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(How) can you recognize which Beatle is playing?
13 March 2016
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Only a nowhere girl
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Hello there. I know that many Beatles fans can tell, for example, wether it's George or Paul or John playing a guitar solo just by listening to it. I'm a big Beatles fan but can't even always tell if it's Ringo or not playing the drums. And most people say Ringo's drumming is very distinguishing. So could somebody please describe a few characteristic features of the different Beatles' styles, especially on their most played instruments, to help me to be able to at least vaguely tell them apart? 

PS: I'm only 15 and don't play any instruments, so please don't make it too hard too understand :).

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13 March 2016
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Welcome to the Fab Forum, @Only a nowhere girl. apple01

You've posed a great question. I'll be watching this thread to learn right along with you.

13 March 2016
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I'm not an expert at all, so I might be way off the mark.

 

I've noticed that when Paul drums, it's usually quite straight 1-2-3-4 on the snare and/or the cymbals, with very few and very simple fills. Ringo's drumming is generally more varied, he changes it up more and his fills are more complicated. He also uses the toms more than Paul does.

 

George's guitar solos can usually be sung. They're very melodic. Paul's tend to be a bit faster and/or erratic, and the tone of his guitar (the voice, if you will) tends to be more shrill. George did change his tone a lot, but he often opted for a more 'clean' or 'warm' tone. John's solos are often what people call 'dirty', with lots of distortion (the roaring effect). A good example is The End , where you can clearly hear John's guitar sounding much rougher than Paul's and George's. In that song, Paul plays first, then George, then John, and they each play three times. You can clearly hear when the next one starts to play because the styles are so different.

 

As for the bass, I know how the differences sound, but I can't describe them. 

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13 March 2016
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Paul has a distinctive guitar solo style compared to George, as @Mademoiselle Kitty >^..^< says. He plays lead on Taxman , that classic almost scrambled very bendy solo is typical Paul.

Paul's bassplaying on the other hand is very melodic and "swingy" compared to the times when George and especially John played. By swingy I mean that he'll vary the rhythm of what's being played if it's good for the song. Listen to What Goes On , he mucks about quite a bit in that.

There's a bit of George and John playing on a few albums. John is playing bass on Helter Skelter , it's deliberately crude. George played bass on She Said She Said and did a great job but its not quite how Paul would play it! The bass sound isn't a great guide to who played, they all took turns on the six-string bass, probably John played it more than the others. Pauls bass sound varied between his Hofners and the Rickenbacker. Any time you hear high bass notes, its very likely Paul on the Rickenbacker because 1) that's his style and 2) both Hofners had bad intonation (out of tune) up the fretboard, so you can literally tell when Paul's style evolved just by that, which is mostly dated from Paperback Writer /Rain which would have been impossible otherwise. George and John by comparison just stuck to basic playing to support the chords, rarely if ever striking out. Another feature of Paul's bass playing is that he'll throw in an alternate lick or two here and there for variation, too many examples to mention but here's just one: right near the end of Hey Jude there's a little bass riff that starts up, that's a Paulism.

Ringo's style changed over time like Georges, but he's famous for his "air fills" by which people mean a slow drum fill like the one in With A Little Help From My Friends . Once you hear that, you'll hear Ringoisms everywhere! Hope that helps.

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

13 March 2016
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Great thread, @Only a nowhere girl.

I would post something more but I feel there's nothing I can add to JPM-Fangirl's and ewe2's responses up there. Excellent answers to an excellent question. Apples all round! apple01apple01apple01apple01

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13 March 2016
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One other thing I forgot: Paul and John and George had different acoustic guitar styles too! That's Paul on Yesterday and Blackbird , notice how he does those strums with a low note and then a strum or two. Now listen to Rocky Racoon or Mother Nature's Son . These are easy to spot because Paul rarely if ever played acoustic on songs he didn't write and/or sing. Famously, John had Julia when he learnt to fingerpick but he did the same thing in Happiness Is A Warm Gun . However, John plays the bulk of rhythm acoustic guitar on earlier Beatles songs. Listen to the stereo versions of Norwegian Wood , or Girl, he's usually the guitar on the left, George is usually panned right (George played a lot of 12 string lead on acoustic and electric), or even better I'm Only Sleeping . Nice unhurried strumming or strong rhythms. George is hard to pick because he's either playing licks or playing along providing a wall of acoustic! But a nice example is Long, Long, Long where he's playing acoustic lead and rhythm. Another one to listen to is Piggies where he's also playing acoustic, and that's a typical George sound, high chords which suggests 12-string again to me, and a strumming pattern I recognise from his solo years, quite busy. So there's a bit more!

