From the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

In the mid-1960s, the 12-string electric guitar was all the rage as guitarists such as George Harrison and Roger McGuinn used the instrument to ringing effect in their respective work with the Beatles and the Byrds. An excellent example of this trend is the Beatles’ 1965 song “If I Needed Someone,” from the album Rubber Soul, with its winning combo of droning 12-string guitar and three-part vocal harmonies.

On “If I Needed Someone,” Harrison played the 12-string (namely, a Rickenbacker 360/12) with a capo at the seventh fret. The guitarist’s electric riffs work just as nicely on the acoustic, 12- or six-string, and so they’re incorporated in this solo guitar arrangement. I’ve chosen to maintain Harrison’s capo position, which gives the arrangement a lightness, and opted also for dropped-D tuning, allowing for the root of the I chord (D7, sounds as A7) to be played on the open sixth string. If you prefer a darker sound, feel free to shift the capo to a lower position or ditch it entirely—there’s no reason you have to play the song in its original sounding key of A major.


The arrangement kicks off with a simulation of the 12-string riff, conveyed in the up-stemmed notes and propped up by a classic alternating bass pattern in octaves on strings 6 and 4. Note the nice, wide-open sound that comes from the choice of notes from within the D Mixolydian mode (D E F# G A B C) here. Try these efficient fingerings for this part: Keep your second finger stationed on string 3, fret 2, and your first on string 2, fret 1. Use your fourth finger for the third-fret notes and grab the second-fret F# with your third finger.

In the verse, the bass pattern changes to a phrase inspired by what Paul McCartney played on bass guitar on the original recording. If the hammer-ons in this bass line prove tricky to play, you can pick the notes instead; just be sure to articulate softly, so as not to overshadow the upper notes. The melody is first stated in single notes and then in three-note block chords that mimic the original vocal parts but differ slightly in their harmonies, and this texture extends into the bridge. (Note that I’ve provided the vocal line for reference only, though you can of course sing along as you play.)

In learning the arrangement, it will perhaps be more useful to think vertically than horizontally. In other words, don’t conceive of the music in terms of a melody with an independently moving bass line, but instead as stacks of notes on a grid. For instance, in bar 5, pinch the two notes with your thumb and index or middle finger on beat 1, pick a melody note on the and of 1, then pinch two notes on the ands of 2 and 3, etc. As with learning any solo arrangement with lots of moving parts, thinking like this can go a long way toward helping you achieve a properly rocking groove.

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 May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 64.