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“Hey Jude” is a song by the band The Beatles and was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. It was first released in August 1968 under The Beatles label ‘Apple Records’. Hey Jude runs for 8 mins and 10 secs. The Beatles choose here instead for an unusual binary form that uses a fully developed, hymn-like song together with an extended, jam on a simple chord progression. It becomes clear from a detailed examination of “Hey Jude” just how neatly the two parts of the song go so well with each other, and from what simple musical materials that are constructed.“Hey Jude” is played in the key of F Major and in a time of 4/4.
The genre of the song is Rock, Pop played in ballad style. The song structure is not your usual pop structure such as Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus but instead is quite different in nature for its genre. The song relies more on the subtleness of texture then of the form as throughout the song the texture gets added too and builds up to the conclusion of the song.Verse one as with all the versus follows a simple chord progression using chords I, V, V7, V7sus4 and IV in the key of Fmajor which creates a very memorable verse setting the tone of the song and hinting at the pop and rock genre of the song. The vocal never really rests on too many unstable notes for too long during the versus, instead only passing on the unstable notes and then quickly going back to the diatonic key.
The first verse is very thin in its texture ,using only a piano with a single vocal melody line that sets the tone for the song playing on the ballad style where the song starts very thin with its texture then really opens up as the song progresses. This single vocal line follows a very macro style structure as it doesn’t really change or differ throughout the song until the outro. In verse two we hear the addition of a tambourine being played on and also an acoustic rhythm guitar which also starts to hint at the more pop side of the song and starts to increase the texture and thickness of the song.
There is also backing vocals added in the second half of the verse in the form of simple “ahhhh’s” (TheBeatlesVEVO, 2015). It is the same as the first verse. The harmony is purely diatonic to F Major and the melody rises and falls in even measure leaving the listener feeling at ease. This is however broken at the end of this verse as there is one bar added. Harmonically to do this the final verse chord is turned into a V/IV allowing the chordal structure to smoothly transition from verse to bridge.As a result of the verse having a bar added to the end, the first phrase of both bridges have five bars thus almost copying the lead in from verse to bridge making the song stable again. Harmonically the start and the end of both bridges tonally are quite unstable.
The bridge sees the introduction of a walking Bass line and drums with more focus on tapping cymbals again creating a more rock feel which engages the listener. Melodically the main vocal tends to fall throughout the most part of the bridge, barely rising until the major melody swell that leads to the next verse.Verse three has the addition of backing vocals in thirds. There is also the introduction of a distant backing vocals as well. The distant vocal “so let it out and let it in” (TheBeatlesVEVO, 2015) leads into the lyrical ideas found in the next bridge.
The tambourine in this verse is more frequent and played now as semi-quavers which creates a feel of the song becoming thicker and having more texture and adds to the feeling of the pop genre.Bridge two mirrors bridge one harmonically and musically with only slight change in lyrics and slightly more elaborate lead vocals with more passing notes but still sticking to the diatonic Fmajor the majority of the time keeping with the repetition of the song which draws listeners back into the piece. In verse four there is a parts of embellishing new notes and rhythm of the initial “Hey Jude” phrase, and there is harmonizing backing vocals sung in parallel thirds all the way through this verse which creates a much thicker sounding chorus and gives the song much more definition.
There is also a spectacular vocal flourish (“better, better, …”) (TheBeatlesVEVO, 2015) which leads to the jam section and outro.In the outro, the use of the flat-VII chord gives the jam session a modal, Mixolydian feel that contrasts the first half of the song.The outro is a staggering seventy two bars long yet does not feel like it is, as the momentum and instrumentation through this section swells and leaves the listener engaged. Instruments are gradually added to this section creating a thickness to the sound. There is a doubling of the bass line which is layered progressively over the course of multiple repetitions of the vocal line “nah nah nah nah…”.
These backing vocals at times works alongside the E flat chord to create a dissonant 9th. This mantra like phrase continues repetitively throughout the seventy two bar outro. At repeat four you can hear the inclusion of mid range strings, a couple of octaves above the bass you can hear trumpets, the trumpets enable a sense of impressive style to the outro and helps this section keep its momentum and interest. In the 8th repeat the violins rise and swell four octaves above the Bass line and the vocal ad lib becomes more frantic in nature and supplies the listener with a sense of almost panic and urgency as the song fades out.
This song relies heavily on delicate contrasts throughout the beginning half and during the 2nd half, the song relies more on big tones, layering of instruments and stacked harmonies both on beat and off beat. The song, starting with the thin sounds of just a lone leading vocal, and simple piano chords, allows a gentle introduction to the ballad. Throughout the track slight variance in lyrical content and instrumentation gives the listener a sense of repetition and contrast at the same time and any melodic dissonance to be found there is consistently resolved. This allows the outro to have the full impact needed to leave the listener engaged as it swells to its fantastic conclusion.
1. McCartney, P. (1968). Hey Jude – Song. [Online] Youtube. Available at: https://youtu.be/A_MjCqQoLLA
2. The Beatles. (2002). The Beatles. [Online] Available at: https://www.thebeatles.com / [Accessed 20 December 2017]
3. Unregistered Author. (2005). Ultimate Guitar Tabs. [Online] Available at: https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the_beatles/hey_jude_chords_17275 [Accessed 20 December 2017]
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