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I miss the harmonies
16 November 2014
6.58am
muzair
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Matt Busby said
Because of this topic, I have been listening specifically to the harmonies, and I’ve come up with a list of songs that, to my ears, have 3-parts (even one 4-part!) that I can’t distinguish the individual voices.  

The mixing plays a part in all this, because John’s voice is often mixed a little louder (or maybe it’s because he sings the low part) which makes it fairly easy (to my ears anyway) to pick Paul’s high voice out.  What I’m asking of you friends is (if you care) have additions, subtractions to to list based on your likes.  They’re in chronological order pretty much:

Misery

If I Fell
 
And Your Bird Can Sing
 
With A Little Help From My Friends (a couple lines of which are 4-part I believe)

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

She’s Leaving Home (backing)
 
Rain (is that 4-part the first word of each “chorus” – the words Rain and Shine?, also the backing vocal track)
 

First of all, thanks for posting your list – I listened to everything on it in that order, and it was a fun listen!

I’ve edited your list to point out a couple that don’t fit as 3-part harmony.  Misery , If I Fell , And Your Bird, Lucy and She’s Leaving Home  are all two-parters. 

With A Little Help  doesn’t have any 4-part bits, but there ARE four voices doing some of the parts. On the multitrack, you can hear that John and Paul are singing each part in unison, so 2 voices doing the low harmony and 2 doing the high harmony.  It’s in 3 part when they harmonise with Ringo’s melody; the answer calls are in 2 part.

Rain I can’t hear any 4 part on, but there’s 3 parts happening in various bits, especially the outro. The choruses are mostly two, except for the later chorus where the top note is added to the harmony. 

Some of the confusion in Beatle harmonies is the double tracking; either one voice double tracked in unison, or two part harmony double tracked.  It thickens the texture, and it can sound like there’s another part when in reality it’s another voice (or two).  Sometimes there’s 3 part double tracked, or triple tracked, in the case of Because .

 

To touch on the comment about John’s voice being mixed louder – I have a theory on this. I don’t think it’s mixed louder, but he has a more nasal sound than Paul, so some overtones and harmonics in his voice come out and cut through the sound well.  When you hear J+P singing in unison you can hear how the different tones effect the sound. On some vowels you will hear John louder than Paul and vice versa.  Paul has nasal resonance too, but he has a ’rounder’ tone.  Check out I’ll Follow The Sun – on the verses they sing in unison, but occasionally a different voice will dominate just for a word or two, or even just a vowel.

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16 November 2014
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Bulldog said
^ Some of those I’ve figured out (after listening to them MANY times, don’t get me wrong), but one that’s always confounded my ears is another song from Rubber Soul : “Wait “. I don’t know why, but those harmonies are really tough to figure out for me. I should probably get the remastered RS, then I bet I’d have it.a-hard-days-night-george-10And I couldn’t figure out Nowhere Man either, I had to watch that Galeazzo Frudua guy’s video for it.

 

One way you can do it is to sing the other harmony. For example, pick out the harmony that you hear easiest, and sing that along with the record, then listen to the voice singing the other part. Because you’re singing one part, the other should stick out more. With three part harmonies, if you hear the top easiest, start there and work down; if you hear the low, start there and work up. Often the middle part is the hardest to hear, and it probably won’t move as much melodically.

The other way is more of a theory based idea.  Figure out the notes of one part, and then work out the other part based on what the chords are. Most Beatle harmonies are in thirds (although there are plenty that aren’t), so if you can hear that John is singing a ‘B’ over a G chord, then an ‘D’ over a D chord, and Paul is just above him, you could guess that Paul is probably singing a ‘D’ over the G chord and an ‘F#’ over the D chord. 

It can take a little practise to get good at either method, but they both work.  I learnt to sing harmonies when I got my driver’s license at the age of 17; I’d drive around listening to Beatles tapes and sing along.  I’d figure out one part, then run the tape back and sing the other part.

The theory method is great if you are in a band and need to work out harmony parts when the chords are tricky or if someone can’t pick out their part by ear. 

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16 November 2014
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muzair said

<major snippage>

With A Little Help  doesn’t have any 4-part bits, but there ARE four voices doing some of the parts. On the multitrack, you can hear that John and Paul are singing each part in unison, so 2 voices doing the low harmony and 2 doing the high harmony.  It’s in 3 part when they harmonise with Ringo’s melody; the answer calls are in 2 part.

