Acoustic Beatles for the Folk Musician
Roan Michaels

The Beatles were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. What is not as well known, though, is the fact that the Beatles wrote many if not all of their songs on acoustic guitar and piano, and that these instruments, especially the guitar, were the foundation for the sound and rhythmic propulsion of most of their best work. Their catchy songs range from simple, barely two or three-chord folk and blues songs to staggeringly complex masterpieces of studio virtuosity, craft and skill. But at the core of most of the best ones - it is my contention - there was just a simple acoustic guitar or two or piano.

In this workshop, as time permits, I will discuss key aspects of several classic Beatle songs, highlighting song construction, instrumentation and style. I’ll pass on some “real world” jam session playing tips of what works, gathered from scores of performances, parties and jams. Several of my longtime jam friends will join me in the performance and discussion. Songs will include a couple of simple folk-style songs, and some medium difficulty pop, rock and county selections. And we’ll showcase a few finger-picking gems with a particularly acoustic sound or whose arrangements can be adapted to simple acoustic instruments in a living room or jam setting.

Finally, in the remaining time available, I will open up the workshop for general questions, history and trivia exchange, and a Beatles sing-a-long. So bring along an acoustic instrument — enthusiastic participation is strongly encouraged! My handout packet will include: a brief history of the Beatles, several song charts, tabs and lyrics plus a list of Internet resources for tabs, YouTube videos, song lyric websites and Beatles history and fan info.


I’ve been a fixture as a singer and guitarist at Bay Area jams and parties for almost 15 years and have played Beatles songs for more than 40 years. I’m a retired City and County of San Francisco Computer Network Engineer who now spends his time doing live sound and producing shows for the S.F. Hootenanny and the S.F. Folk Festival amongst various other acoustic gigs, and I putter around as much as I can in my home recording studio.