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Adding the bass-and-bounce to "Penny Lane"


Paul McCartney responded to John Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever" by writing a song of his own about childhood memories and places, the light-hearted musical jaunt through Liverpool called "Penny Lane." It's a bouncy tune driven by some four or five piano tracks, and a walking bass line that keeps the song trotting right along to the end.

This song presents a couple of different challenges for the guitarist who wants to mimic the recording. The first is that the recording is in B major, which is just a nasty key to play in if you don't enjoy your tendons and forearm muscles locking up every few measures. The second challenge is that peppy bass line, and how to work that in so you're not just strumming chords the entire time.

The first problem is solved easily enough by putting a capo at the second fret, putting the song in A major. Much better, much more friendly.

The second problem is solved, as always, by starting out with the right fingering patterns. We're going to bar that opening A chord to free up the rest of our fingers for the bass walk, and it will also require a thumbed note as well.




The third diagram (F#m) shows the low note fretted by the pinky, but ignore that and use your thumb instead. The final two chords are nice because you can keep that Bm7 chord fretted and just drop in the low E note.

The next sequence takes the same walking pattern for the first four chords before veering off into the minor, minor-sixth, and major-seventh chords. Here is where our capo position choice really helps, because these three chords end up sounding great with these voicings. 




Once again, the low notes in the second-to-last two chords are fretted with the thumb, so ignore the diagram's instructions to use the pinky.

In the second verse, right before the trumpet solo begins, the recording features a ringing bell to evoke the fireman that the lyrics have just mentioned. I like to use slapped/tapped harmonics* while holding down the E chord to simulate that sound. 

*(Using your middle finger or ring finger on your picking hand, quickly slap the top two open strings 12 frets above where the capo sits, in this case the 14th fret. We're not slapping them hard enough to make them hit the fretboard, we're just trying to hit them with a quick "pop" of the underside of the finger so the harmonics ring out.)



Remember to keep the E chord fretted while you're executing the slapped harmonics.

Add these couple of tricks to your repertoire and soon you'll be wanting to play this song all the time!

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