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Unusual harmonies - or are they?
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Into the Sky with Diamonds
New York
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31 October 2012 - 3.08am

In "Words Of Love" Paul sings the lower notes as seen here when he sings it by himself. (I'm used to Paul reaching for the sky on those impossible harmonies a la "Baby's In Black" or "Nowhere Man")

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRAv-7P0YKo

 

Then these two Italians show how in "If I Fell" Paul sings the melody that we all recognize while John sings something completely different. (Start at 1:00 or 1:30)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWHX7vkTQrY

 

Paul has commonly interwoven different melodies (Dear Boy, Wanderlust, Silly Love Songs,...), but how often do the Beatles use less than straightforward (easy for me to say) 2- and 3-part harmonies? Frequently? Occasionally?

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

sinco
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31 October 2012 - 12.22pm

Not really sure if this is on topic, but thought I'd like to share this video breaking down the harmonies in "Because". The full song is also in his channel, acapella and with instruments, and he's also got a few other covers uploaded

Ben Ramon
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31 October 2012 - 2.45pm

Into the Sky with Diamonds said
In "Words Of Love" Paul sings the lower notes as seen here when he sings it by himself. (I'm used to Paul reaching for the sky on those impossible harmonies a la "Baby's In Black" or "Nowhere Man")

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRAv-7P0YKo

Then these two Italians show how in "If I Fell" Paul sings the melody that we all recognize while John sings something completely different. (Start at 1:00 or 1:30)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWHX7vkTQrY

I'm not really sure what question you're asking, but I'll throw in some thoughts. As a singer in semi-professional choirs, chamber choirs and the occasional barbershop quartet, as well as having recorded backing harmonies for songs of my own, I've always been intrigued by the Beatles' voice types, vocal ranges and harmony arrangements.

Paul sings the lower line on that Words Of Love cover because it's the natural melody; it wouldn't make any sense to sing the harmony line alone. In the Beatles' version, he sings the higher line and John takes the lower. Listen to Buddy Holly's original, and you'll see the lower line is far more prominent. As for If I Fell, John wrote the song with the higher line as the main melody as proved by his acoustic demo- but even that demo shows that the melody is too high for his baritone range to sing comfortably, so he lent the main melody to Paul's tenor and then I'm assuming worked out with Paul a lower harmony for himself to sing. Either way, it works tremendously well; the counterpoint between the two vocal lines is possibly the most adventurous harmony they'd penned since This Boy, and would have likely taken a lot of practice.

Paul has commonly interwoven different melodies (Dear Boy, Wanderlust, Silly Love Songs,...), but how often do the Beatles use less than straightforward (easy for me to say) 2- and 3-part harmonies? Frequently? Occasionally?

It varies; some songs follow a fairly simple harmonic formula, others (especially in the latter half of the band's career) are very complex. Let's take, as an early example, She Loves You. I'm no Alan Pollack, but I'll attempt to put in simple terms what's going on with that famous chord on the last "yeah" of the chorus. The song is in the key of G, suggesting that it would naturally resolve and end on a G chord, but instead the band end on a jazzy and adventurous G6. George's harmony line is the key to adding the jazzy sixth to the chord: when he descends his "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" scale, he does not finish on a D as John does, which fits with Paul's high G to create a finalising G chord: instead, when he has sung an E on the third "yeah", he stays there for the fourth one. If you have a guitar and have some knowledge of basic chords, play a G chord in first position; now take your finger off the highest string and play it again and you've got the chord they're hitting. The tone clash between John's D and George's E creates the G6, while Paul anchors the chord with the root note. Apparently George Martin hated it, but it was an early example of them experimenting with the possibilities offered by three-part vocal harmony.

A lot of the Beatles' songs followed standard triadic three-part harmony, with John taking the main melody, Paul the higher (a third above John) and George below John, or sometimes in between John and Paul. Paul, being the group's most natural tenor, took the highest line almost without exception. Songs and parts of songs that include strikingly non-standard harmonies, purposeful clashing or more complex tonality would include Yes It Is, I Want To Tell You, Paul and George's backing in You Can't Do That, the blast of "aaaahs" that sets off Sun King, Drive My Car, the middle chain of harmonies in Day Tripper, and probably some others that I can't call off the top of my head.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'

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Into the Sky with Diamonds
New York
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31 October 2012 - 4.41pm

Ben Ramon, thanks, great answer. I love harmonies but (obviously) don't know enough about them to dissect them out.

"Paul sings the lower line on that Words Of Love cover because it's the natural melody; it wouldn't make any sense to sing the harmony line alone. In the Beatles' version, he sings the higher line and John takes the lower. Listen to Buddy Holly's original, and you'll see the lower line is far more prominent."

