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Author Topic: George's Harmonies  (Read 3226 times)

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alexis

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George's Harmonies
« on: April 26, 2009, 11:05:36 PM »

I've been listening to a lot of the earlier Beatles lately, and focusing on George's harmonies.

Seems to me like he was always mixed really low by George Martin when they were doing three part. For example, "This Boy", "I Feel Fine", or (to a lesser degree) "I'll Get You". Sometimes to hear his harmonies, I almost have to "reverse engineer" them - peck out Paul's upper and John's lower voices, then figure out where George's would "have to be", go back and listen, and voila - it was there all the time! I wonder why George Martin did that ... is that the standard way to mix 3 part harmony - emphasis on the upper and lower harmonies at the expense of the middle? I'm going to listen to "Yes it Is" next, I think, and see how things worked there.

I also think he had the harder harmonies most of the time. Paul and John's could almost always be an independent melody, like the Everly Bros. did a lot. But George had to sort of sing the note that was "left over" that the other two didn't sing, which though it sounded awesome, was maybe not as intuitively melodic ... harder to sing maybe, at least for me.

What do you singer/musicians think?

And lastly, another question for this esteemed forum - do you think George figured out all his harmonies, or John/Paul said something like "Here, George, here's your part"? My bet is on the former, but who's to say?
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FourMiles

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2009, 02:25:51 AM »

I've been listening to them since 1963 and like anything you repetitiously listen to, you start to hear all the little details about their voices. George had unique way of phrasing and it was distinguishable even at low volume with most of his vocal parts. His pronunciation was always very clear. Listen to him singing the backup vocals in
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harihead

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2009, 03:57:52 AM »

I have nothing sensible to add, but I love the discussion!
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Bobber

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2009, 07:28:57 AM »

I think FourMiles made some good points. Thing with these close harmonies is that sometimes they're so close, it's hard to tell how many voices are singing. Let alone to tell who is who.
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2009, 05:41:08 PM »

Thanks, interesting points all!

One thing we'll never know: Did George Martin mix George's voice lower on records than it sounded live when the three of them were around a microphone?

I think he may have ... live concerts (Shea, for example, I'm Down), it seems George was pretty prominent. I don't know their live stuff well, so I'll have to go off and listen now!

But first - "Yes It Is" ... had a few listens today in the car, boy his George mixed low at times! Off to listen more!!
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Bobber

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2009, 06:33:15 PM »

Quote from: 568
Thanks, interesting points all!

One thing we'll never know: Did George Martin mix George's voice lower on records than it sounded live when the three of them were around a microphone?

I think he may have ... live concerts (Shea, for example, I'm Down), it seems George was pretty prominent. I don't know their live stuff well, so I'll have to go off and listen now!

But first - "Yes It Is" ... had a few listens today in the car, boy his George mixed low at times! Off to listen more!!

I'm not really sure when they started to record the voices seperately. Certainly in the early days with only two tracks available, I guess they all gathered round the microphone and sang all together. George should have sung louder, that's all!  ;D
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2009, 07:39:28 PM »

Just read that the three of them sang "This Boy" on one mic at the Washington Coliseum. Wonder if there is any audio/video for that somewhere, see how loud George was compared to the other two ...

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harihead

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2009, 12:33:31 AM »

Interesting point of the live recordings, Alexis. I seem to remember hearing a popular version of Help (not sure if it was Shea; can't think of which offhand), but George's distinctive Liverpudlian drawl is easily heard.

Quote from: 63
George should have sung louder, that's all!  ;D
Excellent point, Cor. Perhaps George, being more self-conscious, didn't sing as loudly into the microphone. But in a live environment, where they all tended to shout, he would have had to let loose.


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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2009, 05:15:41 AM »

5xOfg8XMc6w


They seemed a mite unhappy with the sound man, whoever he was!
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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2009, 07:58:53 AM »

Quote from: 568
They seemed a mite unhappy with the sound man, whoever he was!

Remember they had to turn everything (including drums and mikes) after each song, so that all the audience had a chance to look them in the face.
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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2009, 01:26:34 PM »

Quote from: 63
I think FourMiles made some good points. Thing with these close harmonies is that sometimes they're so close, it's hard to tell how many voices are singing. Let alone to tell who is who.

