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

Man! Thanks so much for this. I’d never even heard of the “Glyn Johns mixes”. This version is the most unadorned one I’ve yet heard. It enables me to hear my “magical mystery chord” more discretely than ever.
I think I’m now very, very close to having it. Goes like this:

First, (on “Mother”) a Dm6 (A3 B3 D4 F4) with the right hand, and an A1 A2 octave* with the left.

Then it goes to a couple Am (A3 C4 E4) {I keep my finger down on the F4 with those, so it doesn’t “clear”} and descending octaves with the left hand: A1 A2, then G1 G2.

Then with the RH I play the F4 again along with the Am making a Fmaj7 (A3 C4 E4 F4), then this changes to a Dm (F3 A3 D4) and again I leave my finger down on the F4 so it’ll stick. The LH descending octaves continue down to F1 F2 for both the RH chords, then it’s back to the C major, etc.
This is about as close as I can come—at least for now. I think most of the remaining difference between what I play and the actual recording comes down to overtones, harmonics, and resonance coming from that fine, fine Blüthner piano Paul is playing and the room acoustics plus the EQ and final compression. Add to that the dynamics he employs and his exact pedaling, as well.

ETA: also the various tones, overtones, and harmonics coming from Billy Preston’s organ back deep in the mix can add funny things to the piano notes.

Yeah—I think if I was in that big room he recorded in, playing a perfectly tuned Blüthner, I could come even closer.

*Note on the LH octaves: These are played differently at different times. Sometimes the two notes are together, sometimes one or the other, sometimes quarter notes, sometimes halves. Without actual notation it’s hard to convey exactly what I think is played here.

I just want to say that as a Beatles devotee who only has an amateur’s understanding of music theory, but who loves the nitty gritty of differing takes and mixes, this thread has been stupendously enjoyable to follow. :slight_smile:

You guys have given me a whole new appreciation for one of my favorite Beatles songs. I’ve always held that the “Naked” take is the best version of “Let It Be” (primarily for George’s gorgeous solo in that take, which is my single favorite guitar line in the Beatles canon), and I don’t think that’s changed. But I can definitely understand your love for that odd piano chord in the album take, which I’ve always disliked for Spector’s wall of wankery production. But the Glyn Johns mix, which emphasizes the odd chord rather than shoving it down in the mix, really brings out how it works as a beautiful transition to the following chord.

Ultimately, I think I’m in the same boat as JKellyMap and others - this was a performance flub by Paul, which they realized after the fact actually made that part of the song better. Given the superiority of the “Naked” take in most other respects (IMO, obviously :)), I wouldn’t be surprised if this little bit of serendipity played a big role in why John and the others ended up wanting this take for the album and single. Paul, of course, preferred the “Naked” take himself - possibly due to his perfectionism - which is why he selected it for “Let It Be… Naked.”

The 4th above the tonic, in classical chordal harmony, when it resolves to a major or minor 3rd, is indeed termed a suspension.

The 2nd, when it resolves to a major or minor 3rd, is a passing note. Its resolution is “upwards,” so it is/was not in retrospect suspended over anything. In such cases, in contrapuntal and harmonic analyses following Fux, it is a passing tone.

In other cases it would be known as an upwards appoggiatura (appogare, It. “to lean”), * port de voix, plainte*, lean, slide, or bend.

Of course, as has been mentioned here, an individual chord with the 2nd scale step when strictly labeled would be termed a a 9th chord. Until Tristan fucked everything up.

Plus appoggiare has two "g"s. And an “i.”

A suspension is not so called because it’s suspended “over” anything in terms of being higher in pitch, but because it is retained from the previous chord and superimposed over the other notes of the new one. The direction of resolution may be either up or down, so the suspension may perfectly well be the second of the new chord resolving to the third. A passing tone is a tone that doesn’t belong to *either *chord, but which establishes a stepwise motion between two chord tones. Two completely different things.

Of course, this is irrelevant to the naming of chords in pop music where chord types are routinely chosen for their sheer sound and voice leading is not a consideration. A chord with the third replaced by a second or fourth is termed a sus2 or sus4 chord whether or not the “sus” note appeared in the previous chord at all.

That would be an “add 9” or “add 2”, or at least that’s how it would be notated contemporaneously. A 9th chord contains the 7th, which gives it quite a different color than an add9. For example, I might use an add9/add2 in a pop or country-ish piano part to add color to almost any major chord, whereas a 9th chord I’m more likely to use in something with a bluesier or jazzier sound. When I see “C9” on a lead sheet, I know I generally want to hit the E, Bb, and D somewhere in my voicing. If I see “Cadd9,” unless I intentionally want to give it a little bit of a jazzy quality and turn it into a Cmaj9 or C9, I avoid the B/Bb.

He’s right, though. Suspensions, classically, resolve downward. See: 4-3 suspension, 9-8 suspension, 7-6 suspension. Upwards, the term classically is “retardation,” but I only know the 7-8 retardation.

