Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord

Date:
October 31, 2008
Source:
Dalhousie University
Summary:
It's the most famous chord in rock'n' roll, an instantly recognizable twang rolling through the open strings on George Harrison's 12-string guitar: the opening chord to the Beatles song "A Hard Day's Night." Now, a researcher has used a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles' riddle. The process allowed him to decompose the sound into its original frequencies using computer software and parse out which notes were on the record.

Math prof Jason Brown and his Ibanez guitar.
Credit: Photo by Danny Abriel

It’s the most famous chord in rock'n' roll, an instantly recognizable twang rolling through the open strings on George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker. It evokes a Pavlovian response from music fans as they sing along to the refrain that follows:

It’s been a hard day’s night
And I’ve been working like a dog

The opening chord to A Hard Day’s Night is also famous because for 40 years, no one quite knew exactly what chord Harrison was playing. Musicians, scholars and amateur guitar players alike had all come up with their own theories, but it took a Dalhousie mathematician to figure out the exact formula.

“I started playing guitar because I heard a Beatles record—that was it for my piano lessons,” says Jason Brown of Dalhousie’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics with a good laugh. “I had tried to play the first chord of the song many takes over the years. It sounds outlandish that someone could create a mystery around a chord from a time where artists used such simple recording techniques. It’s quite remarkable.”

Four years ago, inspired by reading news coverage about the song’s 40th anniversary, Dr. Brown decided to try and see if he could apply a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles’ riddle. The process allowed him to decompose the sound into its original frequencies using computer software and parse out which notes were on the record.

It worked, up until a point: the frequencies he found didn’t match the known instrumentation on the song. “George played a 12-string Rickenbacker, Lennon had his six string, Paul had his bass…none of them quite fit what I found,” he explains. “Then the solution hit me: it wasn’t just those instruments. There was a piano in there as well, and that accounted for the problematic frequencies.”

Dr. Brown deduces that another George—George Martin, the Beatles producer—also played on the chord, adding a piano chord that included an F note impossible to play with the other notes on the guitar. The resulting chord was completely different than anything found in the literature about the song to date, which is one reason why Dr. Brown’s findings garnered international attention. He laughs that he may be the only mathematician ever to be published in Guitar Player magazine.

“Music and math are not really that far apart,” he says. “They’ve found that children that listen to music do better at math, because math and music both use the brain in similar ways. The best music is analytical and pattern-filled and mathematics has a lot of aesthetics to it. They complement each other well.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dalhousie University. The original article was written by Ryan McNutt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dalhousie University. "Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030201607.htm>.
Dalhousie University. (2008, October 31). Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030201607.htm
Dalhousie University. "Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030201607.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) The FBI announced it plans to make its Next Generation Identification System available to law enforcement, but some privacy advocates are worried. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 15, 2014) Apple says it received a record 4 million first-day pre-orders for its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, pushing delivery dates into October. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) Microsoft will acquire the maker of the long-running hit game Minecraft for $2.5 billion as the company continues to invest in its Xbox gaming platform and looks to grab attention on mobile phones. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins