Musicians: What piano chord is played at 2:59 on "Let It Be"?

**During the 2nd half of the third verse of Let It Be (“I wake up to the sound of music / Mother Mary comes to me”) Paul McCartney’s piano part has a slightly different chord than the one used in the other verses. The chord in question is on the word “mother” at about 2:59 on most recordings.

The rest of the verses have a basic A minor at that point, but in this verse it’s not simply a different inversion, but a hauntingly beautiful substitution. I looked all over the internet for the answer and found some interesting stuff. Some folks say he goofed up and played the wrong chord. (I don’t know how to make a link go to the exact line of a web page. Just do a “find” for “chord”. It’s mentioned twice.)

On Yahoo Answers, one guy asked the same question and also observed:

The person who answers says he’s pretty sure it’s a mistake and it’s an F major. An Fmaj7 sounds almost right to me, but not quite there.

On the talk page for the Wikipedia entry for * Let It Be* (Song) (subheading: “Wrong Chord”) someone takes umbrage to the suggestion it is a wrong chord:

I agree with this. An interesting side note: on the* Let It Be… Naked* version McCartney plays the same A minor at 2:59 that he uses in the rest of the song. I believe that all the other released studio versions have the different chord.

If anyone could identify the exact notes he is playing during this point in the song I would sure appreciate it. I thought I had a pretty good ear but I just can’t figure it out!


I can’t help you with the chord, but I thought the “Naked” version just used the original tape, but removed all the string tracks and stuff that Phil Spector slathered all over the album. Could what you are hearing be a result of something that Phil put on making some sort of interesting dissonance with Paul’s piano chord, and that thus gets lost when Phil’s overdubs are removed? Or am I wrong and is there reason to believe that the piano tracks on “Naked” and the original album were different performances?

On the other hand, I am under the impression that the original album and single versions were different performances. Do you hear this chord on both of them? If so, that seems like good evidence that it was not a mistake.

Sounds to me like he throws in an Am sus2 before reverting to straight Am on “Mary”.

Or the similar Am(add 9). The slightly dissonant note you hear is a B, which is the 2nd or 9th of an A chord.

I think different individual tracks were used on different versions. For example, the main piano track was used on most versions but with different guitar and organ parts. I’m sure that the piano track on “Naked” was different than both the album, single, and “Beatles One” track. But it wasn’t re-recorded for “Naked”, rather it was one of the original takes recorded for the “Let It Be” album–just not the same one used on the album.

And the different chord was not something added by Spector. It was just something McCartney played differently on one particular take. Adding one single piano note to slightly change a chord doesn’t exactly fit in with Phil’s “wall of sound” extravaganzas, AFAIK.
Thanks all for the tips on the Am sus2 (or Am add 9) that extra B added sounds like it may be it. But I still can’t figure out the actual inversion used or what the left hand is playing at the same time.

What I do in that situation is just extrapolate from what came before and what comes after. I don’t know if that’ll help you.

Based on what I hear, though, I’d say he’s playing a G chord in the right hand, a GBD just above middle C, making the chord an Am11. He’s still playing AEA in the bass, I think, like the guy on Yahoo said.

And the fact that he made it such a quick suspension makes me think it was indeed a wrong chord, and not just him playing a half chord. But, honestly, it sounds better. You can also analyze the chord as a Em7/A, meaning it’s following the circle of fifths, and that almost always sounds good. (My first by-ear piano teacher taught me to always look for the circle of fifths anytime you’re having to make up chords on the spot.)

(I may just be hearing the melody note and moving the D up, and he’s really playing DGB. But I’m pretty sure all those notes are there. Surely I’m not just making up that D I hear.)

EDIT: This is so similar to what the Yahoo guy said, it makes me wonder if he mistyped and meant to say G instead of F.

Added B
Added B
Added B oh Added B
A minor suspended, Added B

Well done! Perhaps you were inspired by this Sesame Street song.

