Friday, 1 December 2017


OUT NOW!: Episode 7 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. Sign up now to get the current episodeWhaddaya waiting for!

NEW FEATURE!Ep 7 Spotify Playlist (let me know what you think in the comments. Did you use it? Was it useful?)

0:00 Intro - (They Got The Monkees)

Quote: Dumb And Dumber

1:41 – Painting Something For No One (Help With Chords)

Wonderwall – Oasis
D'You Know What I Mean – Oasis
Something - The Templeton Twins With Teddy Turner And His Bunsen Burners
More on the chords from Something here and here
Junkie (1984) – Steve Vai
Wire And Wood (1985) – Alcatrazz
Answers (1990) – Steve Vai

11:32 – A Tribute To Hoopshank (In Three Movements)

February Album Writing Month
Paul 'Hoopshank' Turrell

12:29 Yellow Submarine - Hoopshank
29:29 The Decisive Five - Hoopshank
56:15 Wild Honey Pie - Keith Skylark Band

11:53 – Real Modulations and False Teeth (Paul McCartney on Fresh Air)

Full Interview mp3
Full Interview Transcription
My Valentine (Paul McCartney)
Cheek To Cheek (Fred Astaire)
Teeth Like Stars Trailer (1980's BBC Radio 4)

24:34 – Another Lennon and McCartney Original (I Fancy Me Chances)

Fly On The Wall (Let Be Naked Bonus Disc)
Mark Lewisohn Website
Mark Lewisohn: A Beatlemaniac's Prayer

26:49 That No Good Dirty Robbing Songwriting Website - (Please Share This Link!)

My post on BSA Five Unusual Songwriting Tricks From The Beatles
Sharon Goldman

31:19 – The Chord (A Hard Day's Audio Spectrum Analysis)

Beatles Bible
More on the drummer on Dear Prudence
Another Hard Day's Night (From Help! OST) - Ken Thorpe or George Martin Orchestra?

50:29 – Fire In The Fireplace (What I Learned about Songwriting From A Crazy Guy In Liverpool)

Nicholas Tozier
Original Post (The Lyric Writer's Workroom)
The Beatles Story, Liverpool
With God On Our Side – Bob Dylan
Sableyalo Mi Agontze (The Bleating Lamb) - Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol. 1
Lamentations (NIV Translation)
In My Life – Pageshu youtube

Idents by Poddingham Paul courtesy of LeftLion Thanks Paul! 
Closing theme - 'Piggies' performed by The Black Heartthrobs available here Thanks BH! 
Thanks also to Curtis Pea, Nancy Rost, Sharon Goldman and Nicholas Tozier.

About Beatles Songwriting Academy

70+ Songwriting Tips From The Beatles
The Be-Atletudes
About Beatles Songwriting Academy
Music by Matt Blick

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Line Cliche Lesson

Here's a nice chord tutorial from Joe Shadid (aka singer/songwriter Joe George) of demonstrating George's use of Ticket 17: Incorporate a descending chromatic melody, starting from the root, into your chord progression in Something, a melodic device know as a 'line cliche'.

You can read a much more in depth post on that concept right here.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Strawberry Flutes Forever - Introducing The Mellotron

If you've ever wondered just what a mellotron can do, apart from Strawberry Flutes Forever and Bungalow Bill Flamenco Guitar check out this charming demo from Pathe news

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Ticket 61: Introduce your song's most unusual arrangement ideas as early as possible
70+ Songwriting Tips From The Beatles

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

10:59 Cry Baby Cry (pt.3) Music

Having looked at the lyrics and the drama behind the song let's finish with the music. Cry Baby Cry has a beautiful natural sounding melody that sits easily on top of some pretty unconventional chords. That's something Lennon excelled at. Here his use of OoKCs (Ticket 28) is not as showy as I Am The Walrus, but just as effective.

Walrus Tears

To start with the chorus melody: Lennon uses the G major blues scale (G A Bb B D E) which means the overall tonality could be viewed as G major or G mixolydian (Ticket 51). The ambiguity comes from the lack of 4ths and 7th – there is no C or C#, F or F# in the melody (Ticket 40). There are lots of F naturals in the harmony which weights the overall tonality towards G mixolydian (G A B C D E F G) but whichever way you land there are out of key notes in both melody and harmony. The harmony favours C natural (in F major, Am and C7) but include C# as well (A7).

