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Notes on "Good Day Sunshine"

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Previous page: Notes on "She Said She Said" Next page: Notes on "And Your Bird Can Sing"

This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song

Notes on "Good Day Sunshine"

KEY A Major


FORM Intro -> Refrain ->
                Verse -> Refrain ->
                        Verse/Break -> Refrain->
                                Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

We're going to sneak a bit further ahead in the chronology this time from where we've been mostly hanging out to look at the song that opens what quaintly used to be called the "B side" of the Revolver Long Playing (LP) record album.

Granted, "Good Day Sunshine" contains no exotic instruments, tape loops, or drug references, but nonetheless, this song in its own quiet, feel-good, nostalgic and folksy way amply demonstrates the sort of willingness to experiment, both with musical syntax, combinations of styles, and recording techniques, which is often glibly said to characterize the so-called Late Middle Period.

I was rather surprised to discover here that what I'd been thinking of for years as a fancy change of meter in the refrain section actually isn't there for the most part! With the exception of the outro, the meter is a solid 4/4 throughout, and what feels like a change of meter is actually a s-l-o-w syncopation. "Oh ?", you say. Check it out below.

The form is essentially that of a folk ballad, with strictly alternating refrains and verses. The intro, outro, and semi-instrumental middle verse lend an explicitly "pop" cross current.

The ballad format encourages the different lyrics we find in each verse.

The refrain commences right on the downbeat. The verse starts with a pickup.

The fact that at the very time this song was being recorded at Abbey Road in June 1966 a comparably sun-drenched song titled "Daydream" by the Loving Spoonful was topping the charts in America strikes me as a remarkable coincidence, perhaps, worthy of enquiry.

Melody and Harmony

The melodic material fills slightly more than an octave's space, but is aligned "below" the scale of the home key; i.e. topping out perilously on step 7 (G#), and bottoming out on step 6 (F#) nine notes below.

The verse's initial couple steps upward are more than amply balanced out by downward gestures that follow as the consequence of upward jumps. The refrain's downward jabs are counterbalanced by the upward pressure (F# -> G#) of its overall countour.

Only four chords are used throughout, B/E/A/D, but they carry considerable spice because they are all Major chords positioned around the "pure" cycle of 5ths. In other words, two of the four are "altered" chords that don't occur naturally within the home key. You might say this harmonic pattern is a major source of the nostalgic effect of the song.


The backing track prominently features piano, drums, and even hand claps but there is little in the way of guitars.

Paul single tracks the lead vocal in the verses, and is harmonized with by John and George for the refrains.

Among the various overdubs are relatively well developed whole second tracks for both drums and piano. This is an excellent example of where you can get a clear sense of how the Beatles would layer an arrangement by comparing the separated stereo tracks.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


The intro consists of four full measures of a plain E chord (actually just an open fifth instead of the complete chord). This intro, tapped out in a mechanical four-to-the-bar, provides contrast with what follows, but also seems like a hint from the composer not to be lulled into metrical complacency.

If you're interested in trying to count through the syncopated refrain, you'll find that the intro is quite helpful in getting yourself firmly in the 4/4 groove before the turbulence starts. Literally get up and march around the room, counting out loud, if it helps!

The track starts off entirely without percussion, but we quickly have the staggered entrance of drums, followed a few beats later by a cymbal roll, mixed in respectively from left to right.


The refrain is six measures in length with a phrasing pattern of AAA' and an harmonic shape unusually opened at both ends, though still convergent upon the home key.

The six measure length is deceptively simple once you get it parsed out in "straight" 4/4. The first two measures like so:

Beats:  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4|
Accents:  >   >   >

Words:   Good       Day         Sun         shine       (daa-de-da-de)
Chords:   B   F#
        A:  V-of-V     V-of-(V-of-V)

The next two measures are a repeat of the above followed by this:

Beats:  |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4|
Accents:  >   >   >

Words:   Good       Day         Sun         shine          I take a...

Chords:   E7

We essentially have eight beats in each phrase divided into a pattern of 3 + 3 + 2. This is a type of syncopation you're actually rather familiar with, but you've probably seen it in much faster tempos. For example, a lot of jazz riffs played in even eighth- or sixteenth-notes are accented in this 3/3/2 manner. Closer to home, you have "Here Comes the Sun" and the intro to "Because."

