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Beatles for solo guitar, tips and tricks
9 February 2015
5.54pm
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PeterWeatherby
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I'm starting this thread as a sort of "drop box" for all of my random notes on tips and tricks for playing specific Beatles songs on the guitar.

I've been playing for some 25 years now and to this day I still find new ways of playing these songs that make it easier, or closer to the recording, or both. I find that I often play Beatles songs slightly different from how they may be notated in published song books, because I play solo acoustic guitar, which means I have to find chord voicings that allow me to slip in the occasional bass line or guitar solo while still hammering out the rhythm.

Obviously, this is a discussion forum, so feel free to enlighten me and the rest of the Internet universe as to any tips you've discovered!

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Beatlebug

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
5.55pm
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I Saw Her Standing There

This is such a straight-forward three chord rock song that it's easy to just wail away on the basic chords (E7, A7, B7) and let your strumming pattern drive the rhythm, but for me, what really makes this song "pop" is the McCartney bass line -- which is nearly impossible to incorporate if you're using the standard E7 chord voicing: 022130

However, if you voice that E7 as 076700, using (in order) your ring, middle, and pinky fingers, that leaves your index finger free to start roughing out the basic pattern of that bass line, like this:

--0--0--0--0-----------0------
--0--0--0--0-----------0------
--7--7--7--7-----------7------
--6--6--6--6-----------6------
--7--7--7--7-----------7------
--0--0--4--0--7*--0--5\4--

*use your ring finger to fret that note

When it comes time to switch to the A7, I keep my hand in the same neck position and voice it as a bar chord, this way: 575655

The B7 is also voiced as a bar chord: 797877

I change the voicing for the bridge ("well my heart went boom") in order to keep that bass line running:

-------------------------
-------------------------
--2--2--------2--2-------
--2--2--------2--2-------
--0--0--3-4---0--0--3-4--
-------------------------

I bar those top two notes with my index finger, and use my middle and ring finger (respectively) to fret those notes at the 3rd and 4th fret.

It's certainly not a perfect implementation of the entire bass line, but it does add an extra level of movement and drive when I play it this way.

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
6.13pm
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PeterWeatherby
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In My Life

This beautiful song feels so empty if you can't find a way to incorporate its signature intro. But because the song is in A major, it's a little tricky to pluck out the intro notes without letting some "blue" notes from other open strings leak in.

The solution that fixed it for me? Capo at the 2nd fret and play it in G major instead.

-----3---------------2---
--0------0--1--3---3---
--0------------------2---
--0------------------0---
--2--------------------
--3--------------------

Or, if you're adventurous and want to work in the ascending bass line as well:

-----3---------------2---
--0------0--1--3---3---
--0------------------2---
--0------------------0---
--2---------0--2-------
--3------3-------------

Playing the song in G actually makes some of the other chord voicings throughout the song a little easier as well. The bridge ("though I know I'll never lose affection"), for instance, instead of running F#m -> Dmaj7 -> G -> A -> F#m -> B7 -> Dm -> A now becomes the much easier Em -> Cmaj7 -> F -> G -> Em -> A7 -> Cm -> G

I still haven't worked out a way to play the "middle 8" solo in a way that also lets me continue voicing the chords, but then again, even The Beatles themselves "cheated" a bit by playing that solo at a much slower speed than it sounds on the record. That's my excuse, anyway. :)

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
7.48pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Come Together

Another pretty easy three-chord blues song, this one really benefits (playing it solo acoustic, anyway) from adding the extra color of a dropped D tuning.

Take that low E string, tune it down to a D, and the opening riff becomes:

-----------------------------------
-----------------------------------
----------------10-----------------
----------------10-----------------
--------10/12----------------------
-0--0--------------------12\------

It adds a nice bit of bassy "chunk" to the rhythm during the verses as well:

------------------------------------
------------------------------------
-2--2---4---4---2---2---4--4----
-0--0---0---0---0---0---0--0----
-0--0---0---0---0---0---0--0----
-0--0---0---0---0---0---0--0----
etc.

 

"He got hair down..."
---------------------------------
----------------------------------
----------------------------------
-----------------------------------
-7--7---9--9---7--7---9--9----
-7--7---7--7---7--7---7--7----

 

Swampy!

