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The opening "A Hard Day's Night" chord on just one guitar


If you've spent any amount of time as a guitarist who loves The Beatles, you know full well that the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" is the stuff of legends. There's more myth and mystery about this single chord than all of the King Arthur tales in England. And with good reason: it's practically impossible to dissect it, and even more difficult to reproduce it.

The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook, as good as it is, suggests a G7sus4 chord:


Close, but not quite.

Even the incredibly detailed The Beatles: Complete Scores volume has this opening chord listed as Gsus4:


That's even less correct, y'all. At least the simpler Chord Songbook caught that there's definitely a 7th in this chord.

In the past few years, there have been thousands and thousands of words written on the subject (a Google search for "hard days night chord" returns over 300,000 results), and thanks to technology and exposure to The Beatles multi-track/individual track data, most of the heavy lifting has already been done in terms of breaking down the chord into its individual notes.

Here's what we sort of know so far: John is playing a Dsus4, George is playing an Fadd9 on his 12-string (the same chord that ends the song), and Paul is playing a low D note on his bass. Some reports say George Martin also played a cluster of notes on the piano. The Beatles Bible identifies these as "D2, G2, D3, G3 and C4," which would look like this:


Randy Bachman further adds (after Giles Martin invited him to Abbey Road studios and let him hear the original isolated tracks) that George's Fadd9 chord was anchored by a G and a C in the bass:


Ignore those fingerings. The bottom two strings are undoubtedly being fretted by George's thumb, not his ring finger.

As already noted (and Bachman confirms), John was playing a Dsus4:


Here's where we stand, then:


I've left out the piano here for two reasons: first, all of those notes are accounted for in the guitars, and second, we're talking about how to replicate this chord on a solo guitar alone, so unless you plan to drag a grand piano to your next campfire jam session, let's leave it out for now.

Of course, those notes aren't entirely correct, because George was playing a 12-string, which means the bottom four strings also include octaves. A more accurate picture would be:


Now to the all-important question, which is, how do we replicate this chord using just one guitar? Standard guitar tuning doesn't even let us get all the way down to Paul's D note.

Which is why we're not going to use standard tuning. We're going to tune the low E down to a D, and tune the low A down to a G. Think of this as an Open G tuning that can't quite commit.

Those two re-tuned strings give us the low D and G notes, so now we just need to fill in the F, A, C, and high G -- which is precisely what an Fadd9 chord is.

Here is the final product:

 

Yes, I realize this is missing the high A and the D just below it, but this is still far and away a more accurate sounding chord than a Gsus4 or a G7sus4, far closer to the "real thing" than can be achieved with standard tuning. If you have a 12-string, you'll get those high A and D notes built in anyway.

Finally, what do we do with the rest of the song now that we're in an alternate tuning? The song uses Bm, Am, Em, F, C, and D chords in addition to the "home G," so we need a way to voice those chords if we're going to do more than just strum the opening chord and move on to something else.

Here are the voicings:

Verse


Bridge


Phew. The things we one-man-band solo guitarists do for our craft ...

3 comments:

  1. 'The things we one-man-band solo guitarists do for our craft ...'

    So true. Thanks for this, though, I'm going to try it. 👍

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did notice that your chord chart for Em is not quite correct: the fourth string shouldn't be open, it should have a second fret E.

    ReplyDelete
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