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This Boy (Beatles cover)

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Published on Mar 25, 2011

Here is a re-creation of the Beatles classic "This Boy". This is the first in a series of Beatles covers that I'll be posting, where I play and sing all the parts. My goal is to come as close as possible to recreating note-for-note, what is heard on the original recordings. I use real instruments (as opposed to samples and MIDI) whenever possible. What you see in this video are the actual performances as I recorded them. There is no "lip-syncing" or miming. I hope you enjoy this presentation (and yes, I realize that I'm unintentionally making some strange faces--that's just the result of trying to get the particular vocal tones this song calls for).  :-P

Some technical details:
On the original recording, even though it sounds like an electric guitar, George is actually playing his Gibson J160E electric-acoustic guitar plugged in to an amplifier for the rhythmic strumming part that is heard throughout the song. I borrowed my friend's Epiphone electric guitar for this recording because I thought he had the Casino model, which has P90 pickups (similar to the pickup found on the electric-acoustic Gibson that George used). Unfortunately, it turns out that the guitar I borrowed is the Riviera model, which has humbucker pickups (different tonal character than P90's). Oh well...

To simulate the sound of George's guitar acoustically being picked up by the microphones in the studio, I placed a mic in front of the body of the semi-acoustic Riviera, and combined that with the amplified sound.

The song features wonderful three-part harmony for the verses. In the bridge, John continues with the melody while George and Paul sing "aahs" in two-part harmony. The three of them duplicated their vocal performance in the bridge on another track to create a richer sound. Somewhere in the process, John added an additional harmony part to the "aah" backing. This makes a total of seven voices heard in the bridge.

For the end fade-out, we hear an overdubbed electric guitar part played in octaves. George uses a slide (or a similar metal or glass object) to glide smoothly between the fifth and sixth notes in the figure. This has been a point of debate and mystery for many musicians. The notes played with the slide are in octaves as well, but there is no way to play that on a standard guitar. George had not yet received his Rickenbacker 12-string (that could have been one possible solution). Even though this song was one of the first songs the Beatles recorded on a four-track recorder (along with "I Want To Hold Your Hand", recorded on the same day), a close listen shows that this ending guitar part sounds like one performance (as opposed to George recording each octave on a separate track).

What I propose was done (and what I did for this recording) was to play the first four notes of the figure in octaves, on the G and high E strings, as is standard practice. For the slide notes, I had tuned the B string down a fifth to an E (one octave below the high E string). This allowed me to play the octaves with the slide on adjacent strings. Lowering the B string so much gives it that really springy, twangy quality that you hear on the original recording.

I believe George used his recently-acquired Rickenbacker 425 to record this end part (he also used it on "I Want To Hold Your Hand", recorded on the same day). The 425 was a student-model guitar, with one pickup in the middle position. I don't have a 425, but I do have a 325 (the guitar most often associated with John). The 325 has three pickups: neck, middle and bridge. Unfortunately, the 325 is wired in such a way that you can't select the middle pickup by itself, so I had to temporarily rewire it to achieve this (don't try this at home, folks!).

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