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    Bringing Sir George Martin into the classroom

    Dear colleagues, many of you have probably heard of the passing of Sir George Martin, a classically-trained musician who worked with the Beatles throughout their careers. It's nice to bring current events into the classroom, so I'd love to come up with an impromptu assignment that draws on Martin's legacy. The one that occurs to me is to take Paul McCartney's anecdote about Martin's orchestration of "Yesterday," and put my students in the position of Martin--given chords, doing effective spacing and voicing for a string quartet arrangement, then playing it along with the original.

    But I'd love others' ideas. Any contributions? For aural skills or theory classes?

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    • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • Interesting idea, Tim.  Some follow-up comments, questions, and thoughts:

      #1) Playing a new string arrangement along with the original lead vocal and guitar would be very easy, since the strings are hard-panned in the left channel.  So if you play back the right channel only, you get the vocal and guitar only.   Perfect!

      #2) Is effective spacing and voicing for a string quartet when playing along with and/or making room for a lead vocal and guitar part the same as the spacing and voicing traditionally taught in music theory classrooms?  I have a sense the answer would be "No," although I can't say precisely what those differences would be.

      #3) An obvious aural skills assignment would be to transcribe George Martin's string arrangement on the original recording.  This step could come before or after students write their own arrangements, although for better or worse, theory and aural skills classes are typically two separate courses that lack the tight coordination for such a multi-stage assignment.

      Trevor de Clercq, MTSU


    • George Martin was also famous for slowing down or detuning pitch as in Lennon's vocals in "Strawberry Fields" and using tape loops as in the circus soundscapes for "For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite."  And of course reversing tapes to create backwards audio passages as in "Tomorrow Never Knows."  In otherwords besides his genius for arranging he was also a pioneer in audio manipulation techniques.  These techniques are quite easy to do with current digital audio software.  There is a wonderful clip I have heard of Martin's "Strawberry Fields" arrangement isolated from the Beatle's vocal and instrument tracks that sheds light on Martin's creative arranging/recording skills that I will try and locate and post.  

    • Here is the clip of the isolated arrangement of "Strawberry Fields" by George Martin:

    • Thanks both--great comments/thoughts and resources!