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You are here: The Beatles Bible » Beatles features » The 'A Hard Day's Night' opening chord
The 'A Hard Day's Night' opening chord
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Recorded: 16 April 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
Released: 10 July 1964 (UK), 26 June 1964 (US)
George Harrison: Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar
John Lennon: Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: Hofner violin bass
Ringo Starr: snare drum, cymbal
George Martin: Steinway grand piano
The distinctive chord which opens A Hard Day's Night became one of the most iconic sounds in The Beatles' output. Instantly recognisable, it was
the perfect beginning to the group's debut feature film.
We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective
beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
There have been a number of theories as to the identity of the chord. Over the years, suggestions have included the
following:
A dominant 9th of F in the key of C
G-C-F-Bb-D-G
C-Bb-D-F-G-C in the key of C
A polytriad ii7/V in Ab major
G7sus4 (open position)
D7sus4 (open position)
G7 with added 9th and suspended 4th
A superimposition of Dm, F, and G
Gsus4/D
G11sus4
G7sus7/A
Dm11 with no 9th
Gm7add11
G9sus4/D
A Hard Day's Night
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The chord was confirmed by George Harrison as an Fadd9 during an online chat on 15 February 2001:
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Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for A Hard Day's Night?
A: It is F with a G on top (on the 12-string), but you'll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper
story.
IN THE STUDIO
A Hard Day's Night was recorded at EMI Studios in a session taking place from 7-10pm on 16 April 1964. It took The
Beatles nine takes to record, just five of which were complete performances.
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The backing track - 12-string electric rhythm guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums - was recorded onto
track one of the four-track tape, and Lennon and McCartney's lead vocal were recorded live on track two. They added more vocals on three, along
with percussion, more drums and acoustic guitar; and George Martin's piano and the jangling guitar that ended the song were on track four.
Track three of the four-track tape was filled with acoustic guitar, bongos played by Norman Smith, more vocals by Lennon and McCartney, and
cowbell. The recording was finished with a solo, played by George Martin on piano and George Harrison on guitar, on track four, plus an extra
bass guitar part after the solo, underneath the line "so why on earth should I moan".
INSTRUMENTATION
Using audio spectrum analysis and close listening of the Love surround sound mix, the notes of the various instruments have been isolated to a
high degree of probability.
The Fadd9 chord, as played by Harrison on his 12-string Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar, was as follows:
E ----3---B ----1---G ----2---D ----3---A ----o---E ----1---The Fadd9 on the electric 12-string guitar was crucial to the power of the chord, giving it a richness which would otherwise have been absent. The
notes fretted on the top four strings were also used for the arpeggio at the end of the song, although this was recorded as an overdub on a different
track of the tape.
As Harrison pointed out, his 12-string wasn't the only instrument to be heard during the chord. John Lennon also performed an Fadd9, using a
Gibson J-160 6-string acoustic guitar.
Close listening reveals a cymbal and snare drum buried in the mix, and notes performed on the bass and piano.
Paul McCartney added a D note, played on the fifth fret of the A string on his Hofner violin bass. This note is an octave lower than an open D
string on a six-string guitar, and had a crucial effect on the overall sound of the chord.
George Martin played a Steinway grand piano on A Hard Day's Night, and contributed to the opening chord. Computer analysis has suggested
that Martin played five notes: D2, G2, D3, G3 and C4 (middle C is C4). Furthermore, the sustain pedal was held down, allowing further
harmonics to emerge.
(Sincere thanks to Wayne Harrison)
REPRODUCING THE CHORD
In 2011 Randy Bachman, formerly of Bachman Turner Overdrive, revealed that Giles Martin had played him the song's individual multitracks at
Abbey Road Studios, and was able to demonstrate the guitar and bass parts.
Since the song's guitars had originally been grouped together on one track of the 1964 four-track tape, and Giles Martin was using Pro Tools at
the time, it seems likely that the instruments had been separated by Martin during the creation of the 2006 Love album, to create the surround
sound mix for the Cirque du Soleil production.