Rain I can’t hear any 4 part on, but there’s 3 parts happening in various bits, especially the outro. The choruses are mostly two, except for the later chorus where the top note is added to the harmony. 

Some of the confusion in Beatle harmonies is the double tracking; either one voice double tracked in unison, or two part harmony double tracked.  It thickens the texture, and it can sound like there’s another part when in reality it’s another voice (or two).  Sometimes there’s 3 part double tracked, or triple tracked, in the case of Because .

To touch on the comment about John’s voice being mixed louder – I have a theory on this.

Thanks for the corrections.  tbh i was kind of hesitant to put a couple in, like If I Fell , And Your Bird Can Sing , Lucy and She’s Leaving Home because I wasn’t sure if those were all 3 of them.  I agree with you about John’s voice and the mixing.  Don’t Let Me Down is a good example too.  One great thing about the beatles was their ability to naturally harmonize…like in the ed sullivan performances and George just walks up to either Paul’s or John’s mic and joins in (seemingly “just for the fun of it” at times), or various combos in harmony…i think harmony was an integral part of their gifts.

Also I’m glad you enjoyed the listen :)

I think I can usually hear the simple double tracking but the songs where one of them dubs a third or fourth harmony part in are hard to hear (and I can’t find my headphones).  cuz it is actually 3 or 4 part, and like the premise of my post i cannot distinguish them. I knew Because was 3×3, and i think it’s incredible the way they matched the runs (like in the word “around”).  I also love the effect they used to make it sound like a large choir, you know the edges of their voices and maybe a little reverb or something make sort of a tingling sound, for lack of a better word.

If the chorus of Rain is only two it’s a powerful two…probably double tracked.

Bottom line – we love them all no matter who is singing what a-hard-days-night-george-10

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muzair said
The other way is more of a theory based idea.  Figure out the notes of one part, and then work out the other part based on what the chords are. Most Beatle harmonies are in thirds (although there are plenty that aren’t), so if you can hear that John is singing a ‘B’ over a G chord, then an ‘D’ over a D chord, and Paul is just above him, you could guess that Paul is probably singing a ‘D’ over the G chord and an ‘F#’ over the D chord. 

It can take a little practise to get good at either method, but they both work.  I learnt to sing harmonies when I got my driver’s license at the age of 17; I’d drive around listening to Beatles tapes and sing along.  I’d figure out one part, then run the tape back and sing the other part.

The theory method is great if you are in a band and need to work out harmony parts when the chords are tricky or if someone can’t pick out their part by ear. 

I know most of the theory behind it thanks to 6 years of piano.  I’ll have to try your method out, but I had a tough time just figuring out Two of Us to the point where i could stay on the harmony without sliding into the melody – i’m afraid the only way i’ll ever be able to sing harmony is to learn the part separately without listening to anything else (which is what my son did when he was in barbershop quartet and choir – tg he got more of my dad’s musical talent than I did!).

And speaking of Two of Us, it’s one of many examples where I hear a compound harmony (like a 7th or 9th) – he’s definitely higher than a fifth above John, and it doesn’t sound like a standard chord at all.

Also, John and George’s voices were full of harmonics on their own – Paul’s maybe not so much, but his is still a rich voice…love the way he bites down on that first line in Why Don’t We Do It In the Road.

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20 November 2014
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Matt Busby said 

  
I think I can usually hear the simple double tracking but the songs where one of them dubs a third or fourth harmony part in are hard to hear (and I can’t find my headphones).  cuz it is actually 3 or 4 part, and like the premise of my post i cannot distinguish them. I knew Because was 3×3, and i think it’s incredible the way they matched the runs (like in the word “around”).  I also love the effect they used to make it sound like a large choir, you know the edges of their voices and maybe a little reverb or something make sort of a tingling sound, for lack of a better word.

If the chorus of Rain is only two it’s a powerful two…probably double tracked.

Bottom line – we love them all no matter who is singing what a-hard-days-night-george-10

 

Definitely plenty of reverb on Because !  Part of that ‘choir effect’ that you mention I think may be due to the manual double tracking (or triple tracking); the slight variations in lengths of notes, breathes, vibrato etc makes it sound like a choir because it really is 9 distinct performances! Therein lies the beautiful difference between manual and automatic double tracking.  If you hear each vocal track isolated (they are around on one of the mogg collections), you can really hear the differences in each pass, even though they sound essentially the same.  I never knew until I heard those how John in one pass adds a wide vibrato on one phrase which he doesn’t do in the other two passes, for example. 