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
8.31pm
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PeterWeatherby
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I'm Only Sleeping

I have that awesome little chord book called "The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook," which I really think is a must-have reference tool for people who like to play Beatles songs on the guitar. However, I was surprised to see that the instructions for this song called for a capo at the 4th fret, and for the song to be played in D major (B minor).

I get why they did it that way, in one sense, because playing it this way will allow you to play along with the record in the same pitch, but here's the catch: the song is actually in E minor (G major), but the tape speed was slowed down enough that, on the record, it's pitched at E-flat minor. Yuck. I suppose using the capo at the 4th fret is really the fastest way to be able to play along with the album, with the progression Bm -> Em -> D -> G -> D -> F#7 and so on.

I, however, prefer to use the voicings that John used when he recorded the song, the open Em -> Am -> G -> C -> G -> B7 ... the trick to getting it pitched to E-flat minor, of course, is simply to tune the guitar down a half step.

Some may say that's too much trouble, but actually, I prefer to keep my guitar tuned this way anyway. The half-step lower tuning not only gives a slightly darker, richer sound to the guitar, but it also takes a bit of the edge off some of those high notes. If for some reason (playing along with the album, playing along with other musicians who are tuned to standard tuning) I need to play in standard tuning, I just slap a capo on the first fret. But since I normally play solo acoustic anyway, keeping tuned a half-step lower is rarely a problem.

EDIT: If I'm not mistaken, "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party " has the same issue, in that it's pitched on the record in G-flat major, even though it's played in G major. Oddly, the chord book goes ahead and notates the song in G major. I wish they would have just notated "I'm Only Sleeping " in E minor, but, oh well. It's still a great book to have on hand.

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Beatlebug

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
9.21pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Honey Pie

I absolutely love playing this one, but that wasn't always the case. All those years ago, I would look at the chord sheet and see things like "Eb7" and "C#m7b5" and think, "actually, forget it."

The trick, for me, was discovering how The Beatles (well, the guitarists, anyway) often voiced their 7th chords using the "C" chord shape. So instead of playing E7 as 022100, John in particular often used 076750 - and D7 would be voiced x5453x.

The other key for learning "Honey Pie " was lifting a chord that Paul uses in "Here Today " and realizing that it was the same chord he was using in "Honey Pie ," identified as "C#m7b5" - it's actually a quite simple chord: x42000 -- that's it, just two fingers required.

So the basic flow of the "Honey Pie " verses run something like this, using these voicings:

G - 355433 (Honey Pie , you are making me)
Eb7 - x6564x (crazy)
E7 - 076750 (I'm in love but I'm)
A7 - 575677 (lazy)
D7 - x5453x (so won't you please come)
G - 355433 (home)

These voicings let you keep your fingers bunched together in basically the same place on the fretboard, in mostly the same fingering patterns - just slide that Eb7 shape up one fret for the E7!

The transition to the C#m7b5 chord, then, is super easy from the Em:

Em - 022000 (you became a)
C#m7b5 - x42000 (legend of the)
G - 320003 (silver screen)
G7 - 32300x

Fun chord patterns, fun song.

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Mr. Kite, Shamrock Womlbs

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
9.33pm
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Mr. Kite
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A Day In The Life

How to play the orchestral part on solo guitar:
http://youtu.be/s_gnqQ-1d-s

My Beatles Chordbook says to tune down for I'm Only Sleeping .

The problem I've found in my book is that for Norwegian Wood it just says D for the main part of the verse when it's a bunch of hammer-ons/various.

Had to figure it out by ear. I'll tab it out an come back later.

If I spoke prose you'd all find out, I don't know what I talk about.

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9 February 2015
9.43pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Something

This song is written in the entirely guitar-friendly key of C major, but there's a slight hitch: that famous opening lick is very hard to play and still surround it with full chords. If you're in a full band, no problem, just let the bass player and rhythm guitarist provide the backing, but if you're going it alone ...

I figured out this little trick just a couple of years ago when I was first learning to play the ukulele and wanted to "learn up" the way Paul does this song in his concerts, on the uke, as a tribute to George. I dawned on me that the ukulele is pitched the same as a guitar if it were capoed on the 5th fret (which, incidentally, is why a lot of George's later songs are more easily played that way -- I think he was writing them on the uke).

