The flexibility of playing Beatles songs on piano

A great song is a great song, and as you know, the Beatles wrote a ton of great songs. (Paul McCartney completely deserved the Gershwin songwriting award he received a few years ago!)

For us pianists, this gives us some huge opportunities when playing their music. For starters, we can enjoy playing their songs in the same style they themselves recorded them. And going further, we can take a cue from the Beatles themselves and experiment a bit. From alternate takes, demos, and rehearsal recordings, we know that the Beatles enjoyed playing their songs in a variety of ways, and even the “finished” arrangement wasn’t always the final version. A good example of this is when Paul McCartney performs their song “Help” as a ballad during his concerts.

Just like a great song by George Gershwin or Cole Porter can be interpreted in many ways, the Beatles repertoire is stylistically adaptable as well. And just like they themselves would play the same song fast at one time and slowly on another occasion (While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Revolution, etc.) we can also look at a song’s musical implications and take it further in that direction.

I do this all the time, and their early hit “And I Love Her” is a good one to try this on. The Beatles version has a gentle Latin beat, and the melody and chords are beautiful. When I play it, I like to add some tasteful jazz harmonies and treat the rhythms in a more flexible, improvisatory way. As if it’s a jazz rhumba or bossa nova. The main key here is to always use your own taste and judgement. You want to remain true to the song itself, and bring a little of your own musical strengths and interests to your interpretation.

I’ve written a page on And I Love Her for my Improvising Pianist’s Guide To The Beatles, giving an overview on the song itself as well as some practice suggestions. You can read it here:

And I Love Her

If you want to go right to the video of me playing the song, you’ll find it here:

And I Love Her: Complete Beatles Piano #4

And with the beginning of the New Year, I’m doing another round of my Improvising The Beatles: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists. You’ll get a one-to-one online piano lesson with me each week for 10 weeks, which I’ve found is just enough time to delve deep into 4-5 Beatles songs of your choice and really explore how to play them at a new level.

If you’re interested, here’s where you can get started:
Improvising The Beatles: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists

The Beatles offer us pianists a wealth of musical possibilities to explore. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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