Re Rain : I’m wondering if the reason why it sounds so huge is because John and Paul are belting the hell out of those particular phrases?  They both have such punchy, strong belt voices.  Also, I’m wondering if John and Paul are both singing the top harmony together, it sounds like John’s tone in there but also sounds a bit like Paul.  There’s no mogg but there are the 5.1 tracks… I’m listening and trying to figure it out.  I’ll let you know what I come up with.

And I wholeheartedly agree with your ‘bottom line’ comment!

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Matt Busby said 

I know most of the theory behind it thanks to 6 years of piano.  I’ll have to try your method out, but I had a tough time just figuring out Two of Us to the point where i could stay on the harmony without sliding into the melody – i’m afraid the only way i’ll ever be able to sing harmony is to learn the part separately without listening to anything else (which is what my son did when he was in barbershop quartet and choir – tg he got more of my dad’s musical talent than I did!).

And speaking of Two of Us, it’s one of many examples where I hear a compound harmony (like a 7th or 9th) – he’s definitely higher than a fifth above John, and it doesn’t sound like a standard chord at all.

Also, John and George’s voices were full of harmonics on their own – Paul’s maybe not so much, but his is still a rich voice…love the way he bites down on that first line in Why Don’t We Do It In the Road.

The method you mention of learning the part separately is of course another great way to do it because you hear the part as it’s own independent melody.  I’ve had to do the same when (like your son!) I’ve sung in close harmony groups.

Without writing out the parts for Two Of Us , I can’t think of anywhere in there that might be that big an interval – maybe the end of the bridge? ‘Out ahead’.  Or maybe ‘We’re going home’?  John’s part hardly moves, maybe in that phrase there’s a note or two that’s quite wide.  I seem to remember being able to swap between parts quite comfortable and it felt like thirds for most of the song.  However, because of the ‘deep’ tone John is using on his part, it does make his voice sound lower than normal.

About the harmonics in the voices, yes they are all there! I think Paul’s is definitely really rich with overtones and harmonics.  What I meant to say originally is that when John sings low, he still has more of a nasal ‘buzz’, so he cuts through the mix better when he sings lower.  Paul’s voice, on the other hand, for me has much more tonal variety, especially when he gets up high.  Golden Slumbers is a perfect example of how many different sounds he can get.  And so easily. Lucky bastard.

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Mr. Kite said
Beatles harmonies really are a bit of magic. Listening to Because , especially the Anthology 3 version, always hits me. What’s funny is looking at pictures from that era, where John looks Amish, and imagining those beautiful voices coming out of those three men.
Image Enlarger

The harmonies are a major part of why The Beatles’ music sounded so good and probably won’t ever be matched.

 Haha. Mr.Kite don’t judge a musician by its looks. In this pic they look like they were expelled from hogwarts and John totally looks like a wizard

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*Wanders into thread/room* *blows off dust while singing “Blow Away”* 

So do I, @trcanberra. *sigh

Beatle harmonies are some of Mankind’s greatest achievements, and hands down the most Beatleful aspect of their music. I think of all solo Beatles, only George came close to that magic feelin’ (my hypothesis is that during the Beatle days, he was on harmony a lot, therefore his backup vocals sound especially Beatleful). Have a listen to “Here Comes The Moon” sometime– there’s this “ahhh” bit that will give you a double take due to its Abbey Roadishness. It’s so almost-but-not-quite. 

Anyway, I think 1965 was their big harmony year. On Help ! and Rubber Soul almost every single song has a harmony line to sing along with. 

*Wanders out again* 

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Great thread, and since I’ve been thinking about melodic harmony lately, I’d like to mention There’s A Place , which isn’t 3rd part for a change, but gives you a good insight into the differences between John and Paul’s voices. You can hear how strong John’s voices is on his lower register, there’s a lot of lower midrange to it (meaning that those frequencies are quite strong for that range), and how strong Paul’s is in that astronomical range of his, particularly in the middle-eight where both are belting it out an octave apart.

Edit: Also shout-out to The Byrds, it wasn’t all Beach Boys .