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

14 March 2016
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picking out who plays what is similar to conjugating verbs in spanish or french. @ewe2 has good tecniques to distinguish who is playing, but there are also irregular cases, where theres no way to distinguish it other than just knowing it from research, like irregular verbs. hope that makes sense

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14 March 2016
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Only a nowhere girl said
Hello there. I know that many Beatles fans can tell, for example, wether it's George or Paul or John playing a guitar solo just by listening to it. I'm a big Beatles fan but can't even always tell if it's Ringo or not playing the drums. And most people say Ringo's drumming is very distinguishing. So could somebody please describe a few characteristic features of the different Beatles' styles, especially on their most played instruments, to help me to be able to at least vaguely tell them apart? 

Welcome aboard nowhere girl!

I suggest you check out some live Beatles concert clips on YouTube and you'll start to see for yourself who's playing what.  And you'll fall in love with them all over again. heart

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14 March 2016
2.39pm
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I remember listening to the radio and hearing some random songs and saying "Christ that sounds a lot like George* playing there" and I go home, Google it and low and behold it is!

 

*Also works extremely well for Eric Clapton but he is more distinctive than George anyways.

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14 March 2016
3.07pm
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AppleScruffJunior said

*Also works extremely well for Eric Clapton but he is more distinctive than George anyways.

I beg to differ... ahdn_george_01

But then I've listened to more Harrisonics than Claptonics. 

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14 March 2016
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Silly Girl said

AppleScruffJunior said

*Also works extremely well for Eric Clapton but he is more distinctive than George anyways.

I beg to differ... ahdn_george_01

But then I've listened to more Harrisonics than Claptonics. 

I am a fan of Eric, although no where near as much as George or any of the other Beatles (except perhaps Ringo, sorry Rings :/ ). I love his 60's work with The Yardbirds and Cream and then his early-mid 70's stuff is great as well, the further you go into the 80's the more I turned my head but he brought it back again with 'Unplugged' in 1992. His current stuff is on-off but overall he is a good artist.

The second I hear a slide guitar/blues bit in any song I can tell if it's Clapton or not, he just has a really identifible style the same as Ringo and his drumming.

John and Paul don't have anything remarkably 'stand-outish' about them I don't think, which is funny considering how the vast majority of The Beatles consider Lennon-McCartney 'The Beatles'.

 

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14 March 2016
5.22pm
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AppleScruffJunior elaborated

Silly Girl contradicted

AppleScruffJunior coughed 

*Also works extremely well for Eric Clapton but he is more distinctive than George anyways.

I beg to differ... ahdn_george_01

But then I've listened to more Harrisonics than Claptonics. 

I am a fan of Eric... <And then there was snippage...>

The second I hear a slide guitar/blues bit in any song I can tell if it's Clapton or not, he just has a really identifible style. <...and beautiful edits, they tell me>

I guess it would be David Gilmour for me. My favourite living guitarist. a-hard-days-night-john-1

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14 March 2016
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brian-epstein

stay-on-topic 

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17 March 2016
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Thanks for all your answers! I'm sure I'm getting better all the time.a-hard-days-night-john-6

23 August 2016
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Plenty of fans have been fooled by who plays what.  Thanks to the internet, you can pretty much look up any song to see who is playing what on it.  Paul was a very unusual lead guitar player.  But best in small doses.  The more he'd solo, the more his limitations came out - but only in his solo work, he never took a long solo in a Beatles song.  In fact, only Clapton did that!

Something to know about George.  He would struggle often in the studio in the early years.  He could come up with some nice tasty licks in the early days on stage (and many of his solos were melodic and chord based), but in his own words, he played crappy guitars for rock lead (Gretsch) with lousy tone.  He simply was unaware!  He started getting better guitars more suited for the job like the blue Fender Strat (that became Rocky), a red Gibson SG, Epiphone Casino and later his Les Paul (Lucy) and the rosewood Fender Telecaster seen on Let It Be .  Certainly things had really come to a head on the Taxman session, where he couldn't come up with a satisfactory solo so Paul ripped off a killer one in no time.  That had to be humiliating.  Here was a great song that he wrote, the lead off track of the album and he couldn't deliver a solo while Paul's was considered so good, they copied it and put it on the fade out as an encore.

When they recorded All You Need Is Love , John and Paul told George to play the solo live as they performed it.   George was a little concerned that he might mess it up.  Martin told him they'd be able to fix it later if he screwed up.  Sure enough, George messed up the end of the solo!  He hits that bad note and it simply ends.  They never fixed the solo and released it as is.  I always wondered what he was going to play, probably the same notes as the rest of the solo, but going up with the key change.  Either way, not a confidence booster.

