October 31, 2008

About that famous guitar chord.

A mathematician discovers the secret of the opening chord in "Hard Day's Night":
Four years ago, inspired by reading news coverage about the song’s 40th anniversary, [Jason] Brown decided to try and see if he could apply a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles’ riddle. The process allowed him to decompose the sound into its original frequencies using computer software and parse out which notes were on the record.

It worked, up until a point: the frequencies he found didn’t match the known instrumentation on the song. “George played a 12-string Rickenbacker, Lennon had his six string, Paul had his bass…none of them quite fit what I found,” he explains. “Then the solution hit me: it wasn’t just those instruments. There was a piano in there as well, and that accounted for the problematic frequencies.”

Dr. Brown deduces that another George—George Martin, the Beatles producer—also played on the chord, adding a piano chord that included an F note impossible to play with the other notes on the guitar.
(Via Metafilter.)

34 comments:

Host with the Most said...

Yea, but this still won't satisfy the "Hard Day's Night Truthers".

bleeper said...

Just as fire has never melted steel, a piano has never been used to play a chord. It's all Bush's fault.

Saint Russell said...

The piano has always been clearly audible to me. I don't see how that's such a revelation.

Lem said...

Because of Bush failed economic policies there’s been more white keys than black keys.

On January 20th the piano will give up some of the white keys and share in the wealth of music that has always been there.

I’m going to be a president of all the piano keys ;)

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Fourier transform

I wonder if they mean power spectrum.

MrBuddwing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

(1) It is well-established that George Harrison used this guitar chord and no other.

(2) Ringo Starr was on Howard Stern a few years ago. Howard Stern was trash-talking George Martin, saying he wasn’t so important to the Beatles’ success.

Ringo said, “That’s not true. It was only through George Martin we were able to communicate with the real musicians.”

(3) BLAAAINNNNG!!!

Bissage said...

Right you are, MrBuddwing!

Triangle Man said...

rhharding said..

...power spectrum


In this context they are probably the same. Fourier analysis in general is based on the principle that an complex wave form can be expressed as the sum of sine waves. Spectrum analysis uses a Fourier transform algorithm under the hood.

cardeblu said...

OT: Is any one else having trouble with the entire front page loading? For me, it only goes down to the labels section of the "Beyond Dirty Campaigning" post and doesn't include the comments link to that. It was working all right earlier today.

AprilApple said...

Speaking of math--
Obama's real tax plan is harsh.

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MDMxYzI2NWEyNzYwYjNmOTU5MzI2NjIwZjRjOTlkZmU=

hdhouse said...

yow.....

1. can't tell a piano from a guitar? hello? Timbre anyone?...and Pianos are not tuned in the same way as a guitar so it is very possible that unless the piano was only used for 1 note (the F in question) the dissonance in tunning (guitars are tuned in perfect intervals and pianos are slightly out of tune by nature), there would have been a dissonance found in some of the other notes vis a vis the imperfectly tuned piano against the guitar(s)....also there is

2. scordatura tuning which means that the "g" on the guitar could well have been retuned to an "F"

rhhardin said...

...power spectrum

In this context they are probably the same. Fourier analysis in general is based on the principle that an complex wave form can be expressed as the sum of sine waves. Spectrum analysis uses a Fourier transform algorithm under the hood.


A Fourier transform lets you reconstruct the original. A power spectrum only lets you reconstruct the autocorrelation function of the original.

But a power spectrum is better for looking for hidden harmonic lines, unless you have some prior information about timing.

rhhardin said...

2. scordatura tuning which means that the "g" on the guitar could well have been retuned to an "F"

If you tune the G down to an F# it plays like a viola da gamba.

David said...

No link to the actual sound? Bummer.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The piano was delivering a coded racial signal to augment that already lurking in the words "a hard day's NIGht".

Incidentally, Paul McCartney is the only musician ever to become successful without realizing that the interval of a semitone is discordant:

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord, why dont we?

AllenS said...

I wanna hold your hand, while I pick your pocket.

PJ said...

You'd think that after making all that fuss they'd tell us what the damn chord is. Harrumph.

mrs whatsit said...

In two seconds on Google I found an article from 2005 analyzing the chord and stating that it includes a piano chord played by George Martin. It's here:
http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1718612

I think the piano is easy to hear in the chord. Guitars and pianos don't sound alike.

Host with the Most said...

What does this have to do with Paul being dead?

Original George said...

"Gimme Shelter" Live at Altamont

That's a hard day's night.

hdhouse said...

mrswhatsit....

my point exactly. thank you for the reference. someday the question will arise and i'll have s source for the answer other than just what i surmise.

if that someday every comes.

LordSomber said...

George is dead, miss him, miss him, miss...

SteveR said...

I can name that song in one chord.

Ed Bush said...

Your attempt to explain the Fourier Transform made me recall the statement, attributed to Nils Bohr, that "any attempt to describe physics without mathematics is to practice poetry."

I hope your poetry is better than this doggerel, professor.

All best.

rhhardin said...

any attempt to describe physics without mathematics is to practice poetry

Actually the mathematics doesn't help, in not providing a motivation, in the case of a Fourier transform.

An identity doesn't tell you anything.

Pogo said...

I always thought the opening chord to the song was John having dropped a box of zithers, or else the whole thing was cribbed from El Kabong.

PJ said...

Thank you for the link, Mrs.W. All better now!

Harwood said...

What can never be analyzed or forgiven is the way Ringo beat the living shit out of those hi-hat cymbals. He was a perfectly horrid drummer. If people only knew how many of his miserable recordings were over-dubbed by Bernard Purdie.

TMink said...

What a cool discussion. It sent me to the guitar tab web sites to do some research. Most of the tabs omit the chord! What the . . .?!?

Some give the chord as a C9 and play it x32033. That is totally wrong. Closer, but no cigar is another stab at a C9 which is 330031. The F natural is in there in the record, probably part of the lower chord that Geoge Martin plays, but this is still no the right chord.

The right chord is xx0213. It sounds perfect. And to put that f natural in the chord you would have to do something like x55563 which gives you a DACFG. It has all the notes, but it does not sound as nice as the real chord, a DACG.

The piano is easy to hear, it rounds out the middle of the ensemble. I bet the people who missed it had heard it primarily through car or other small speakers and missed it.

Cool project.

Trey

mockmook said...

The paper describing the research and "chord" is here.

PJ said...

Interesting. Obama is older than I am, but within dateable age, I suppose, and so I find it impossible to take him seriously. :-)

I had a dream with him and Michele at least a year ago- maybe a year and a half. They were already heavily astral campaigning as a team. I liked them alright, but I blew off the function and left the building for critical family business.

And that reflects reality. Obama's policies are not good for my family's particular situation - in critical ways they are very negative - and my family comes first over any pie-in-the-sky ideology or personal preference.

PJ said...

Oops. Wrong Page. and there are two different PJs.