I have found this. Not until I really have had to learn parts have I noticed the distinctions between their voices better. I used to find John & George indistinguishable.. And yes, their close harmonies follow amazing melodic passages. Even though Lennon & McCartney could turn on the scouse accents when necessary, George had the most distinctive natural scouse tone which is maybe why it was favoured more in the mix, in the earlier days of the 'Mersey Sound.'
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2009, 02:11:07 PM »

Quote from: 568
RoOT0wSiENA

Bingorooney!




Quote from: 568
OMG!!!! Is this the ultimate bingorooney?

oB14Q1J7iqc



And here it is with all three voices. These harmonies sound pretty right as far as I can tell on the first few listens ... what do you folks think?

2OAdJKTkHxI



Hi - Apple and others - what do you think, are these right?
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fendertele

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2009, 05:50:01 PM »

So heard to tell where Georges Harmony sits when all three are singing, Paul is the high part most of the time.
 John does cover the low parts when its him and Paul alone, but when George is thrown into it he and John sing at the same pitch from what a can hear or John goes slightly higher than George maybe due to John being the better vocalist and more comfortable than George at a higher range ?
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2009, 06:39:16 PM »

Quote from: 758
So heard to tell where Georges Harmony sits when all three are singing, Paul is the high part most of the time.
 John does cover the low parts when its him and Paul alone, but when George is thrown into it he and John sing at the same pitch from what a can hear or John goes slightly higher than George maybe due to John being the better vocalist and more comfortable than George at a higher range ?

The youtube guy has George jumping all over the place with his harmonies - starts way down on the E, jumps up a 6th to the C#, then down to the F#, just for starters. He also has him a little higher than John ever goes in the song (except for the solo, of course), up to a D (" ...and what's more...", and "Understand ...", for example).

I agree fendertele, it's so hard to hear George for much of this song. Every time, when I'm straining my ears and brain to the max, that I DO hear him, this youtube guy seems to have it spot on. Also, there's this book with a complete transcription of all the Beatles songs, and though it isn't quite the gospel, I've found it to be pretty reliable, and what's written down there matches this youtube guy's harmonies.

I'm inclined to believe that these are the ones to go with, and certainly nobody we would play for would know the difference, but I'd like to get it right, so if anyone thinks that this youtube guy's Paul/George harmonies aren't what's on the record for "Yes It Is", please let's hear your thoughts!

Thanks!
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fendertele

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2009, 07:22:43 PM »

Quote from: 568

The youtube guy has George jumping all over the place with his harmonies - starts way down on the E, jumps up a 6th to the C#, then down to the F#, just for starters. He also has him a little higher than John ever goes in the song (except for the solo, of course), up to a D (" ...and what's more...", and "Understand ...", for example).

I agree fendertele, it's so hard to hear George for much of this song. Every time, when I'm straining my ears and brain to the max, that I DO hear him, this youtube guy seems to have it spot on. Also, there's this book with a complete transcription of all the Beatles songs, and though it isn't quite the gospel, I've found it to be pretty reliable, and what's written down there matches this youtube guy's harmonies.

I'm inclined to believe that these are the ones to go with, and certainly nobody we would play for would know the difference, but I'd like to get it right, so if anyone thinks that this youtube guy's Paul/George harmonies aren't what's on the record for "Yes It Is", please let's hear your thoughts!

Thanks!

Sorry Alexis i wasnt basing it on that last video just in general, im not really to sure tbh, do you think george puts as much thoughti nto his parts as say Paul and John ? or do you think he just tries to find the comfy middle ground and plays it safe ? i think the reason its hard to differentiate from him and john is that he follows Johns Harmonies and occasionaly might veer off to a safe note.
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2009, 08:07:18 PM »

Quote from: 758

Sorry Alexis i wasnt basing it on that last video just in general, im not really to sure tbh, do you think george puts as much thoughti nto his parts as say Paul and John ? or do you think he just tries to find the comfy middle ground and plays it safe ? i think the reason its hard to differentiate from him and john is that he follows Johns Harmonies and occasionaly might veer off to a safe note.