Bachman claimed that the chord was G7sus4, although he mistakenly identified Lennon's chord as a Dsus4. Crucially, he also failed to take into
account the piano, which altered the nature of the chord. Adding a G on the bottom string is the easiest way to reproduce the sound without a
piano, although it is not what The Beatles actually played.
Although all the instruments would be required for an accurate replication of the chord, the most commonly used version for a solo guitar is a
G7sus4: a chord barred at the 3rd fret.
E ----3---B ----3---G ----5---D ----3---A ----5---E ----3---This lacks the crucial A note from Harrison's and Lennon's chords. This can be approximated by playing a G7sus4/A, again barred at the 3rd fret:
E ----3---B ----3---G ----5---D ----3---A ----5---E ----5---Like
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42 RESPONSES TO “THE 'A HARD DAY'S NIGHT' OPENING CHORD”
StarrdogFriday 13 November 2009
Wow. Who would have thought it was so complicated? Just goes to show that the early albums have some great innovation and musicianship. My
vote goes to George Martin for 5th Beatle honors.
Reply
derek_ecWednesday 13 March 2013
I've always considered George Martin as a true 5th. Can't agree with you more.
Reply
Mchael IsaacFriday 26 July 2013
Hi folks, to get the essence of the chord quicky and easily play Am7/D
Or guitar plays Am7 and the bass plays D. Is a straight lift from Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock and could also be written D9sus4.
The sound on the beatles original is more complex due to the layering of muliple guitars but the sound is simply recreated by Am7/D.
Reply
Joe MichaelsSaturday 28 September 2013
Yep. No doubt. Definitely the fifth. Or, if you prefer, the fourth. (Dropping Ringo down to "fifth" as it were.)
Reply
Rob AdamsTuesday 17 December 2013
Never underestimate Ringo’s impact on the total Beatle sound. Even George martin himself knew that when he tried to take Starr out
of the equation.
Reply
AmphionMonday 7 December 2009
I had always thought that the piano notes played by Martin underscored the chorus line of Hard,Days and Nights. Lets listen again!
Reply
Randy FreedSunday 20 June 2010
Randy Bachman (BTO & The Guess Who) was just on Breakfast w/ The Beatles (NY radio show) speaking of private tour of Abbey Rd given to
him by Giles Martin. He asked to hear the individual tracks of the chord and said it was:
George's 12 string- F w/ hi AND LOW G notes (thumb over low E string)
John- Dsus4!!!???
Paul Bass- C!!!?
Giles dad piano- G & C
Fourier got nothin vs access to tracks. Someone should try to confirm.
Reply
JoeSunday 20 June 2010
Interesting. Presumably these were the demixed files which were used for the surround sound mixes for the Love soundtrack.
The original multitracks wouldn't have enabled him to isolate more than the piano, acoustic guitar and possibly the drums, which were
overdubbed later. All the rest were recorded onto the same track. I'm not sure what software they used to demix the songs for Love - I
believe it was a variety. Fourier transform may well have figured somewhere down the line.
Reply
KevinMonday 7 February 2011
If we take a good look at this problem, we see the following have not been discussed:
1.) The chord played before and the chord played after the mystery chord in question will assist us in a proper analysis.
2.) Since this is the first chord of the song, we need only look to the second chord of the song, which might be any of the diatonic chords in
the key.
Let's look at what Giles revealed to Randy:
1.) George's 12 string- F w/ hi AND LOW G notes (thumb over low E string)
This just gives us two "g" notes an octave apart
2.) John- Dsus4
A Dsus4 chord in root position is (1-4-5) or the noted DGA
3.) Paul Bass- C
We have to be careful here! If Paul's note sounds below the chord, it will be the bass note and will change the entire relationship of the other
notes. More on this in a moment
4.) Giles dad piano- G & C
Again, where are they placed in the over all register of the chord?
First of all, let's see what a general analysis would reveal by looking at all the notes at once, with out the repeats:
GDAC
Occam's Razor dictates we choose the simplest answer. If we simply take these notes and analyze according to what we use as the "1" or
bass note of the chord, we should get somewhere fast!
