Friday, 5 February 2016


COMING SOON: Episode three of the Beatles Songwriting Academy Podcast! The podcast is free to everyone who subscribes to the BSA mailing list and each episode will only be available for ONE MONTH. If you sign up right now you'll still be able to get episode twoWhaddaya waiting for!

0:00 Intro - ear muffs?

In My Life (Sean Connery) from In My Life (George Martin)
Quote from Goldfinger
Wun'erful, Wun'erful! (Stan Freberg)
The Beatles And Bond article on FilmNav
February Album Writing Month (
My FAWM profile

2:08 Is James Bond A Cliche?

Line Cliche article on ChordAddict
Ticket 17: Chromatic Descent Starting From The Root
Ticket 31: Chromatic Descent Starting From The b7th
Ticket 32: Chromatic Ascent Starting From The 5th

9:09 James Bond Is Sad (Minor Variations)

James Bond Theme Authorship and Origin article on Wikipedia
KS Rhoads
Better For Me If I'd Never Been Born (Matt Blick)

19:32 In My Life (Slight Return)

In My Life (Sean Connery) from In My Life (George Martin)

20:46 James Bond Is Happy (Major Carnage)

Ticket 8: Use the minor 4 (iv)

29:23 The Name's Templeman. Ted Templeton. And So's My Brother...

Ted Templeman bio on Wikipedia

32:50 James Bond Is Beside Himself (Multiple Uses)

36:50 James Bond Is Indian?

I Was There Too film podcast

39:46 Omissions - Unchained Melody

KS Rhoads

Friday, 11 December 2015

Long Lennon Interviews (Double Book Review)

Time to take a look at two book length interviews with John Lennon: 1970's Lennon Remembers (Jan Wenner) and 1980's All We Are Saying (David Sheff).

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015


It's here!!! - episode two of the Beatles Songwriting Academy Podcast! The podcast is free to everyone who subscribes to the BSA mailing list and each episode will only be available for ONE MONTH. If you sign up right now you'll still be able to get episode oneWhaddaya waiting for!

0:00 Intro

Let's Build An Airport (Matt Blick)

1:43 The Root - b7 - 6 - b6 Progression - from Cream to Springsteen via High School Musical 3

Ticket 68
Posts on Dear Prudence
Posts on While My Guitar Gently Weeps

12:57 Prudence In The Sky With Santa - root notes? We don't need no stinking root notes!

16:39 White, Webb And Gaiman unLimited - more is less

Blessed Are The Limited
Other posts on limitations

27:10 Yes, A Second Time - the Beatles plagiarise themselves

Posts on All I've Got To Do
Posts on Not A Second Time

28:51 Dear Prudence Easter Eggs

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Idents by Poddingham Paul courtesy of LeftLion Thanks Paul!

About Beatles Songwriting Academy

Monday, 23 November 2015

10:50 Hey Jude (pt.4) More Melody

Last time we looked at how Paul constructed wonderful wandering melodies but there's more than one source of melodic stickiness.


Paul uses a fragment of the verse to craft the melodies in the bridge and coda (Ticket 9).

The opening motif ('Hey Jude') reappears in the bridge over a Bb chord. In the verse it's C - A (the 5th to 3rd of the F chord) in the bridge F - D (the 5th to 3rd of the Bb chord). Similar two note descending motifs appear all through the bridge

Hey Jude (F - D) refrain (F - Bb) don't car- (F - D) - ry the world upon (D - C) your should- (Bb - A) - ders

This “Hey Jude” motif occurs in all three sections of the song, moving in the same direction and by the same amount - dropping down a minor 3rd (or one and a half tones). The only variation is the coda slurs the 'He-ey' over two notes.

Verse – C A
Bridge – F D
Coda - Eb D C

The childlike simplicity of the chord progression

F C C F Bb F C F

and the melody's 'conversational' rhythm perfectly represent the subject matter and intention of the song. Note also Paul's gift for placing words - the way he goes down on the words 'bad' and 'sad' but then lifts up on 'song'. It really makes the melody 'sing' (pardon the pun).

