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Odd time signatures
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Artie Fisk
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10 June 2012 - 9.25pm

Oh, snap! Forgot about them.  Yeah, I guess Baby's In Black has to be 6/8, doesn't it?  Never thought about it before, but you're right. Very jazzy, that beat, amongst the folk-rocking, innit?

 

Now that I count it, yep, I Want You (She's So Heavy) ends in 6/8, too.  Oh! Darling, too. 

 

Damn, I've gotta ungunk my ears.  Need to go back and really LISTEN for these things. 

 

***

 

So, I ought to credit Pollack for his work properly:

 

My post on the shifting time signatures in GMGM is a summary of work done by the estimable Mr. Alan W. Pollack, copyright (C) 1996, and findable here:

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~sounds.....m.shtml#q1

 

If ANY of you who are musicians and Beatle fans haven't spent a good chunk of time perusing Mr. Pollack's work, you SHOULD.  There's a very nice website with multiple ways to access his analyses here:

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~sounds.....s_on.shtml

 

I have contacted Mr. Pollack (but not heard back from him) to suggest that he consider publishing his "Notes On" series in book form.  If he ever does, it will sit on my Beatles reference shelf, right next to the Lewisohn, the Anthology, Andy Babiuk's Beatles Gear, and Geoff Emerick's book.  I bow to his ears and his wisdom. 

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Into the Sky with Diamonds
New York
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11 June 2012 - 2.17am

Very interesting....

Although I can see it as a good music theory exercise,  I still wonder why in the 21st century this would matter.

I can see how in the days before recorded music a musician could only go by sheet music; the meter would indicate the cadence.

But today?

Any thoughts on this?

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)

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Artie Fisk
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11 June 2012 - 5.13am

Well, if you're playing it with a band, you need to know where the downbeats are. When the meter changes with every measure, it's hard to get it right unless you have sussed out the meter changes, and practiced it.  Much easier to practice something like this if you can count it, or it is for me.  I find that if I can memorize the counts to where I really have it "under my fingers," I can then turn off my brain, and don't need to count any more.  Music theory exercise or not, you can't play someone else's song "correctly" unless you can analyze it properly. 

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Ben Ramon
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11 June 2012 - 9.32am

Joe said
Yep, Pollack's articles are brilliant. I've thought about republishing them on this site - apparently it's OK to do so with a correct credit and back link (ie creative commons, though I don't think he used the term).

Isn't Oh! Darling in 6/8? What about the end of I Want You (SSH), Baby's In Black, Yes It Is, the final bit of MMT?

EDIT: Although George described it as a waltz, I always though I Me Mine was in 6/8. How about Long Long Long? I think that might actually be 3/4, on reflection. And I'm undecided about Yer Blues - that could be 4/4 with a swing beat, or perhaps 12/8.

Maybe you should contact Pollack and ask if you haven't already? They're pretty essential reading for any Beatlesmaniac who has an interest in the more in depth musical aspect of the songs.

Paul described Baby's In Black as a waltz too. I guess it shows that for all their genius they weren't too clued in on the little details of the theory a-hard-days-night-george-10I think 12/8 would be the appropriate counting for Yer Blues if you were to transcribe it to sheet music, but the way the Beatles play it I think they were imagining it in 4/4 with the swing beat as you described- John's count of "2, 3" at the beginning suggests this, although Ringo rides the cymbal in 12/8 and Paul's bass chugs along at the same rate.

I always thought of Yes It Is in 4/4 but now I realize I was wrong, it's in a pretty fast 6/8 to these ears.

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meanmistermustard

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11 June 2012 - 1.13pm

This stuff goes way over my head, all the 3/4 and 7/8's. Have never understood the indepth musical note stuff and would never be able to identify an a# from a g.

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19 August 2012 - 12.32am

Joe said
I think George was certainly conscious of the changes, as he'd studied Indian music with Ravi Shankar. That's why Here Comes The Sun is so interesting in its rhythms. I'd imagine McCartney was also aware of the rules and how to break them, but Lennon less so.

I've read before that in writing a song Paul tended to come up with the main melody and most of the instrumental parts first.  When the instrumental music was done, Paul would then go looking for words that fit into his new song (or lyrics that "scanned" well as the Beatles would sometimes say).

On the other hand, John was always very much a man of words (he had 2 books published during 1963-65).  And John tended to develop a new song's lyrics first along with some basic chords, and then gradually build up the musical parts to fit around his words.