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As I tread onto the thread with my own duster in hand…

There is much to be said about John-Paul harmonies alone: they are beautiful, solid and intriguing (not the best word I’d have chosen for the elegance and grace they displayed in them but they really *are* intriguing to the point of driving me mad sometimes with riddles they put forth). However, it were the ephemeral, ever-present middle-set George’s parts that brought those tingles in your brain that you know so well. They are nearly inaudible, they blend into the overall harmony, and change them for every ear that hears them. 

So while John and Paul made the spine and frame of these already-hauntingly-beautiful vocal parts (If I Fell is a prime example of how excellent they were, achieved singing technique or no), George’s parts are the spirit of these soul-piercing tunes — especially the ones where you could barely hear him at all. This is how much he blended in and bound everything together.

This is a quick recap of what I learned for the last ten or eleven years of my efforts to break down and understand what they achieved with their singing alone. I might have left some mental shortcuts in here without realising, but I hope I’ve made myself even a tiny bit clear about what I meant ..

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Absolutely.  George especially deserves kudos for being saddled with the middle line in those 3-parts.  The high line and the low line both carry melodies, the middle line simply picks up the remaining note in the chord, and is often horribly melody-less, making it really difficult to sing.  As the weakest of the 3 vocalists (sorry, Richy!), he nonetheless does an absolutely sterling job filling in the 3rd part, throughout the canon.

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I have a theory about George, that his role as 3rd vocalist directly influenced his style of songwriting, such that he liked to write unusual intervals in his melodies and had a penchant for chromatic progressions.

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Getting_Better very aptly pronounced 
As I tread onto the thread with my own duster in hand…

There is much to be said about John-Paul harmonies alone: they are beautiful, solid and intriguing (not the best word I’d have chosen for the elegance and grace they displayed in them but they really *are* intriguing to the point of driving me mad sometimes with riddles they put forth). However, it were the ephemeral, ever-present middle-set George’s parts that brought those tingles in your brain that you know so well. They are nearly inaudible, they blend into the overall harmony, and change them for every ear that hears them. 

So while John and Paul made the spine and frame of these already-hauntingly-beautiful vocal parts (If I Fell is a prime example of how excellent they were, achieved singing technique or no), George’s parts are the spirit of these soul-piercing tunes — especially the ones where you could barely hear him at all. This is how much he blended in and bound everything together.

This is a quick recap of what I learned for the last ten or eleven years of my efforts to break down and understand what they achieved with their singing alone. I might have left some mental shortcuts in here without realising, but I hope I’ve made myself even a tiny bit clear about what I meant ..

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Yes, yes, yes and YES! You hit the nail on the head with that one. I couldn’t have put it better myself! beatlemaniacs_02_gif 

Apples apple01apple01apple01 for your brilliant summation. 

And while I’m here… 

@ewe2 hypothesized  
I have a theory about George, that his role as 3rd vocalist directly influenced his style of songwriting, such that he liked to write unusual intervals in his melodies and had a penchant for chromatic progressions.

Agreed. I had the same thought myself, some time ago, while reflecting that once he finally developed as a songwriter (about Rubber Soul -era or so), his songs always had that Harrisonic feel to them, which I thought might be for the reasons you stated. And now I’m having more possibly-brilliant thoughts which are somewhat off-topic, so… 

THERE’S NOTHING ELSE IN HEAVEN OR EARTH AS BEATLEFUL AS JP&G SINGING TOGETHER!!!!!! beatlemaniacs_02_gif 

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vectisfabber said
Absolutely.  George especially deserves kudos for being saddled with the middle line in those 3-parts.  The high line and the low line both carry melodies, the middle line simply picks up the remaining note in the chord, and is often horribly melody-less, making it really difficult to sing.  As the weakest of the 3 vocalists (sorry, Richy!), he nonetheless does an absolutely sterling job filling in the 3rd part, throughout the canon.

Weakest in technique, perhaps.

But, yes, I concur. What he did was essentially what tenor parts (tenere is Italian for ‘to retain’ or some such) were written to do since the Baroque – uphold the harmony on the least conspicuous notes that proved invaluable to the overall harmonic spectrum. Look up some tenor parts in the classical pieces… you will find much and more for comparison with Harrison. ;)

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@Wigwam said in another thread

And just for fun a look at another ‘For sale’ song that is easily overlooked …………..this chap takes you closer to it.

