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 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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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Ticket 73: Break The Rhyme Scheme

Don't Be Afraid To Break Rhyme

Lou Reed

(U2 by U2 p.196)

Rhyme creates a pleasing sense of structure and breaking it can really annoy your listeners and mark you out as an amateur BUT interrupting the rhyme scheme for a good reason can make you look like a master. Three good ways to break a rhyme are

  • Look back - by rhyming your line with one in the same place in a previous verse.
  • Look forward - by rhyming with an extra line still to come.
  • Mess with expectations - by 'telegraphing' an obvious rhyme and them substituting the synonym or other unexpected word for humorous effect.

McCartney 'breaks' the rhyme scheme in Hey Jude's second bridge without making it feel wrong or awkward. Because the 'broken' bridge

in/begin/perform with – you/do/shoulder

calls back to the first bridge

pain/refrain/shoulders – fool/cool/colder

In Octopus's Garden Ringo ends every verse with a simple rhyme

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus's garden with me

We would sing and dance around
Because we know we can't be found

But on the 3rd verse he alters the pattern

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do

which sets up the new coda section

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus's garden with you

The comic power of a 'mind' rhyme comes from using the listeners' expectations against them. Setting up a rhyme with an expletive or some other embarrassing word, then dodging it at the last moment can be very effective.

I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of … shaving cream

Hey Jude
Octopus's Garden


One More Sleep Till Christmas (from Muppet Christmas Carol) (Paul Williams)
Shaving Cream (Benny Bell with Paul Wynn)
Sitting On The Ice In The Ice Rink (George Formby)
Under The Sea – coda (Ashman/Menken)

See also

Ticket 23: Write fewer lyrics
Ticket 24: Repeat words and sentence structures
Ticket 54: Unify your lyrical imagery
Ticket 72: Embrace your mistakes

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Yes folks - it finally here. The first episode of the Beatles Songwriting Academy Podcast is about to drop! The podcast is free to everyone who subscribes to the BSA mailing list and each episode will only be available for ONE MONTH. Sign up now! Whaddaya waiting for!

2:00 Mother Nature's Son - Martin's mistake or Yesterday's idea?

4:10 Hey Jude - Paul said a bad word. Says John.

6:40 I Am The Walrus – George's finest hour

12:10 Back In The USSR – good songs can come from bad ideas

14:13 Back In The USSR (Slight Return) – when is a 12 bar not a 12 bar?

15:58 Listener's Question - Jeff Charreaux: "Did the Beatles write diatonic bridges when the rest of the song was non-diatonic?" 

27:17 Belly Movin' – The Beastles

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Idents by Poddingham Paul courtesy of LeftLion Thanks Paul!

About Beatles Songwriting Academy

Monday, 26 October 2015

Ticket 72: Embrace Your Mistakes

Sometimes throwing a spanner in the works is the smart thing to do. Leave your mistakes in or even accentuate them.

Back In The USSR – stuttering
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da – lyrical mix up in last verse
Revolution 1 – extra beat caused by tape edit


Bob Dylan's 115th Dream – false start (Bob Dylan)
Fingertips Part 2 - bassist Larry Moses can be heard asking "What key?" (Stevie Wonder)
Flying In a Blue Dream – recording picks up ghostly radio interference (Joe Satriani)
Here Today – audible talking under the solo (The Beach Boys)
I Saw Her Again – vocals enter early (The Mamas And The Papas)
Let Me Roll It - extra beat caused by tape edit (Paul McCartney)
Louie Louie – vocals enter early (The Kingsmen)
My Generation – stutter (The Who)
Polly – vocals enter early (Nirvana)
Roxanne – intro piano chord (The Police)
You're Beautiful – vocals enter early (James Blunt)
You're Only Human (Second Wind) – stuttering (Billy Joel)

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See also

Why you don't learn by your mistakes

Ticket 13: Make the vocal line stay on non-chord tones
Ticket 14: Write an in-key melody over out-of-key chords
Ticket 21: Do something random, pointless and possibly career threatening
Ticket 28: Use at least one out of key chord
Ticket 47: Have a false ending
Ticket 49: Use Madrigalism
Ticket 61: Introduce your song's weirdest element as soon as possible
Ticket 73: Interrupt the rhyme scheme

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write