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How did John play rhythm guitar?
10 August 2014
6.00am
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
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Hi y'all,

I am a beginning-intermediate guitar player and I was wondering if some of the more experienced guitar players on this site could help me out. I have always been fascinated with the sound of John's guitar and how he plays. I would like to know how to reproduce his sound. I play lefty a-hard-days-night-paul-11 and I use a Squier Strat. I know its not the most ideal but it was all I could find cheaply. If only Rickenbacker made southpaw 325s.ahdn_paul_01

Anyways, thanks in advance.

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10 August 2014
6.28am
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Funny Paper
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I haven't paid much attention to John's rhythm guitar; I'm sure he was especially talented, but I just don't have enough interest to do the extra work of trying to find out who played what on which song (and if I did, I probably wouldn't be that good at it), or going the extra mile to listen to isolated tracks etc.

One thing that did stick in my mind however, in Joe's page here up top on "Songs", I read that John did that amazing fast strumming for "All My Loving " and John was particularly proud of that.  I still marvel at it and the seamless chord changes he did.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...

10 August 2014
6.42am
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
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I've tried playing All My Loving but my arm gets tired after the first verse. Way above my skill level. Also doesn't sound great on a Strat, but that's probably my horrible playinga-hard-days-night-ringo-14

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10 August 2014
1.08pm
muzair
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy said
I've tried playing All My Loving but my arm gets tired after the first verse. Way above my skill level. Also doesn't sound great on a Strat, but that's probably my horrible playinga-hard-days-night-ringo-14

What are you talking about, EVEYRTHING sounds great on a Strat... :)

You can find out the gear he used on each record, either in 'The Beatles Gear' book, or have a look on The Beatgear Cavern forum - heaps of pretty nerdy gear info there.  A Rick 325, a Strat, an Epiphone Casino, a Gibson J-160 (I think), are just some of the guitars he used over the course of the Beatles career.

For 'All My Loving ' - Take the part and play it with a metronome at a much slower tempo than the record, and gradually increase the tempo as you get comfortable. It's solid triplets in the verses, which is hard at a quick tempo, so you need to give your body time to get used to relaxing at faster tempos. In the chorus and guitar solo he plays a different rhythm.

I think the record is up around 154 bpm (although I haven't clocked it in years), so if you start at, say, 110bpm and work up from there, you'll get it. Only go up a couple of clicks at a time though; you'd be amazed at the difference of only two or four beats a minute, especially when your subdivisons are busy, like triplets or sixteenths.  It might take a day, or a few days, or a week, or two weeks, but you'll get there.

That method of slowly increasing the metronome works for just about anything that is a chops buster, and it's great for your time feel.  I can guarantee you that John Lennon never did it that way though - he just developed his chops from years and years of playing.

Having a quick listen, John also isn't making too many accents in the triplets, they are all pretty even, and you can hear the the gaps in the rhythm when he has to shift his hand.

Oh yeah, and remember to relax! :)

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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
10 August 2014
1.08pm
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robert
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Hi there UnidentifiedFiendishThingy - in terms of John's playing - I'll share what little I know and hopefully it might help.

One is John's sound - which remained fairly unchanged (although it would be processed through distortion, phase shifters etc ) unchanged because his Casino was he main "go to" guitar. You can get that sound (sort of) on your Squire I would think by putting the switch on the 4th or 5th position. Keep the treble up but not too up. The Vox amps also had a lot to do with John's early sound - Fender amps had a lot to do with his later sound.

In terms of playing - John was a lot better than most realize - mostly in his rhythmic style. He used a lot of reggae patterns and would hit hard on the two and four or the one and three depending on the song - very often stroking up rather than down.

His wrist was very supple so patterns like All My Loving came easily to him - watch live versions - it seems effortless.

The main thing is he played a lot when he was younger developing tons of muscle memory that would serve him later. There's no substitute for practice/playing time.

If you listen to Double Fantasy you'll hear how his strumming style really never changed from the early days.

Finally John just had an odd/unique sense of timing. He wasn't on the beat as much he as on the "feel". Which is why he and Ringo played so well together. Rhythm guitar players should be playing with the drums (and the cymbals especially) and the bass. But because Paul's bass playing was so melodic John's guitar hung out with the drums a lot.

I think we sometimes think of these four guys as the "Fab Four" but they were hard working musicians who honed their craft and knew how to play their instruments - and how to play their instruments together - as a unit.

A careful listen to Let It Be shows how in spite of everything they developed specific guitar lines and bass lines etc. for each song. And for the most part played them live.

Probably more than you wanted to read, but oh well.

