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I am studying a song by the Beatles called We can work it out, and reading along Notes on the Beatles by Allan Pollack. He says:

"The verses are indeed 16 measures long but are divided into three phrases in a 6+6+4 AAB pattern"

I can clearly count the measures in the song and there are 16 measures in the verse and I understand the AAB pattern as added below but what confuses me is how he gets 6+6+4 out of that? What is this reference to? Are these the chord changes within the phrase?

The lyrics in the verse are:

A
Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking 'til I can't go on?

A
While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone

B
We can work it out
We can work it out

A
Think of what you're saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it's alright

A
Think of what I'm saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night

B
We can work it out
We can work it out


Here is the song:

2 Answers 2

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“…what confuses me is how he gets 6+6+4 out of that? What is this reference to? Are these the chord changes within the phrase?”

6+6+4 is the number of bars in each phrase, 6 bars for each A section and 4 bars for each B section. It has nothing to do with the chord changes.

However, I think Pollock’s method of counting is flawed. Although I’ve seen some good analysis from him in the past I would have to say I disagree with the way he counts bars here. He seems to count in pulses of 2 but a song like this with a simple rock beat with steady 16th tambourine and the snare drum on 2&4 (or on every quarter in spots) should be counted in 4/4 time. Tim said his “Complete Beatles” book has this song in 4/4 time.

Using the first A as an example, each bracket is a 4 count in my book:

[Try to see it my way] [Do I have to keep on talking] [‘til I can't go on?]

In that case it is actually 3+3+2 bars for each AAB phrase grouping and each verse is 8 bars.

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  • THanks John, in my score of the song it IS in 4/4 time, that is why I was getting confused. Is it possible that the song is analyzed in 2/4 because in some places there are two chords per measure? I mean it shouldn't have nothing to do with it but from an analysis perspective, maybe it is helpful.
    – armani
    Sep 23 at 9:10
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    @armani - the number of chord changes per bar don't usually dictate the time signature, but sometimes 4/4 and 2/4 can and do get conflated, which is I guess, what Pollock has done.
    – Tim
    Sep 23 at 9:14
  • @armani It’s a slightly unusual drum part, so my theory is the drums threw Pollack off. Sep 23 at 11:24
  • @Todd, oh ok but why do you say the drum part is unusual?
    – armani
    Sep 23 at 12:32
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    Of course, none of this is talking about the fact that it actually switches to a triple meter on the "fighting" of "for fussing and fighting my friend" and etc. Sep 23 at 13:26
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Although my Complete Beatles Book shows this in 4/4, Pollack obviously considers it to be 2/4. That would give him the 6+6+4, A+A+B he writes about.

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    I was just counting it 4/4 but at double the tempo your book must show it. Came out to 6+6+4 in 4/4. Sep 23 at 11:19
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    That said, listening again to the song and focusing on the drums, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to count it 4/4 at the tempo I was counting it. The tambourine is clearly 16th notes. I suspect the author did hear it as 2/4 which I agree is an error because the kick drum is a four beat pattern not a 2 beat one. Sep 23 at 11:23
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    @ToddWilcox - lots of songs could be counted at half or double the tempo. And written as such. So I think this is one such. Since the Beatles rarely if never actually wrote down what they 'wrote', either will fit the bill, there's no right or wrong. And even if they did, it could be re-written the other way, and still be playable at that tempo!
    – Tim
    Sep 24 at 12:40

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