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Ascending Minor (and then Major!) Sixth in The Beatles' "In My Life"

Surely you know this song.  It's one of the most popular of all time by the most commercially successful group of all time.  But do you know how many of your kids know The Beatles?  If you're teaching interval recognition and ear-training, this is a really good excuse to use this song in class.

"In My Life" - The Beatles

Intro: In addition to the near-universal critical praise of the group and high artistic reputation their music enjoys, The Beatles are the best selling popular music act of all time. Many rock historians consider the group to have been game-changers in the world of popular music and popular culture in general. "In My Life" is a song that was highly regarded by both its author, John Lennon (in collaboration with Paul McCartney; George Martin wrote the piano solo in the song's bridge) and by numerous critics. Rolling Stone magazine listed at number 23 in its 2010 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", the CBC listed as number 2 in their 2005 program 50 Tracks, and Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in a list published in 2000.

Analysis: The notable minor sixth interval in question is actually the first interval that is heard in the song, played by the guitar (C# to A, which are both diatonic tones in this song, in the key of A major).  It also appears notably in the chorus, in this video recording at 0:43. (between the words "in - my"). The interval (between the same two words) occurs again at 1:25, on the second repetition of the chorus, at 2:02, on the third repetition of the chorus, and then finally at 2:11, with the same line sung up an octave, almost as a tag.  The sung minor sixth is created with a bVI note (going here from E-C natural, when E-C# would be the diatonic notes).  This is not uncommon writing for the band, as the Beatles wrote so many songs with non-diatonic notes & chords, creating these sorts of intervals and other signature cadences.  

Interestingly enough, the major sixth occurs at the end of the chorus, about a measure after each of the sung minor sixth occurrences (in the video recording, 0:47, on the words "them all", and at 1:29, 2:05, and 2:15-2:16, all on the words "you more").  These also happen at the end of a cadence, with the diatonic C# reappearing in the resolution chord.  The contrast of the minor sixth so quickly followed by the major sixth interval is indeed a hallmark of the subtle complexity of Lennon & McCartney's songwriting.

Considerations for Teaching: Clocking in at just under two and a half minutes, this song is both a significant and expedient listening example in class. It contains no objectionable material and serves as both a teacher of intervals and a historical artifact.

Ascending Perfect Fifth (and Descending Perfect Fourth) in Usher et. al.'s "Yeah!"

Changing Meter in Tori Amos's "Spark"