Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reference, but not authoritative, 21 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Beatles - Complete Scores (Hardcover)
You can just imagine the conversation at Shinko Co. Ltd Head Office sometime in '87/'88: 'Tetsuya, Yuji, Hajime, Goro (the listed transcribers) we've got a little project for you boys...' The scope of the book and amount of work that it must have entailed is unparalled in rock music transcriptions. They did a reasoanble job - it just depends what you're buying the book for and how good a musician you are. The transcribers were using the software available to them at the time, they did not have access to the individual master tracks so separation of each instrument was not possible and their knowledge of the recording techniques used and the types of gear played on each track was not what it is today.

I wanted the book so I had an insight into exactly what chord voicings were played by George, Paul and John and how the tracks were orchestrated. To replay George's fills, overdubs and solos as he played them, exactly not approximately: this it is does not allow you to do. However, the Beatles music is not set in stone, it's got an improvised quality. George did over 30 takes of the solo on 'Something' (differently each time I'm guessing) before we get the version on Abbey Road.

Many guitarists will want to know what was played as accurately as possible, even if they themselves then play a different version.

To illustrate the quality of the transcriptions in the Complete Scores I've compared 3 different transcriptions of the second bar of the song 'Something'(the first bar is a Ringo drum lead in). The transcriptions compared: The Beatles Guitar Book (BGB); The Complete Scores (CS); the transcription published in the magazine 'Guitar' (GM)(issue Dec. 2011).

The latter (GM) is among the most accurate transcription of a Beatles song you'll find currently. I expect the transcriber, Matt Scharfglass, had a good look at other transcriptions before he set to work.


BGB gives the speed as 63 crotches a min.; GM as 'slowly 66'; there's no speed markings given in any of the songs in CS.

Single note line, Guitar one:

The notes and fretboard placement of those notes for Guitar one's opening melodic 'motif' are tabbed the same way in all three transcriptions. BGB has no rests so the duration the notes are held for (an important aspect in reproducing the opening bar) is lost. CS holds the second A on the 10th fret for a semi-quaver, GM more accurately transcribes this as sustained for a quaver. The final rest of the bar is transcribed as a quaver in CS this is noted as semi-quaver in GM: splitting hairs. The accents for individual notes also differ between CS and GM - GM being closer to the original recording.

The final two notes of the bar are shown as having vibrato in GM: these sort or articulations and nuances are largely absent from both the CS and BCB transcriptions.

Tone indications:

Guitar one is noted as being played 'w/slightly dirty tone'. Guitar 2 with a 'slightly dirty tone and slow rotary chorus effect' in GM. These sort of tonal considerations are overlooked in both CS abd BGB.

Rythmn Guitar 2:

It's the second guitar part of bar 2 where the differences in the quality of the transcriptions are more apparent. The chord progression in the second bar is F - Eb - G/D. CS and BGB agree on this, GM ignores what the D the bass is playing so the final chord is given as simply a G.

The voicings of the 2nd guitar part are where the CS run into trouble. CS places the F as a first position, upper 4 strings 'cowboy' chord, with the opening single F note played on the 3rd fret 4th string: that's not how the chord or note was played, though it's the right chord. Both GM and the BGB correctly voice this as a bar chord rooted off the 8th fret on the A string. BGB thinks the ensuing quaver strums are diads, GM gives a heavier attack of 4 strings sounding in the mix: use your ears to see which you think is the correct approach.

These are where the major problems occur. The duplication of notes on the guitar fretboard mean chords in a layered mix are diffcult to get right. A knowledge of Paul's, George's and John's preferred chords is helpful here - CS seems to lack this. The number of strings struck in any one chord is also a common area of discrepancy for guitar transcriptions.

The next chord Eb is voiced differently in all three transcriptions: GM tabs it correctly as a first inversion voiced off the 10th fret.

In summary, for guitar transcriptions, single note lines are generally OK, but lack articulations and may be in the wrong area of the fretboard; chords are the right ones, in the right key but their voicings are a bit hit and miss. This means these are not 'authentic' or 'off-the-record' transcriptions as most people would understand and expect, which is a disappointment.

For the advanced musician that's all that's needed they'll already be aware that 95% of published guitar transcriptions are in the ball-park area only and will be able to create good sounding guitar parts from simply the chords and a few listen throughs of the tracks. If you're a beginner, you'll not be able to play these songs in any case. The Beatles were gifted working muscians who did this full-time. For the intermediate player (the majority of punters I'm guessing) who want to lay their fingers just where the Beatles did, use these transcriptions as a starting point. Then get yourself digital transcribing software; good quality open backed headphones and the DVD 'Anthology' series to get some visual clues for how the boys really used their instruments to create this wonderful, timeless music.
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