The verses makes a switch from G major to the relative minor (Em) and melodically the G major blues scale (G A Bb B D E) becomes the E minor blues scale (E G A Bb B D). Same notes, different starting point (or more accurately a different centre).

This switch to the RELATIVE key is common in songwriting - Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne) switches from a 'happy' A major chorus to a 'sad' F#m chorus. Arguably it's not even a real key change since you're only shuffling the notes around, rather than altering them.

But the Beatles much preferred changing between PARALLEL keys (like A major to A minor) which retains the same centre but alters three notes around it. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1:07-1:28) is a prime example. (Lennon and McCartney's neglect of relative key changes probably explains why it's only now getting it's own ticket. Say hello to Ticket 75!).

Switching between B natural and Bb adds a piquant bluesy flavour (Ticket 22) which can be heard in the C7 chord*, the lead guitar fill (1:17) and the way melody 'sighs' and 'cries' (0:32 and (0:37) from Bb to A to G. This 'madrigalism' (Ticket 49) is also reflected in the “playing piano” line (at 0:20 – 0:28).

The final kicker in the discombobulation stakes is the way Lennon ends his lead vocal on a very unresolved A over an Em chord. Most songs end on the root note and tonic chord which here would mean a G over a G major chord. But Lennon unexpectedly substitutes an Em chord (giving us the legendary Aeolian Cadence - Ticket 10). And A is the 2nd in the key of G major and the 4th in relation to the Em chord. So whichever way you slice it, very unstable and unfinished. And cool.


The key change isn't solely responsible for the contrast between verse and chorus. The verse harmony is built on the 'line cliché' of E Eb D Db C B within the chords

Em - Em maj7 - Em7 - Em6 - C7 - G

while the chorus uses simpler chords with much more root movement.

G Am F G Em A7 F G

The verse melody is constructed from a repeated motif with a narrow range (E-B) over moving chords (Ticket 48) whereas the chorus is more expansive and free.

Mama's Little Baby Loves Short'ning

One of the ways Lennon generates tremendous forward momentum throughout the song (apart from omitting any intro, outro or solo) is by cutting out extraneous bars and beats (Ticket 37 – The Lennon Edit). The chorus is four bars long but the first chorus omits the last two beats and the last line of lyrics.

Similarly the verse are truncated. Any other writer would have hung on to G major for a fourth bar just to 'square things up' (0:19). But Lennon's in too much of a rush – so three bars it is. And then he outdoes himself the second time (0:20) cutting the three bar pattern down to two and a half. After all, the verse ends on G major and the chorus starts on G major so why play it twice? Let's edit the edit!

Lennon does it again in the double chorus finale (2:07). The chorus starts and ends G major. So he removes the beginning of the final chorus. Or is it the end of the penultimate one? Who cares! Snip!

By the way, about that verse. Repeating a chord progression is the most normal thing in the world. But the Beatles hardly ever did it. Interesting that...

Arrangement Hall Of Fame

The recording abounds with subtle, yet brilliant, arrangement ideas. Little painterly flourishes like the few seconds of flashy harmonium soloing from George Martin (0:05) never to be heard again, the organ (0:41), Harrison's lead guitar fills in verse three (1:17, 1:26), the piano bassline that brings out the spookiness of the verse progression (1:40). Along with other sonic touches like the gnarly phasing on the acoustic guitar (0:01) and recordings of birds (1:13) all betray crafting. And Ringo is the master craftsman, taking a different approach on every single verse. Check out the great bass/drums groove on verse two (0:39).

So that's Cry Baby Cry completely wrapped up. But there's still one more thing to look at with the track. Can you guess what it is?

*C7 is the bVI7 chord in the key of E minor – a very bluesified choice.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Five Unusual Songwriting Tricks from The Beatles

[Originally published on Sharon Goldman's Songwriting Scene blog 17 Nov 2010].

The Beatles were songwriting Ninjas, but they employed many tricks that anyone can add to their songwriting tool box. Here are five less obvious examples:

1. Mutate Your Chorus

As well as starting songs with the chorus, some of The Beatles greatest hits open with a chorus hybrid that previews the title and hooks.

