The other day I blogged on how George Martin and George Harrison combined to create the solo (technically a duet) on the Beatles' 1963 recording of "Baby It's You". I concluded by stating that the two Georges would do the same thing a year later on a song that would reach #1 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
That #1 hit was the title song to the band's 1964 debut film, A Hard Day's Night. And indeed the solo on that song is once again actually a duet: Harrison plays his guitar while Martin plays the same notes on piano an octave lower. This can be heard from 1:19-1:32 in the following clip:
But that "duet instead of literal solo" isn't the only trick up George Martin's sleeve.
Using analog (tape) recording methods, tempo and pitch are inextricably related. Play a tape recording at a rate 10% faster than normal rate and the tempo and pitch will both increase by 10%. Play that same recording 25% slower than normal rate and the tempo and pitch will both decrease by 25%. In other words, both tempo and pitch can be altered, but only by the same amount - they cannot be altered independently from each other. It's impossible, for example, to decrease the tempo by 5%, but the pitch by 15%. This technique is known as "varispeed".
Knowing this limitation, the two Georges performed the "A Hard Day's Night" solo at half speed (approximately 70 beats per minute) and an octave lower than they wanted the finished product. Martin then played back that recording at double speed, which had the effect of both doubling the tempo (from 70 beats per minute to 140) and doubling the frequency (raising the pitch by one octave). The finished product, then, is impossibly fast and accurate.
Much like the "duet instead of solo" technique, this varispeed technique would also be used again by George Martin and the Beatles. And we'll discuss those later uses in subsequent blogs.
In the meantime, however, is another round of "Band of the Sixties" tomorrow at the Avon Grove library:
Friday, 8 April 2016, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Avon Grove Library, 117 Rosehill Ave, West Grove, PA
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.