Yesterday (The Beatles)



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The Beatles

Released on the 1965 album “Help”, Yesterday is a major song in the Beatles’ work. In addition to being one of Paul McCartney’s best known, most played and broadcast, it is the first where the band departs from the 2 guitars/bass/ drums orchestration. Listening to the song the other three members of the band don’t really see what to play on it. They propose to Paul to sing it as a solo (a first time) and George Martin suggests to have it accompanied by a string quartet. At first reluctant, Paul ends up accepting the idea, on the condition that the musicians play without the vibrato of the violins and cellos. The same condition was to be applied some time later to “Eleanor Rigby”. On June 14, after a full day in the studio (they had recorded I’ve Just Seen A Face and I’m Down) he recorded alone, live voice and guitar and only needed two takes.

According to what he says in his interviews, he would have dreamed this melody, and when he woke up he would have put himself on the piano to compose the chords progression. “It followed logically, I really liked the melody but as I had dreamed it I couldn’t believe I had written it”. He thinks he unconsciously took over an existing title. He plays it to those around him, who confirm that they have never heard this sublime melody. That being said, it is sure that the harmonic grid could come out of the songs of the Broadway musicals of the 30s that he loved so much. It could be Gershwin or a jazz standard.

However, as much as the musical composition was fast and spontaneous, the lyrics took much longer to write. “Usually John and I would sit down and finish a song in three hours. But this one was much more organic ». He honed the writing throughout the making of the film Help and also during a holiday with friends in Portugal in May 1966.

For my Solo Stick version I chose to transcribe the guitar part on the bass block only, playing the fundamentals in half notes and thirds (in tenths) on the three remaining eighth notes. The whole guitar is summarized with two fingers and frees the right hand to expose the melody.

I have slipped some variations which are a contraction of the guitar and the strings. Measure 8 still a flow of eighth notes to keep the spirit of the guitar, but taking the melodic design of the violins (alternation of B natural on G7 and Bb on Bb) and measure 13 mix between guitar and cello on F (which becomes F7).

If at first these passages seem too difficult to you, you can play the whole grid on the same pattern, fundamental (in half notes) and third “tenth” (on the three remaining eighth notes). Then, work on these passages specifically, as a small homage to the writing of George Martin.

You can also if you are singing or accompanying a singer make a version without the melody; just play the fundamentals in the left hand and the triads in the right hand and that’s it.
Again, use the scores to see where each hand, each finger, falls relative to the other. This is one of the advantages of this system, having in front of you the beats, the syncopations, when the hands play together, when they are separated, etc…

And if you get the chance, see or relive Danny Boyle’s 2019 film “Yesterday”, which describes a world where the Beatles would never have existed.
Can you imagine? I can’t!


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Yesterday (The Beatles)