The opening chord of The Beatles' "Hard Days Night" is one of the most famous in rock and roll and as it turns out, it’s a total mysery.
Bedroom musicians have been trying to figure it out for 40 years. Dominic Pedler, author of the “The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles” summarizes 21 different interpretations of the chord – just a small selection of the guesses that he found doing his research.
One of those guesses, G7sus4, known as the “buskers choice” was discredited by George Harrison himself in 2001. Harrison, in a 2001 online chat said that he played “an F with a G on top” on his 12 string Rickenbacker 360/12.
But if you grab your 12 string and give it a try you’ll hear that it’s not quite right. Not quite complete.
It’s missing the faint sound of the ride cymbal and the snare drum that Ringo added, the D note that McCartney added on his Hofner bass and the c5 that Lennon was playing on his six string.
But get your friends together with vintage instruments and try to recreate it and it’s still not quite right.
Enter Jason Brown, a mathematician from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Brown with his Ibanez guitar - which was NOT used on the original recording.
Brown applied a a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the riddle. The process allowed him to break the sound into distinct frequencies using computer software to find out exactly which notes were on the record.
Using this technique he identified an additional chord, played on the piano by producer George Martin that included an F note – a note impossible to play in combination with all of the other notes being played by the guitar.
So the mystery is solved. That classic single pulse of sound was accomplished like this:
George Harrison was playing the following notes on his 12 string guitar: a2, a3, d3, d4, g3, g4, c4, and another c4; Paul McCartney played a d3 on his bass; producer George Martin was playing d3, f3, d5, g5, and e6 on the piano, while Lennon played a loud c5 on his six-string guitar.
A PDF detailing Brown’s work can be found here .