“Hey Jude” by the Beatles stands out as one of the most iconic songs in popular music history. Written by Paul McCartney and released in 1968, this song demonstrates the Beatles virtuosity in writing simple, memorable tunes that are adorned with an expert use of chords, instrumentation, and more. There’s a reason why true masters of pop music write the simplest songs!

 Let’s jump into the song’s form, chord structure, key changes, and what makes it so catchy. If you’d like more information about music lessons in Columbia, MD, or if you want to join our popular rock band program with guitar lessons or simply as a band member, we’d love to hear from you.

Let’s Analyze “Hey Jude” By The Beatles

Form and Structure of Hey Jude

“Hey Jude” follows a straightforward pop song structure: an intro, verses, a bridge, and an extended coda. The song opens with a piano introduction that sets the stage for the first verse. The verses follow a standard AABA form, with the “A” sections providing the main melody and the “B” section acting as a bridge or contrasting segment. The coda, or the “na-na-na” section, is particularly noteworthy for its length and repetitive nature – We like to think this was McCartney and Lennon’s nod to audience participation at the end of the song.

Chord Analysis of Hey Jude

The chord progression in “Hey Jude” is deceptively simple (as many amazing pop songs are!). The verses primarily use the chords F, C, and Bb, which are all diatonic chords in the key of F major. The progression F-C-Bb-F-C-F creates a sense of stability and resolution. The bridge introduces the chords Bb, F, C, and Eb, adding a slight modulation that refreshes the listener’s ear. This use of diatonic chords with occasional modulations gives the song a balanced yet dynamic harmonic structure.

Key and Modulation

“Hey Jude” is written in the key of F major, but it features subtle key changes for depth and variety. The bridge shifts to Bb major briefly (the sub-dominant) before returning to F major. This modulation is not abrupt, and it gives the  song a sense of forward momentum. The extended coda also stays in F major.

Why is Hey Jude So Catchy?

We won’t pretend to understand the mysteries of the Beatles’ genius, but there are some takeaways. First, the melody is simple and memorable. McCartney’s use of stepwise motion and small leaps makes the melody easy to sing and remember (in contrast, consider the National Anthem of the USA – It’s hard to sing, has big leaps, and is in an unfriendly range). Second, the repetitive structure of the coda ingrains the tune into the listener’s mind. Repetition is a powerful tool in music, and the extended “na-na-na” section leverages this effectively.

Additionally, the gradual build-up of instruments and vocal layers in the coda creates a climax that feels both satisfying and emotionally powerful. The use of harmony, particularly in the coda, where backing vocals join in, gives the song a tremendous amount of energy at the end that sticks with the listener.

Hey Jude is a Fascinating Piece of Pop Song Writing

You won’t be able to copy this song and create the next big hit, and it’s pretty dated of course. But the simple form, build-up in the instrumentation and energy, and simple chord structure can teach us a lot about what makes a great song. If you’d like more information about piano lessons at Soundcheck Rock Academy, we’d be happy to teach you the intro to Hey Jude and even place you in a real rock band. Get in touch with any questions.

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