Some have suggested this fundamental difference in songwriting styles as a major explanation for the irregular structure and odd timing aspects in many of John's songs, compared to those of Paul.

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Funny Paper
America
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1 November 2012 - 1.14pm

My apologies if someone mentioned this already (but I browsed through this topic and didn't see it):

 

The ending of "Mean Mr. Mustard" has a cool transition from 4/4 into 3/4 as it blends into "Polythene Pam".

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Funny Paper
America
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1 November 2012 - 1.28pm

McLerristarr said
All You Need Is Love has time signatures of 7/4, 4/4 and 6/4.  Apparently it was the first (and one of only two) songs with a 7/4 time signature to reach the top 20 in the USA.

Though according to Wikipedia jazz legend Dave Brubeck's song Unsquare Dance only made #74 on the Billboard chart (I think in 1961), it remains the gold standard of 7/4 songs (not that there's much competition):

 

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/635918

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parlance
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12 October 2013 - 5.35pm

Reviving this thread because someone was helping me understand time signatures with "Baby's In Black," and whether or not it was 3/4 or 6/8. I had a breakthrough, and now I find this thread fascinating.

parlance

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Funny Paper
America
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13 October 2013 - 4.32am

parlance, 6/8 and 3/4 are really the same thing one one level: "do the math" -- 6/8 is just twice 3/4.  Usually, a song with /8 is double-tempo, twice as fast.  If one were counting "Oh Darling!" as 3/4, it would just be twice as many measures, but it still works out the same as 6/8.

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parlance
Slaggers
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13 October 2013 - 5.27am

^^ Yeah, that I knew, I wanted to understand why one would use the 6/8 signature as opposed to 3/4 and I have a better understanding now.

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

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vectisfabber
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11 November 2013 - 4.53pm

Into the Sky with Diamonds said
Very interesting....

Although I can see it as a good music theory exercise,  I still wonder why in the 21st century this would matter.

I can see how in the days before recorded music a musician could only go by sheet music; the meter would indicate the cadence.

But today?

Any thoughts on this?

It's fine as long as it is being played by a group who are happy to play a piece they already know by ear.  But if you have a group who don't know the piece, sheet music is pretty much essential.

My personal favourite here is She Said She Said, where it feels as if the change from 4:4 to 3:4 kicks in at "When I was a boy" whereas it actually kicks in 2 bars earlier with "No no no, you're wrong."

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Funny Paper
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23 April 2014 - 1.03am

Got directed (or redirected) to this discussion after I posted my topic about 5/4 time.  I knew in the back of my mind this old topic existed, but I couldn't find it.

Lots of information and ideas here to sift through, at a later date.  For starters about the motley time signatures of "Good Morning, Good Morning":

"Ultimately, I have to conclude that John just heard it this way in his head, and played it how he heard it.  I can't imagine him counting it like that. "

I more or less agree.  Some songwriters would have heard it that way initially, then would have recoiled at all the "wrong" time signatures (i.e., not following 4/4 uniformly from measure to measure), and would have said, "well, we have to adjust things here to make the whole thing fit".  John must have had the open-minded sense of creativity to say, "why not just do it as it seemed most natural to me at the start, and a fig on 'correct' time signatures!").  And his initial sense of the song one can chalk up to the mysteriously divine inspiration from the Muse of music.

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Funny Paper
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4 September 2014 - 8.31am

I finally got around to listening carefully to "Good Morning, Good Morning" and following along with the helpful instructions of the weird time beats by Artie Fisk above (basing it on Alan Pollack).

Very cool of John to come up with that.  I never cease to find new things about Beatles songs that amaze and amuse me!

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Zig
The Toppermost of the Poppermost

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5 September 2014 - 7.56pm

Funny Paper said

I never cease to find new things about Beatles songs that amaze and amuse me!

meanmistermustard said the same thing elsewhere (and I agree!) when he said, "the more I hear the Beatles, the more I hear the Beatles".a-hard-days-night-ringo-13

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vectisfabber
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17 March 2015 - 11.39am

mjb said
'She Said She Said' also has a time signature change........

This is a particularly interesting one since the change in time signature doesn't come when you'd think it should.  You'd expect the shift from 4/4 to 3/4 to come with the triplets "No no no you're wrong", but it actually comes on "boy" of "When I was a boy", one of the smoothest switches of time signature ever.

