Lying in bed (just like so many people did), I just can’t sleep and I can’t stop thinking about this tweet about John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s favorite numbers.
Magic Numbers – The Importance of the Number 7
The number seven is Biblically important ever since the creation of the world in 7 days. Any time an open string on the guitar, then add 7 to that number, you get a perfect fifth (example – G to D on the third string). If you don’t know what a fifth is, see the Circle of Fifths post. This works on any string – try it out. Going up horizontally, you can add 7 to any fret and get a fifth. For example, on the first and sixth strings, if you play it open and then the seventh fret, you get E and then B (from Eats Breakfast of Fun Charlie Goes Down and Eats Breakfast fame). If you are on an E on the fourth string, 2nd fret, and add 7, that too is a B, 7 frets above.
Tying this to the above tweet, when I think about George Harrison favorite number being 7, that makes perfect sense to me because that is the most perfect addition, fret-wise, to get to the fifth, the most perfect interval. Some consider 7 a magic number.
The seventh is also a very pleasant tone in the major scale. Cmaj7 (C E G B) and Fmaj7 (F A C E) are beautifully mellow I (one) and IV (four) chords within the key of C. Knowing your way around the guitar, it doesn’t take too much basic knowledge to bring you into seventh heaven. You should however, be aware that there major sevenths are not minor sevenths, and minor sevenths are similar to but not exactly the save as dominant sevenths due to the other notes within a chord – example: Cminor7 = C Eb G Bb, but C7 (using the dominant 7, is C E G Bb.
Magic Numbers – The Importance of the Number 9
Nine is an elusive and strange number, which some consider a magic number. As you probably know, your I (one), IV (four), and V (five) notes occur on any given string of the guitar on fret zero, fret five, and fret seven (example on the A string: A, D, E, respectively). Interestingly, the sum of these numbers yields 9.
Other observations: John Lennon was born October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool, England. 40 years later, John Lennon was shot when it was December 9th, 1980 in Liverpool, England. The Beatles were together for 9 years, McCartney has 9 letters, etc. John Winston Lennon met Yoko Ono on the ninth of November, 1966 and their names combined have 9 Os in them. There are so many “coincidences” that it really is fascinating. If nothing else, it serves as a helpful mnemonic for dates and fab four facts. Click here for a short list of interesting facts about John Lennon and the number 9.
What I find odd though from an interval standpoint though is if you play an open string and then the ninth fret, you get a sixth each time (e.g. A to F#), which goes to the relative minor. I wonder how consciously Lennon employed this in his songwriting, as sixth chords are known as being a trademark Beatle songwriting tool to get that Mersey Beat feel. The Beatles used sixth chords for “She Loves You” (rebelling against traditional advice not to do that), “Help!”,”Don’t Let Me Down,” etc. For those of you with little theory, the 6th is also the same as the interior rim of the Circle of Fifths. I should do a blog post on that in itself.