Beatles Songs in Concert Pitch

This article lists Beatles songs (standardised catalogue, 2009 stereo remaster) that conform to concert pitch (A4 above middle C=440 Hz).1Note that I haven’t attempted to analyse ‘Revolution 9’ for pitch due to its complex music concrète form. In other words, these songs can be accompanied with good results without having to retune your instrument or pitch shift the song. This will help those using acoustic pianos or other instruments that can’t quickly be retuned to different pitch references. Guitarists and bassists can also create playlists knowing that they won’t have to constantly retune. A few songs that exhibit tuning or other issues affecting accompaniment consonance are denoted with an asterix. In practice, you’ll find that accompaniment of some Beatles songs sounds better than others (many factors will come in to play here including minor tuning anomalies in and between multi-layered instruments, varying playing dynamics and the use of audio effects having an effect on pitch).2For the Beatles in the studio see generally Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew, Recording the Beatles, Houston, 2006 and Mark Lewisohn, The complete Beatles recording sessions, London, 1988. Lastly, a few songs that primarily are in concert pitch but which also diverge in places are briefly explained in footnotes.

Please Please Me (1963)

P.S. I Love You

With The Beatles (1963)

All My Loving*3Accompaniment consonance deteriorates somewhat after the first verse. To my ear, the guitar solo section is slightly flat of the rest of the song and sharpening the solo section globally by about 12 cents gives improved results.
Please Mr. Postman
Hold Me Tight
I Wanna Be Your Man

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night
I Should Have Known Better
If I Fell
Things We Said Today
When I Get Home
I’ll Be Back

Beatles For Sale (1964)

No Reply
I’m A Loser
Baby’s in Black
Rock And Roll Music
Mr. Moonlight*
Eight Days A Week
Every Little Thing

Help! (1965)

Act Naturally

Rubber Soul (1965)

Drive My Car
What Goes On
I’m Looking Through You

Revolver (1966)

Taxman
Eleanor Rigby
And Your Bird Can Sing
Doctor Robert
I Want To Tell You
Tomorrow Never Knows

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

SGT. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

Magical Mystery Tour (1968)

The Fool On The Hill
Your Mother Should Know
I Am The Walrus
All You Need Is Love

The Beatles (1968)

Back In The U.S.S.R.
Glass Onion
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Martha My Dear
I’m So Tired
Piggies
I Will
Julia
Yer Blues
Long, Long, Long
Honey Pie
Savoy Truffle
Good Night

Yellow Submarine (1969)

Only A Northern Song
It’s All Too Much
All You Need Is Love

Abbey Road (1969)

Come Together
Octopus’s Garden
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Because
You Never Give Me Your Money
Sun King
Mean Mr. Mustard
Polythene Pam
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
Her Majesty

Let It Be (1970)

Two Of Us
I Me Mine
Dig It
Let It Be
Maggie Mae
The Long And Winding Road
For You Blue
Get Back

Past Masters (1962–70 [1988])

Love Me Do
From Me To You
Thank You Girl
She Loves You
I’ll Get You
I Want To Hold Your Hand
This Boy
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
Sie Liebt Dich
Long Tall Sally
I Call Your Name
Slow Down
Matchbox
I Feel Fine
She’s A Woman
Bad Boy
Yes It Is
I’m Down
Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out
Paperback Writer
Rain
Lady Madonna
The Inner Light
Hey Jude
Revolution
Get Back
Don’t Let Me Down
The Ballad Of John And Yoko
Old Brown Shoe
Across The Universe
Let It Be
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

Notes

Some of the possible reasons why many early Beatles songs don’t conform to concert pitch can be found in this article on the Please Please Me album. Overall, it would seem that the pitch discrepancies commonly evident early on in the ‘core’ Beatles catalogue largely were inadvertent; however, from about 1966 (and possibly 1965) the situation become increasingly complex due to the use of deliberate tape machine pitch modification for musical/audio effect purposes—so much so that pitch manipulation became central to the Beatles’ mature sound. Note that many later-era songs mastered at concert pitch will still have subtle varispeed effects applied as the technique was integral to the automatic double tracking process devised at EMI in 1966 by engineer Ken Townsend and widely used on Beatles recordings thereafter. From about 1967, deliberately detuned instruments were utilised on some tracks while flanging and rotating speaker effects modifying pitch were also commonly deployed. Note bending, of course, is also integral to rock guitar playing (and some instruments such as the twelve string guitar and Mellotron are notable for their tuning instability). Finally, songs such as ‘When I’m Sixty Four’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’ and ‘Across The Universe’ were shifted in pitch by approximately a whole semi-tone during mixdown (the latter in different doses in different releases). However, in general the application of various tape-based pitch effects was subtle and, in any case, the core Beatles catalogue is tuned quite satisfactorily given the wide range of instrumentation deployed and the fact that all tuning was done by ear.

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