Most of The Beatles Songs in 3/4 Were by John Lennon

I was just reading the “Notes on” page for “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”* and I was surprised to see that of the 15 Beatles songs that use 3/4 timing (or 6/8 or 12/8) for at least one full section 11 of them were by John Lennon.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison had two each. Considering that Lennon and McCartney contributed about the same amount of songs to The Beatles overall, it’s quite interesting that Lennon had more than five times as many songs in three than McCartney.

Without thinking about it my hunch actually would have been that McCartney had done more songs in 3. But clearly that is not the case. Lennon really had quite a thing for ‘em. And as you see in the list below, some of The Beatles best songs had this unusual (in comparison with 4/4) time signature.

Lennon’s Songs in 3

“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
“This Boy”
“Baby’s in Black”
“Yes It Is”
“Norwegian Wood”
“Yer Blues”
“Dig a Pony”
“Happiness is a Warm Gun” (parts 2 and 3)
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (alternating with 4/4)
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (verse)
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” (instrumental)

McCartney’s Songs in 3

“She’s Leaving Home”
“Oh! Darling” (and 4/4)

Harrison’s Songs in 3

“Long Long Long”
“I Me Mine” (and 4/4)

The Beatles Complete Scores

If you have The Beatles Complete Scores you will see that have “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” in 4/4. As you may already know there are different ways that you can write down music and they chose to write down this one as a very slow 4/4 with triplets on every beat.

But it could just as easily be written as a fast 3/4 and considering Lennon counted the song that way himself (listen to to the version on Anthology 2 to hear what I’m talking about) that seems more fitting. It could also be written as a slower 6/8 (or even a very slow 12/8.)

The important thing is that the song is in three; whether you are counting it as 4/4 with triplets on each beat, 3/4, or 6/8 that basic fact is the same.

*This “Notes on” series by Alan W. Pollack is a nice free addition to The Beatles as Musicians books if you’re interested in music theory analyses of The Beatles songs.

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