In 1966 George really immersed himself in learning the sitar.  For two years he worked very hard at it.  He finally came to the realization that he was never going to be a great sitar player and gave it up completely in 1968 to go back to guitar.  But it was a blessing in disguise for him.  One, it had made him more rounded as a musician.  It gave him a new sense of musicality.  Two, he started playing slide guitar in 1969 with his own sound and style which is very rare for a slide player.  I have the sense that hearing similar slide type instruments in Indian music put that bug in his ear (similar to Derek Trucks).  His playing really took off.  He was coming up with some amazing solos.  Not flashy, not blues based, but melodic and musical.  Fast forward to the Something session.  George has written a masterpiece, everything is coming together on the track and they need to record the orchestra.  But George wants to record his solo at the same time as the orchestra.  George Martin reminds him that he has to nail it, they can't keep re-doing it.  George does nail it as you hear it on the record (although it ended up being pretty similar to the one he already had recorded).  I also felt George played some great leads on the rooftop gig considering it was outside in January.  The bottom line is George truly evolved as a guitar player in the 60's, coming out a great player as 1970 arrived.  On his first solo album his amazing slide work and lead guitar were everywhere.

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23 August 2016
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Lead Guitar:

John:

Very choppy and simple, easily the worst of the trio.

Songs:

You Can't Do That (solo)

Long Tall Sally (1st solo)

Every Little Thing

Nowhere Man (double tracked with George)

When I'm Sixty Four

Julia

Birthday (harmonized with Paul)

Yer Blues (2nd half of solo George)

Revolution 1 (outro)

Revolution (solo)

Honey Pie

Revolution 9 (from Revolution 1 outro)

Hey Bulldog (possibly George)

Come Together (either John double tracked with George or just George)

I Want You (She's So Heavy) (intro solo: George, verse/per chorus/chorus 1/2: John, main solo: John, outro: John and George)

Because

The End (guitar duel with George and Paul, in the order PGJPGJPGJ with an outro solo done by George)

Across The Universe

For You Blue

Get Back

The Ballad Of John And Yoko

George:

very fluid and thought out.

Songs:

Everything I didn't mention

Paul:

very fast and aggressive, sounds improv-y.

Songs:

She's A Woman (double tracked with George)

The Night Before

Another Girl

Ticket To Ride (solo)

I've Just Seen A Face

Yesterday

Drive My Car (solo)

I'm Looking Through You

Taxman

Paperback Writer

I'm Only Sleeping (outro with George)

Here, There, And Everywhere

And Your Bird Can Sing (harmonized with George)

Got To Get You Into My Life

Tommorow Never Knows

Sgt. Pepper 's Lonely Hearts Club Band (with George)

Getting Better (possibly George)

Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (yes, there's actually guitar in the song, Paul plays the funny sounding 2nd half of the 1st organ solo on his guitar, possibly with some delay added)

Good Morning, Good Morning

Strawberry Fields Forever (solo)

It's All Too Much (possibly George)

Back In The USSR

Ob La Di, Ob La Da (bass doubling)

Wild Honey Pie

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (bass doubling in chorus, possibly George)

Martha My Dear

Blackbird

Rocky Raccoon

Why Don't We Do It In The Road

I Will

Birthday (harmonized with John)

Mother Nature's Son

Helter Skelter

Can You Take Me Back

Maxwell's Silver Hammer (possibly George)

The End (with John and George)

Two Of Us (with George)

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23 August 2016
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Great question! And this is why I love this forum (and site) so much... I learn something new all the time! 

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24 August 2016
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Carry That Weight 's solo is most certainly George, no?

Reverse the polarity of the jelly baby!

24 August 2016
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Camarasaur8 said
Carry That Weight 's solo is most certainly George, no?  

Most sources say George, maybe he got a bad source.

Maybe you should try posting more.

24 August 2016
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From @Joe's song page on Carry That Weight , @sgtpepper63:

Joe.jpgImage Enlarger

From Mark Lewisohn's Complete Recording Sessions:

3-July-1969.jpgImage Enlarger

I would look again at your attributions for McCartney lead guitar, using Joe's song pages to see what the consensus is. More than one is wrong. For instance, you give the lead to Paul on Maggie Mae , and again it's George on lead with John and Paul playing acoustics.

It's always worth looking at Joe's carefully researched entries on the main site. Not only because they're based on the best information he can find, but because he always takes on board other opinions and changes his articles if someone has a strong enough argument that he may not have it quite right.

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