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Hitting all the right chords in Paul McCartney's "New"


The title track from Paul McCartney's New album is delightfully Beatle-esque, which may be why it charted in the Top 20 on Billboard's "US Adult Contemporary" list. It turns out people still like The Beatles. Who knew?

The chord progression revolves around a C major chord with a perpetually moving bass line, almost as if Paul had looked over the chord chart for "Penny Lane" and said to himself, "bet I can do that again." (Yes, I know, "Penny Lane" is in the key of B, but work with me here.)

As lovely as this tune is, it's a bit of a nightmare for the guitarist, because the key of C isn't exactly the easiest to work with if you want to wander outside the boundaries of the standard chords: C, G, F, Dm, Am, and so on.

As always, fingering and fret position is everything. The opening six chords will leave your fingers in knots, as the bass line descends in an almost chromatic fashion, if you don't start with a solid fret position to begin with.

I find it easiest to voice those opening chords this way:


The opening C chord here would normally be voiced by fretting the bass note at the third fret of the A string, but we need to be able to quickly move to that C-over-B-flat chord without moving too many fingers, so we have to get a bit creative. (Damn you, Macca.) Pay attention to the finger placement in these chord shapes, they'll save your life. (Don't cheat on that final G chord, either, you're going to need that finger position for what comes next.)

The next seven chords reverse the motion of the bass line, which starts ascending chromatically before heading towards more familiar territory (have you ever been so happy to see an A minor to D minor-seven progression?), so once again, we'll have to get creative with the voicings:


Isn't that just a blast?

Taking the time to learn these peculiar chords and their voicings is worth the effort, I promise. You'll find that they show up again in other Beatles songs, so the investment here is well worth the return.

Bonus: yeah, I know, everyone's going to be asking, "but what about that intro riff?" Ok, you twisted my arm. Get your fingers into a G chord position, and let 'er rip:



To finger that properly, start with the ring finger anchored to the third fret (on the low E string), and the second finger on the second fret (low A string). That'll take care of your first three notes.

Use your pinky to hit that next note (D string, third fret), and pull off to the open D string. Keeping that low G note anchored with your ring finger, move the rest of your fingers into this position for the rest of the riff and hold them there so every note can ring out sustained:


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