Learn how to play Blackbird like McCartney did!
Inspired by Bachs’ ‘Boueree in E minor’ and a bird waking him up in the morning, Paul McCartney created a modern masterpiece in ‘Blackbird’
A constant open G string, variations to the progression like IV – IVm and a change of key for the Chorus are the three main things you need to focus on to learn it.
There’s seemingly two dim7 chords in there as well although upon closer inspection, only fractions of a C#dim7 is actually used.
The second suspected dim7 chord, starting on a D# is not even minor, it’s A D#(b5), an altered chord.
Get the full story, complete with TAB of the entire arrangement in the Advanced Guitar Course.
Open strings as drones
The open G-string is used throughout Blackbird giving the piece a ‘drone’ effect that tie the progression together.
Since chords are named by intervals in relation to the root, the function of this open G changes, for example:
- The A shaped G chord at fret 10, the open G is the root
- The Em, the G is now a m3rd
- The Eb, the G is the major third
- The C and Cm, the G is the 5th
- The Fadd9, the G is the 9th
In the Advanced Guitar Course we look at all chords and how they are affected by the open G string.
Throughout Blackbird you’ll find different time signatures appearing.
The most obvious one being the verse that starts in 3/4 for a bar, changing to 4/4 immediately.
This 3/4 time for a bar concept appears several times, there is also a 2/4 bar hidden in there.
Blackbird is mainly in the key of G but it does modulate to F for Chorus.
The modulation is abrupt as it starts, making the first F feel like a bVIIx in relation to G.
To get back to the key of G we play A7 – D7, in the key of F that’s IIIx7 and VIx7.
In the key of G it’s IIx7 and V7.
The index finger strum technique
Unique to ‘Blackbird’ is the strange index finger strum technique. This is a home made technique I’ve never seen before or since, which is strange as it’s so brilliant!
Combining the thumb plucking and strumming strings using a downward motion, the Index finger strum the upper part of the chord up and down.
In the Advanced Guitar Course, the Index finger movement is fully analysed with TAB indicating the rhythm and when to strum up or down with the index finger.