The last song by The Beatles Now and Then. Why does this demo song and the studio version sound so emotional and touching? One reason for this melancholy is the ancient chord progression which John Lennon uses. Let’s get creative with this Beatles song!

The lament bass chord progression in Now and Then by the Beatles

Hearing John Lennon’s vocal in a ‘new’ recording so many years after his death was quite emotional. Thanks to AI technology we can listen to his voice and this new Beatles song. Some call it the last of their songs. But that might not be true. We don’t know of course.

When listening for the first time I felt many different emotions. It was a strange mix between joy and sadness. A very strong sense of melancholy. Apart from Lennon’s beautiful voice, something else caught my attention and that was the chord progression. Because in a way it reminded me of the music from the baroque composer Henry Purcell.

Apart from the chord progression the medium slow tempo of the music, especially from the slightly slower demo version, is partially responsible for this extra emphasis on this melancholic mood. If you want to learn more about this, check out my tutorial on how tempo can completely change the sound of your music.

Video Tutorial: Beatles Songwriting Analysis

I advise that you play the examples from this article yourself. This way you experience the music better. But if you want, you can check out my video with real music examples after you finish.

YouTube video
Video tutorial on why The Beatles song Now and Then sounds so Emotional

Now and Then verse chord progression

The chord progression from the demo and the final version which features the other Beatles members Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. are slightly different from each other. For my analysis, I am following the chords that you can hear being played on the piano from the studio version.

Now and Then Verse Chord Progression in tabs, chords and notes
Now and Then Verse Chord Progression

Should the second chord be a G6 or Em/G?

As you can see in the score above, the 2nd chord is an Em/G. This is different from the G6 chord that you find on many of the chord analyses online. A G6 chord implies that you add a 6th tone, which is E, to the G major triad. The notes of G6 are G, B, D, and E. But the piano in the studio version does not play the note D. This leaves us with the notes G, B, and E. Which is an E minor in the first inversion. When you listen to the piano in the intro you will hear that the D is missing.

The Em/G explained: How to make a chord in the first inversion

All normal triads have a root, a third and a fifth in it. When a chord is in the root position it means that the root note is the lowest note. And as soon as some other chord tone is the lowest one, then we speak of a chord inversion. So our Em/G is just a normal E minor chord, but instead of the E, the lowest note is G. Which is the minor third from the chord.

How to make an Em in first inversion
How to make an E minor in the first inversion

A music history lesson about John Lennon’s chord progression

The verse chord progression from Now and Then reminded me of a progression that has been used for centuries already. It was especially popular in the Baroque time. If you want to hear the examples played in real life, then check out my video tutorial.

The lament bassline

This is where we need to start with our analysis or history lesson. Because we used the lament bass to create our chord progressions.

The lament bass is a bassline that walks down 3 notes of the minor scale. It goes from the root of the minor scale down to the fifth. If we would apply this to the key of A minor, then the lament bassline is A – G – F – E.

The lament bassline in A minor
The lament bassline in A minor

Now the next step is to harmonize this bassline with chords on top. And generally, there are two popular ways of doing this. One is the ‘true’ lament bass chord progression and the other is called the Andalusian Cadence.

The Andalusian cadence

There is a very easy, beautiful and straightforward way to harmonize this bassline. And I’m sure you will recognize this because you can still find it in pop music today. A more old example is Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles.

The andalusian Cadence in A minor
The Andalusian Cadence in A minor

Except for the first chord, which is our tonic chord A minor, all the other chords are major chords. And you move everything in parallel motion. This means that the chord shape stays the same, you just literally move all notes down a step or half a step. Guitarists should think of moving bar chords or power chords up and down the neck.

The lament bass chord progression

You can also harmonize this bassline by using more minor-oriented chords. In A minor this chord progression would be the following.

The lament bass chord progression in A minor
The lament bass chord progression in A minor

You replace the G major and F major chords with an E minor and D minor in the first inversion. This makes sure that the bassline stays the same, but the chord quality on top changes. And in the past composers would prolong the cadence at the end by adding some extra tension.

Lament bass chord progression with extended cadence
Lament bass chord progression with extended cadence

The stripped-down verse progression from Now and Then

When you take out the chord repetitions and small chord variations you get the following chord progression: Am – Em/G – F – E – Am. This is sort of a combination between the Andalusian cadence and the lament bass chord progression. Play this and compare it to the two progressions.

Stripped down verse chord progression from Now and Then
Stripped down verse chord progression from Now and Then
The lament bass chord progression with a different voicing
The lament bass chord progression with a different voicing

The Beatles Songwriting Tips

John Lennon’s chord progression and the lament bass chord progression have many strong points in it. Even though the chords from the demo and what Paul Mccartney plays on the piano are slightly different. Technology is what made this last Beatles song possible. But we are here for the music theory that The Beatles, and John Lennon by himself used!

Here is why the lament bass and Andalusian cadence are so great to use in your music. It is powerful because:

  • The strong descending bass line
  • There are multiple options for harmonizing
  • It has a strong cadence
  • It can evoke strong emotions

What I like is just playing the A minor tonic chord and the E minor dominant chord in the first inversion. It creates an amazing sound and if you let me, I could play this all day long. It’s just so addictive! You’ll catch yourself writing music and improvising melodies till the end of time. So I advise you to play around with it and create music with it!

Interesting Questions

The Beatles song Now and Then was produced by Paul McCartney and Giles Martin. They did it with the help of artificial intelligence technology. They managed to extract the track with John Lennon’s voice from a demo tape. It was part of a set of demo tapes that he recorded in the late 1970s.

Guitar tracks and overdubs from George Harrison were also added. These were recorded during the 1995 sessions. But work on Now and Then was later abandoned and not included in the Anthology series. The song was released on 2 November 2023 as a double A-side single with a new remix of Love Me Do.

Yes, they did. But they only used it to recover information. It was not used to add new music or to alter or add to John’s voice. They used AI to isolate John Lennon’s voice from a low-quality demo tape he recorded at home in 1979. New recordings by Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were specially made. Guitar tracks by George Harrison from 1995 were also added.

The AI technique was developed by Peter Jackson’s team for the documentary Get Back. It helped them separate and enhance the audio from old tapes of the band talking and playing together.

Both Paul and George play the guitar in Now and Then. Paul recorded a slide guitar solo for the bridge. The guitar tracks that were added from George were recorded in 1995.

Many people are left with mixed feelings. And the critics’ reviews are mixed. Some say it’s a piece of art that creates an ultimate closure for the band. But some voices find it to be overproduced and boring. I cannot speak for you, but I understand both sides. I don’t think it’s an epic song. Or their best song. But it was magical to hear all of them in action after all these years.

Similar Posts