Alright, alright, Beatles songs in minor and major keys …

Some music teacher somewhere clearly set an assignment on Beatles songs, in minor and major keys, and it’s yielded a lot of fruitless searching of the internet, some of it ending up here.

At first, I thought, “Go read a book, kids.” Then I took pity on you. I mean, you might be grownups. With no access to books. Who use the internet to do the hard work for you. I’m sure such adults exist.

Anyway, here are some tidbits that might help.

Songs that are firmly in a major key, and others that are in a minor key, off the top of my head:

Yellow Submarine, Eight Days a Week and Hey Jude are all unambiguously in a major key.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)Hey Bulldog and Don’t Bother Me are all minor.

You want more? Like some songs that start one way and finish another?

And I Love Her – Aah, what a song. It’s from the album A Hard Day’s Night, and it’s in C sharp minor. Its progression starts on the IV minor chord (F#m), and each A section ends on the relative major of C#m, namely E major. This would be sophisticated enough, but on the final instrumental outro, there’s a Tierce de Picardie, ending on a D major chord (because the guitar solo took everything up a semitone, to Dm). So, just to reiterate, it’s in C# minor at first, each A section modulates to the relative major, and the final chord is that of the parallel major (which, by then, is D).

Happiness Is a Warm Gun (from the White Album) also starts on the IV minor chord, firstly in E minor (so the progression goes Am to Em), and then later in Am (so the progression goes Dm to Am). Then there’s a bluesy progression in A, using chords based on the flattened third and flattened seventh (namely C and G7), to lead into the final major section, in C major, a doo-wop progression of I-iv-IV-V, or C-Am-F-G7. If I were bucking for the top mark in the class, I would write something a little pretentious, like:

After a short prelude in E minor, this song constitutes, over its entire structure, a progression from A minor to its relative major of C, utilising the tonal ambiguity of a blues progression in A to effect the modulation. This tonal transition mirrors that of the lyric, from an apparently earnest (if obscure) series of statements, to the cheerfully ironic sentiment of the chorus, reflected in the song’s title. Bear in mind that this achievement is John Lennon’s, and that he is routinely treated as the less musically sophisticated of the Lennon/McCartney pair.

If you are in the mood to crack a book, I recommend the superb Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald. Don’t forget: quotations do not count in your word tally, and you should cite all your sources.

And writing “wikipedia” is not citing your sources.

Pete

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