The Beatles on Dutch television in 1964 © Eric Koch for Anefo

Song Lesson: The Beatles – Please Please Me

The second and popular single by The Beatles “Please Please Me” is a great practice tune if you are learning to play guitar as it has both easy and challenging parts. While this song was originally slower and more bluesy it was their producer George Martin that made changes so it would be more upbeat like “Love Me Do.” Here is a quick guitar lesson on how to play “Please Please Me” by The Beatles.

The Beatles “Please Please Me” is a great practice tune if you are learning to play guitar

…almost everyone loves The Beatles so if you have an audience they will likely sing along!

Song Background

This song is what really sent The Beatles soaring into popularity in 1962. It has the hallmark Mersey drum beat and British Invasion vibe. John was the main writer and he was attempting to copy a Roy Orbison type feeling, but they realised that they would get more listeners with something more upbeat.

As always in the early Beatles songs we have George Harrison on lead guitar and John Lennon on rhythm, so if you want to play this alone you will either just have to stick with the basic chords, or you can mix a little of both parts if you are a more advanced player. It also has a harmonica part, but you will likely need a chromatic harmonica as the diatonic doesn’t have all the notes needed.

The song is in the key of E and includes some difficult barre chords for beginner guitar players, which is fine because you need to practice them! Start off by looking at barre shapes for chords like F#m, C#m, B, and A. The hardest part of the song is the quick chord movement after they sing “Last night I said these words to my love.”

The Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison in June 5 1964. Photo credit VARA
The Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison in June 5 1964. Photo credit VARA

How to Play “Please Please Me” by The Beatles

The strumming will often be alternate strokes in 1/8th notes except for a few of the quick times where they play 1/16ths. The best way to get the strumming and vibe is to repeatedly play the song along with the chords. It will not be easy at first and will require multiple restarts, but there aren’t too many parts in the song so it’s easy to discern the strums, chords, and notes. Check out a comprehensive guitar chord chart here.

The first four measures are the harmonica intro that mostly just descends the E major scale, if you have the right harp it is not hard to learn. After the intro we move into the first verse which is 8 bars long before the chorus which also has 8 bars. The first three easy chords are E-A-E (open E and A) and then we move into the fast part. We will keep that E chord shape to play that run of the chords G-A-B.

The G is played at the 3rd fret as a barred E shape, next we move that shape to the fifth fret to get an A, and finally we move two more shapes up at the 7th to play B. Easy right! No!! It is very hard to get these chords played quickly, especially if you are a beginner. You will want to play this verse over and over until you can comfortably hit all those barre chords right!

Bmaj chord diagram

This E-A-E repeats and then we play another fast riff of (E string) 0-0 (D string) 2-2 and then (A string) 2-2 before moving into the chorus. And in the chorus we again have some more barre chords that we must move fast on! As the “C’mon” part starts we play a chord each measure starting with A-F#m-C#m-A until we get to the “please” part.

Here we go back to E and then a quick barred A to B and then back to E. This verse and chorus will repeat with the same chords as above before moving into the bridge. The bridge also uses the A and B but you can do the open A and 2nd fret B major, the sequence here is A-B-E and it repeats 4 times before moving back into the verse and chorus again. We repeat these only once before approaching the Coda and end of the song.

To end it we once again play the guitar chords E-A-B-E and then once more before ending on the chords E-G-C-B-E. Those are not easy to play quickly but they wrap the song up nicely. Notice that a C major is used instead of C#m like is normal for the key of E major. This provides a little chromaticism and blue note vibes to help give it that rock sound.

Tricks to Playing Please Please Me

This Beatles song is so perfect for guitar students because it forces a lot of important barre chords on you. These are all essential chords and yes it is a lot to put them all in one song, but it will prepare you for many future tunes. If you are struggling with these chords make sure to slowly play them at first and be certain each note is playing correctly.

Often when you barre chords you want to be sure you have no muted or dead strings and that they sound right. The good news is that The Beatles weren’t perfect at guitar playing, so if your barre isn’t perfect, it may still sound good. As you get better at the barres play the song at normal speed and see if you at least hit the right chord as it changes.

Once you have the song down better, you can start playing more of the melody like George does. Most of what you play above is just the basic rhythm by John except the 0-0, 2-2. 2-2 part that George slips in before the chorus. As you improve you can add more of his licks into the song. But for now just focus on getting those barre chords sounding good and being played at the correct time.

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George mimics the harmonica notes in the beginning at higher octaves and throughout the song, and any additional notes are not complicated. For example he briefly hits the B note of the E chord at the start of the verse to give it that bluesy vibe. Besides reading tabs you can find a lot of his licks by adding E major scale notes into your chords. For the most part if you are playing this song alone you stick to John’s part.

Those brief little riffs that involve multiple barre chords will be the hardest part about this song, otherwise it is manageable, no major key changes, and even the singing is easy. The Beatles were a new band at the time and they needed a quick and catchy 2-minute pop upbeat love song and this tune certainly did the trick! And as always with The Beatles they have a knack for mixing simple guitar chords and techniques with harder bits so it’s great for students!

If you are a new guitarist you may struggle with this song lesson of The Beatles “Please Please Me.” However once you have the finger strength to make these chord shapes it will be a lot better. And once that part is done, the song becomes pretty simple and easy to memorise! Eventually it will be another great hit in your repertoire, and almost everyone loves The Beatles so if you have an audience they will likely sing along!

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer

Guitar Tricks

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer

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