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Playing John Lennon Songs

Updated on August 22, 2022

Playing Beatles songs

Guitar players can now find a lot of useful lesson material on YouTube, and often there is a good cover version of the song you are interested in learning.This hub should help you to learn a top Beatles song, Across The Universe, written by John Lennon. Although it's guitar orientated, you could play this song on piano or keyboard equally well.

This is not a beginner level piece as it uses barre chords, and also the chord changes are quite fast.

As it's in the key of D it's going to use mainly the harmonised scale chords of that key - so before we even start to learn it we are expecting to find D, G, A or A7 as the major chords and Em, Bm and F♯m for the minor chords.

Chord chart explanation

  • Intro starts with D chord, then a D chord up the neck (fret 10)
  • Then shapes given in fret 9, 7, and 5 (part of a D harmonised scale, very useful)
  • Play F sharp minor, then add the sus 4 note shown, adding note on and off.
  • Play the A shape, again adding an extra note on and off.
  • Verse chords - barre chord, the loop is a barre symbol. if you have trouble with these, check out my other hub on barre chord alternatives
  • Finally, the Bm pentatonic scale that works for lead guitar over these chords.
  • Although this scale works for most of the chords, it doesn't fit the non-diatonic chord of Gm. For this chord you could just stop playing(!) or play any of the notes in the chord, fret 3 on any of the strings 1, 2, and 3. The Beatles were fond of adding a non-diatonic chord to their songs, ( a chord that is not constructed from the major scale notes of the key) 
  • Often they would change the IV chord to a minor chord instead, which gets your attention and changes the mood of the song. So G is replaced by Gm in this case.

Across the Universe chords

Across the Universe

I've included chord pictures to help you learn this song. The chorus part is very easy, and it's a good idea to learn this first. You can just copy the strumming pattern from the video, and use the chord pictures as an additional resource.

The intro is a lot harder, but you can always leave this part out if you need to.

Learning Beatles songs

You should listen to the original Beatles song too, but this video is a good cover version, and it makes it easy to learn the chords when you can see them being played. The Beatles originally gave this song to the World Wildlife Fund album, so its conservation message may have been intended - it was probably written around the time of the Beatles trip to India, so that explains the Indian chorus!

Other great John Lennon songs include In My Life, Help, Oh My Love. All of these work really well for solo guitar with vocals. Highly recommend Mike Pachelli vidoes on Youtube for an in - depth analysis of Beatles tunes and how to play them.

Strawberry Fields Forever is my personal favourite, and due to the strength of the harmony this also works well as a solo guitar piece.

Bill Frisell does very interesting versions of Lennon songs, with a more contemporary jazz feel. Most of these songs work really well as instrumental versions.


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