The meter isn't the only thing that almost eludes our grasp in this refrain; the key is also equivocal at this point, and is not settled until the verse begins. Until proven otherwise, we would assume from the opening, that the key of the song is going to be B rather than A as it later turns out. The chord progression from V-of-V back to *its* own V rather than forward to the V of the home key is musical kind of "approach avoidance."


In contrast to the refrain, the verse is comparatively straightforward. Note both the contrast provided by the return to an unequivocal 4/4 beat and the clear establishment of the home key of A major, as well as the beautiful economy provided by a recycling of all (and with the exception of the A chord, no more than) the chords used in the intro/refrain.

The verse is a fully squared off eight measures long, with a phrasing pattern of AA, and a closed harmonic shape:

        ------------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
        |A   F#7       |B7  |E7  |A  |
A:  I   V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V        V          I

The first verse is followed by another six measure refrain. The consistent use of the "rat-ta-ta-tat" triplet figure in the snare drum to punctuate the last two beats of measures 2 and 4 of each refrain starting only from here to the end of the song is a choice detail; note again the use of overdubbed "stereo drumming." This sort of repeat of a background figure starting only in the second verse or refrain is a Beatles trademark going all the way back to those "Do Dah Doos" in "Do You Want to Know A Secret."


Moving on, we get next a second eight measure verse. In an unusual move, the second four measures of this verse are in the key of D and are presented as a solo for piano. In other songs we certainly have seen guitar solos in this same architectural position, but in this case, having both the modulation and the brief, half-length solo in the same place are out of the ordinary.

The key switch to D is done as a classic pivot. The A chord in measure four is first heard as I in A major, but retrospectively is understood as a punning V of D Major. Similarly, the shift back to A Major makes a pun on the D Major chord:

        |A   F#7       |B7  |E7  |A  |
A:  I   V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V        V          I

        |D   B7       |E7  |A7  |D        B
A:        IV             V-of-V
D:  I   V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V        V          I

The cross-relation briefly exposed here (the only place in the entire song) by the sequence of D Major and B Major chords demonstrates the less-is-more wisdom of restraint.

This section is followed by another refrain and a third eight-measure verse, musically identical to the first with the exception of hand claps now added to the mix on beats 2 and 4 of each measure; fussy and fastidious.


The third verse is followed by a final pair of refrains and an outro, making for a longer than usual coda.

In these two immediate repetitions of the refrain we actually do get a break in the 4/4 meter for the first time; a tremendous illustration of the secret art of knowing when to avoid a foolish consistency. The break in the meter occurs in measure six (refer back above); i.e., the second measure of the sustained E chord is only three beats!

But the real frosting on the cake is what the outro, proper. Instead of something more obvious like a third repeat of of the refrain going into the fade-out, we are treated to the harmony taking an enigmatic half-step upward (to an F7 chord), and the vocal arrangement suddenly being refracted into a series of cascading echoes.

Oldies afficianados will recongize this effect of modulating up a step at the end as a fairly widely used cliche of golden aged rock and roll. The Beatles however make limited use of it, all three examples in the canon interestingly provided by Macca; in addition to "Good Day Sunshine", we also have "And I Love Her" and "Penny Lane."

Some Final Thoughts

I'd be hard pressed to account for every item in the L&M songbook as being one side of a yin/yang parallel effort of John and Paul to solve similar compositional challenges. By the same token, for the third time in a row, we've got a pair of songs intruigingly worthy of comparison and contrast.

Check out the finale to the next note, on "She Said She Said." One additional point of contrast with "Good Day Sunshine" is the way Paul's song turns out to fit the 4/4 meter as a point of technicality. John's approach to metrical disruption operates under no such scruple.

... And moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, what do you make of that funny bit of muttering from Ringo in the final verse where he mimic's Paul on the words "she feels good"; yet another clue or just a bit of troublemaking ?


Alan (

Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack

All Rights Reserved

This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group The content from this newsgroup is archived at, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

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Artist: Dominic Pedler

Arranged by The Beatles

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