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John Lennon's vocal rhythm?


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John Lennon seemed to sing rhythmically somewhere between sixteenths and triplets. I am trying to distinguish his rhythmic phrasing accurately. (see my 2 page transcription attached to this post). His three note groupings tend to have been triplet leaning and for example I have indicated a triplet sign above his "two sixteenths plus an eighth note groupings". The background accompaniment was a rather straight sixteenth feel. Lennon seems to have had a soulful 12/8 thing going on. How do you hear it?

[video:youtube]

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 Find 500 of Harry's jazz piano arrangements of standards, for educational purposes and tutorials, at https://www.patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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He really was singing sixteenths, but they are quite different than classical sixteenths. It has a psychadelic effect. I am sure he had a characteristic way of accelerating and slowing his sixteenths. I am not quite sure on a micro rhythmic level what was happening with Lennon's rhythmic phrasing.

 Find 500 of Harry's jazz piano arrangements of standards, for educational purposes and tutorials, at https://www.patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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I realize I didn't really respond to the OP's question, just mused about the vocal prowess of John Lennon (and Paul McCartney).

 

Since the keyboard part clearly establishes a 16th-note subdivision, I feel it in 4/4 rather than 12/8 overall. I think writing it with sixteenth notes and eighth notes is the way to go. If this were musical theater, an experienced singer would know to take a little bit of rhythmic leeway for expression's sake. I'm not sure who your intended audience is for the transcription, or if it's just for your own practice, but that's how I'm hearing and feeling it.

 

Remember that John cut his teeth on early rock 'n' roll, which came from New Orleans (well, a lot of places, but a lot of the ingredients of that melting pot came together in New Orleans), and New Orleans music often has some tension between a beat division into groups of 3 and a subdivision of the beat into sixteenths. I think that "rub" is something that's just in his blood.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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Over 35 years ago, I tried to cover (my own arrangements of) two "solo years" Lennon songs, and found his phrasing to be some of the most challenging I had ever encountered. It just never felt right, no matter what I did, and thus I cam to appreciate his singing more than ever at that point.

 

I agree about the "soulful 12/8" interpretation BTW.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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I'd suggest you don't overthink it; I hear it as simple 8th and 16th notes throughout...paraphrased a la John Lennon, of course. I would eliminate the triplet markings altogether. However, the "Peace on earth" passage is indeed 8th note triplets.

 

Slightly OT, but what tool do you use to make those really nice looking lead sheets?

Looks like Sibelius and its Inpen2 font.

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Yes, Sibelius with Inkpen 2 with font enlarged (9.8 mm) and with fully expanded margins: 0 Left 5 Right.

Chord symbol size 37. No clef or key signature shown for each line, only the first line (like The Real Book)

 Find 500 of Harry's jazz piano arrangements of standards, for educational purposes and tutorials, at https://www.patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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Thanks. Do you know if that font is available in the free download version? I've been thinking about putting together a song book for last minute, short notice party performances I do once in a while, and I found those to be very readable even without my glasses. Maybe they have an old guy, visually impaired plug in...

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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Yeah, actually, "Mind Games" isn't as complicated in the precision of phrasing (to keep the right groove and feel) as the songs I covered (and rearranged first; no sense in doing an exact cover as no one can top Lennon at being Lennon). Any of the simpler suggestions above, are probably a good token into the world of mid-70's Lennon singing.

 

The one that stumped me so severely was "Jealous Guy", but it's been decades since I've re-tried and I've come a long way (duh!) in that time as an overall musician. It's a fairly sparse arrangement and that makes the vocals very naked, vulnerable, and exact. I like the Roxy Music version quite a bit too, but it's like a different song in so many ways. Lennon did it different each time he performed it, but it was uniquely Lennon each time, and I'm not sure anyone could truly mimic what he did vocally on that song. Absolute genius.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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Great song.

 

Love John Lennon's sense of time. It seems to me that Paul focused more on tuples (2 over 3, etc) and John focused more on note placement in rhythm. (Maybe I am overthinking this, lol. :laugh:) Here's another song with interesting Lennon-esque timing on the lead vocal. In this video you can see the physicality of the rhythm.

 

[video:youtube]

 

 

 

 

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I also struggled making an accurate melody rhythm chart for Lennon's verses on "All You Need Is Love". "I Am The Walrus" was easier.

 Find 500 of Harry's jazz piano arrangements of standards, for educational purposes and tutorials, at https://www.patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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