bass and an added root note, is the equivalent to playing G7 before starting a song in C. Then closing on it is an ‘imperfect cadence’.

  15. Jeff

    This is all very interesting indeed. As the article points out — but what seems missing from many of the comments — is that the piano is needed to reproduce the “chord” as constructed in the studio. Play the album and a piano at the same time and you’ll see (I mean hear).

  16. jimihndrx

    Iam hearing the following notes.. “D G C F A” prominently in the intro.
    So taking account of the notes i came to conclusion that this chord is a
    Dm11 chord..the other name of the chord will be F6add9/D chord as we can hear D note in the bass.
    I also think that two bass notes were played simultaneously that is D & F.
    What they were trying to do was to create a polychord and they succeeded.

  17. Ken

    i was playing in open D tuning (D A D F# A D) and forgot that I was in open D and fretted a barred A chord on the fifth fret as if I was playing an A chord on the fifth position. This sounds exactly liike the opening chord in “A Hard Day’s Night”. Was George listening to Bert Jansch at the time and playing in open D and did he make the same “mistake” I did?

  18. steen ørsted

    My solution is this: In the sixties it was very common for twelve stringers to tune their guitars a whole tone down to have less stress on the guitar neck (and the fingers). If George also had done this to his Rickenbacker, his fingerwork might have looked like this:
    First string: Little finger on 5.fret. Second string: Long finger on the 3. fret. 4.string: index finger on the 2.fret. If you strum all 6 strings this will normally give an Asus7 With a high A, but with the guitar a whole step down, it will give a Gsus7 with a high G, and the deepest note will be a D. (If Paul supports this on his bass I don´t know). Try it. Steen

    1. Steen Ørsted

      I played myself with my tweve stringer a whole step down. I learned it from a professionel here in denmark. (Pete Seeger sometimes had it. Leadbelly sometimes had it even lower). But I read that Poul´s D on the bass should have been taken in the 12fret, which is an otave higher than the d-string on the bass and only one tone lower han a normal deep E on a guitar. But if I am right, that the Rickenbakker was one step down (as most twelve stringers usually were), and if the cord was taken the way I have suggested in my last post just above, we don´t need Poul´s bass at all to produce this note (D). We have it already on the 6. string of George´s twelve string guitar. Steen

  19. Jack

    After Randy Bachman’s listen (via Giles Martin) of the original tracks in Pro-Tools…
    what is especially odd about this chord is that it can be ’emotionally named’ a “G” chord
    of some kind… but, it leads to a song that starts with a G-chord as the first chord (in the key of G)…

    ‘Normally,’ where a “G7” would lead to a C chord of some kind, the opening HDsN chord leads to itself – as though it never went anywhere in the first place… a “G” leading to a “G”… (notwithstanding McCartney’s bass going from D to G) but, that aside for now, a “G” leading to a “G” is, well…

    Very bizarre…

    But… with “D” notes (piano and bass) on the bottom, and C and A notes peppered throughout (piano, guitars)… one can indeed also make a theoretic case for naming the opening chord a kind of “D” chord:

    In which case, if we refuse to look at the chord as a second inversion of some kind of G chord, and look at it as a “D chord” of some kind (wanting to lead to a G-chord to start the verse), this chord could be named an “expanded Dm7sus4″…

    But, as music theory also has it: … since some of the G notes in the chord are low G’s (piano G2 and G3 and Harrison’s low 12-string G), one convention is to also use those tones in naming the tonic/root chord. If we name it a G chord of some kind, the chord can be called an “expanded “G7sus4add9 second inversion.”

    Even though we all know that D7’s of all kinds lead to G’s of all kinds in most situations, with the opening HDsN chord, its effect on our brains is not that of a D7 leading to a G. The chord is saying rather: “everybody freeze – wait – stop! – don’t move a finger.” That is not at all what D7 ‘feels like’ (in a key of G context). A D7 (when known already to be within the context of a G sonority) pulls the listener to the tonic [G] chord. Although we all know that “It’s been a Hard Day’s Night” is going to be sung afterwards, during this opening chord the listener is somehow caught like a deer in the headlights of some sonically-frozen time vacuum.

    Therefore, the opening HDsN chord ‘seems’ to be worlds away from “feeling like” a D7-pulling-to-a-G. It is an internally-embroiled beautifully-spaced almost self-stifling harmonically disabled twice-inverted G chord that implodes and explodes at the same time in such a way that the “D” note becomes almost the most impossible tone to hear amid the overtone splash created. Which is frustrating since we all want to hear a D going to a G here. (Which McCartney’s bass actually does – but it is hard to hear the D notes amid the milieu).

    The “splatter” feel of the low parts of the chord – where some of the notes seem beautifully “mashed together” in the mid to low parts of the chord is the most amazing effect (like a satisfying ticklish rumbling frozen purr of a big cat). That is where Harrison’s low Cs (3rd fretted A strings on the 12) smash beautifully into the D notes that abound (Lennon’s 2 D’s on his 6-string), Martin’s 2 D’s present on the piano, McCartney’s D on Bass — and who knows what frequencies Ringo’s drum/hi hat or cymbal shot are adding…?

