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I heard there was a secret chord
October 31, 2008 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord. Not to be confused with the Hendrix chord or the sacred chord.
posted by twoleftfeet (44 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Satan's chord. And remember, kids, 666!
posted by not_on_display at 5:40 AM on October 31, 2008


Short version: George hid a piano inside his guitar.
posted by rokusan at 5:42 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Hard Day's Night
posted by marsha56 at 5:43 AM on October 31, 2008


All this time I just thought it was a Gsus4. Guess I wasn't paying close attention.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:44 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was kind of disappointed that the first and third links didn't have an audio example. Still, pretty cool!
posted by dunkadunc at 5:45 AM on October 31, 2008


What did they play live?
posted by pracowity at 5:51 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And A Lost Chord.
posted by marsha56 at 5:53 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


And A Lost Chord.

I love that. When I was in grade school,we had a chorus and we sang a song with those lyrics. It started out soft and mysterious and built to a wonderful crescendo. We all couldn't wait to sing the song, and the music teacher used it to motivate us to do everything else.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:56 AM on October 31, 2008


Oh, and Jimmy Durante found it!
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:57 AM on October 31, 2008


The analysis has been going on for ages, and the piano has been ID'd as a likely culprit for a long time.
posted by Paid In Full at 6:07 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, string instruments sure are cool. I mean, all kinds of instruments are cool. But this is why I love fuzz guitar so much. Two notes can sound like twenty and then like twenty other notes the next time you play it. It's like having a whole string section at your fingertips.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:10 AM on October 31, 2008


All this time I just thought it was a Gsus4. Guess I wasn't paying close attention.

Gsus4/D, ZenMaster This. That being said, I found when I used to play a Ricky 12-string betimes that adding an F down on the low E string, thus:

E --3--
B --1--
G --0--
D --0--
A --0--
E --1--

worked a treat. Of course, I did not have George Martin playing piano.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:30 AM on October 31, 2008


E --1--
B --1--
G --0--
D --0--
A --0--
E --0--

...is how I've always played it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:37 AM on October 31, 2008


Video of story
posted by DU at 6:43 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


i can't believe that article didn't provide a bit more insight on the makeup of the chord. just that there was also an F in it. Come on. This is an article for music nerds and we want to know!
posted by entropone at 6:44 AM on October 31, 2008


The Beatles Secret Chord is now Green, Yellow, Blue.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:53 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's the opening chord for A Hard Day's Night.

Shoulda found this sooner.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:57 AM on October 31, 2008


To think of all the years the Moody Blues spent In Search of the Lost Chord. I guess Timothy Leary really is dead.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:57 AM on October 31, 2008


So.... this has been a Big Important Mystery for 40 years, and nobody has thought to run an FFT on it until now??

Huh.
posted by LordSludge at 7:01 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Correction: this was found in 2004, and the new discovery was from the same song, but from the guitar solo (which was actually a duet with the piano). This was noted over on Slashdot, so I can take no credit for this info.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This article is pointless without a soundclip of him recreating it. As Paid In Full says, this has been going on forever, but if you think you've truly NAILED IT, where's the clip?
posted by poppo at 7:05 AM on October 31, 2008


Elektra chord
Tristan chord
Mystic chord
posted by Wolfdog at 7:08 AM on October 31, 2008


I love that. When I was in grade school, we had a chorus and we sang a song with those lyrics. It started out soft and mysterious and built to a wonderful crescendo. We all couldn't wait to sing the song, and the music teacher used it to motivate us to do everything else.

Mental: You sang the version composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan) at the deathbed of his brother Fred. There's a animated "music video" of it here. There's also a lovely scene in Mike Leigh's (awesome) Topsey Turvey in which Sullivan performs the piece at a recital. It's an incredibly moving piece -- thanks for reminding me of it.
posted by The Bellman at 7:15 AM on October 31, 2008


Dr. Brown's website can be found here., along with a link to his original paper.
posted by papercrane at 7:19 AM on October 31, 2008


Just what is the mysterious Steely Dan mu (ยต) major chord?
posted by pracowity at 7:21 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


E --1--
B --1--
G --0--
D --0--
A --0--
E --0--

...is how I've always played it.