Take the first version and move the bottom note to the top; repeat until you have the first chord one octave higher. These are called
inversions and a 4-note chord will have:
Root
1st inv
2nd inv
3rd inv
GDAC - Root
DACG - 1st
ACGD - 2nd
CGDA - 3rd
GDAC - Root (one octave higher)
While these good be inversions of the same chord, because we are dealing in 4th, the inversion could actually CHANGE the chord structure.
Let's do a sidebar example before we continue:
The notes DFAC are a D-7 chord; or 1-b3-5-b7
The notes FACD are a completely different chord; an F6 chord; or 1-3-5-6
And depending how the F6 is played and what chord comes before and after, we might just analyze is as a minor 7th!!!
Ok, back to the Beatles.
We will call the bottom note the "1" of the chord and go from there.
GDAC Some kind of G chord? In that case we have 1-5-9-4 which we could name a Gsus4 (9)
DACG Some kind of D chord? In that case we have 1-5-b 7-4 which we could call a D7sus4
ACGD Some kind of A chord? In that case we have 1-b3-b7-11(or 4) which we would call a A-7(11)
CGDA Some kind of C chord? In that case we have 1-5-9-6 which we might call a C6/9 chord
The answer? The chord in question is D7sus4, and here's why.
The three other chords have complicated harmonic analyses. The Gsus(9) is ok, but the chord is missing it's b7 and has the tension of a 9 in
it. Typical usage would dictate we have all four notes of a 7th chord (in this case GCDF) before we add a tension. This chord has the tension
of the 9 with no b7. Off with it's head!!!
A-7(11) is ok, but there is no 5th in the chord (E). The 5th is often dropped because unless you are dealing with a diminished or min7th(b5)
chord, the 5th doesn't DO much.
However, if we listen to the chord, it's pretty clear that there is no A in the bass. In fact, Giles shows Paul playing a C in the bass, so this
chord is not the answer. Off with it's head.
The C6/9 chord is a chord that we all have seen before and of course it's standard fair in jazz. But this particular version has no third degree
(E) in it. The 3rd of the chord cannot be left out (unless you WANT vagueness) because the 3rd tells us whether the chord is major or
minor. And even though Paul is playing a C, it does not force the chord into becoming some type of C chord. Off with its head.
No, the answer is clearly D7sus4.
Why? Two very strong reasons...
1.) The analysis of 1-5-b 7-4 is absolutely typical and normal. If we did it in exact order, it would be written like this: 1-4-5-b7. Root, 4, 5, flat
7 with the 4 replacing the 3rd (G replaces F#).
In other words, this analysis has no missing notes, no chords without 5ths and all the other aspects that make the other chords suspect.
2.) Now, here is the killer reason. The second chord of the song is G, which makes the D7sus4 the V7sus4 chord in the key of G.
V to I is called a dominant cadence and is the most common cadence in western music.
Now, for the cool stuff.
If Paul played the b7 (C) in the bass, then the analysis would actually be D7sus4/C, or a V7sus4/C. What this does is to TRICK OUR EAR
into hearing the chord as some kind of IV chord; IV to I is called a plagal cadence (the amen cadence).
Plus the use of 12-strings and a great voicing using different instruments in different ranges makes the chord seem even more exotic.
You hear Plagal movement in the bass. You hear Dominant movement elsewhere. You land on the I chord in G major and the song takes
off from there.
Man! What a great song!
Reply
WayneFriday 11 March 2011
Nice musical discussion given those particular notes but Bachman is clearly mistaken.
A reasoned discussion considering the wealth of empirical evidence and verifying assumptions with Fourier Transform analysis appears
here:
http://sites.google.com/site/ahdnchord/
Reply
Rob AdamsTuesday 17 December 2013
I definitely appreciate your contribution here. Though much of your terminology is beyond my own knowledge and training you
managed to convey your points very well. I agree with your analysis.
Kudos
Reply
MarcioMonday 7 November 2011
According to Randy, Paul plays a D on bass.
Here: http://web.me.com/mlutthans/Site_68/Welcome.html
Reply
Long Blond Hair and Eyes So BlueWednesday 29 September 2010
What did The Beatles Scores come up with for it?
Reply
Beatles CompletedMonday 11 October 2010
Shouldn't this chord have been placed in the sheet music? It doesn't really matter what chords I play as it's only a northern song. Think!
