When Laurence Juber arranged “I Will” for his latest Beatles album, The Fab 4th, he had a problem to solve: what tuning and key to use. “There are plenty of tunes that fall nicely under the fingers in standard tuning, especially in the jazz repertoire, when one stays in guitar-friendly keys, rather than the horn player–favored flat keys,” Juber says. “But often, an accompaniment on a record that is married to the original vocal doesn’t easily translate to a self-contained arrangement in standard tuning.” “I Will” is one of two Beatles “White Album” songs on The Fab 4th that’s anchored by acoustic guitar on the original version—the other is “Julia,” which directly follows “I Will” on side 2 of the double LP.
“I Will” was originally in the key of F major, with a melody that sits relatively low in the guitar’s range, and a solo version would require the extensive use of barre chords—which would make it more difficult to make the melody sing. So, as he often does, Juber settled on DADGAD tuning, which he finds works well for combining the melodic and accompaniment elements specific to an original recording. “It could have worked in DADGAD in F, but then I’d need a low C to reproduce Paul’s sung bass line. So I moved it to G, which gave me open strings for key melody notes and that low D bass note,” Juber explains.
While the Beatles song kicks off right on the vocal melody, Juber takes structural liberties and begins his arrangement with an adaptation of the guitar figure that appears between verses on the original recording. He plays it high up on the neck, exploiting the timbral difference between the ninth-fret and open Gs. “The voicings I use put that phrase in a different space from the melody,” Juber says. “I liked the contrast that picking figure provides, so I made it an intro, too. I also chose to repeat the bridge.”
On his previous Beatles albums, Juber has stuck closely to the original songs, but here he colors things with the occasional extended chord, like the six-note Dm7 that first appears in bar 7, the Am9 in bar 16, and the A9 and A7b9 in measure 36. And he has lately been more inclined to further add his own imprint by allowing room in his arrangements for improvisation. He explains, “In the case of ‘I Will,’ it was about 90% set; the rest was performance-driven while recording, so there are nuances that are never the same twice.”
As he does whenever he creates an instrumental arrangement of a song, Juber considered the narrative of “I Will.” He credits his wife, Hope Juber, for this approach, which results in performances that are more compelling to listeners. “Hope produces these albums, so she’ll push me to the point where I’m not thinking purely guitaristically, but telling the story. That informs the performance values—dynamics, groove, sonority, etc.”
It would be one thing to play this arrangement cleanly; it’s quite another to bring out the melody while maintaining an impeccable groove like Juber does. While the guitarist credits his remarkable rhythmic sense to 50 years of working with great musicians, he offers advice for this—or really any—contrapuntal arrangement: “Play it slowly, recognizing the patterns and how they are being articulated,” he says. “‘I Will’ is driven by the forward momentum of a melody that pushes into the bar while the bass anchors the downbeats. Getting that relationship right helps create the illusion of multiple players.”
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine. Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the July/August 2020 issue, you will find the music on page 94.