Interesting. So far in this thread we have suggestions that (different combinations of) A, B, C, D, E, and G were included in the chord. If you include the answer from Yahoo Answers, you can throw in an F as well, which means that every note in the A minor scale has been suggested.

This just adds to my confusion about this darn chord. I have tried every chord mentioned here on my piano and none of them sound quite right. I’m sort of leaning towards an F being involved (Am add F, or maybe even Dm7), but using various inversions and left hand notes I still can’t get it to sound right.

I haven’t listened to the track in question yet, but I have some comments on the harmonic terminology used here.

An “Add 9” chord is a triad with an additional tone included, a major 9th interval from the root. This is harmonically equivalent to a major second from the root.

Chord symbols give no information about the exact placement of any chord tones other than the root. If you have an F triad, that doesn’t supply any information as to how many octaves above the lowest F the A or C is. From low to high, it could be FCAFC or FACF, and octaves can be skipped.

Therefore, specifying “Add 9” doesn’t say where that 9th tone will be. It could be close to the root tone or far away. Our standard harmony is built upon thirds, so 9th makes sense, 2nd does not, and does not impart any useful information other than to hint that the added tone is probably part of a cluster and not all by its lonesome.

There are two possible tones that can be described as “suspended,” a 2nd and a 4th. Both derive their names from the harmonic concept that a suspension will be resolved, and in classical harmony, both 2nds and 4ths resolve to the 3rd of the triad, be it major or minor. Therefore, there can be a A sus2 or A sus4, but there cannot be a Am sus2 or Am sus4.

I suppose the intention is to suggest a resolution to a minor triad rather than a major one, but if you don’t specify the following chord, it doesn’t resolve anyway! Without a resolution, an A sus chord cannot sound any different from a (bogus notation) Am sus chord. And we aren’t bound by classical harmonic concepts anymore, so sus chords sometimes never resolve at all.

So there is a difference between an added tone and a suspended tone. The chord “A add9” would include all of these pitches: A,B,C and E. The chord “A sus2” would include all of these pitches, and no others: A,B, and E (no C). “A sus4” would have A,D, and E (no C). If an “Am sus2” chord existed, it would be identical to “A sus2,” so why have two terms that express exactly the same thing?

To sum up, if, in this case, a B is present but not a C, we have a A sus2. If the B is present and also a C, we have A add9.

Lastly, an “Am add F” is a F Major 7 in first inversion, or “F Maj7 / A.” No need to invent a new symbol.

Musicat… you know your stuff. I should have noticed that an “Am add F” is simply an Fmaj7. As for my mention of “Am sus2”, I must admit I hadn’t thought about it and was so wrapped up in thinking about the A minor chord that I didn’t stop to think about a suspended 2nd being in relation only to the root with the minor or major not mattering. Thanks for pointing that out!

You’re definitely well-versed on music. If you have a chance, could you listen to the song and offer your take on what the “mystery chord” might be? I’d sure appreciate it!

Which take? I don’t think I have an original LP or 45 for this tune, and there must be many versions.

I listened to this one, but at 2:59 the piano is pretty muddy, may be overdubbed, and the EQ isn’t crisp. I admit I do hear a tiny little “something” in the mix, but it seems totally insignificant to the harmony and nearly impossible to isolate – it might not be a piano note at all. If I play an A minor triad at that time, it totally seems to fit. In fact, I don’t hear any more exotic harmony than simple triads anywhere, and most are in simple root position.

Maybe I’m listening to the wrong part or a poor quality rendition. Can you link to the particular take we are talking about, if not this one?

There’s definitely something odd there. I never noticed it before, and it sounds like a wee flub by the piano, but I can’t quite get my finger on what it. I will agree with the general consensus that there’s an added B in there. At first, it sounded quite jarring, but after repeated listens, it doesn’t bug me.

ETA: Musicat - it is that take, and it’s the piano part you linked to, right under the lyrics “Mother Mary comes to me.”