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10 August 2014
7.27pm
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
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Thanks for the great info @muzair & @robert. On my Strat, I usually use the 2nd pickup with middle pickup tone rolled off. Sounds washed out. I tried the 4th position today and it sounds great. I play through a Vox AC-30 amplug routed through my computer speakers. I've only had this guitar for 2 months so I'm still getting used to it. The only guitars that John used that are made lefty is the Strat and Casino. I may buy a Casino as next guitar. I think John is the most underrated Beatle in terms of musicianship. a-hard-days-night-john-4Anyways, could someone describe what a reggae pattern is?

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11 August 2014
3.41am
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robert
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Here's a pretty good explanation - http://www.guitarworld.com/reg.....g-patterns

Basically John often strummed up (rather than down) and he'd hit on the offbeats. He did it in a chop rather than a smooth strum.

Also listen to She's A Woman - and read the write up on the song here on this site. Interestingly Paul is quoted regarding John's playing and its being in synch with Ringo's playing.

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11 August 2014
5.54am
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paulramon1962
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Well, as far as John's playing on All My Loving , he doesn't use his arm so much as he uses his wrist. My recommendation would be to watch some videos of him playing live; Search Youtube for The Beatles All My Loving live, as well as the Rooftop concert. You'll be able to see some of his rhythm style.

John was an incredibly adept rhythm guitarist. If you look at the Hey Jude performance from the David Frost program, the Beatles do a little jazzy jam before their introduction. John tries some lead and it sounds terrible, but once he switches to chords it sounds fantastic. Another great example is the Kinfaus demo for Child Of Nature . He's playing chords there that most guitarists don't know exist.

If you are looking for a guitar to sound like John, a strat isn't a terrible choice. John and George both used Strats during Rubber Soul and Revolver , but after that John switched to an Epiphone Casino, a guitar he used for most of the rest of his career with The Beatles. Epiphone is making a left handed one:
http://www.musiciansfriend.com.....ric-guitar

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11 August 2014
6.21am
muzair
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To further expand on what @robert said...

It's interesting to note that reggae in the form we know it didn't really exist until towards the end of The Beatles' time.  Ska (or Bluebeat) was the predominant Jamaican music throughout the 1960's, and was popular in England due to the number of Jamaican as well as other West indian migrants.  The offbeat rhythm, also known as 'skank rhythm', was also prevalent in Ska, and in the in-between style called Rocksteady.  It could be either straight 8ths or swung, and the rhythm examples in the guitar world link in the post above fit fine, depending on the tempo.   Often people lump Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae all together as one style; there are similarities but it's not correct.

Somewhere in an interview from the 70's, John says something like 'I wish I'd bought shares in reggae in the 60's before anybody knew what it was!'.  He also mentions that he tried it a couple of times in The Beatles, and (if memory serves) he mentions 'I Call Your Name ' as an example.  If you listen to that song, during the guitar solo, they swing the 8th notes and John plays a Ska-style skank rhythm guitar part.

The thing to remember is this: Many of these rhythms are exactly the same or very similar in many different styles of music, but are often called something different.  That same rhythm guitar part in 'I Call Your Name ', for example, could function in a blues shuffle.  The part in 'She's A Woman ' is a very standard technique - playing the backbeat in unison with the snare drum on 2 and 4.  You can also find this in Motown, old rhythm and blues records, soul music, funk etc etc

On some early Beatles stuff, John plays in a very Chuck Berry type style. His part on 'I Saw Her Standing There ' is a good example of this.  It's worth listening to how Chuck Berry plays rhythm guitar too, John LOVED Chuck Berry and copped a lot from him. 

Rhythm guitar is all about feel.  You gotta lock in with the drums and bass; that doesn't necessarily mean playing the same rhythm, often it means being complementary and playing in (some of) the gaps. It's nothing to do with being fancy, or hip, or cool, it's everything to do with groove and the song.

If you really want to check out some other great rhythm guitar playing, then 'Funkmasters: The great James Brown rhythm sections' is the book to get. Transcriptions of guitar, bass, and drum parts from James Brown's best stuff. You can see how the parts line up and lock in with each other.  Not really related to learning to play like John Lennon as far as the songs, but it is about great rhythm playing. 

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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
11 August 2014
6.29am
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
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Thanks for the wealth of info. I don't know much about reggae but you have just tripled my knowledge in reggae. I think I'm going to have to listen to more Chuck Berry and James Brown also.

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11 August 2014
6.53am
muzair
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UnidentifiedFiendishThingy said
Thanks for the wealth of info. I don't know much about reggae but you have just tripled my knowledge in reggae. I think I'm going to have to listen to more Chuck Berry and James Brown also.

 

Cool! 🙂  Like I said, the James Brown thing isn't stylistically related to John Lennon 's playing, but the rhythm guitar on that stuff is incredible!

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