How much of this is conscious or premeditated? Probably very little. We're witnessing a genius at work. But, for lesser mortals like us, the more we consciously emulate great techniques the more likely we are to become instinctual artists. (hey, I can live in hope!)

The verse is notable for it's use of anacrusis. Look at the number of syllables that precede the first beat of each bar.

Hey 1
don't make it 3
Take a 2
and make it 3
Re 1
to let her into your 6
Then you can sta 4
to make i-t be 5


Another point is the contrast between the three sections (Ticket 5). There's is no repetition in the 8 bar verse melody, but the bridge is a 4 bar melody which is repeated and the coda melody, short and simple though it is, consists of 3 one bar phrases with only the 'middle' bar repeated

FAC – Nah nah nah
GFGF – na na nah nah
GFGF – na na nah nah
EbDC - He-ey Jude

This contrast between verse and bridge (unrepeating melody vs. tune played twice) is exactly the same as Mother Natures Son and the coda's melodic structure (ABBC) is the same as the chorus of Carry That Weight.

Boy you're gonna
Carry that weight
Carry that weight
A long time

The verse has a solid root inversion chord progression that is almost hymn-like compared to the bridge's elegant descending bassline that moves at twice the speed.

Bb Bb/A Bb/G Bb/F C/E C F

The symmetrical verse contrasts with the bridge's odd shape - an extra bar of F7 serves as a transition between the two sections (0:52) but then reoccurs in the middle of the bridge (a Lennon Extension - Ticket 52).

Lastly there's a key change (of sorts). The verse is solidly in F major but the transitional F7 seems to imply we've transposed to Bb major (Ticket 45) or at least to F mixolydian (Ticket 51). My money's on the latter, as the coda is clearly mixolydian.


The bridge sections ends with F7 to C7 which implies McCartney loves tonal ambiguity. He continually messes with our heads by switching between E natural and Eb throughout the song. The aforementioned F7 (containing Eb) fools us we're heading into a Bb major bridge. But a few bars later we get a C/E (E natural) which remains in effect for a 2 bars till we get the F7 (again) followed by the C/E (again). This F7 segues awkwardly into C7 which gets us safely back to the verse.

The Eb to E natural clash is highlighted in the ascending melody at end of the bridge (nah nah – I know, quoting the lyrics is not that helpful... [1:23] and by the descending chromatic piano lick going into the bridge (Ticket 3).

Another cool hook involving chromatic movement is the transition into the coda

(better, better, better...) E - F, G# - A, B - C, E - F, G# A, B - C, F.

Paul is simply singing the intervals of the F major chord (F A C) but approaching each one from a semitone below. Again this hook is an extension of a smaller melodic motif. In just the same way Paul used the opening 'Hey Jude' tune to create more ideas, here he takes the closing note of the verse (better E - F). John Barry (or Monty Norman) used the same thing to create the ending of the James Bond Theme (Ticket 4).

Just like The Long And Winding Road all the out of key chord (Ticket 28) action is due to one note. Eb is the common denominator in the melodic weirdness, the F7, and the coda's Eb major chord, where it is part of a trip backwards through the circle of fifths (Ticket 43) or if you want to get grandiose 'double plagal' cadence (Eb Bb F).

The modest attempts at a descant at 1:42 and the way Lennon switches from low to high harmony (just like the old days) show flashes of brilliance and togetherness (Ticket 58).

That wraps up Hey Jude. I'm working on the second episode of the podcast (get on the mailing list now if you want to receive it) and next up on the blog will be Sexy Sadie!

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Friday, 20 November 2015

Ticket 74: Keep The Tonics Apart Till The End

One way to write compelling, yet non-repetitive melodies is to delay the point where the tonic (or root) note lands on the tonic chord till the very end of the section. In the key of C major this would mean not letting your melody rest on a C when the chord progression is on a C major chord. This helps the melody maintain a strong forward momentum and seems to work best on slower ballads.This songwriting tip is covered in more detail here.

