The song, musically reminiscent of the hit single "Penny Lane," moves forward by way of regular chords, produced by Lennon's guitar, McCartney's electric piano, and George Martin, who struck the strings of a pianette with a mallet. These heavily accented and repetitive lines cause the song to sound as if it is based on a drone. Lead guitarist George Harrison adds an Indiantambura part to the final verse, which further accentuates this impact.
McCartney's bass, in counterpoint to this droning, provides the harmonic and rhythmic motion within the rhythm section and offers up a truly unique arrangement as far as choruses in pop songs are concerned. Starting out in the verse with a pedal on the root note (G) that leaps two octaves, he moves to a marching quarter-note (walking) bass line for the first (and only the first) chorus. In stark contrast, all subsequent choruses are played using a fluid, swing feel, full of anticipated notes that propel the song forward despite the quarter-note droning of the guitar and keyboard.
The song's title and music suggest optimism, but some of the song's lyrics have a more negative tone. In this sense, it reflects the contrasting personas of the two songwriters. In response to McCartney's line, "It's getting better all the time", Lennon replies, "Can't get no worse!" Referring to the lyric "I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene/And I'm doing the best that I can", Lennon admitted that he had done things in relationships in the past that he was not proud of.
One of the recording sessions for "Getting Better" is famous for an incident involving Lennon. During the 21 March 1967 session in which producer George Martin added a piano solo to Lovely Rita, Lennon complained that he did not feel well and could not focus. He had accidentally taken LSD when he meant to take an upper. Unaware of the mistake, Martin took him up to the roof of Abbey Road Studios for some fresh air, and returned to Studio Two where McCartney and Harrison were waiting. They knew why Lennon was not well, and upon hearing where Lennon was, rushed to the roof to retrieve him and prevent a possible accident.
In 2007, Kaiser Chiefs re-recorded the song for It Was 40 Years Ago Today, a BBC television film with contemporary acts recording the album's songs using the same studio, technicians and recording techniques as the original.
In 2007, Fionn Regan did a cover for the album Sgt. Pepper...With A Little Help From His Friends presented by Mojo magazine.
Les Fradkin has an instrumental version on his 2007 release Pepper Front To Back.