Reply
Billy MartenTuesday 4 January 2011
One important factor was that George had a slightly unconventional tuning on his 12-string Rickenbacker. Instead of the two third strings being
unison (which is the convention these days), he tuned them an octave apart, like the 4th, 5th and 6th strings. This meant that when he played that
Fadd9, the second high-tuned g string sounded as an additional high 'a' note ringing out at the top above even the 'g' notes from the pair of top e
strings, and this gave the chord the very bell-like shimmering sound that has been so hard to reproduce.
Reply
chazzanTuesday 22 March 2011
Whose 12-string would that be? The G course in octaves is still convention with the folks who build my instruments and strings.
As far as the analysis goes, you can stack thirds to get all kinds of answers, but what does the ear say? Does this chord really sound like
"functional" harmony, or just a "color" based on I? To me, it's always seemed the latter, so I'll vote G9add4/D (counting Paul's bass note as
the bottom for fun). Overcomplicated on paper, maybe, but that's where me ear leans. Why "add4"? Well, there's no previous chord from
which to carry a suspension--how's that for theory wonkism?
Reply
wadeFriday 16 December 2011
Ric 360/12's were set up and and shipped from the factory with a wound third, as the convention for unwound thirds on ANY guitar
happened later in the instrument's development.
Ric 12 string sets are still packaged this way.
http://boutique.rickenbacker.com/STRING-SET-GTR-12-STR-10-46_p_680.html
Their arrangement of courses is also different than most conventional 12 strings, with the higher course of each side placed on top.
These two things are what gave the Ric 360/12 its distinctive tone from the very beginning.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickenbacker_360/12
Reply
noisepickerTuesday 22 March 2011
Unless he had a very unusual 3rd finger, I think the "opening chord" is fretted like this:
E ----4---- <------ not 3
B ----1---G ----2---D ----3----
A ----x---E ----x---...if only the Beatles had written this out before hand instead of just playing, then maybe I would give all of this "Musical CSI" some respect.
Reply
JoeWednesday 23 March 2011
If Harrison was playing the fourth fret on the top E string, that would give a G sharp. It's not what he mentioned in the 2001 interview
quoted above, nor does it sound right.
Reply
James FerrellTuesday 23 April 2013
Right, I think Noisepicker mistakenly thought the numbers represented fingers rather than frets.
p.s. I love this discussion--all this analysis over one chord! But what a chord it is!
Reply
scobieWednesday 23 March 2011
Wow, am just a casual fan who plays guitar (er, major chords, mostly; just strumming); have to say am pretty impressed with all of this discussion.
You guys are freaking smart.
Reply
JayaravaWednesday 23 March 2011
Play the Fadd9 with a Dropped D tuning open D, with the A string damped (3rd finger).
Sounds about right.
Reply
gotagoodreasonWednesday 11 May 2011
Magical mystery chord...
Great analysis, it really is a Dm7sus4 (not D7sus4 since a plain 'F' can be clearly heard) but I'm surprised that no one talked about takes 1 to 8 of
the song which can be found on various bootlegs. These help a lot as we hear the chord without George Martin's piano (overdubbed later on the
master take). John and George seem to play the same chord, Paul definitely playing a D on bass.
Actually, and not less surprisingly, no one seems to have noticed that George's arpeggio at the end of the song is built on the very same notes that
those of the intro chord !
E ----3---B ----1---G ----2---D ----0---A ----x---E ----x---then
E ----1---B ----1---G ----2---D ----0---A ----x---E ----x---ad lib...
All very logical in the end !
Reply
Alan CohenSaturday 28 May 2011
Consider the relationship between the IX chord of the G Dislexian Scale and the demented 7th implied by the sharp Cb. Or not.
Reply
VonbonteeFriday 3 June 2011
Don't forget those Aeolian cadences
Reply
Alan CohenFriday 3 June 2011
Ah yes, thank you Vonbontee, as I recall the quote "...harmonic interest is atypical of their quicker songs, too, and one gets
the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony, melody and lunch, so firmly are the major gin and tonic sevenths and
ninths built like tens into their tunes, and the flat labia minora key switches, so natural is the hairy Aeolian cadence at the end of
'Not a Second Tiny Tim' (the chord regression which ends Gleason's Song of the Girth)..."