Hey Jude
Mother Nature's Son
The Long and Winding Road


I'll Never Fall In Love Again (Bacharach/David)
Manhattan (Rodgers/Hart)
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (Bacharach/David)
This Guy's In Love With You (Bacharach/David)

See also

Golden Ticket: Keep The Tonics Apart Till The End
Ticket 3: Create catchy, melodic, rhythmic or sonic 'hooks'
Ticket 6: Avoid the root chord
Ticket 7: Avoid using all three major chords early in the song
Ticket 10: Finish on the 6 (vi) chord
Ticket 13: Make the vocal line stay on non-chord tones
Ticket 16: Finish a minor key song on the major tonic (I) chord
Ticket 22: Incorporate 'blue notes' (b3, b5 and b7) into a major key melody
Ticket 46: Finish on an unexpected chord in a major key song
Ticket 50: Keep your melody off the root note
Ticket 56: Write a melody over a chord sequence, then completely change the chord sequence

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

10 Ways The Beatles Have Radically Changed My Songwriting

Welcome to my 500th post! It's almost 6 years since I starting blogging through the Beatles back catalogue and I have something special to share with you. One of my favourite songwriters on the planet, Simon Curd from Mountain Schmountain, asked me what effect studying the Beatles has had on my own songwriting.

A lot of songwriting tips are speculative (even here on BSA) “here kid try this! It may work!” But these are ten things I learned from the Beatles that have had a profound effect on my own writing - and I have the songs to prove it!

1) Use the minor 4 chord

In the key of A major it would be Dm. Effective sneaking up from a D major or just going straight for it. It wasn't in my tool box originally, but now my hand naturally gravitates towards it. It appears in I Got Lost, Djimi Traore, Bullingdon Boys, Tonight and many others.

2) Repeat lyrics, lyric structures and whole verses

I used to feel like I was short changing people if I even repeated a single word, let alone a whole section. Now I see that was part of what made Beatles songs sticky. Let's Build An Airport even repeats the first verse twice!

3) Write a lot

I used to think true songwriters slaved over a song till it was perfect. But the Beatles rarely did that. They just wrote lots of songs. Around 250 in 7 years! Before BSA I generally finished 5 per year. Maybe 1 song was great but I'd slaved over it so much that I hated it anyway. Doing BSA (along with FAWM and First Tuesday) mean I write around 30 - 50 songs a year now. That would mean 6 - 10 really good songs per year, but I think my batting average has gone up. Writing more means I'm getting better.

4) Work on one song at a time 

Standard practice in the music biz is to record songs in bulk, one instrument at a time. People as diverse as Max Martin and the Foo Fighters create a completely recorded tracks before contemplating a vocal line. The Beatles NEVER worked that way. They almost always finished each track before moving on to the next one. This working method allowed them to become more adventurous and musically diverse - temporarily immersing yourself in another genre can almost feel like a holiday from real work.

5) OOKCs are OK

Out of key chords - I've always loved them. But when I attempted to be melodic or commercial (especially when I was writing for Church congregations) I forced myself to be diatonic. But the most melodic and commercial band in history hardly ever remained 100% 'in key'. Permission granted!

6) Stay off chord tones in the vocal melody 

This was another place where experimentation was discouraged, especially for a hesitant singer like me. I hugged those chord tones like a warm, fuzzy comfort blanket. But John Lennon rode those 2nds, 6ths and 4ths for all they were worth (check out the chorus of Help) and still sounded melodic. In a similar way I thought singing blue notes (the flattened 3rd, 5th and 7th) was only acceptable in  blues-type songs, but tracks like From Me To You showed me it was OK to do it over regular major chords and now, with a bit of practice, it's another tool in my box.

7) Trim off the fat

My default intro was the verse chords twice. BORING! So many Beatles tunes didn't have an intro at all. Many finished with a single ringing chord. Others had no solo. Or bridge. So now I'm more comfortable leaving my listeners wanting more. If they want to hear the chorus again all they have to do is hit repeat.

