Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt
Michelle

"MICHELLE"

by Lennon & McCartney (The Beatles)
Arranged by Douglas Niedt

Classical Guitar Sheet Music and Guitar Tab


I have TWO beautiful arrangements of the Beatles classic. The ADVANCED version retains McCartney's bass lines, harmonies, and the guitar parts. The INTERMEDIATE version simplifies the bass line and is more fingerstyle-friendly throughout. BOTH VERSIONS ARE INCLUDED IN THE SHEET MUSIC PACKAGE. Both are in standard notation and tab.


Watch me play the ADVANCED VERSION of Michelle

"Michelle" (the advanced version) performed by guitarist Douglas Niedt



Watch me play the INTERMEDIATE VERSION of Michelle

"Michelle" (the intermediate version) performed by guitarist Douglas Niedt



The Sheet Music Package Contains BOTH Versions!

Your Michelle sheet music package includes six versions.

  1. Michelle Advanced Version in Standard Notation.
  2. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  3. The same in tab only.
  4. Michelle Intermediate Version in Standard Notation.
  5. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  6. The same in tab only.

Samples of the Sheet Music

Michelle arranged for guitar by Douglas Niedt advanced version sheet music
Sample sheet music of the ADVANCED version of Michelle, arranged by Douglas Niedt"
Michelle arranged for guitar by Douglas Niedt intermediate version sheet music
Sample sheet music of the INTERMEDIATE version of Michelle, arranged by Douglas Niedt"

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This is a digital download.

The entire sheet music package (57 pages!) is only $10.00. It includes all six versions of the arrangement, a notation key, The Fascinating Story of "Michelle," and the two videos.

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THE FASCINATING STORY OF "MICHELLE"


The Story Behind the Song

"Michelle" dates back to 1958, soon after The Beatles, known at the time as The Quarrymen, formed.

The Quarrymen
The Quarreymen

John Lennon was a student at the Liverpool College of Art, while Paul McCartney, 18 months younger, attended high school nearby.

John Lennon Art School Days
John Lennon (front) in his art school days

John would take Paul to art college parties. At the time, French culture was a trend. So, Paul would try to fit in by sitting in a corner and pretending to be French.

Paul McCartney said in a 2007 interview that the Beatles' 1965 classic "Michelle" was inspired by French singer and actress Juliette Greco. She epitomized the cool of the era even beyond France. Greco was a fashion icon with bobbed hair, Cleopatra-style eye-lines, and austere black clothes.

Juliette Greco
French singer and actress Juliette Greco

She became a role model to many, including British Swinging Sixties icon, singer, and feminist Marianne Faithfull, who said, "If I want to be anybody, I want to be Juliette Greco."

McCartney explains:

"There used to be a guy called Austin Mitchell who was one of John's tutors at art school, and he used to throw some pretty good all-night parties. You could maybe pull girls there, which was the main aim of every second; you could get drinks, which was another aim; and you could generally put yourself about a bit. I remember sitting around there, and my recollection is of a black turtleneck sweater and sitting very enigmatically in the corner playing this rather French tune. I used to pretend I could speak French because everyone wanted to be like Sacha Distel or Juliette Greco. So I used to sit around and murmur. It was my Maurice Chevalier meets Juliette Greco moment: me trying to be enigmatic to make girls think, 'Who's that very interesting French guy over in the corner?' I would literally use it as that, and John knew this was one of my ploys."

He would play little tunes on his guitar, but he only knew a few French words, so he would groan or make words up. At one of these parties, he played a tune John remembered years later when they were working on their 1965 Rubber Soul album. As Paul explained in Observer Music Monthly, John told him, "You remember that thing you wrote about the French? That wasn't a bad song, that. You should do that." McCartney took the advice and completed the song with Lennon's help.

The Beatles didn't speak French, but that didn't stop them from putting a few lines of it into "Michelle," a song that finds Paul McCartney trying to overcome a language barrier to express his love. Unfortunately, there was no Google Translate in 1965, so Paul McCartney had to find a French speaker to help him with the French lines.

He decided to make a call to Ivan Vaughan, who was the very person who introduced Lennon to McCartney way back in 1957 and remained a friend almost a decade later.

