Hey you. It’s time to learn Hey Jude by the Beatles. If you’ve put some time into your piano practicing and are looking to challenge yourself with a track that everyone knows, this tune has got it all! Whether it be rhythmic chording in the verse, creative bluesy motions in the chorus, or all out piano jamming in the outro, this song will boost your piano skills across the board.
Before we begin, take note of the key this song is in. There’s only one flat note in the key signature, which can only mean one thing: Hey Jude is in the key of F Major.
So now that you know the key of this song, let’s take a look at the verse.
Pictured: A rare era for the Beatles when drummer Jimmie Nicol temporarily replaced Ringo Starr when Ringo had Tonsillitis
The verse of this song is rhythmically quite simple. With just one exception, the right hand plays only quarter notes of each chord, while the left hand plays 8th note octaves to reflect the chord changes. The chord progression itself consists of an 8 bar loop consisting of the chords
F - C - C7 - C7sus4 - F
Bb - F - C - F
Most of these chords are pretty self explanatory, but let’s take a look at voicing that C7sus4. It’s actually simpler than you think. Your left hand pedals 8th note octaves of C, while your right hand plays G - Bb - F. With both hands combined, you have all the ingredients for that chord: the root’s in the bass, the 5th and 7th are the bottom two notes of the right hand while the top note gives you that suspended 4. It’s a great skill to be able to break down seemingly complex chords into their smaller components to make things a little more digestible.
The other part to look out for in the verse is that little 8th note push in the right hand that leads up to this C7sus4 chord. If you listen to the vocal melody of the song then you’ll have an idea of how this part works, since the piano follows the vocal melody. To practice this section, play this part repetitively at a very slow tempo. You want this 8th note movement in the right hand to sync up perfectly with the left hand octave accompaniment.
Hurrah! The boys are back together!
Next up we have the chorus. Rhythmically, the chorus is pretty similar to the verse, but there’s some interesting stuff that’s happening in the left hand that gives this part its sophisticated sound. First, let’s look at the chords in the right hand.
F7 - Bb - Dm - Gm - F - C - F
The left hand is where the magic is with this part of the track. Again, you’re just going to be playing straight 8th note octaves in this sequence
F - Bb - A - G - F - E - C - F
Try to think less about the individual notes in the bass and more about the bassline of notes, it becomes much easier to digest that way. The bassline starts on the root note before jumping up to the 4th (Bb) and then walks down the F major scale back to the root and past it, landing on E and making one final jump down to C, before leaping back up to the root again. Think of this all as one fluid motion rather than disparate notes, you’ll thank me later!
That Bluesy Riff
The chorus ends with a really unique musical feature. It’s a total blast to play, and a perfect example of the genius of The Beatles songwriting.
After the second repetition of the chorus progression, there’s this moment where you shift from the simple F chord to a blues riff, jumping from F to Bb to F7. The motion then shifts up to C, shifting to play C-E, C-F, C-G, before moving up a final time, play E-G, F-A, G-Bb.
Don't you EVER leave us again, Ringo!
The outro to Hey Jude is one of the most fun chord progressions to play. It’s probably the easiest part of the song, but also has the most potential for making it your own. Here’s the chord progression:
F - Eb - Bb - F
This progression is known as the bVII - IV - I progression. The Eb is the bVII, the Bb is the IV, and the F chord is, naturally, the I. You can either play this progression with the same quarter note pulse that you’ve been using throughout the song, or you can take the opportunity to do some creative work on this part, like messing with the rhythms, aping the vocal melody, or throwing in some pentatonic blues playing. It’s up to you!
Wrapping It Up
So there you are. There’s plenty to practice here, from developing your rhythmic skills, to strengthening your hand coordination, to boosting your soloing ability. As you’re practicing, take the time to listen for the bass movements in the left hand as that’s a great opportunity to train your ear to learn some creative, subtle harmony techniques.