Yeah, that looks about right as well; pretty much the same as mine, but with a different inversion and swapping out the (redundant) high G for a low E. Hey, on a tangentially related note, is there a site anywhere that will let you plug in a chord spelling and give you the chord name? That is to say, there seem to be any number of sites that will tell you that Cdim is C/Eb/Gb, but a few idle minutes of poking about this morning revealed nothing of the reverse: the place where you can feed it C, Eb and Gb and the magic internet machine tells you that this is a Cdim.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:24 AM on October 31, 2008


And don't forget the Space Chord!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:28 AM on October 31, 2008


Pumpkin chord
posted by Wolfdog at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm missing it somewhere - but didn't anyone ever think to just ask George (when he was alive) and/or Paul how it was done? I mean, we know from interviews about other studio techniques that were used on other songs, like the pianos in "Day in the Life."
posted by dnash at 7:32 AM on October 31, 2008


I'd call it a G7sus4/D.

E --3--
B --3--
G --5--
D --3--
A --5--
E --mute--
posted by mexican at 7:34 AM on October 31, 2008


So it wasn't David! It was George. And the other George.

If there were any two guys who could play something to please the Big Guy, it would be them.
posted by droplet at 7:36 AM on October 31, 2008


So wait, am I missing something? The big mystery solved is the chord and not the fact that this mathematician proved there was a fifth Beatle?!?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:42 AM on October 31, 2008


Maybe I'm missing it somewhere - but didn't anyone ever think to just ask George (when he was alive) and/or Paul how it was done?

Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for "A Hard Day's Night"?

A: It is F with a G on top (on the 12-string), but you'll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.

posted by Paid In Full at 7:43 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Personally, I feel if it's not on the Esteban chord chart it is not a chord I need to know about.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:54 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Although the linked article doesn't even answer the question (!), the above links sure do.

The genius part was working on what is basically a strangely voiced Gsus7 chord and then whamming it out to resound for a couple of seconds before starting in with an a cappella lead in to a good song with cool elements like the two chromatic harmonies on "and when I get home to you/it's just the things that you do," and the comfortingly contrasting eight-bar bridge with a quick dynamic buildup back into the body of the song.
posted by kozad at 8:37 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Roll up, roll up for the Mystery Chord!
Roll up, roll up for the Mystery Chord!
The magical mystery chord
Has George Martin on piano!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:11 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


It doesn't really matter what chords I play, what words I say, or time of day it is...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:24 AM on October 31, 2008


Ah, the Hendrix chord. It fits the fingers so naturally; once you learn it it's tough not to hit it every once in a while.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:00 PM on October 31, 2008


Wait, so people didn't know there was a piano being played in the track A Hard Day's Night? Even though it sounds like there's a piano being played? I guess the Beatles being somewhat coy about the issue didn't help, but even as a kid I always heard the piano. If only I had known there was some sort of controversy, I could have been hailed as a musical genius, or something. I guess I suck at being a true Beatles nerd.

I've grown up with the Mono US (record) release; now that I no longer have a record player, the MP3 I have is the from the same recording. I wonder if the other versions/digital sound significantly different? Still, many, many people must have the same album. Bizarre.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2008


The "sacred chord" link was pretty disappointing. Anyone with basic music theory knowledge can figure that much out from the song itself. Google is failing me. What chord did David play, after all?
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:04 PM on October 31, 2008


> Wait, so people didn't know there was a piano being played in the track A Hard Day's Night? Even though it sounds like there's a piano being played?

This was my reaction too -- I can hear the piano clearly. I always just thought it was a piano note and open strings, hardly a big deal (although it makes a cool intro).

I'm pretty sure I don't have any amazing powers of hearing or perfect pitch, so I'm a little confused by this.
posted by cj_ at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2008


Ah, Jimi
posted by Restless Day at 3:15 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


but didn't anyone ever think to just ask George (when he was alive) and/or Paul how it was done?

Well, what with only Ringo still alive, of course. And now it's too late to ask him.
posted by hal9k at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2008


I asked earlier: Hey, on a tangentially related note, is there a site anywhere that will let you plug in a chord spelling and give you the chord name? That is to say, there seem to be any number of sites that will tell you that Cdim is C/Eb/Gb, but a few idle minutes of poking about this morning revealed nothing of the reverse: the place where you can feed it C, Eb and Gb and the magic internet machine tells you that this is a Cdim.

I thought people might want to know it's been done. And not badly, either.

The graphics could be prettier, but it is pretty good: it even includes alternate tunings, which is the think I kind of love. The only thing I would do differently (and this would be massive programming headache) would be to give the user to vary the number of strings, so you could do mandolin/banjo/oud/what-have-you chords more elegantly.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:57 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


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