In this lesson we’re going to dive into the Let It Be guitar solo by The Beatles. Let It Be is on the 1970 album of the same name. Performed by George Harrison, this is a great solo for the beginner-intermediate guitar player to learn. It’s also an excellent example of chord tone targeting.
Let It Be Guitar Chords
As always, before we get to the solo itself we need to take a look at the chord progression over which the solo is played. You can’t gained a full understanding, and appreciation, for a guitar solo without understanding what’s taking place behind the solo.
Let It Be Key
Let It Be is in the key of C major, which contains the following notes.
C – D – E – F – G – A – B
In the diagram below, you see the notes of the C major scale along with the corresponding interval for each note.
Diatonic chords for a given key come straight from the scale, so the chords for the key of C major are derived from the C major scale. Many times you’ll see chords outside of the scale (non-diatonic) used as well, but all of the chords in Let It Be come straight from the key of C major.
|Key of C
Now that we know the chords, let’s take a look at the actual chord progression for Let It Be during the guitar solo.
Let It Be Chord Progression
The first part of the chord progression is the common I – V – vi – IV progression used in numerous popular songs through the years: C – G – Am – F
If you’re not familiar with chord numbers, check out the guitar number system lesson.
The second part of the progression changes up a little bit. It removes the vi chord and moves from the V to the IV and back to the I, which is another common progression: I – V -IV – I
Putting it all together, the full chord progression for Let It Be is shown in the table below:
The progression is played two times in full throughout the guitar solo.
Let It Be Guitar Solo
Now that we know the backing chord progression, we can dive into the solo.
We’ll take a look at the scales from which the solo is derived, including the scale positions used.
We’ll also break down the guitar tab to see what’s being played over each chord in the progression and see how George Harrison effectively targets chord tones throughout.
However, it’s always a good idea to listen to the solo first before getting started so it’s fresh in your mind. Obviously, refer back to it as frequently as you need.
Guitar Scales for Let It Be
In the Let It Be guitar solo, George Harrison uses exclusively notes from the C major pentatonic scale. If you recall, the major pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale built on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th intervals of the major scale.
In the key of C major, this gives us the following notes: C – D – E – G – A
Pentatonic Scale Positions
The Let It Be guitar solo utilizes 4 of the 5 major pentatonic scale positions, with the bulk of the solo being played in the 5th position.
In the diagram below I’ve highlighted the notes used in the guitar solo along with the corresponding scale positions.
Let It Be Solo Tab
Couple of quick notes before we go through the guitar solo.
In the tab, you’ll notice the scale positions are noted on top. These correspond to the position of the C major pentatonic scale being used in that section of the guitar solo.
On the bottom of the tab are gray note markers. These indicate the chords being played by the backing rhythm section.
The orange letters on top of the tab indicate the name of the landing note being played.
Labeling the tab in this way makes it easier to see how scale positions and chord tones are used throughout the solo.
The solo starts with a double-stop lick in the 5th position of the C major pentatonic scale and lands on the C note on the third fret of the 5th string. Note that this C note is the root of the C major chord being played by the backing rhythm section.
The solo stays in position 5 and targets the G note on the 5th fret of string 4 on the chord change to the G chord. This is perfect example of chord tone targeting. In this case its the root note, but it doesn’t have to be…as we’ll see next.
When the rhythm changes to the Am chord, note the bend on the 7th fret of the 3rd string. Here a D note is bent a full-step up to the E note, which is the 5th in the Am chord. This section ends by landing on the key center note of C, which is the 5th of the F major chord over which it is played.
This section of the solo again stays mostly in position 5 of the C major pentatonic scale before transitioning to position 4 with a slide from the 7th fret to the 5th fret on string 5. Again you see the root note C being targeted over the C chord.
This section again starts in position 5 before moving up into position 1 of the C major pentatonic scale for the first time. Notice the landing note again targets a root note, this time the root A of the Am chord on the 10th fret of string 2. It’s at this point you get the sense the of building toward the climax.
Picking up from the A note it landed on in the previous section, the solo continues to build.The solo continues in position 1, landing on the root C of the C major chord on the 8th fret of string 1. It then moves up to position 3 for the final licks, targeting the root G note of the G major scale on the 15th fret of the 1st string and the final lick landing on the key center root C of the C major chord as the final note.
Below is the full tab for the Let It Be guitar solo, with the chords and chord tones labeled.
In this lesson we broke down the Let It Be guitar solo to see how George Harrison used the C major pentatonic scale to create a classic solo. You can see throughout how he used it to effectively target chord tones. Learning solos like these can be a great teaching device and just having a basic understanding of what you’re playing and where you are on the guitar will improve your playing immensely.
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