History

...what's all the fuss about the opening chord?

Frankly, I dunno. It's just a pop song and any music arranger can identify the notes present and name the chord. The original piano/vocal sheet music has all of the right notes albeit in a transposed key. Somewhat ironically it has never been published correctly since - despite the best intentions of those purporting to be off-the-record scores.

It turns out that guitarists are determined to duplicate the chord under the mistaken belief that it was played by George Harrison on an electric 12-string guitar. Aside from discerning the distinctive voicing they learn that the guitar has to be a Rickenbacker because the octave strings are arranged differently and then the Vox amplifier is important. On top of that the bass guitar plays an additional note, there's another guitar and some percussion... but any quick listen to The Beatles playing the song live will reveal that even they don't sound like the record because the piano is missing, the second guitar is an acoustic, and significant compression and EQ were utilised in the mixing.

So what more is there to add to this pointless exercise?

Well... it's something to do with using computers and mathematics to analyse music.

Andy Robinson's excellent Transcribe! software is a truly marvellous tool which I use almost every day. I particularly like the spectrum facility where he has placed the complex mathematics of fourier transform into a powerful graphical interface specifically designed for use by musicians. While much appreciated in transcribing circles the humble Mr. Robinson is by no means the "talk of the town".
Instead, when one 'googles' the terms "fourier transform" and "chord" the results are replete with one Dr. Jason I. Brown internationally celebrated for being the first to use mathematics to unravel the supposed "forty-year mystery" of the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night". His penchant for self-promotion has taken him onto talk shows, he's referenced all over the Science blogs, and in publications from Guitar Player magazine to the Wall Street Journal. And yet through his musical ignorance he got it so very, very wrong.
There really should be some attention drawn to the fact that Dr Brown is certainly not the only one using fourier transforms to analyse music, and one does not need a mathematics degree to do it. There are musicians all over the world using Transcribe! and with their ears and knowledge of instruments and sound they know how to interpret the DFT results in a meaningful way.

If these pages can go some way to redressing the balance away from Dr Brown and stressing the importance of LISTENING TO SOUNDS while analysing music then the project will have served its purpose.

Comments