    Harrison’s 12-string electric: GgCcFfAaCCGG
    Lennon’s acoustic: xxDADG
    McCartney’s Bass: 12th fret D-string
    George Martin’s piano: D2-G2-D3-G3-C4(middle C)
    Ringo: snare/cymbal
    + EQ on all things + reverb and possible echo/delay on some things

    Naming the chord two ways:
    Emotionally (and physically): “Expanded G7sus4add9 second inversion”
    Physically: “Expanded DM7sus4”

    1. Yoram Regev

      If there’s no B in the chord it’s not a G chord. Or it’s a G but without the major-minor indication as the third is missing and therefore we don’t know if its a G major (with B) or G minor (with B-flat). And since there is F and A it better suits a D chord (also the D in the bass is an indication) and a minor. The G in this chord is the 11th note as it is played on top of all notes (not a 4th). D minor 11 without the 9th but with the 7th (the C). The notes are: D-F-A-C-G.
      The piano notes by George Martin create two fourths on top of each other and don’t make sense on its own, but when adding the F and the A in the guitars it creates the chord I outlined above. Maybe the piano creates an effect that blurs the harmonics and gives the chord its special sound.

  20. BeatleBug

    It’s the MAGICAL MYSTERY CHORD… yesterday and today. Tomorrow never knows… but I think that it, like the Beatles themselves, will forever be magically mysterious.

    I get the feeling if one of the Beatles read this, they’d be laughing their heads off at all the highbrow musicologese.

  21. ArtWorks

    Is it fair to say, that what the Beatles did to make this chord in the studio, is far different when they played it live? The photo of John playing F with G and thumb on F is very obvious, but no one mention it in the analysis of the recorded version.

  22. mike g

    On an acoustic 12-string in standard tuning, a G7sus4 sounds just fine. The notes are, from low to high; G, D, F, C, D, G.

    Capo on 3rd fret makes it easier to sustain the notes, particularly the octaves which are harder to fret with a barre on a 12-string.

    One thing about the early Beatles songs is, there were always fairly simple – and formulaic. Hard Day’s Night is no exception although in the studio, with various guitars, bass and piano etc, more textures could be added. And obviously were.

  23. Farmer Pete

    Occam prevails! I found it years ago by accident. One finger barre at the third fret, across all 6 strings. Then straight into G major for It’s been a…..

  24. Tom Haley

    Lots of good complicated analysis here. I was in Jr High bands when HDN came out, so it was my “job” to figure that sucker out, and quickly so we could trot it out at the next Friday night dance.

    The tune is in G, so the low bass note was the 5th below, which was D. The “magic chord” is an F7 barred at the 1st fret – not the pinky version on the B string, but the simple, richer two fingered version (ie on the G & A strings), with a 9th added with the pinky on the 3rd fret of the high E string. Any additional depth or complexity was added with other instruments mixed way down low (like George Martin doing God knows what on the piano). That’s it, short & sweet. Agree?

  25. SaxonMothersSon

    John first played this chord in 1957, but something was missing. Took almost 7 years for him to figger it out. I mean, look at the posts on just this one iconic chord!
    John and George lookin down from Rock N Roll Heaven, John sayin’, “It’s just a friggin’ chord, man, Jeezus, let it go!” George in the corner, laffin’, stringin’ this sitar so big, it needs piano wire, just rolls his eyes, “We got ’em on that one, Johnnie!” BB King sayin, “Hey boys, I played that chord in ’51 in this little bar in Mississippi, only one guy asked me how I got that sound. I said, Muddy, ain’t none of your business!”

    1. Big Indian


      I am hereby awarding you the first annual Thomas Pynchon Award for Literate Humor in Blog Posting. Your check and professionally-engraved, sterling-silver-plated demitasse spoon are in the mail.

      Keep up the good work!

  26. Kenneth Gomberg

    Most everybody says Paul played a C, BUT Giles, separating the tracks, says it’s a D on the bass. And Ringo is definitely not demoted to 5th Beatle. Drummers have been trying to recreate his beats for a long time. Here’s the kicker. Ringo was a lefty, and he was forced to learn on a right hand kit. So his beats are somewhat inverted. I read this in an article. Makes sense to me.

  27. backin

    It’s pretty simple really.

    There is live footage showing exactly what chord John and George are playing.

    John is playing (on 6 string Acoustic) an F add9 with his thumb fretting the 6th string F and including an open A string.

    6th string – thumb 1st fret

    5th string – open

    4th string – 3rd fret

    3rd string – 2nd fret

    2nd string – 1st fret

    1st string – 3rd fret

    George is playing the same thing but on a 12 string.

    Paul is playing a D on bass but it’s out of tune a bit.

    George Martin is playing some piano notes that give a bit of a twist to what John and George play, along with Paul’s bass note.

    George Martin probably plays five notes D2, G2, D3, G3 and C4 (middle C is C4) with the sustain pedal held down.

    When the Beatles played it live they just did it the same as above but with no piano notes (John on 6 string Electric guitar).

    The whole thing is like a spread out suspended chord in the way it sounds.

    The D bass note (Paul’s) turns the F add9 chord (John, George) into a D suspended type chord.

    So basically it’s a D suspended chord giving a suspended airy sort of sound that leads into a solid G chord as John starts singing.

    (Dsus type chord) It’s been a (G chord) Hard etc

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