In My Life (from The Improvising Pianist’s Ultimate Guide to The Beatles)

A Guide To Help You Have More Fun At Your Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“In My Life’ is one of the most beloved Beatles songs. Released in 1965 on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, the lyrics are one of John Lennon’s earliest efforts to write more “personal” songs, moving away from more typical love songs such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves Me.”

Musically, the song is most famous for its classical-style piano interlude midway through. According to legend, John Lennon left the studio one evening and asked producer George Martin to add something like “Bach” in the middle. From my own personal experience, when someone asks me to play something “like Bach,” they usually mean “like Mozart.” Martin must have felt the same way since he composed a charming, Mozartean piano interlude complete with a LH Alberti bass pattern.

Since Martin was more accomplished as a composer than as a pianist, he needed to use a bit of recording studio trickery in order to record his masterpiece. He slowed down the tape to half-speed and played the piano part down an octave. When listen to at the proper speed, this brings the music up to its correct octave and the piano part sounds as intended. Careful listening to the track, however, will reveal that the piano part sounds a little stiff and mechanical, which typically happens as a result of this tape-speed manipulation. Nevertheless, it works like a charm and adds a new musical dimension to a wonderful pop/rock song.

Here are some recommended recordings/videos:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

The Beatles: In My Life (Remastered 2009)

Ed Sheeran: Tribute to The Beatles (2014)

Johnny Cash: In My Life

Cash’s heartfelt delivery of the lyrics is both personal and inspiring.

Musical ideas and piano improv practice tips:
We pianists can take “In My Life” in several different directions.

For starters, we can play it as The Beatles did; with a nice, gentle pop beat that contains a classically-influenced interlude. If we want to take it further, we can go in opposite directions; by either digging into the rock aspect a little more and making the rhythm heavier and more driving, or by magnifying the interlude’s classical implications.

When I recorded my video version, I was intrigued by the classical possibilities the interlude offers. I asked myself, “What would it sound like if the whole song was played in the style of Mozart, just like the existing interlude is?”

Here’s what I came up with:
In My Life: Complete Beatles Piano #11

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
John Lennon interview
A candid and extensive interview in which Lennon discusses many of his famous songs, including In My Life.

The secret to two classic Beatles piano parts

Take a Free Piano Improv Lesson

Flowing Water ebook: Play piano with more joy and less stress!

Improvising The Beatles: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Pianists

Introduction            Table of Contents

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