** As featured in issue 65 **
Hello there and welcome to Guitar Interactive’s Quiet Room. In this column I would like to share an arrangement of one of the most recorded songs ever, ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles. Voted at the best song of the 20th century by a BBC poll and n.1 song of all times by MTV. Not many people know that the original title was ‘Scrambled Eggs’! Paul McCartney wrote the music first as a result of a sudden inspiration during his dreams. He quickly got up and sat on the piano to crystallise its melodic and harmonic content. However, he couldn’t come up with the right lyrics, for quite a while, until a journey to Portugal where eventually the inspiration came, and the rest is history.
The original version is in F major and it contains a few compositional gems. The first, is that although the song starts in a major key, it morphs straight away to its relative minor key, giving the piece a certain melancholic quality, which is often associated to minor tonalities. The second, and the most unique in my opinion, is the wonderfully fluid use of the 5th mode of D melodic minor (A Mixolydian b6) in the ‘all my trouble seem so far away’ part. Next, there are some beautifully effective counterpoints between the melody and the root movement. This is evident in the second bar of the chorus, in the underlined lyrics: ‘why she had to go..’ Although a solo arrangement in F would work really well, I decided to transpose it in G, so that I could make the most of open strings and introduce another compositional technique, normally described as melodic imitation or Q&A. This is evident in the opening phrase ‘Yesterday’ which is repeated up an octave the first verse while the opposite happens in the following verse, but also throughout the arrangement.
In a few passages I have also used one of my favourite melodic articulations, the so called ‘campanella’ technique. Harmonic ingredients: The harmonic content of the original is fairly simple, however, not predictable. In a few passages I have decided to explore a few harmonic substitutions, for an added element of surprise. A recurrent feature is the use of inversions used to enhance the melodic qualities of the bass lines in the lower register. NB. Please note that (b) next to I, means chord I first inversion, namely with the 3rd on the bass. Another important harmonic ingredient is the frequent use of open strings to complement the main melody. This is a very effective way of enhancing the melody in a relatively easy way, as the open strings’ sustain will add ‘legato’ qualities to the piece. Rhythmic ingredients: Being a ballad, the rhythmic content in the arrangement is quite linear. Melodic ingredients: The melodic content is mainly in G major/E minor (with natural and melodic minor ideas) and has a singing-like quality throughout.
The choice or articulations is very important in the construction of any composition, as these can be seen as the ‘how we say our story’. A few articulations were used such as grace notes, and the afore-mentioned ‘campanella’, as notated in the embedded PDF. As always, I would like to recommend exploring the above-mentioned techniques in order to compose your own pieces. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and reflect on the reasons why we like or not a particular sound, a chord progression or modulation. Eventually, these sounds will become part of your musical lexicon and you’ll be able to use these with fluidity and effectiveness.
The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows: (Please note E=low E string, e= high E string) ‘p’ focuses predominantly on the bass lines, while ‘i, m, a’ play the melody and countermelody or harmony part lay this part in a relaxed and clear manner, making sure your thumb is a little forward compared to the ‘i, m, a’ fingers, in order to prevent it from colliding with the ‘i’ finger. As always, focus on attack and tonal consistency.
The melody and the supporting harmonies will be played with the ‘a’ finger, so more attack is needed to outline the melody. Next we are going to look at the left hand part (chord shapes):
Bar 1: Middle f on fret 3 of E, open D and index on fret 2 of G followed by open G. Next, open D, G and B with ring f on fret 5 of e followed by fret 3 of e.
Bar 2: Middle f on fret e of E, ring f on fret 2 of D, little f on fret 2 of G with open B. Barre’ on fret 2, ring f on fret 4 of D, little f on fret 4 and then 5 of B, fret 2 of e and 3 with middle f.
Bar 3: Open E, G and B index on fret 2 and open e. Index on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 4 of D, open G and B. Middle f on fret 2 of D and open D.