I thought Paul sang the lower line in that Youtube video because that was his part on the Beatle recording (notice the sly look on his face as if he's saying "I know this isn't the melody, but this was my part"). Having said that, Buddy Holly's version is clearly the original, so I'll listen to it indeed. I'm sure you're right on all counts.

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

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Funny Paper
America
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1 November 2012 - 11.04pm

This may be blasphemy for me to say, but I don't see harmony group singing as a particular forte of the Beatles.  I find the multi-part harmony singing of Chicago (Lamm/Cetera/Kath) or of War (Lonnie Jordan, Howard Scott, Harold Brown, B.B. Dickerson), to be superior.

 

Luckily, the Beatles have a lot of other qualities going for them!

 

One Beatles song that sounds like it's using multi-part harmony to good effect is the one my signature quotes:  "Sun King".

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

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fabfouremily
Sitting in an English garden
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2 November 2012 - 5.13pm

I don't know - off the top of my head I can think of a few songs in which there are harmonies that very few other artists would atempt to do, and succeed. ''This Boy'' and ''Beacuse'' being obvious examples.

Moving along in our God given ways, safety is sat by the fire/Sanctuary from these feverish smiles, left with a mark on the door.

(Passover - I. Curtis)

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Funny Paper
America
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3 November 2012 - 6.20am

fabfouremily said
I don't know - off the top of my head I can think of a few songs in which there are harmonies that very few other artists would atempt to do, and succeed. ''This Boy'' and ''Beacuse'' being obvious examples.

I probably have not been listening close enough.  I just re-listened to "Drive My Car" for another topic on this forum, and I was amazed at the harmonies executed by Paul/John then Paul/John/George.  I'd never noticed that before, after all these years.

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

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RunForYourLife
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6 November 2012 - 7.00pm

I Don't Want To Spoil The Party is interesting. John sings the high and Paul sings low during the verses, but they switch and assume their normal roles during the chorus.

Ben Ramon
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6 November 2012 - 7.59pm

RunForYourLife said
I Don't Want To Spoil The Party is interesting. John sings the high and Paul sings low during the verses, but they switch and assume their normal roles during the chorus.

I've always heard it as George singing with John in the verses.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'

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Into the Sky with Diamonds
New York
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6 November 2012 - 9.20pm

Fascinating, really.

I've not come across a text that analyzes the songs from a harmony point of view.

This guy here does a great job on a number of Beatle songs, including I Don't Want TSTP, but he doesn't tell you who sings what.

ytsession=tQFKOqBGOrKdM4e9coITyTyIH1Bpi5MTyon8_GflU6nnf-D2asYyGNcxaYqAPDhVx_QnJsh5cShTlokdS67xgQ3YXaHGoOcHKOs3XwieC4MJIFRi6FxNSxcFR8qvYGhSkMkE7Cl2e2dnJJfraBV4Y0-F0adELafyVrfHxwIYSHcMsWGxd_wx9njJhxY2xY45WVB1GV93RXJzSUcgFZfCx9HC60BlUkV8tz45NRXtjyY5xnsHD2_0RxHQ2DJ6Q51MCX72jm1nOawQmcx0H4SrzFM445G49uXsIFnWhWnGUcqAP23fCEnYq3Vowgayf-Wd7iJoOpjtODPKViW20mTRuU-Fy9UUO654msrV94hDzSuRQ2uKz8rSray0AIRl9UbPDAxjt_QkFg4Ku-CA9NOmh8ScE_PHxY-nD15TulEccUJgWgJFEZS8s0PKJBafLbGXWphPf2WxXRL4xTbySQ56RQ5z9TyEoC-87tgHJGuK_O3fvy6GawaWk9xQ7uLjK6ltfK5DaHqZFsGrC3aWhGU8p2me72wlYKu9LjdFbyXnkrP1s0zcToZPBk2UVX-EU_fUUZUtZwMIBCuo6D7LtZ3dU2OzoSBwcb_SS7jKn6xQh8nPPTN37fHZV1OzC2Kp1iVB3_NYm9xYchuHO2jmoI-RfT0bT7HixUXKzMn2QE-iC-ZdMunAQV_LITlMrOMvkypf8Ks1Zy3Pskg

 

[Funny Paper said, "This may be blasphemy for me to say, but I don't see harmony group singing as a particular forte of the Beatles."

Uh, you may want to revisit this.]

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

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Funny Paper
America
2080 Posts
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6 November 2012 - 11.46pm

[Funny Paper said, "This may be blasphemy for me to say, but I don't see harmony group singing as a particular forte of the Beatles."

Uh, you may want to revisit this.]

 

I did, in a subsequent post above.

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

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frankdialogue
http://www.weebly.com/kultureamerika
53 Posts
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13 November 2012 - 3.37pm

Alan Pollack probably does the best technical analysis of the Beatles harmonies...The Beatles were influenced by the Everly Brothers, Motown, Buddy Holly and the early 60s girl groups in this regard...Their sound was unique.

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