Classic Chords #6 – The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

Perhaps the chord that is the most distinctive and yet the most difficult to pin down as a solo player is the opening thrash of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. Everybody who picks up a guitar tries to get that chord, whether classical player, rock guitarist, 12-string player, whatever. Now, I figured it was some kind of Gm11 but with something extra going on. Or perhaps an F/G but with an extra note here or there. First off, I think George Harrison is on record as saying that he was indeed playing an F/G on a 12-string, but McCartney was playing a D note on the bass. But, that still doesn’t sound right.


Now, it was guitarist Randy “You ain’t seen nothing yet” Bachman who dug out the details having had an invitation to Abbey Road Studios from Giles Martin (Beatles’ producer George’s son) who had all The Beatles’ masters on his computer in Pro Tools and asked Bachman what he wanted to hear… “A Hard Day’s Night”, obviously. So, track-by-track they listened, there’s that F/G on the 12-string from Harrison but with a G on the high E-string and a C on the A string, which makes it an Fsus2 in fact, and there’s that D note on the bass guitar from McCartney, but…and here’s the key to getting the sound, John Lennon was playing a Dsus4. That’s some mixed harmony and you could say it kickstarted rock!

“A Hard Day’s Night” was already in the queue for Classic Chords, but thanks to Sciencebase reader Darren Michaloski for bringing the Bachman video to my attention and so allowing me to fill in the Dsus4. I’ve had a go at rendering it but Bachman’s band do it so much better. Bottom line is that overall it’s basically Dm11, but you could call it F 6/9 or a G9sus4…

More Classic Chords here, including a “G aug” from The Beatles’ “Blackbird“.

Mars closest to Earth

You’ll have to hope for clears skies tonight as Mars will be the closest to Earth it has been since November 2005. That said, it will not appear to be any more than a rather bright ruddy point in the sky unless you’re viewing it with a decent telescope. It will be a mere 75.3 million kilometres away.

As EarthSky explains, the point of clostest proximity is not when lie directly between the Sun and Mars, because plenatary orbits are not circular they are elliptical and those orbits are not all in a nice, neat plane as is so often depicted in the kind of space and astronomy books we read as kids (and even adults):

“If both the Earth and Mars circled the sun in perfect circles, and on the same exact plane, the distance between Earth and Mars would always be least on the day of Mars’ opposition. But we don’t live in such a perfect universe. Planets have elliptical orbits and a perihelion (closest point) and aphelion (farthest point) from the sun. Mars orbit around the sun takes 687 days in contrast to 365 days for Earth. It has a year nearly twice as long as ours. Earth’s closest point to the sun comes yearly, in January. Mars will be closest to the sun next on October 29, 2016.”

But, for a really close encounter you will have to wait until 2018, when Mars will come to within 57.6 million kilometres. The red planet was closers still at 55.8 million km back on the 27th of August 2003.

EarthSky has a handy starchart showing the positions of Mars, Saturn and the star Antareslying in the constellation Scorpius. Fingers crossed for a clear night…


Classic Chords #5 – Rush Limelight

As I mentioned, in Classic Chord #1 in my early teens I was chasing the dream of being the next Alex Lifeson, picking out the pseudo-classical intros to songs like “Panacea”, “A Farewell to Kings” and “The Trees”, later “Broon’s Bane” from Exit…stage left and rocking out (on a nylon string guitar!) to “Working Man”, “Bastille Day” and “Circumstances”.

One recurring theme in Lifeson’s playing is the chorused ringing sound of his big open chords where he leaves the B and high E strings open and chiming but roots the chord with the bottom strings. It adds an ethereal tone to the cleaner arpeggiated sounds, such as the big F-shaped chords in “Xanadu” and “Hemispheres”, and brightens up the likes of his E5 power chords adding harmonic timbre that isn’t present if you just play the E-B-E on the bottom strings or even just the E and B as you might in more traditional heavy rock riffage.

He used this to great effect in the classic “Limelight” from Moving Pictures where he descends through a B to the open A string and the E string, but keeps his pinkie on the G-string fretted at the B and lets the open B and E strings carry the harmonics. Playing an E5 like this cuts out the often dischordant G# that you’d expect in the E-major chord, and if the pitching of that open B string against the fretted B on the G-string isn’t perfect you get some degree of phasing and beating as you do with a 12-string.


In the descending run on the “and what you say about his company” sections of Tom Sawyer from the same album, he uses a B-major shape rather than the E-major in this position and lets the bass notes descend (B-A-F#-G) across those ringing B-B-E notes on the top three strings. An arpeggiated version of that shape but shifted up a semitone to the C is used by Manic Street Preaches in their song “A Design for Life”. More Classic Chords can be found in the series, here including The Hemispheres chord, the famous Hendrix Chord from Purple Haze and many more. Meanwhile, check out some of my own music influenced to no small degree by Rush, the Manics, and dozens of others over the years.