Bar 4: Ring f on fret 3 of A, middle f on fret 2 of D, open G, index on fret 1 of B and open e. Middle f on fret 2 of E, open D, ring f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B, followed by index on fret 1 of B, open B and fret 2 of G.
Bar 5: Ring f on fret 3 of E, open D and G, and index on fret 1 of B followed by open B. Next, ring f on fret 3 of A, open D and G. Middle f on fret 2 of E, ring on fret 2 of A with open D and then open A.
Bar 6: Open E and G, index on fret 2 of A, middle f on fret 2 of D, little f on fret 4 of D, open G and B. Little f on fret 4 of A, index on fret 2 of D and middle f on fret 2 of G, then fret 2 of D.
Bar 7: Ring f on fret 3 of A, index on fret 2 of D, open G and B. Then, ring on fret 3 of E with B, D, G index on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 8: Let the last chord in bar 7 ring.
Bar 9: As bar 1 but swap beat 1 with 2 and add descending ‘campanella’ passage as depicted in the TAB and score.
Bar 10: As bar 2
Bar 11: As bar 3, but swap open E with C, middle f on fret 3 of A.
Bar 12: As bar 4, but add counter-melody, fret 2, 4 and open D.
Bar 13: Barre’ on fret 1 of D and B, middle f on fret 2 of G. Open B, harmonised with middle f on fret 4 of E, ring f on fret 4 of D, index of fret 3 of G. Slide from fret 4 to 2 of G and open G.
Bar 14: Middle f on fret 3 of A, index on fret 2 of D and open B. Barre’ on fret 2 of G and D with little f on fret 4 of A. Fret 2 of D.
Bar 15: Ring f on fret 5 of A, open D and G. Ring f on fret 6 of A with open B, index on fret 4 of D, middle f on fret 5 of G and open B.
Bar 16: Arpeggiate the last 3 notes freely. Congratulations, you have completed section A.
Bar 17: Middle f on fret 2 of A with open Bring and little f on fret 2 of D and G. Middle f on fret 2 of A, index on fret 1 of D, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 18: Index on fret 2 of D with open e, followed by open G and B. Open D with middle f on fret 2 of e followed by open G and B. Middle f on fret 3 of A, ring f on fret 3 of e, followed by open G and B. Fret 2 and open e.
Bar 19: Open D, index on fret 2 of G, ring on fret 3 of B middle on fret 2 of e and open e. Arpeggiate last 3 notes.
Bar 20: Ring f on fret 3 of E with B, D, G index on fret 2 of G and open B. Then pull off from fret 2 to open G, little f on fret 4 of D and 2 with index.
Bar 21-23: Similar to 17-19 (check TAB)
Bar 24: Middle f on fret 3 of E, little f on fret 3 of e, open G and ring on fret 3 of B. Little f on fret 4 of E, ring on fret 3 of D, open G and index on fret 1 of B. Next, ring on fret 3 of A, index on fret 1 of D, middle f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 25-31: Similar to 1-7 (check TAB)
Bar 32-33: Similar to 6-7 (check TAB) – Add index on fret 3 of B and e, ring on fret 5 of e and little f on fret 7 of e.
Strum the last note with open B, G and D and Tap fret 3 of E with RH index. Congratulations, you have completed ‘Yesterday’! As always, you will be able to download a transcription by selecting the menu option in this page. I strongly recommend experimenting with a few picking variations, changing the chords as you wish in terms of voicing (higher or lower), as well as trying the same picking pattern on a different chord progression, or using a ‘capo’ on fret 2 for a brighter outcome. When repeating any section twice or more, you may want to play ‘sul ponticello’, (closer to the bridge) or ‘sul tasto’ (over the frets) for more contrasting results. Make sure you highlight the melody (singing is a great strategy to play the melody in more assertive and singing-like manner) Focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy. This will complete this creative fingerstyle lesson.
I hope you will enjoy playing this study piece and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions.