Chord Tricks to Learn from “Something” by The Beatles

Chord Tricks to Learn from “Something” by The Beatles

George Harrison’s song ‘Something’ (on The Beatles’ iconic 1969 album Abbey Road) contains 4 exquisite chord moves – once you know what they are and how to use them, you can use them in your own songwriting to create some of the same harmonic sophistication that characterizes so much of The Beatles’ music.

This blog post aims to summarise our video “4 Chord Tricks The Beatles Knew (and you should too!)’’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.

Tip #1: Major Line Cliché

The first chord move we encounter in “Something” is called a major line cliché. ‘Cliché’ here isn’t derogatory – it’s just the name that is used for it. To examine this tip, we’re going to be looking at the first verse of “Something”.

This technique involves taking a major chord and moving one note in the chord by semitones. For example, in the key of C, starting with C Maj, we can move the higher C note down by semitones. If you move it down once, you create a C Maj 7, and moving it down again creates a C Dom 7. 

This line cliché is great to use in your songwriting, but it’s important to try and change it in different ways so that we’re not just stuck in the reference song. Some things that you can try are as follows:

  • Change the tempo of the progression.
  • Change the key.
  • Change the time signature.
  • Change the feel/ groove/ style of the way that we’re playing.

Two more songs that use the major line cliché are “Michelle” by “The Beatles”, and “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer.

Click here to download the free PDF I created which contains major and minor line cliches in 2 positions:

Tip #2: Minor Line Cliché

The minor line cliché is exactly the same concept as the major line cliché, but instead of starting off on a major chord, we start off on a minor chord instead. This can be observed in the second half of the verse of “Something”.

Since we are In the key of C, we start off with the relative minor, which is A Min. If the higher A note is moved down by a semitone, you get an A Min Maj 7, and moving it down another semitone creates an A Min 7. This creates an incredibly wistful, emotive and sophisticated sound.

Again, it is important for us to discuss ways in which we can make this chord progression our own, instead of just mimicking the original. One neat trick is to start the minor line cliché with a chord that’s completely different to A Minor, but is still in the key of C. Examples of this are either the ii or iii chord, as they’re both minor in a major key.

Another great way to deal with this is to move the chord progression to a different part of your song. So, instead of putting it into the verse of “Something” like George Harrison, perhaps put it in the bridge instead.

A song that I love which also uses the minor line cliché, is “Nothing” by Bruno Major. You can check out this video here to see me elaborate on that, and teach you how to use a minor line cliché in the bridge of a song.

Tip #3: Secondary Dominants

Secondary dominants are chords that add complexity and interest to your progressions. In “Something,” we encounter a secondary dominant chord halfway through the verse. Here, D7 precedes the G, and thus the relationship between D7 and G is known as the secondary dominant relationship.

A secondary dominant can be summarised by 3 main characteristics:

  • It is always a Dom 7 chord. 
  • It is always a perfect fifth above the target chord. 
  • They always precede the target chord.

Note that you don’t always have to use the V chord as the target chord. You can even use the vi, ii or IV chords.

Tip #4: Magic Chord Modulation

We can observe what I call the magic chord modulation, by examining how we get to the new key in the key change that takes us into the bridge of “Something”.
This technique involves using a pivot chord, which belongs to both the original key and the key you want to transition to. In this case, the G major chord acts as the magic chord, functioning as the flat seven major chord in the new key of A major.

Although the flat seven major chord doesn’t actually belong to the key of A Major, it works because in any major key, we can swap out the seven diminished chord with the flat seven major chord. This means that we take the root of the diminished seventh chord and flatten it by a semitone, thus creating either a major chord or a dom 7 chord, depending on how you voice it.

You can also hear the magic chord modulation in “Natural Woman” by Carol King and Jerry Goffin, and made famous by Aretha Franklin.

Conclusion: Chord Tricks to Learn from “Something” by The Beatles

Now that you’ve learnt 4 different cool chord techniques from “Something” by The Beatles, it’s time to turn them into your own. Experiment with these techniques, adapt them to different keys and sections of your song, and watch as you bring a new level of depth and emotion to your chord progressions.

If you want to explore some of these musical concept in more detail, click here for a playlist on how to adapt chord progressions from other songs in really creative ways.

If you would like more details, examples and explanations, then click here to watch the full video. 

Turn your inspiration into beautiful songs with step-by-step guidance through two professional songwriting methods. By the end of this course, not only will your tool belt be stocked; you’ll have a plan and a method for finishing your songs – all of them.


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