Reply
wadeThursday 15 December 2011
Recently I've taken up the Sitar, a beautiful instrument which George was famously fond of. As began wrapping my head around the standard Ravi
Shankhar tuning, it suddenly dawned on me that the 7 main strings, strummed openly, replicate this chord. It practically begs you to play "A Hard
Day's Night". I know they began adding sitars to recordings later than this recording, but I've begun to wonder if an early interest in sitar didn't
inspire this famous chord. I've never seen anything mentioned about it, but it's an odd coincidence. Hmm
Reply
JoeFriday 16 December 2011
It would indeed be an odd coincidence. The Beatles didn't encounter Indian instruments until filming Help! in April 1965. Interesting theory
though - I didn't know that about the sitar.
Reply
wadeFriday 16 December 2011
And the coincidence just gets odder. I did a little search on George's "first encounter with the sitar" and conventional wisdom has it that
yes, it was on the set for "Help," fooling around between takes while filming the indian restaurant scene.
The music for the scene, a reimagined, indianized medley of Beatles songs, is credited to "The George Martin Orchestra." This
indicates that the OTHER George certainly knew enough of the natural lay of the instrument at the time to score music for it. And the
first song of the indian medley on the HELP album is... "A HARD DAY'S NIGHT!" Though the chord wasn't in the version I heard,
apparently something about it showing up naturally on sitar begged George Martin to score the melody. I'm looking for a copy of the
film now to find out what was actually played on camera.
India being colonized by Great Britain, indian restaurants offering entertainment played on indian classical instruments would have been
more common in early 60's London than in the states. George Martin, a widely experienced producer/arranger at the time, had all
types of novelty musicians/instruments running through his studios in addition to recording the Beatles from the very beginning. So it's
possible the sound at least was in the Beatle's ears at the time the song was originally being arranged for recording. With as much
influence as George Martin had on arrangements, I'm wondering if he may have suggested the voicing or if it was something the
Beatles overheard in the studio hallways.
It's an interesting point to ponder. Certainly a lot of serendipity swirling around it for consipiracy theorists to kick at. Not that I love
conspiracy theorists. Next someone will say Paul is dead.
Reply
JoeFriday 16 December 2011
The incidental music for Help! was written by Ken Thorne, and as you say was performed by the George Martin Orchestra. It
wasn't scored by Martin. The piece in question was called Another Hard Day's Night, and is available on the Capitol box set
volume two.
If you're interested, here's more on The Beatles and India.
Reply
johnny haylesSaturday 17 December 2011
this is not rocket science folks...george often fretted the low G on the 3rd fret of the E6th...in fact he would often play a G chord in an open
manner with his thumb on 3rd fret E6th and his first finger on 3rd fret E1st carl perkins style...but back to the point it's just an F chord combined
with his open G thus the 9th...the low C in the F is covered with his thumb as well...3rd fret A string...lennon is playing Dsus4...in effect adding
another 9th to george's chord....mcartney is way up high for sure...no doubt a D on the 12th fret on the D.
Reply
johnny haylesSaturday 17 December 2011
of course let's not fret over this...i just play an open C combined with george's open G....sort of all the same now isn't it....potato...pototo...let it
ring and go right into G.
Reply
Wevans1995Tuesday 5 June 2012
Gsus2 Barre chord on the 3rd fret of my 6 string sratocaster works well.
Reply
danielSaturday 23 March 2013
A G7sus4 sounds very good.
Reply
piston brokeThursday 25 April 2013
I just drop my guitar - very much the same effect!
Reply
JoeFriday 3 May 2013
Obviously this discussion has been going on for quite a while but I believe I have a relevant addition. Kevin (with the D7sus4 comment)
appears to be close but not quite complete. I have also looked up the analysis in Wikipedia originating from Middleton and it is also close by
not quite correct as well.
The Beatles had a Rockabilly, Traditional, and Blues background also being mentored by George Martin on classical music theory. Their music
is multi-layered and far more sophisticated than is often recognized.
