Don't miss

A Day in the Life by The Beatles Analysis


A very famous pop song by The Beatles which features in the anthology of music for Music AS, 'A Day in the Life' can be seen to be an experimental piece from The Beatles when it was at a time where whatever music The Beatles created, people loved it because it was The Beatles. Below is a complete analysis of this song pointing out the key features in the texture, harmony and structure. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

Here are the key points to make about A Day in the Life by The Beatles (with the majority of it in chronological order):
  • The verses are in a strophic structure. This means the same music is used for each verse.
  • The verse lengths are asymmetrical. This means the verse lengths change a lot from 9 bars up to 11 bars long.
  • The overall texture of the song is melody dominated homophony.
  • There are no perfect or conventional cadences in this song like there is in Harold in Italy.
Intro 
The introduction introduces the key the piece is in being G major. It is unusual that the D major is not used anywhere in the song because D is the dominant key of G. The tempo of the introduction is at 77 beats per minute (unlike the Bridge which uses 82 beats per minute):
  • The guitar is the first instrument to be heard. It is strumming chords of G (chord I), B minor (chord iii), E minor and E minor 7th (chord Vi and Vi7) and C (chord IV).
  • The bass and piano play the same basic line throughout the piece. However, the bass has decorations scattered about making the texture of different sections heterophonic (simultaneous variation of a melodic line).
  • The melody is diatonic meaning it uses all the notes of the G major scale.
  • The melody is disjunctive (leaps about).
Verse 1
The tempo at 77 beats a minute stays the same. Verse 1 consists of two 5 bar phrases with the key in G major. Yet, there are hints of the key being in a modal E minor:
  • At bar 5, a strong 4/4 pulse is created in the piano part due to the crochet repeating chords.
  • The vocal melody follows the chord sequence G (chord I), B minor (iiic as the bass note is an F sharp) to E minor/7th (chord vi/7) which is an upward 3rd, C (chord IV), C7th (chord IV7) and A minor 9 (chord ii9). The melody uses 7th and 9th chords. This chord sequence is taken from the introduction.
  • At bar 5, the vocal melody line has the use of ascending 3rds and 4ths from the central B note.
  • Bar 7 features a descending triplet for the first time in the song.
  • At bar 8, there is a strong upwards lift of a perfect 5th from E to B.
  • The base line at bar 5-6 is moving in step or in conjunct.
  • At bar 11 and 13, in the F chord, the F has been flattened. This chord doesn't belong in the key of G major giving us hints of E minor.
  • The build up to bar 15 features a plagal cadence from C (IV) to G (I). The is unusual. 
Verse 2
Because the verses are strophic, verse 2 is a near copy of verse 1. However, verse 2 introduces the fourth and fifth idea into the song: idea D and E. The verse is five phrases lasting 9 bars long.
  • The bass at bar 16 and 16 has a descending bass line in conjunct motion. 
  • The chordal accompaniment is solid throughout. This allows the drummer to considerable freedom in drum fills.
  • Idea A is at bar 5, idea B at bar 7 and idea C at bar 8.
  • At bar 18, there is the use of a sextuplet (6 notes in the time of 4) in the drum part. 
  • Bar 19 is a good example how many of the vocal melodies being on the second quaver of the bar.
  • Bar 21 features this time a triplet in the drum part.
  • Idea D is introduced at bar 22 using semi-quavers with the spacing of semi tones.
  • Idea E is first heard in the transition from bar 22-23. It involves the notes B, E and G where the G is the highest note of the whole song sung. Idea E is an aspirational rising arpeggio figure.
Verse 3
Verse 3 evolves around5 bar phrases lasting 11 bars long. This is where we start to see the asymmetrical verse structures.
  • Bar 24 features a conventional rock rhythm in the drum part.
  • Bar 31 revises idea E using the aspirational arpeggio of B, E and G. It is not a complete copy as there are quavers of B and C at the start of the revised idea.
  • There is an inversion of idea D at bar 33 and 34 using the notes B and C. This helps to merge verse 3 into the transition.
Transition 1
  • The orchestra has a trill on on B. This makes it a dominant trill as E is the dominant of E.
  • This is music by chance making the transition have an aleatoric texture.
  • The majority of the transition is an orchestral slide.
  • The transition finishes with the piano playing semi-quavers of E major for 2 bars starting at bar 45.
Bridge
The Bridge has the introduction of Paul McCartney as a singer (before it was John Lennon).It is a contrasting section all in the key of E major. The tempo increases to 82 beats a minute. This section has a tighter stricter tempo.
  • The start of the Bridge features a clear 4/4 pulse from the piano and bass guitars repeated pedalled quaver chords.
  • At bar 48, there is a hint of a mixolydian mode (a scale of two sharps) due to the D major chord (F and C sharp).
  • Bar 48 in the left hand of the piano and bass guitar has a cross rhythm.
  • At bar 49, the time signature changes from 4/4 to 2/4 (two crochet beats to a bar.
  • Bar 50 and 51 have repeating chords being E (chord I) and B major 9th (chord V9).
  • The time signature changes back to 4/4. This means the piece went from 2/4 to 4/4 to 2/4 etc.. which is a sign of interpolated time signatures.
  • Bar 55 in the piano left hand features a cross rhythm.
  • At bar 58, there is wordless vocalisation where John Lennon is 'ah'ing. The orchestra at this time plays octaves in the cycle of fifths (C, G, D, A and then E).
Verse 4
Verse 4 contains elements of the endings of verse 2 and 3. It is in six phrases unlike the previous verses that are five phrases. The verse starts in G major again.

Coda
The coda repeats the orchestral slide of the transition. However, this time, there is a more active drum part. At the very end is an overdubbed E major chord (recorded and played again).

As a summary:
  • Texture - Majority is melody dominated homophony. But there is a heterophonic and an aleatoric texture at certain parts.
  • Tonality - In G major the whole time with a few hints of E minor (such as the flattened F). The Bridge is in E minor.
  • Rhythm - The main rhythm is in the drums because it has been given to produce syncopated drum fills due to the strong 4/4 beat produces from the bass guitar and piano.
  • Tempo - The tempo changes once from 77 to 82 beats a minute in the Bridge.
  • Harmony - There are five ideas labelled A-E. Each idea has different features: Idea A uses upwards 3rds and 4ths, Idea B uses a descending conjunct melody with the rhythm of a triplet, Idea C has the use of a strong upwards lift of a perfect 5th, Idea D has the trill-like semi-quavers on the notes B and A sharp while Idea E has the B-E-G aspirational rising arpeggio. 
  • Structure - The overall structure follows an Intro/ Verse 1/ Verse 2/ Verse 3/ Transition/ Bridge/ Verse 4/ Coda. The verses adopt a strophic structure (same music for each verse).

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

4 comments so far:

  1. This is the place where we have to done some thing awesome to do home work as you need a perfect place Jurassic World Vest at Buymoviejackets

    ReplyDelete
  2. My favourite Beatles track for the majority of the song has the best example of what clever, understated instrumentalists The Beatles were. write my dissertation



    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't understand why the fourth verse is in six phrases. To me it sounds very similar to the third verse.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't understand why the fourth verse is in six phrases. To me it sounds very similar to the third verse.

    ReplyDelete