Science Unravels “The Beatles Chord”

If you’re a guitarist, there’s at least one chord you know with a “given” name (like the “Hendrix” chord — the dom7#9 shape in the beginning of “Purple Haze”). For a long time, there’s been a mystery surrounding the opening jangle of the Lads’ “A Hard Day’s Night”… some people think it’s George’s Ricky 12-string and John’s Ricky 6… others think it’s multiple layers of 12-string guitar. But now a Canadian professor/researcher thinks he’s cracked the code.

Run away!

Run away!

Most cover bands tend to play it as a G7sus4, or if they follow “The Beatles Complete Scores” (pretty much the bible of Fab song notation), two guitarists play a (combined) Gsus4/D (a G suspended chord with no third and a D in the bass, supplied by Sir Paul). Usually one guy will play (low to high): D, G, C, G in open position, while guitar 2 plays a Gsus4 barre chord at the 3rd fret.

But as close as that sounds, it’s not *perfect*.

It’s been assumed for a while that there was more going on than meets the ear — namely George Martin (or one of the Beatles overdubbed) playing a piano chord mixed in with the 2 guitars and bass. But George and Geoff Emerick both say they just don’t remember what was happening during that session. So, according to the Wired article linked above, Dalhousie University professor Jason Brown and some fancy Fourier transforms figured out the secret sauce:

Guitar 1 (George/12-string electric guitar): a 4-note chord, low to high A, D, G, C (the nature of the 12-string supplying octaves and unisons on the higher strings)

Guitar 2 (John/6-string [Ricky?]): a high C single note

Bass (Paul/Höfner bass): a high D on the G string

Piano (George): low to high D, Fnatural, D, G, E

Now I’m waiting for science to explain who greenlighted the plot of “Magical Mystery Tour.”

6 Responses to “Science Unravels “The Beatles Chord””

  1. Hey! What’s wrong with Magical Mystery Tour? ….Nevermind….no need to answer that. I love it anyway!

  2. I’m as quick to say “the Beatles can do no wrong” (and on another level, Paul can do no wrong) as anyone… but that movie. It’s proof that rules and boundaries are a good thing in art!!

    I’ve loved the soundtrack since I was 4, though.

  3. Awesome article! Was wondering, is there any way to contact you fine gents for cd submissions? I just release something, but I couldn’t find any contact info on your blog. Keep on a-bloggin’!


  4. The article shows George playing 8 notes simultaneously – was it a 12 string?

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