My apologies.

Actually, that brings up a question for me. What do you call it when you have something that starts out as a suspension, but goes down to the second and then up to the third? For example, at the end of the intro to "Toccata in D minor, you have that diminished 7th which resolves into a D major via a 4-2-3 movement of the harmony, instead of a 4-3 suspension. Is there a name for that type of musical figure–I hear that 4-2-3 often enough.

In classical harmony, you are right. But we have come a long ways from 18th C. harmony. No matter how much you may dislike calling a 2nd going to a 3rd (or not) a “suspension,” that is the terminology most used by 20th C. musicians, and AFAIK, today’s also. We have no guitar symbol that I know of that indicates an appoggiatura, no does any contemporary musician much care. They just want to know what notes to play and leave the analysis to pedants like us.

It’s called “avoiding the consequent.” :slight_smile:

Sure. And I can honestly say, this thread is probably the only time I’ve gotten to use the word “retardation” in the musical theory sense in conversation.

I, too, use the word suspension, and all a suspended chord means to me is the third is substituted with a fourth or a second, if specified. There’s no classical sense of suspension in that the fourth has to be a holdover from the preceding chord or anything like that. A suspended chord, in modern parlance, can exist in isolation.

I’ll ask in ATMB about this drift in music theory about whether it should go in GQ, where we can go into it more…

Getting back to the OP: I bet this guycould tell us (his expert opinion, at least). Maybe he’s a Doper.

I’d been very glad to find that I’m not alone in these aspects of this dissonance:
[li]many people has noted the dissonance;[/li][li]there is a doubt about whether that was an error or intentional;[/li][li]it seems an error, but it sounds better;[/li][li]many people want to reproduce it, but no one knows the exact notes and it’s hard to find them.[/li][/ul]

My bet is:

Paul was going to play the Am with the right hand with the notes E, A and C (low to high), but hey, the hand has slipped one key to right, playing F, B and D (an inverted Bm5-?), while the left hand was in the correct position to bass the intended Am.

I don’t know if those are the correct notes, but they sounds well compared to the original (imho).

If you are right, that’s a simple B diminished triad. No need to invent a tortured, new notation.

I’ve always noticed the difference in effect on that particular section of the song and have always assumed that the “wrong chord” was intentional. Personally I think it definitely sounds better than when it’s played straightforwardly. It also seems to fit in with the Beatles tendency to add unexpected twists to a song instead of always following a set of conventional “rules”. Usually any variation would happen toward the end of a song, as is the case here.

However, in the Wikipedia entry for “Let It Be…Naked” someone has written this:

“For the title track, the original take 27a was used for the bulk of the song, but two edit pieces were flown in from take 27b (the version seen and heard in the Let It Be film): namely, the guitar solo and a brief section near the end (the final “Mother Mary comes to me” bar) to fix an errant piano chord that was present on the album/single versions.”

So if that’s correct then it was indeed a “flub” as others have described it but it still seems a bit unlikely that both George Martin (especially) and Phil Spector would not have corrected it on the original single and album track. It does have a sort of magical quality to it so maybe they left it in regardless of whether it was the wrong chord or not.

I agree with Sony Santos that it seems to be a B diminished chord but to me it sounds like B D F rather than F B D.

OK, I know this is a necro, but anyway:

Keep in mind that a spectrogram shows harmonics in addition to fundamentals, and can be misleading when (a) the harmonics are louder than the fundamentals, which isn’t unusual, and (b) when different harmonics of different notes in a chord coincide and reinforce. As a result, we can often see notes that aren’t played.

As an example of this, we often hear a barbershop quartet sing a chord and we can distinctly hear a 5th, soprano voice. That’s called “ringing” and they do it on purpose, and it’s lovely. IIRC, it’s frowned upon for classic Barbershop competitions, being considered a novelty of the 20th century or something. :wink:

Listening just now, having never noticed it before, that’s precisely impression I got, but I’ll have to try it on a piano to see if it works.

My guess is that it was accidental but they liked it with the other instruments there, and for Naked, it didn’t work by itself.

Some of the best chords I’ve ever played were ones I hadn’t intended.

This beautiful quirk in the last verse has also driven me nuts for years.

On trying out the various ideas suggested in the thread, I have to agree with Phil Nettle that the right hand slip to B D F and quick recovery back to the 2nd beat of the A minor sounds the closest to my ears.

It also seems plausible that it was a genuine serendipitous fluff that on reviewing the take, they liked it and decided to make it “intentional” and keep it in.

Would love to hear the definitive story from Macca or someone involved in the recording…someone must know the full story of the would-be A minor.

Learjeff, I think that this question is as eternal as the music itself. :slight_smile:

I have a legend about what can be happened:

  • I’ve made a mistake at 2:59. What now?
  • Oh, that sounds good! Don’t worry, LET IT BE!