8) Create new sections from your chorus 

I learned 'exposition – development – recapitulation' studying Beethoven at school, but never really understood how to make it work in a pop context. But a closer look at She Loves You and Help, and the scales fell from my eyes! I've learned to fashion intros, outros and solos from the material in my choruses. The songs hang together better and my listener subliminally learn the choruses before they even hear them (bwah hah hah!).

9) There's more to life than Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus

Structurally pop music has been in a massive rut since the mid-sixties. The Beatles grew up on blues, folk and showtune forms and wrote in the AABA structure almost exclusively for the first 3 or 4 albums. I'm starting a campaign to bring it back. Join me!

10) Get rid of the deadbeats

John Lennon was always impatient to get to the next line. Why bother strumming (and counting) that extra beat? Cut it out! (see All You Need Is Love's verse). I used this freedom on Fingernails. And when I found it difficult to squeeze the chorus of Everything In The World Is Fighting Everything In The Sky into 4/4 I felt 'St John' was looking down on my smiling and giving me permission to just 'Let It Be'.

So what about you? Whether you've been around for months or years, what effect has the Beatles songwriting had on your own writing? Leave me a comment!

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Friday, 6 November 2015

Research: Books, DVDs And Websites

Here's a list of all the Beatles books (and DVDs) I've read to research this project. If it's in italics I haven't read it yet. If it's in *bold I'd highly recommend it. And if there a hyperlink I've reviewed it.


All Together Now: The Beatles Complete (For All Musicians) (Omnibus Press)
All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview With John Lennon And Yoko Ono – David Sheff
All You Need Is Ears  – George Martin/Jeremy Hornsby
Beatles Gear - Andy Babuik
Beatles With An A: Birth Of A Band – Mauri Kunnas
*Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney - Howard Sounes
Help!: 50 Songwriting, Recording and Career Tips Used by the Beatles - David Rowley
*Here, There And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Music Of The Beatles – Geoff Emerick/Howard Massey
In His Own Write/A Spaniard In The Works – John Lennon
John – Cynthia Lennon
John Lennon: The Definitive Biography (The Anniversary Edition) – Ray Coleman
Lennon Remembers: The Complete “Rolling Stones” Interviews – Jann Wenner
*Love Me Do: The Beatles Progress - Michael Braun 
McCartney - Christopher Sandford
*Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now - Barry Miles
Play Bass With The Beatles (Wise Publications)
*Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties - Ian MacDonald
Revolver. How The Beatles Reimagined Rock 'N' Roll – Robert Rodriguez
Shout! The True Story of The Beatles – Phillip Norman
Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper – George Martin/William Pearson
The Beatles Anthology - The Beatles
The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver Through The Anthology – Walter Everett
*The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook – Rikki Rooksby
The Beatles Complete Scores (Wise Publications)
The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1 - Tune In – Mark Lewisohn
The Beatles Phenomenon – Barry Miles
The Beatles: The Authorised Biography - Hunter Davies
The Beatles Unseen Archives - Tim Hill/Marie Clayton
*The Complete Beatles Chronicle – Mark Lewisohn
*The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions – Mark Lewisohn
The John Lennon Encyclopedia – Bill Harry
*The Rough Guide To The Beatles – Chris Ingham
*The Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles – Dominic Pedlar
With The Beatles: The Historic Photographs Of Dezo Hoffmann - Dezo Hoffmann
Wonderful Today - Pattie Boyd/Penny Junor
You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles – Peter Doggett


*A Hard Days Night
Across The Universe
Concert For George
George Harrison: Living In The Material World
John Lennon: Rare And Unseen
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles Anthology
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash


There are a million out there but there are a handful I keep going back to which are definitely worth your time -

Alan W. Pollack
Beatles Bible
Beatles Interviews
What Goes On (Beatles Anomolies)

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