Sunday, 13 June 2021

Did Paul McCartney study music?

None of The Beatles learned to read or write music. They avoided music classes at school. None took more than a handful of private lessons. Of the four, however, Paul had the most musical background.


Paul’s father, Jim, sang and gigged in local ragtime groups and his work’s brass band. He had taught himself various instruments including the piano, double bass and the E-flat tuba. 

Jim actively encouraged his two sons to take up his interest. They grew up watching him practise piano in the front room — and Paul dabbled with the instrument from early childhood. He would also use old 78s to demonstrate harmonization: how instruments and voices interacted.

First Instrument

Jim bought Paul his first instrument — a trumpet — for his fourteenth birthday. Though Paul ‘loved it’, there were practical problems
I persevered with the trumpet for a while. I learnt ‘The Saints’, which I can still play in C. I learnt my C scale, and a couple of things. Then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to sing with this thing stuck in my mouth, so I asked my dad if he’d mind if I swapped it for a guitar, which also fascinated me. He didn’t, and I traded my trumpet in for an acoustic guitar, a Zenith, which I still have.
The above statement suggests that Paul studied or was taught the concept of scales. But he had no inclination to continue studying music theory which at that time dealt almost exclusively the classical repertoire. 


Paul went to the august Liverpool Institute High School for Boys — where he would be joined by another budding musician, George Harrison. As with many of the grammar schools of the time, Liverpool High offered academically promising working class children a good education and a route into white collar employment.

It also had a highly-regarded course in music. Neither Paul nor George was interested. They saw no connection between the rock and roll they loved and the classical music on offer. For their part, the music department had no intention of adding Chuck Berry to the curriculum.

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