Paul McCartney, Ivan Vaughan, George Harrison
Paul McCartney, Ivan Vaughan, and George Harrison

Ivan's wife, Jan, taught French, and it was an excuse for the pair to visit McCartney at Jane Asher's family home in 1965 to help him come up with some French lyrics for the track.

Jan Vaughn
Jan Vaughn, McCartney's "French tutor"

McCartney recalls the conversation going something like this:

McCartney: "I like the name Michelle. Can you think of anything that rhymes with Michelle in French?"

Jan replied, "Ma belle."

McCartney asks, "What's that mean?"

Jan: "My beauty."

McCartney replies, "That's good, a love song, great."

They kept talking, and McCartney asked, "What's French for 'these are words that go together well?' What's French for that? 'Go together well.'"

Jan translates, "Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble."

McCartney enthusiastically replies, "All right, that would fit!"

McCartney explained later, "And she told me a bit about how to pronounce it, so that was it. I got that off Jan, and years later, I sent her a check around. I thought I better had because she's virtually a co-writer on that. From there, I just pieced together the verses."

When he played the song for Lennon, John suggested the "I love you" part in the middle. Lennon explains, "Paul and I were staying somewhere, and he walked in and hummed the first few bars with the words. And he says, 'Where do I go from here?' I had been listening to Nina Simone—I think it was I Put a Spell On You.

Nina Simone LP
Nina Simone LP, "I Put a Spell On You"

There was a line in it that went... 'I love you, I love you, I love you.' That's what made me think of the middle eight for "Michelle": 'I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove you.'"

But the lines were also derivative of love letters John had written to Cynthia Lennon during their college romance in the 1950s.

John Lennon's Christmas card love letter to Cynthia
John Lennon's Christmas card love letter to Cynthia

The "I love you, I love you, I love you/that's all I want to say" line is almost a direct quote from John's early impassioned Christmas card to the girl he adored. He also suggested to Paul that the emphasis should fall on the word, "love."


Chet Atkins and "Michelle"

McCartney tells us that the guitar style of guitar fingerpicking great Chet Atkins inspired the composition of Michelle:

"Michelle" was a tune that I'd written in Chet Atkins' fingerpicking style. There is a song he did called "Trambone" with a repetitive top line, and he played a bass line whilst playing a melody. This was an innovation for us; even though classical guitarists had played it, no rock 'n' roll guitarists had played it. The first person we knew to use fingerpicking technique was Chet Atkins. Based on Atkins's "Trambone," I wanted to write something with a melody and a bass line on it, so I did. I just had it as an instrumental in C.
Chet Atkins Trambone LP

What Makes "Michelle" Special?

Jerry Hammack wrote The Beatles Recording Reference, Vol. 2: Help Through Revolver (1965-1966).

Cover of the Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Volume 2
Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Volume 2

Hammack did meticulous research for over a decade. As an experienced Canadian-American musician, producer, and recording and mix engineer, Jerry Hammack has insights into this song that many of us would miss. When asked, "What makes this composition so brilliant?" he replies:

For myself, what makes the song so brilliant is that quality of complexity disguised as simplicity. The Beatles make the song sound almost effortless, natural, like it always existed, and they just happen to be playing it for us. As with the best actors, the effort is hidden; the impression is that of ease. There's nothing about "Michelle" that isn't sophisticated (and some cover versions fail by how painfully obvious they display the fact), but The Beatles flow through the track like a river that knows where it's going. It's just so naturally performed. Hiding behind that perception of ease is a beautifully complex song, adding a whole other level to the experience. The more you know about what The Beatles pulled off with "Michelle," the more you enjoy it.

Legacy and Impact

"Michelle" has gone on not only to win The Beatles' only Song of the Year Grammy award but also to be one of their most famously covered tracks. Over a hundred artists have released versions of this hit, including The Overlanders, Billy Vaughn, Wayne Newton, and Andy Williams. In 2010, Paul McCartney, a self-professed fan of U.S. President Barack Obama, performed the song in honor of Obama's wife Michelle when he visited the White House to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

"Michelle" was issued as a single in several European countries but not in the U.K. or America. Not surprisingly, it was released in France and went to #1. It was a rarity for a song with mostly English lyrics to top their chart.

In America, "Michelle" got loads of airplay in the '70s and '80s on soft rock radio stations; its soothing sound helped the workday move by a little faster. BMI, which handles royalty payments for airplay in the U.S., announced in 1990 that "Michelle" was the third most-played song on American radio, behind two of the Beatles' other lite favorites, "Yesterday" and "Something."


