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The introduction to this song by The Beatles starts off in the key of Eb minor. I'm trying to figure out how to analyze these chords.

The first chord would be i, the D major chord I'm unsure about, the Db is VII in the key of Eb minor, and then Bbm is v. Then the i chord returns, the D major pivot chord into the key of D major, and then ii V etc.

The first D major chord is the one I am unsure about. The intro clearly sounds to be in Eb minor, so I don't know how the D can be analyzed. I'd appreciate reading any thoughts on this chord and where it might be coming from. Thanks in advance.


Don't be fooled into thinking the first chord in a song is tells the key the song's in. This song is in Db - probably better called C#. They actually played it in D, although it comes out as C#.

Given that it is in C#, the first chord is D#m. Second is correct at D - D7 sounds better. That's known as a tritone substitution, which is instead of G#7. Taking the two notes from G#7 - the 3rd and 7th - B# and F#, which together make a tritone (the interval of 3 tones). They are swapped round to produce the tritone of F# and C also found in the chord of D7.

EDIT: Yes, the intro is in a key a semitone lower than the rest of the song. Why, I can't figure out. So, concert pitch wise, the intro is in C, while the rest is in C#. Video shows them playing 'in D'.

  • I know the first chord isn't always the key of the song. Based on the context of the other chords, that intro definitely feels like Eb minor is the key. Also, I have perfect pitch, and I can confirm that the song (outside the intro) is in D major and the chords are right. Some recordings I've heard of the song sound slightly flat, but it's definitely D major. Thanks for the info though, and yeah the tritone substitution thing makes sense. – Lennon_Ashton Apr 20 '19 at 1:49
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    Listening carefully - I haven't played this for 50 yrs - the intro is in one key, which modulates into another after the intro, so analysis is tricky. That 1st chord doesn't define the key for me, it's a ii. It's 4 in the morning here, I'm going to sleep on it, and have a re-think when I'm properly awake. Although it'll probably keep me awake thinking about it! – Tim Apr 20 '19 at 1:55

The melody to the first 4 chords strongly outlines Db major, so I'm inclined to analyze

ii - bII - I - vi.

Here bII, the Neapolitan, is not functioning as a predominant, as is typical in classical music, but as a chromatic passing chord from ii to I. The underlying chord progression, ii-I, is a variant of the plagal cadence and is common in Beatles-era rock.

The next bit of the verse sounds as if it's going to repeat the same chords, but just when the tonic (Db) is about to appear, the harmony suddenly shifts to diatonic chords in D major, the key of the remainder of the song. So the second D major chord is a pivot chord, as the OP suggested.

Note that at the end of the song, when the words "if I fell in love with you" recur, the harmony is Gm-D, iv-I, a strong plagal cadence that's only one note different from the opening bII-I (after adjusting for the change of key).


Alan W. Pollack has an excellent article on this song here:


He analyzes the intro in detail. I agree with his take on it personally. The first 6 bars are in Db and the D chord in the 6th bar is the pivot chord that serves as both the bII in Db and the I in D. in a nutshell:

in Db: ii bII I vi ii [bII (becomes I in D)] ii V

I do not agree with the tritone substitution explanation mentioned above. First, it is a D triad, not a D7 and saying D7 "sounds better" is opinion, not analysis. Tritone substitution is legitimate for dominant 7th chords but it doesn't apply here. It is simply a descending chromatic major triad passing chord that magically turns into the tonic in the new key in the 6th bar.


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