Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison


"Oh, Pretty Woman" was Roy Orbison's top ranking hit-single, released in 1964.

The above beat is used (with variation) throughout much of the song. It features a driving ‘four’ played on the snare and bass drum. At the end of ever-other-bar, there is an extra snare hit (on the and of beat 4).

Meter changes:

While the song is clearly based in common time (4/4), there are a few meter changes in the intro, chorus and outro sections. When notating music, choosing the best meter to use in any situation is not always clear cut. There are multiple ‘right’ ways and each way has positive and negative aspects. To illustrate this point, let’s examine the first line of the song.

The first line of the intro contains 16 beats. Drummer, Buddy Harman, introduces the song playing the first four beats (the first measure) by himself. A five-note guitar phrase begins at the beginning of bar two, and after the last note is held for four beats, the phrase is replayed.

While there are many possible ways to structure this first line, we will examine three logical possibilities and note the merits of each.

Meter change alternatives:

A) the line is notated in 4/4 all the way. Notice how the guitar phrase begins on the first beat of the second bar initially, then is replayed on the third beat of the third bar. This option is the simplest in that it uses no meter changes, however the meter does not match the guitar phrase.


B) 4/4 and 2/4 bars alternate to match the guitar phrase. The downside of this method is using four meter changes in the line.


C) two 6/4 bars are used to encapsulate the guitar phrase. This method requires only one meter change in the line.

All three ways are correct and each has its merit. The ‘right’ way is quite subjective, however readability is of utmost importance.

Which structure did you prefer: A, B or C? Let us know in the comments section on Facebook.

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