Here’s me playing a bit of the intro riff to “Limelight” that showcases this E5 chord followed my an undistorted chorused strum or two.

Classic Chords #4 – The Caged Chord

Composer John Cage (1912-1992) is perhaps most famous not for the music he wrote but the silence. In the piece known as “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”, 4’33”, which is ostensibly in three movements Cage instructed musicians, with any instrument or any combination of instruments and presumably voice to not play their instrument(s) for the during of the piece.

When it was first performed in 1952 and ever since, the audience gets nothing but the ambient sounds of the environment in which they and the performers exist for those four minutes and thirty three seconds.


Needless to say, there has been a lot of discussion of the metaphysics of what it means to write a piece of music that is entirely silence. I was thinking of forming a death metal band and calling them Homeopathetik. They would have only 4’33” in their repertoire and would never play live. This is their chord. In fact, I recorded a demo of the song years ago…stick your fingers in your ears and have a listen. One wag has already suggested I do a 12″ remix at 9’06”.

Apparently, in 2016, a band did a cover of my arrangement of this piece. I was also hoping to somehow get Napalm Death to reform so that could do a version that lasted 4.33 nanoseconds.

I thought I’d lost my death metal demo of 4’33” but I found the file, here’s a 1’09” sample from my archives, best listened to on headphones, but don’t turn it up too loud…

More Classic Chords here.

Classic Chords #3 – The Hendrix Chord

There’s one chord every wannabe rock guitar hero has to figure out at some point…we all listen to Jimi Hendrix, we all marvel at what he’s doing with that Fender Stratocaster, whether plucking it with his teeth or setting it on fire. But, what is it he’s doing exactly to get that E-major power chord that is something like a dominant 7th instead of a no-third, but has a little bit of funky extra hidden behind all that disortion. Well, it’s the pinkie finger on the B-string at the 9th fret that gives it the unique Hendrix flavour. Anyone could play the dominant 7th, he adds a sharp-9th.


Here’s a little sample of me attempting to do something akin to Hendrix on Purple Haze where this proto-funk rock chord features prominently

These #9 (sharp 9) chords are all over the place. There’s one at the bridge between chorus and next verse in Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”, where the chords modulate from the G major back to an E minor via D#9 and Db9 (it’s also in “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”). The bridge in the Kula Shaker version of the Joe South song “Hush” first recorded by Billy Joe Royal, then Deep Purple and Gotthard has a C#9 (same shape but with secod finger on the C at the third fret on your A string. It’s also on The Beatles’ “Taxman”, Pixies “Here Comes Your Man”, and “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave.

Intriguingly, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” also builds on the Hendrix chord in a funky way and easily segues into Purple Haze, viz:

More Classic Guitar Chords here.

Classic Chords #2 – The Beatles Blackbird

We all have songs that stick with us, the ones to which we’re the most attached, emotionally perhaps. “Blackbird” by The Beatles has to be one of those for me. The words are important, of course, but it’s really those chords and specifically the style and that chord at the top as he jumps up in the “dead of night”.


I think we can call it a G-aug, although it’s really only got G and B notes in it, as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, in the context of the ascending progression and subsequent descent across the arc of the melody it seems to fit with that description. I am sure purist music theorists would correct me, but a chord by any other name would sound as sweet (to paraphrase The Bard).

Anyway, I can just about play this song. It’s a perennial favourite when the sun is shining, ironically enough, I’ll grab a cold beer and take my acoustic into the garden to annoy the neighbours…at least I don’t do it in the dead of night. Meanwhile, you can listen to some of my original songs via the Dave Bradley BandCamp page.

More Classic Guitar Chords here.

Classic Chords #1 – The Hemispheres Chord

One thing I noticed as a teen teaching myself to pick out the wondrous chords played by Rush’s Alex Lifeson by ear was that he used a lot of chords where the top two strings, the B and the E string were left to ring while a moveable chord shape, often a B major shape or more commonly an F major shape (but, not barre) was relocated up and down the neck. Occasionally, the first finger would be on the B string to make a more conventional Fmaj shape but still with that E string ringing, and the whole chord often arpeggiated intricately rather than strummed as a unit.


