Recently I did an online guitar lesson on “Something” by The Beatles, which got a pretty good response from my readers. In fact, it inspired me to look at “The Long And Winding Road” in today’s lesson, a tune that I first learned several years ago in my teens. I found the advanced chords very useful in my development on the guitar, and I think that, after examining this song in this post, you will too. The penultimate track on the second side of The Fab Four’s 1970 “Let It Be” album, “The Long And Winding Road” was the band’s last number one in the United States, having been released a month after their break up. Written by Paul McCartney and credited as being written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the song caused some controversy among The Beatles, as McCartney was allegedly unhappy with producer Phil Spector’s treatment of the song, with the latter adding various vocal and orchestral overdubs to the finished recording. In this guitar and music theory lesson, we will look at the chords, tab and music theory analysis that make up this Beatles classic.
“The Long & Winding Road” Chords
Before you dive into the full transcription, it would be wise to familiarise yourself with the various chord shapes that make up “The Long & Winding Road.” Below are the fretboard diagrams of each shape that you will find in the tabs a little further down in this article. As you can see, there are a few unusual, “jazz” style chord voicings that help make this song sound great!
“The Long And Winding Road” Tab
Below is a transcription of “The Long And Winding Road” for guitar. I included a few parts of the vocal melody and some of the melodies in between the vocal phrases should you want to incorporate them into your own arrangement of this song. Take note in bar 3 where the Eb/Db chord is replaced by a chordal melody which mimics the vocal line. If you want to play the Eb/Db chord instead, then I have included it in the diagrams above.
Music Theory Analysis
“The Long And Winding Road” is in the key of C minor. If you’re like me, you may to choose to look at it from the perspective of its relative major key, which is Eb major. Here is the scale of Eb Major, harmonised into 3 note triads:
Here is the same scale harmonised into 4 note chords:
Finally, here is the same scale harmonised into 5 note chords:
As you can see from the scales above, most of the chord progression is completely diatonic, despite its use of extended 7th and 9th chords. Here is a chord chart with all the chords in the verse section numbered:
As mentioned above, most of the chords are diatonic and stick to the key signature of Eb major/C minor. The only one that doesn’t is the use of the bVII in bar 3 as a bass note. This is done to create some tension and gives the song more of a mixolydian flavour. We also have another instance of the bVII in bar 8, this time as a full major chord with an Eb in the bass. Again, the presence of the bVII gives the song a mixolydian flavour. The use of bVII chords is a common songwriting technique, and can also be found in “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix. Also take note of the really strong sounding III VI II V chord progression on lines 2 & 3 of the chart above, which on line 3 resolves really nicely to chord I. We have already seen this same chord progression in “Peg” by Steely Dan, which I covered here.
Let’s analyse the chorus in the same way:
|Eb/G Fm7 Bb9|
I/iii ii V
Again, here the progression is mostly diatonic, with another really strong II V progression at the end of the section. We also have a really nice descending bassline from Ab, to G to F before finishing with the Bb. An Eb major chord contains the notes Eb, G and B, so placing the 3rd in the bass in this sequence helps create a smoother bassline and a nice voice leading between the chord changes.
“The Long And Winding Road” may not be one of The Beatles’ most famous pieces, but it is definitely worth examining for any guitar player, or musician, looking to enhance their knowledge of advanced chords and songwriting techniques. You can never go wrong with analysing and learning a Beatles tune, so I hope you enjoy learning and playing this piece, there are certainly plenty of elements within the song to take inspiration from.
Until next time,