Perhaps you can hear it more clearly here in the single version at 2:58.

That’s a much clearer recording, and I do hear something odd, but I can’t put my ear on it, and it’s so brief.

I’m not convinced it’s intentional. I can give you several examples of hit songs with obvious mix errors more egregious than this one, so it isn’t impossible that it’s a mistake.

The same progression happens at :05 - :06, where the top piano note goes from E to D, with a F triad below, making the harmony (if you wish to analyze it as such) F Maj 7 -> F6. That progression is repeated throughout the song, but only once does it have this “anomoly.”

I no longer have some of the tools I used to use for transcriptions. If someone could throw me a MP3 file, I could put it thru an audio editor, slow it down, freeze and repeat the sound at exactly the right moment. It’s just too brief for me to tell what the strange notes are in real time.

Anyone have access to the original multi-track recording? That would settle it!

I would agree that it sounds like a flub to me. It just seems odd that he would have substituted/embellished just that one Am chord in the piece, while leaving the rest of the chord voicings “vanilla” throuhgout the whole song.

Yes, and my WAG is that it might be a “bleed thru” from a previous take or even a different instrument. I know of at least two examples from Mamas & Papas recordings of the same era where that is the most likely explanation, and one “mistake” goes on for several bars. Not obvious in mono, but detectable in one channel of a stereo mix with good separation.

I have taken a close look at one copy of the song, extracted a single beat, slowed it down, and looped it. I’m sorry to say I cannot tell what’s going on any more than I could before. Maybe someone else can hear it better than I can. Here are the files I have been working with:

Complete song


Excerpt, slowed to half speed

Excerpt, slowed to half speed, repeated

Excerpt, slowed to half speed, repeated (the excerpt is further trimmed)

I can hear a “D” pitch in there – it’s muddy – but, at this point, I think the hypothesis of a mistake in the mix is the best one so far.

I also listened to a karaoke version. While it is undoubtedly a re-recording, not a Beatles original, it appears to be in the same tempo and the 2:59 spot is clear, since there is no vocal. There appears to be no glitch here, and if recreation was paramount, the karaoke performers didn’t copy it.

[Sing along](Account Suspended It Be.mp3)

The YouTube clip **pulykamell **linked to does have better fidelity then the one you linked to first, but they are also different recordings. Well, different piano tracks anyway, and a different mix too.

But this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the mix. The chord there is different–different from the one at :05, and different from any of the other verses. This chord appears in the single version **pulykamell **linked to and also in the version on the Beatles “One”. On the “Let It Be” album, like the YouTube clip you linked to above, as well as on “Let It Be… Naked”, no anomalous chord is used. I’m not sure which version is on the “1967-1970” or “Past Masters” albums.

I have to believe that it’s intentional because if it was undesirable, why would they leave it in? Clearly they have good tracks that don’t include it (e.g the “Let It Be” album). Somebody deliberately chose to include that chord in some versions of the song. It’s not a glitch, a recording artifact or some “bleed through”. It’s a different chord.

Now, it’s barely possible that McCartney mistakenly hit the wrong notes on that track, but if so, then it was a fortuitous “mistake” that sounded so subtly beautiful in its slight dissonance that they decided to keep it. I say “barely possible” because Paul is too good of a musician and too detail-oriented to miss hearing it on review. Not to mention the other members of the band and the production crew going over the tracks with a fine-tooth comb.

As time goes on I become even more fascinated with this. Almost obsessed. It’s clear (to me anyway) that a distinctly different chord was played on some versions of “Let It Be” but there is no consensus (on the SDMB at least) of exactly what that chord is. How can one chord be such a cipher?

I wonder if Paul would answer an email about this? He’s probably way too busy to bother. But maybe if this situation was a known Beatles oddity and had been bantered about on other occasions then someone on his staff might choose to respond.

Partial retraction: It seems the “Let It Be” album version (Re-mastered) does contain the “mystery chord”.