Measure For Measure: Listen… Do You Want To Know A Secret?

There’s a pattern hidden between the lines of The Beatles’ best songs. Use it yourself and it may become a source of melodic magic for you, like it did for them. Not your style. Not a problem – this is the pattern with a thousand faces. First, let’s see if you can hear it. Take “Nowhere Man,” “She Loves You,” and “Across The Universe” (the guitar intro): Play them back in your head, on YouTube, or consult The Beatles (Hal Leonard, Paperback Songs – our only required textbook). Listen closely, and see if they don’t have something in common. And the answer is – (drum roll, please) – rainbows! All these tunes begin with a rainbow arc: a rising line, scale step, or leap, followed by a balancing downward march. The arc often covers two measures, with equal time given to ascent and descent (see “Nowhere Man”) but variations abound, some quite subtle, which may be why the pattern has apparently gone unnoticed for so long (a Google search revealed nothing). The Lennon/McCartney rainbow first jumped out at me while scouting for intervals in hit songs. At first, I thought it had to be a fluke – I would be lucky to find five more songs that fit the pattern. But by the time I was halfway through The Beatles, I was sure I was onto something. Final tally: The pattern shows up in roughly sixty percent of one-hundred-plus songs, including many of their greatest hits. A significant number of the remaining songs employ variations, such as stretching it (“For No One,” with an eight-measure arc), flipping it (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Please Please Me”), or splitting the rainbow into segments, as in “I’ll... Sign In to Keep Reading

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