So I went back to the guitar, using the chord shapes I had just learned on the ukulele, capoed up at the 5th fret, and there it was:

-----0---3---0---1-----2----3---
--1---------------3-----3----0---
--0---------------3-----2----0---
--2---------------3-----0----0---
--3---------------1----------2---
------------------------------3---

And actually, I've found that I prefer to play this song in the key of G (capo 5) -- those extra high end notes give it an even sweeter sound, much like George accomplished with "Here Comes The Sun " by capoing at the 7th fret.

I like the opening three chords of the verse ("something in the way she moves") being voiced 32000x -> 32400x -> 32300x much better than the usual voicings in C, as x32010 -> x32000 -> x32310 but, to each his own, I guess.

Maybe someday I'll update this posting to include the solo, but that's a much trickier animal.

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
9.46pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Mr. Kite said

My Beatles Chordbook says to tune down for I'm Only Sleeping .

 

Oh, nice! It's handy when they come right out and spell it to the letter for you. Which chordbook do you have?

 

Mr. Kite said

The problem I've found in my book is that for Norwegian Wood it just says D for the main part of the verse when it's a bunch of hammer-ons/various.

Had to figure it out by ear. I'll tab it out an come back later.

 

Awesome! That will save me the trouble of doing it myself! :)

Not a bit like Cagney.

9 February 2015
10.00pm
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Mr. Kite
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This is the one:
Image Enlarger

If I spoke prose you'd all find out, I don't know what I talk about.

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10 February 2015
6.33pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Lovely Rita

This is another one of those tricky songs that might have been sped up/slowed down on the tape, because it's pitched in E-flat. YUCK!

Some chord books instruct you to capo up at the 1st fret and play it in D, but since -- as mentioned in an earlier post -- I already keep my guitar tuned down a half step, I like to play it in E. This allows me to let the top two strings ring open for most of the song, which to my ears gives it that more "jangly" sound that you hear on the record.

I play the intro chords (descending) using the following voicings:

B - xx9877
A - xx7655
E - xx6454
B - 799870 (I fret the bottom note with my thumb)

Then for the opening "Lovely Rita meter maid, Lovely Rita meter maid" vocals (repeated at the end of the song), I use this voicing:

B - 799800 (Lovely Rita )
A - 577600 (meter maid)
E - 022100 (Lovely Rita )
B - 799800 (meter maid)

The only other chord voicings of note are during the lines "when it gets dark"/"give us a wink" (same chords used for the 4-note paper comb bit):

C#m - x 46600 (when it gets dark I)
F#7 - 244300 (tow your heart)
B - x24400 (away)

Not a bit like Cagney.

10 February 2015
6.34pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Mr. Kite said
This is the one:
Image Enlarger

 

Yeah, that's the same one I have. Wonder if they did a reprint? Or maybe my memory has failed me, so I'll need to look at that book again -- I swear that was the one that suggested playing "I'm Only Sleeping " with a capo on 4.

Not a bit like Cagney.

10 February 2015
6.40pm
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Oudis
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PeterWeatherby said
I'm starting this thread as a sort of "drop box" for all of my random notes on tips and tricks for playing specific Beatles songs on the guitar.

Great idea @PeterWeatherby, thanks a lot. I'll be checking this thread from now on.

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PeterWeatherby, Mr. Kite

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

10 February 2015
7.06pm
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PeterWeatherby
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I Will

A very special song to me, I fell in love with it from the first time I heard it at the ripe old age of 11 on a CD rented from the local library. My wife and I ultimately ended up using it as the bridal procession for our wedding. The acoustic guitar part has always mesmerized me, but it was at least 20 years before I figured out how to get the voicings right.

It's in the key of F, and my performance of it went through three phases: playing it in F for years and struggling with all the nasty bar chords; capoing at the 1st fret and playing in E, which let me utilize the open top two strings and made it sound a little closer to the record; and FINALLY putting two and two together - "hey, he played Yesterday in F by tuning down a full step and playing it in G ... I wonder ..."

So yeah, it's played in G after tuning the strings down a full step. I know, I know, it's a pain, but as long as you're there, you can play "Yesterday ," "Jenny Wren," "Heart Of The Country ," "Bluebird," and maybe one or two more that I'm forgetting which are also tuned down a full step.