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Silly Girl
Find me where ye echo lays
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17 March 2015 - 1.15pm
Fascinating!!! george-martin
First of all, I must state that my knowledge of music theory is somewhat desultory-- I know more than Paul, but that's not saying much.ahdn_paul_01 Just enough to get by if a piece is fairly simple and if you give me a year or two. I usually choose not to bother with sheet music at all-- I'm far better with just "earing". 
 
 
Having said that, I've noticed that the intro to "Here, There And Everywhere" is rather, well, Here There And Everywhere. I haven't tested it, but it seems to change time signatures at least twice. (I don't generally bother with counting it, I just play it. But then, I don't have three or four other people having to sync up with me.) ahdn_george_06
I have sheet music for it (which I never use), but it's "arranged", which means that someone had streamlined it-- made it simpler by trimming all the various tempos down into 4/4 (I think the main part of the song is actually 2/4, but I don't know) and leaving some of the finer shades of syncopation plain quavers. ahdn_george_08grrrrrrrr. 
 
Oh, just remembered another thing. "Not Guilty" is actually quite guilty-- of being a time signature nightmare. It starts off in a regular, swing sort of beat ("noooot guilty") , then goes off to this other thing entirely ("for gettin' in the way, while you're trynna steal the day") that almost seems to lack a regular beat. It's frightening, truly it is. No wonder it took over a hundred takes! paul-mccartney
 
 
This thread is interesting because many of the Beatles' songs are foot-tappingly regular, and it's neat to come across ones where your feet get left behind. (Yes, I mean you, George. Do you even know what tempo "HCTS" is in? No? Didn't think so.) ahdn_paul_02a-hard-days-night-george-9
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PeterWeatherby
A Park in the Dark
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17 March 2015 - 1.53pm

Silly Girl said

  
Having said that, I've noticed that the intro to "Here, There And Everywhere" is rather, well, Here There And Everywhere. I haven't tested it, but it seems to change time signatures at least twice. (I don't generally bother with counting it, I just play it. But then, I don't have three or four other people having to sync up with me.) 

The intro is done "rubato," as the Italians say: freestyle, without adherence to a strict tempo. But it's still technically in 4/4.

To add to some of the other songs you mentioned: I can never quite get the rhythm right for "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier." And for that matter, "Well, Well, Well" isn't exactly easy either. For a rhythm guitarist, John sure seemed to have a "screw it, I'll just start singing whenever it feels right" approach sometimes. :)

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Silly Girl
Find me where ye echo lays
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17 March 2015 - 2.01pm

PeterWeatherby chuckled wryly 

<BIG SLICE>
  For a rhythm guitarist, John sure seemed to have a "screw it, I'll just start singing whenever it feels right" approach sometimes. :)

a-hard-days-night-john-6

That reminds me, the beginning of "Here Today" is somewhat eccentric as well. I learned how to play it about two months ago, and it's taken me nearly this long to realise that he doesn't start singing on the beat, as I'd supposed and been doing it all this time, but actually comes in about half a beat off. It's weird. Also doesn't help that the recording is mixed so that his guitar is nearly inaudible. paul-mccartney 

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ewe2
Inside the beat
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17 March 2015 - 5.00pm

Just to be extra annoying, they start Drive My Car on a half-beat with the guitar and the bass comes in likewise and sits there for a whole measure, and then the drums kick in on the normal beat...and the vocals start a beat into the next measure. I usually try to focus on the bass, but then the drum fill confuses me again! Pollack calls it "two measures-worth of the Beatles most rhythmically disorienting music ever". I've no idea how they recorded it.

I kind of dispute the idea that Lennon wrote songs around lyrics so much as he found riffs that fit them, and generally didn't think in 4/4 that well. McCartney often backed them up by filling in those rhythms, Good Morning Good Morning is a classic example of that, on Anthology 2 its straight guitar stabs most of the way through and the bass sitting inside each time signature (its a lot of fun to play too!). I always felt She Said She Said was an influence on Here Comes The Sun because both mid-sections are all about the riff and the rhythm just has to keep up (poor Ringo, he had to remember all this!).

You can't go past George's classic Only A Northern Song for time signature/off-beat madness. The key to it is to not be fooled by Ringo's air fills, the verse goes along fine in 4/4 until "he just wrote it like that" which flicks into 2/4 for a measure and then straight back into 4/4. It drops into 3/4 just for the "only a northern" and back into 4/4 for the "song" and pauses for another disorienting Ringo air fill before lurching into the 4/4 pattern for the next verse. Another good example of how John's songwriting influenced George.

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