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Tune down for what: "Rain"

How on earth The Beatles arrived at the decision to make "Rain" a B-side single, I'll never understand. It's easily in the Top Five of all their singles, and they had already previously released a "double A-side" single with "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" just six months earlier -- but regardless, the decision was made to use "Paperback Writer" as the A-side, and "Rain" as the B-side.

Do we need to stack up the accolades for this song? It sits between Rubber Soul and Revolver as a sign of The Beatles' ever-deepening journey into psychedelia and musical experimentation. Its near-constant droning on a low G anticipates the coming inclusion of strong Indian music influences. Ringo has several times remarked that he thinks this record is some of his best drumming ever captured. It's the first rock record to ever use backwards vocals.

In the studio, the novelty and experimentation surrounds the recording technique: the backing track with guitars and drums were later slowed down to give them a heavier sound (Paul later said it sounded like Ringo was playing "a giant drum kit"), which means -- for our purposes as guitar lovers -- that we have to consider what voicings were actually being used for the guitars.

The song sounds in G major (or roughly in that neighborhood, it's not exact), but the original backing track, played at regular speed, reveals that the guitar part is being played in A major.

This means, of course, that we're going to need to tune down a full step -- going, from the bottom string up, to D-G-C-F-A-D -- in order to get the right sound.

I'll offer two ways of playing the intro, one that uses a kind of "fingerstyle guitar" approach using a more difficult chord voicing, and one that uses a more straight-forward voicing suitable for flat picking. The purpose of this first voicing is to capture the continuous sustain of as many notes as possible, giving it that droning quality that we want.

The finger positioning is as follows:

And the actual riff, using this anchored fingering, goes like this:

If that seems too much of a stretch (literally!), then this barred-chord voicing (lock down the middle three strings with the index finger) should be a suitable alternative:

Two other chord voicings really capture the sound of this record, so I'll mention them briefly. The first is at the end of each verse (the repeated "If the rain comes," and "When the sun shines," etc.) as the music moves from the I chord to the IV chord. Use this inversion of the Dadd9:

The second important voicing occurs during the chorus, when the chords move from a droning A to an inverted D major chord that also includes a suspended fourth and an added ninth:

Plenty here to sink your teeth into, for sure, and you'll quickly see that starting with the drop tuning makes all the difference in the world.


  1. Actually “Rain” is recorded in an odd “G” tuning according to the Beatles official score of the song: GDGGBD, (low to high)

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