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The Music of the Beatles

University of Rochester via Coursera


The Music of the Beatles will track the musical development of the band, starting from the earliest days in Liverpool and Hamburg, moving through the excitement of Beatlemania, the rush of psychedelia, and the maturity of Abbey Road. While the focus will be on the music, we will also consider how recording techniques, the music business, the music of other artists, and the culture of the 1960s affected John, Paul, George, and Ringo as they created the Beatles repertory.

There is probably no band or artist that has had more written about their music than the Beatles. There are many good books on the band's biography, several insider accounts offering glimpses behind the scenes, books that interpret the meaning of the songs, and even books that catalog dates and people regarding the band. This course will try to synthesize much of that information into an account of the Beatles' development as musicians and songwriters.


  • Introduction and Special Features
  • Early Day and Success in the UK
    • The Beatles as pop craftsmen. Study of cover versions at Cavern and Hamburg shows, Please Please Me, With the Beatles, and the singles from this period.
  • Success in America and the World
    • The Beatles begin to move toward the artist model. Music from A Hard Day's Night, Beatles For Sale, and singles from this period. From this point on we will closely follow particular authorship of songs, keeping track of John, Paul, and George as individual songwriters.
  • Pop Maturity
    • Increased experimentation, still mostly within the context of the pop single. The increasingly important role of the recording studio and recording techniques and innovations. Help!, Rubber Soul, and singles from this period.
  • Psychedelia
    • The artist model comes into full bloom. The rise of importance of the album and idea-driven projects. Revolver, "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields," Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and other singles from this period, including the tracks that would end up on Yellow Submarine.
  • A Co-Op of Singer-Songwriters
    • The White Album both begins a return to roots while also continuing the musical experimentation of the earlier music, but now each song is less of a group effort. Creative differences arise. The White Album and singles from this period.
  • Get Back
    • Once there was a way to get back home. The Get Back sessions embrace a return-to-simplicity approach but are aborted. Abbey Road attempts to get back to the band's previous manner of working. Let It Be combines material from Get Back with newly recorded tracks. Abbey Road, Let It Be, and singles from this period.

Taught by

John Covach


4.7 rating, based on 18 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 724 ratings

Start your review of The Music of the Beatles

  • I recently became interested in The Beatles, and I have read a few books about them (as well as listened to their music). I thought taking a Coursera course on them would add some depth, and I was right. The course covers The Beatles from their earl…
  • Cheryl Citron
    I took all of this class, and my husband, a guitarist, watched every lecture with me. We both loved the class - Dr. Covach is an excellent, humorous and very interesting guide to the Beatles and their development as musicians and song writers over time, , and as a musician himself, he explained some musical concepts such as song structure that even I ( I have no musical background) could appreciate. Highly recommended , even if you think you might like it - you will!
  • Toppie Lincicome
    Dr. Covach (if he's not Dr. he should be!) is a marvelous presenter. He kept my interest and I felt he was talking to me the whole time. I may have actually raised my hand a time or two and found myself often singing "I wanna raise my hand!" But, s…
  • Paul Butt
    Very Informative and it helps because the lecturer is very good at explaining and informing people. All in all a very good course for the Beatle enthusiast and anyone wishing to learn more of the 'famous four' My only regret is it doesn't start before the Beatles ie as early as the Silver Beatles or even before when they were the Quarrymen. But as described its from the early years in Hamburg and their rise to fame so I can't complain . I would endorse this course to anyone wanting to learn more of the Beatles and in fact any music lover
  • Mrs Susan England
    I'm a Beatles fan, so I enjoyed this course immensely. I enjoyed studying the music of the Beatles and how they progressed from being skilled musical craftsmen to musical artists. Dr Covach is an enthusiastic and engaging instructor. The only drawback is that due to copyright issues, Dr Covach is unable to play clips of Beatles music. I would have loved to be able to listen to the specific part of tune he is mentioning rather than having to listen to the tune after the lecture.
  • Anonymous
    Good course ... But the professor does not hide his marked preference for John Lennon. He never says that Paul McCartney was the greatest creative force behind Sargent Pepper...
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