This guy is so good, I had to repost about him in this thread.

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muzair said

Matt Bus
 
And speaking of Two of Us, it’s one of many examples where I hear a compound harmony (like a 7th or 9th) – he’s definitely higher than a fifth above John, and it doesn’t sound like a standard chord at
 

 
 
Without writing out the parts for Two Of Us , I can’t think of anywhere in there that might be that big an interval – maybe the end of the bridge? ‘Out ahead’.  Or maybe ‘We’re going home’?  John’s part hardly moves, maybe in that phrase there’s a note or two that’s quite wide.  I seem to remember being able to swap between parts quite comfortable and it felt like thirds for most of the song.  However, because of the ‘deep’ tone John is using on his part, it does make his voice sound lower than normal.
 

I was sick when this thread was dusted, but I’d like to say that the April comments were dead on imo and really clarified both what I was hearing, in some cases, and what I was trying to say in others.  If that makes sense.

I’d also like to publicly recant my rather loud praises of Phil and Don’s harmonies being the best probably because genetics matched their voices so well.  Yes, they were magical together, there’s no doubting that.  But the variety of the Beatles’ harmonies (of course being more of them the harmonies could be that much more complex, plus they dubbed whereas I don’t know that the Everly’s did any overdubbing) – J&P’s ability to sound as one at times, as 3 at others, and that indescribable delicacy that George’s middle part brought in (as described eloquently above) have forced me to admit to myself that, as in so many other areas, the Beatles’ RULE rock harmony. Yes, still.  Ok, the Beach Boys were perhaps as good, but with more voices and Brian’s singular genius for developing harmonies but (imo other than Brian) less talent than JP&G, I think the Beatles win pound for pound.  And as beautiful as the Bee Gees harmonies were, I don’t remember them as having such a wide variety of differing parts – I remember them as being (in fact ABBA was like this as well) more just simple chord/arpeggio stuff, mostly standard majors.  Someone feel free to point out exceptions if you know them!

In Two of Us, I’m thinking especially of the word “home” in “We’re going home” – just the 3rd time in each verse. It’s such an off harmony that even I learned it right away.  I just reviewed Frudua’s youtube lesson on Two of Us and you’re right, it’s almost all 3rds. I came to the conclusion that when Paul is holding his gut tight squeezing out that last note running low on breath, and he’s really synced into the harmony, that the octave-higher (double frequency) harmonic comes out really strong, and that’s what I’m hearing.  And you’re right that at the same time, John’s deeper voice exaggerates the apparent pitch difference between the two voices.

And yeah I’ve been referring to Frudua to help figure out songs for several years – he’s really very good, I like his style and his pitch is dead on.  Not to turn this into a Frudua commercial topic, his video on Dear Prudence is good, he focuses on putting feeling into the guitar and you can really hear it.

https://youtu.be/Maz1DbHXTt0

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I promise not to post anymore of these………They are easy enough to check out for yourselves.

It’s that I can often spend a very enjoyable 30 mins or so listening to this guy and marveling along with him at just how good those harmonies were…And then appreciate old songs afresh.

Please Please Me ‘ is now one of my favorite Beatles’ songs. So seemingly simple…so many hooks. Here it is………. done a deserved justice.

 

https://youtu.be/OeGZ9fLXiR0

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A brief, similar thread that is now locked can be found at https://www.beatlesbible.com/f…..harmonies/

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trcanberra
13 June 2015
4.17pm
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georgiewood
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This definitely enriches your appreciation for the musicality of the Beatles and gives form and definition to what may have been only a vague notion of a “pleasing” sound. Thanks for everybody who contributed to this thread.  apple01apple01  Knowledge is good!

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Matt Busby

I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997

15 June 2015
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Bongo
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Getting_Better said
As I tread onto the thread with my own duster in hand…

There is much to be said about John-Paul harmonies alone: they are beautiful, solid and intriguing (not the best word I’d have chosen for the elegance and grace they displayed in them but they really *are* intriguing to the point of driving me mad sometimes with riddles they put forth). 

I miss John & Yoko harmonies two-virgins

http://i276.photobucket.com/albums/kk38/rickdelsie/The%20Beatles/parlunread_zps28270d9d.gif BEATLES Music gives me Eargasms!  apple01

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