I wish I knew more about writing harmonies than I do, I think that would give me better insight into your excellent question, fendertele. When I write 3-part harmonies, I find that I sometimes "run out of notes" for the middle singer to sing, getting squeezed between the lower and upper singers. So from that point of view, sometimes I don't see a choice between a comfy middle ground and something more creative ... it's like "whew, I'm glad this note is left over and available!". That upper singer has the entire universe to choose a harmony note from, as long as they can sing that high, I think Paul definitely took advantage of that, from the earliest days.

So, I wonder if there were often more daring choices George could have made for harmonies, or whether he was pretty much constrained by the other guys and had to be satisfied with sloppy seconds (or thirds in this case).

Having said that, I've never imagined a harmony as adventurous as George's on "Yes It Is". Not only is it all over the place with relation to John (starts below, crosses over and goes above, then below again), but he winds up sort of switching "allegiances" between the two other singers. I think what I mean by that is that he starts the song harmonizing with John (a 3rd below John's G#), then moves up to harmonize with Paul (a 3rd below Paul's E - two half tones above John  :-/ ), then drops down to the 5th below John's B note/chord, How crazy is that!

Oh well, back to trying to actually sing that without needing to peck it out at the same time on my keyboard ...(tongue5)
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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2009, 02:21:17 AM »

Really good points....The first 2 harmonies are always easier to get right but bring a third and your really thinking on where to resolve with tastefulness. My guess is that it was a distinctive trick honed from Hamburg days which with Mr. Martins trained ear and a few different takes meant they could always augment their parts even sweeter.
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alexis

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2009, 08:11:05 PM »

After listening to "Yes It Is" a billion times in the last few days, I find myself wondering whether I even like the harmonies. Wait, don't shoot me please!

What I mean is that though clearly they are a) adventuresome in that they  were not the usual parallel 3rds/4ths/5ths (with maybe only a brief foray to 2nds and 6ths as "transition" or resolving-type notes), and b) technically very skillfully done (duh!) ...  

...I'm not sure that they are necessarily pleasing to my ear when all three voices are put together. There is just a bit too much dissonance for me. FWIW, I think it's mainly the "A" and "B" sung together in the verse - first during the F#m chord ("if you wear red to-NIGHT"), then as part of the D chord ("remember what I said to-NIGHT).

Does anyone know if after this song they ever deviated as much from the standard "Beatle voicings" for their harmonies?

Thanks!

Signed,

Tone Deaf

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2009, 06:22:23 PM »

one point to consider here is George had a fine SUPPORTING voice....

John had an ARROGANT Confident voice....tending towards the LOWER range (ie: "If I Fell" etc) - shades of Don Everly in the Everlys sound.


Paul had the Higher more "Singalong" voice tho' also a confident voice...handling the High Harmony...("If I Fell" etc)....leaning towards Phil Everly's style...

George...who kept more of his native accent when singing and whose voice Lacked Arrogance ...."Filled in" the Middle range perfectly to create an Overall "Unified sound" when the three sing together...."Yes it is" , "Tell Me Why","Nowhere Man"  ....even years later "Because" etc...

"Baby's in Black" is just Lennon-McCartney....

while "You Really Got A Hold On Me" gives an example of Lennon-Harrison ONLY

George's voice  was often used as a key third voice to EMPHASISE certain passeges....on "She Loves You" for example...
John-Paul :"You think you lost your love..." John-Paul-George "...Well I saw Her Yesterday-i-ay..." etc

George was also utilised as an extra falsetto voice on occasions too....i.e. the ending of "Paperback Writer"


Tony Hicks mostly  did likewise for The Hollies taking the middle vocal range between  the voices of Allan Clarke & Graham Nash / Terry Sylvester ....to create a "unified vocal sound"
(Listen to: "Stewball" 1966  / "Be With You" 1976 )
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Pegasus

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Re: George's Harmonies
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2009, 06:32:38 PM »

I would add that the middle harmony singer tends to Support the Lead vocalist....like a "vocal shadow"....that fills out the sound... while the High Harmony singer soars above the other two...

when it's just two singers, say Don & Phil Everly...or Simon & Garfunkel...you get a clear division of voices....add a third voice....Hollies...CSN....America...Bread etc.....and you get an "overall unified vocal  sound"

In The Beatles they played about with their vocal formula....George would support John ("You Really Got A Hold...")  ...or sing the supporting or counter vocal lines with Paul ("Twist & Shout", "Help !") ....or join with John to support Paul ("Hello Goodbye")
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