Harmonic Analysis and Music Theory Behind the Song

If you are interested in diving deep into the music theory behind the song and a thorough harmonic analysis of the music, be sure to visit Paul McCartney After the Beatles: A Musical Appreciation a website by Paul McCartney expert Adrian Allan.


The Rubber Soul Recording Session

One of the Rubber Soul album highlights, the Beatles recorded "Michelle" on Wednesday, November 3, 1965, at EMI Studios, Studio 2, at Abbey Road. The producer was George Martin, and the engineer was Norman Smith, with second engineer Ken Scott. There were two scheduled sessions, from 2:30-7:00 pm and 7:00 pm-11.30 pm, although the day was effectively one continuous session.

The Beatles and George Martin rehearsing Michelle in EMI Studio Two, November 3rd, 1965
The Beatles and George Martin rehearsing "Michelle" in EMI Studio Two, November 3rd, 1965

Accounts differ significantly regarding the recording process and who played which guitars. According to one recollection, during the afternoon, the group rehearsed and arranged the rhythm track, which they recorded in a single take onto several tracks of a multi-track tape. This rhythm track contained McCartney's 1964 EpiphoneFT-79N Texan acoustic guitar, George Harrison playing John Lennon's Framus 12-string acoustic guitar, and Ringo Starr's drumming. Each of the guitars on the rhythm track had a capo at the fifth fret. Next, they bounced the recording down to a single track to free up extra tracks for overdubs.

In the evening, using a Ramírez classical guitar!, Lennon recorded the chromatically descending notes in the song's introduction and transitions. He recorded them onto track two with a bass guitar part (Rickenbacker 1964 4001S) by McCartney and an electric guitar solo (1963 Gretsch Tennessean or 1962 Epiphone ES-230TD Casino) by Harrison.

On track three were Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison's harmony vocals. On the final track four, McCartney recorded his lead vocals.

However, the 2009 reissue booklet of Rubber Soul describes the recording process quite differently.

  • Track 1: acoustic guitars (Paul & George), drums (Ringo)
  • Track 2: Paul's lead vocal
  • Track 3: backing vocals (Paul, John, & George)
  • Track 4: more backing vocals by the trio
  • Then, a reduction mix moved both tracks of backing vocals onto track 3 of a new tape, with the instruments and Paul's lead vocal still on tracks 1 and 2.
  • New track 4: bass guitar (Paul), Ramírez classical guitar (John), guitar solo (George)

McCartney later explained, "Because it was only on four little tracks, it was very easy to mix. There were no decisions to make; we'd made them all in the writing and in the recording. So we would mix them, and it would take half an hour, maybe. Then it would go up on a shelf, in a quarter-inch tape box. And that was it. That was the only thing we ever did to Michelle."

The Beatles rehearsing Michelle in EMI Studio Two, November 3rd, 1965
The Beatles rehearsing "Michelle" in EMI Studio Two,
November 3rd, 1965

The Lyrics

[Guitar Intro]


[Chorus]

Michelle, ma belle
These are words that go together well
My Michelle
Michelle, ma belle
Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble
Très bien ensemble


[Verse 1]

I love you, I love you, I love you
That's all I want to say
Until I find a way
I will say the only words I know that you'll understand


[Chorus]

Michelle, ma belle
Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble
Très bien ensemble


[Verse 2]

I need to, I need to, I need to
I need to make you see
Oh, what you mean to me
Until I do, I'm hoping you will know what I mean
I love you


[Guitar Solo]


[Verse 3]

I want you, I want you, I want you
I think you know by now
I'll get to you somehow
Until I do I'm telling you so you'll understand


[Chorus]

Michelle, ma belle
Sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble
Très bien ensemble


[Outro]

And I will say the only words I know that you'll understand
My Michelle

Guarantee

Douglas Niedt Gives You His No-Risk, Nothing-to-Lose, Money-Back Guarantee
"These are the best classical guitar video/internet lessons with the finest hi-tech production on the planet. But, if you are not satisfied with a course, I will refund your money. Just tell me why you did not like it so I can make it better for others."

Douglas Niedt is a seasoned, successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.

He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.