Believe it or not, with a little luck, that beautiful solo guitar lick is playable while still voicing the full chords around it (even though Paul did it with overdubs).

-----3---0------3----0------------
------------3-----------3---------
--0-------------------------3/4---
----------------------------------
----------------------------------
--3-------------0-----------------

-----3---0------3---0-----------------
-----------3-----------3--------------
--0-------------------------3/4-------
----------------0---------------------
--0-----------------------------------
--------------------------------------

And the transition to the bridge just adds the 7th:

------3----------1--0-----------------
----------3------------3--------------
--0----------0-------------3/4--------
--------------------------------------
--------------------------------------
--3-----------------------------------

The only other bit that was sort of challenging was figuring out the three chords that trail the end of the lines in the last verse: "sing it loud so I can hear you (bum bum bum), make it easy to be near you (bum bum bum)," and so on. Here's how I voice it, starting with the beginning of the bar:

C - x32010 (sing it loud so)
D - xx0232 (I can)
Em - x7xx8x (hear)
Cm - x6x5xx (you)
G - x5x4xx

But seriously -- learn those other songs I mentioned that also use this full-drop tuning and it will make it more worth your while to do all that peg-twisting. :)

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Beatlebug

Not a bit like Cagney.

10 February 2015
7.27pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Here Comes The Sun

Part of my philosophy in choosing which songs to post to this thread is that I don't want to simply throw out bits that are already well documented elsewhere. When I was a pre-teen/teen learning these songs, there was no Internet, much less YouTube, but these days you can really find just about any Beatles song or guitar solo you want on a tab/chord site or on a YouTube instructional video.

The stuff I post here is the stuff I don't think is necessarily readily available elsewhere on the Internet.

That being said, you can find the chords to "Here Comes The Sun " in a lot of places, and any decent YouTube video will show you to capo up at the 7th fret and even how to play the guitar lick that trails the end of each chorus. What I don't haven't really seen is someone showing how to play that lick while still voicing the chords behind it, which, as a solo acoustic player, I have to do.

So, with the capo at the 7th fret, these following fret numbers are relative to that position (i.e., consider the capo "fret zero"):

G - 320003 (here comes the)
E7 - 4xx430 (sun, and I say)
D - xx0232 (it's alright)

----------0---------0---------0----
-----0h3---------3---------3-------
--2-----------2---------0----------
-----------------------------------
-----------------------------------
-----3--------2---------0----------

--------0--------------------
-----3-----3p2---------------
--2--------2----4----2-------
-----------2-----------------
-----------0-----------------
--2--------------------------

For fingering, I use my ring finger to hammer on that third fret B string at the start, and then I just keep it anchored there for the rest of the lick -- that lets me keep that string and the E string ringing out for the duration.

For the final descending line at the end of the riff, I form an A major "partial" bar chord with my index finger across those middle three strings and use my other fingers to work around that anchor.

Not a bit like Cagney.

17 February 2015
4.47pm
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Joe
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Thank you for this. I wish I was near a guitar right now.

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17 February 2015
10.49pm
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Oudis
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Some of us cannot read tablature… so I really appreciate it when you include the chords of the song. Oudis.

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Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit” (“Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to look back on even this”; Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1, line 203, where Aeneas says this to his men after the shipwreck that put them on the shores of Africa)

18 February 2015
2.18am
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PeterWeatherby
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Oudis said
Some of us cannot read tablature… so I really appreciate it when you include the chords of the song. Oudis.

If you're having difficulty with any of the tab notation, just let me know and I'll do what I can to explain.

It should be pretty straight-forward: each of the 6 strings is represented, with the highest (E) string on top:

E -----------------------
B -----------------------
G -----------------------
D -----------------------
A -----------------------
E -----------------------

I think the only other "technicalities" are that I use "p" and "h" to denote a hammer-on or a pull-off, such that something like "10h12" means hammer on to the 12th fret from the 10th fret, and something like "12p10" means pull off from the 12th to the 10th fret. I also use the slash line to denote a slide, so "3/5" means slide up from the 3rd to the 5th fret, whereas "5\3" means to slide down from 5th to 3rd.

As I mentioned, I play solo acoustic, so I don't do an awful lot of string bending. Too hard on the fingers with those heavier acoustic strings. :)

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Oudis

Not a bit like Cagney.

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