Hard Day's Night, based on watching a video of John Lennon playing the chords - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH1IW-_4r20 as well
excellent analysis at https://sites.google.com/site/ahdnchord/ - is almost certainly a pop music experimentation with a Mixolydian Blues (ref:
http://www.andrewwasson.com/lessons/modes/mixolydian/mixo_mode.php). The tonic chord (based on John Lennon's live performance) is
G major, which makes this G Mixolydian.
Also, the exhaustive ahdnchord - analysis (which is consistent with Lennon's video), shows that the collection of notes in the first chord are:
D, F, A, C, G.
With this many notes, this chord can have many names, but the actual impression on the human ear and the emotions is defined by the
context (i.e. the key or mode). Therefore, the actual names don't mean anything until you define the key/mode as intended by Lennon &
McCartney.
Opening a piece of music with the Dominant chord (i.e. the fifth chord in the key) is a bold move, and one used effectively in classical music.
The Dominant chord in Mixolydian, is Dm7 (D minor seventh), and if you add a high G note, then you get a Dm7sus4 - which is composed of
D, F, A, C, G (exactly the same collection discovered in the ahdnchord-analysis)
If this is correct (and I am fairly certain it is) then the opening chord must be named Dm7sus4. With different parts of the chord being
played by different instruments. This is a dramatic Dominant intro into a G Mixolydian Blues composition. In my opinion, Lennon & McCartney
composed a brilliant piece of music, but the arrangement was indeed an ensemble effort with Martin's and Harrison's contributions.
Reply
Jake Was HereMonday 6 May 2013
It sounded to me like they were trying to play the IV, V, and VIIb chords simultaneously; the presence of C, D, and F would explain
that. It's as if they're hitting every note that could resolve into the root G, playing IV->I, V->I, and VIIb->I at the same moment.
Reply
jimboFriday 3 May 2013
Thinking out the box... I think a little cinematic joke is at play here as the opening chord could be a doff of the hat to the last chord of the 007
theme? George M would certainly have the musical sophistication to "amend" the creepy flavour of the min/major 9 to something more
moptoppish.
Reply
JeffTuesday 7 May 2013
You can easily end this debate by simply watching a live performance of the Beatles playing Hard Day's Night. John plays an Fadd9 by strumming
the notes F A F A C G (he used his thumb to play the F note on the 6th string). There is no D note in the chord. With George stating is was an
Fadd9, then we know both John and George played the same chord. However, Paul added the D note on his bass. So, if playing solo and want to
reproduce the same sound, just play the chord in the following manner...F A D A C G. Then you have all of the right notes.
Reply
PatrickWednesday 8 May 2013
With a chord such as this, without context ( and since it's just being struck, a stand alone chord, it really has no context ) naming it is going
be difficult, but not impossible. The simple trick is to play the essential notes being played, as they are in the recording, on the piano, and just
by listening, letting the piano tell me which chord, I am hearing. Affter doing this, I say that the chord a D minor 11 with the E not being
played, so to be technically correct, a Dm7add11. I think the E could have easily been played and without altering the integrity of the sound (
just a personal preference ) but they chose not to. But my guess is that the musician's really didn't care what the name of the chord was,
perhaps they didn't even know. So....that's the chord folks. Dm7add11. The 11 is really what gives the chord is "suspended" feel and with
the D in the bass and the 11th on top, and the fact that it sounds like a suspended chord proving that the G note is an 11 ( it can't be a
sus4, because of the F ), there is no doubt that it is a Dm7add11.
Reply
Jeffrey Monday 29 July 2013
Yay! Patrick you got it! Can also be called Dm11 even if the 9th (E) is not included. Sorry, but what a bunch of morons in the previous
posts. One guy actually credits them for being so smart. Everybody is wrong and needs a good course on chord naming theory. I'll
bet they all think they're so smart too. Maybe less now. Good job Pat!
Reply
Guy Thursday 23 January 2014
Wow. I will never again hear this song without thinking of this discussion. I loved all of it, the educated gobblediguk as well as the less sophisticated
posts. I love the passion the Beatles can (still) evoke. Once again, thanks Joe for the site and to everyone who contributes to the discussions which
are fabulous.
Reply
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