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Free As A bird - A John Lennon Masterpiece

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

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For a mere $4.95, you can download the Guitar Pro file and a printable PDF of the tab/notation of this lesson. The fee helps me to pay for the hosting and running of this site and allows me to create more of these lessons. Click here to order it. Thanks!

The Lesson explained


Phew! It took a lot of tweaking and refining but I finally got this one down.

'Free As A Bird' is a beautiful song started by John Lennon and finished by The Beatles. He had put down a rough demo of it (you can hear it on YouTube), then he was tragically shot and killed. Years later the remaining three Beatles went into the studio and finished it off, using some of John's vocals and piano from the original home demo. The result is sublime and the video clip that went with it is a stunning bird's eye view of the history of The Beatles. You'll see Strawberry Field, the barber shop on Penny Lane, the car crash from Sgt Peppers (he didn't notice that the lights had changed), Mr. Kite, the little piggies, Abbey Road, Eleanor Rigby's gravestone. And more. If you're old enough to be a Beatles fan, check it out, you'll always find one more little reference.

The song: what a masterpiece of a composition. The chord progression is sublime and typically John Lennon. He was the master of finding just the right substitution for the chord you thought was coming next, like the Gm7 in place of the Bbmaj7 in the repeat of the opening chords, then the C in place of the A, which leads to the F ... genius. There was always something about Lennon/McCartney songs that made them stand out from the rest. I think perhaps it was their lack of 'theory'. They were always so able to 'break the rules' that I think perhaps they simply didn't know the rules. They just went with what they heard in their heads and felt in their hearts.

Be prepared for a challenge with this. There are multiple barre chords and big stretches in this and big leaps up and down the fingerboard. It took me a long time to get an acceptable take right the way through. I seem to have developed a tendon problem in my left wrist playing this. Probably all those barre chords which I have always avoided. It took me a couple of days of straight playing to get this take so don't despair. One particular section -- the D to Bm change at bar 5 its repeats -- had me tearing my hair out for a while. I was playing it at the 7th fret and the way the melody line worked with the chords made it almost impossible for me to play it cleanly and with confidence. So I decided I'd try a different way of playing it by moving way up to the 10th fret and -- Presto -- no more problems. This is a often the way these arrangements work for me. Whittle away at the difficult bits by looking for alternative positions. My 'PlaneTalk' view of the fretboard comes in very handy, of course. When you can see the whole fretboard as 'the chord', you can see all the alternatives just by looking. So if you're wondering 'why did he move way up there?' ... that's why. Sometimes it's better to make a big leap up the fingerboard if the result is a cleaner, more flowing sound. Of course you need to think ahead and know exactly where you're going to achieve that. Again, PlaneTalk to the rescue.

What else? You'll hear a stray A bass note over a G minor near the end ... not sure how it wound up there but I wasn't about the try and get another clean take to fix it. These little mistakes are quickly cleaned up when you're just recording audio. You can simply 'drop in' the correction and be done with it. But when you're videoing you need to go right back to the beginning and start again.

I hope you take the time to learn this. I know I learned a lot from arranging it and forcing myself to play through the difficult passages in order to make them passable. I know if I had played it a few hundred more times I would have been more pleased with the result. That's the way it is with playing an instrument. We can never get it 'perfectly right', there's no such thing. But, we can have a whole lot of fun trying.



For a mere $4.95, you can download the Guitar Pro file and a printable PDF of the tab/notation of this lesson. The fee helps me to pay for the hosting and running of this site and allows me to create more of these lessons. Click here to order it. Thanks!