However, it is the Fmaj shape shifted up a fret to give us the rather weird, dissonant, and suspended F#11 chord (F#,C#,F#,A#,B,E) that powers the opening of the Hemispheres album and was later revisited as the big power chord of “Far Cry” from the Snakes & Arrows album. Apparently it was producer Nick Raskulinecz who had wanted the band to put a modern twist on some of their classic musical motifs and this chord stood out for him. Interestingly, the way Lifeson plays the first position Emaj in the intro with his pinkie adding a B on the third string and there being no G# resembles the modified chords he uses on Moving Pictures track “Limelight”.

The “Hemispheres Chord” itself features a lot throughout Rush’s early albums in various positions up and down the neck, on The Fountain of Lamneth, in Xanadu, Hemispheres (obvs), later on The Spirit of Radio and Natural Science. Other players have used similar chords to thicken their sound and to give the six-string something of a 12-string sound. If I remember rightly, it features on some Manic Street Preachers songs too and given that bassist Nicky Wire is a massive Rush fan, that’s perhaps no surprise. And, speaking of the Manics, they also use one of those Bmaj shaped chords on the song “Design for Life” more on that later in my Classic Chords series. Meanwhile, check out some of my own music influenced to no small degree by Rush, the Manics, and dozens of others over the years.

The Classic Guitar Chords archive will grow from here.

I should add that there is some controversy about this chord. When you’re learning guitar, it’s a fairly obvious thing to do, lift your barre index finger from an F major and move it around the fretboard, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci reckons Lifeson invented it. Alex certainly did it on Caress of Steel (Fountain of Lamneth) with a B and an A type chord at 7th, 5th fret, respectively. But, have a listen to Journey’s mid-1970s instrumental “Nickel and Dime”; recorded May – October 1976. Remind you of anything?

Fundamentally, one of the two bands was massively inspired by the other’s motif. Journey supported Rush in the 2112 tour at one gig at least. Could Alex Lifeson or Neal Schon have been more than a little inspired by the other, did the jam together and share ideas of this sort? Rush have been great assimilators of musical styles throughout their careers. The Nickel and Dime riffing in the middle is almost identical to the Xanadu rocking between E and the F#11 and arpeggiating the top edge of the chord too…and actually again in Hemispheres, Natural Science and then the ending of Tom Sawyer. Xanadu was previewed live in May 1977 by Rush. So, they were probably both written at about the same time, by two guitarists who heard each other play live on the same stages…

Medium is the medium

Forget the medium is the message, Medium is anything but medium, the message is Medium. Well, according to Quincy Larson, you might as well not publish on a blog if you want readers and should switch right now to the content management platform Medium. You can, of course, find me, 雷竞技官网 Sciencebase on Medium already!


Meanwhile, here are eight of Larson’s reasons for abandoning his blog in favour of Medium distilled into a medium-sized list:

  1. Unless people really care, your blog post is going nowhere
  2. People don’t have time to read your blog post. They’re too busy reading Medium
  3. Medium makes it easy for a community to author and distribute articles
  4. Moving to Medium is pretty safe
  5. You can subdomain a Medium publication to your own domain
  6. You can also easily export your articles from Medium if you change your mind
  7. President Obama publishes his speeches on Medium
  8. Medium is relatively new and its traffic is still growing

Double slit experiment rides a wave

In the infamous double-slit experiment of quantum mechanics, it appears that particles whether massless particles of light, photons, or charged electrons, fired at a pair of slits will pass through and form interference pattern on the other side, as if they are behaving like a wave, even when only one particle is passing through a slit at a time. It’s as if, so the Copenhagen interpretation of QM goes, the particle is in both places at once, passing through both slits and a “decision” only being made at the point the observer looks/measures the interference pattern.

It really always seemed silly that the observation itself could alter the “choice” made by a subatomic particle passing through one of a pair of slits. Click the diagram for details of the experiment.

Double slit experiment, see Wikipedia for details

However, an alternative explanation might be that it is not the particles but a pilot wave, an energy field exuded by the particles is what creates the interference pattern, carrying particle after particle through in such a way that the pattern emerges naturally without an observer effect. This is the Bohmian interpretation of QM. It sounds a lot more plausible to this chemist’s brain and much more common sensible than the Copenhagen idea mocked by Einstein. And, now, there is experimental evidence as reported in Quanta magazine.

As Dan Falk puts it in his excellent article:

“The electrons act like actual particles, their velocities at any moment fully determined by the pilot wave, which in turn depends on the wave function. In this view, each electron is like a surfer: It occupies a particular place at every specific moment in time, yet its motion is dictated by the motion of a spread-out wave. Although each electron takes a fully determined path through just one slit, the pilot wave passes through both slits. The end result exactly matches the pattern one sees in standard quantum mechanics.”