The intro to Help has the same chord progression as the chorus but moves twice as fast and features the title 4 times (to the chorus's 3). Use this trick and by the time you reach your chorus the listener will be hooked by the reassuring feeling that they've heard your song somewhere before.

Also used on: She Loves YouCan't Buy Me Love

[Read more]

2. Bluesify Your Melody

We expect to hear blue notes like the b3rd, b5th and b7th in rockers like Back In The USSR but the Beatles often added these notes into more melodic material too.

In Blackbird the final phrase uses the b7th on inTO the LIGHT and the b3rd on dark BLACK night. This trick will add a soulful edge to your melodies but it's hard to pull off unless you're a confident singer. Inserting the blue note into your chord until you've can pitch it correctly is a smart move.

Also used on: Ticket To Ride, From Me To You.

[Read more]

3. Delay The Root Chord

Starting a song on the tonic chord is a rut the Beatles managed to avoid a surprising number of times.

Eleanor Rigby starts on C major (the bVI of Em) before heading to the home chord. It's one of the things that gives the track such a sense of tension. Using this trick will give your progressions more forward momentum.

Also used on: All My LovingHello Goodbye.

[Read more]

4. Utilise The Outside Chord

Many of us employ out of key chords (whether we realise it or not!). But out of 186 original Beatles compositions only 16 stay in key!

In Strawberry Fields Forever, Lennon pulls the rug from under the Bb major tonality by replacing the F major chord with an F minor.

Bb Let me take you down cos I'm going Fm to

Its like the stomach drop you experience on the crest of a rollercoaster. Later he creates a disorientating momentary high by replacing the Gm with a G major.

Eb Nothing to get G hung about

Outside chords will surprise your listeners and freshen your melodies.

Also used on: I Am The Walrus, Fool On The Hill. 

[Read more]

5. Restate Your Lyrics

The Beatles didn't make their lyrics memorable just by repeating sections wholesale. They also repeated and adapted words, phrases and sentence structures.

Take A Day In The Life. 4 verses, a middle 8 and only one repeated line. And yet it's memorable (in part) because of lyrical links like these -

I - read the news/saw a film - today, oh boy
and though the - news was/holes were - rather - sad/small
found my - way downstairs/coat/way upstairs
I just had to - laugh/look

Using this subtle trick will make your lyrics sticky and give a sense of unity to a track.

Also used onFixing A HoleThe Long And Winding Road. 

[Read more]

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Friday, 30 June 2017

10:58 Cry Baby Cry (pt.2) - Nursery Rhymes

Lennon dismissed Cry Baby Cry as "a piece of rubbish" not only due to the traumatic circumstances it was recorded in but also in he had a tenancy to get bored with anything he'd worked on in the past and grew, under the influence of Yoko and various therapies, to despise anything that wasn't 'real' and autobiographical. This made a meaningless, fictional flight of fancy like Cry Baby Cry an obvious target for the the later Lennon to take a shot at.

Though there's a dreamlike sense of Lewis Carroll hovering over the song, the initial inspiration for the hook came from an advertisement (as did Mr Kite and Good Morning Good Morning)* But the most obvious influence is a nursery rhyme

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king? 
The king was in his counting house counting out his money
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose

It's interesting to see Lennon return to the same source again in 1980. Clean Up Time has the stanza

The Queen is in the counting house
Counting out the money
The King is in the kitchen
Making bread and honey

Here Lennon is infusing old imagery with new meaning. During the 70s Yoko took over the business affairs and John became a house husband. This clever repurposing allows John to be 'real', autobiographical and use borrowed sources all at the same time by changing only a few words.

However that doesn't take away from Cry Baby Cry. It's still a brilliantly constructed fantasy song. The sustained fairy tale imagery and portrait of mundane domesticity is built on the Beatles (and nursery rhyme's) use of parallel lyrics (Ticket 24). Consider the recurring pattern of 'character - location – activity' in the verses**


The King/Queen/Duke/Duchess/Children(and the nursery rhyme's Maid)


was in the kitchen/parlour/garden/playroom


cooking breakfast/playing piano/picking flowers/painting pictures (note all these phrases have four syllables)

Another interesting structural technique is bookending the lyrics on the chorus which Lennon also did in Sexy Sadie

Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry

Sexy Sadie what have you done?
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie, oh, what have you done?

The origin of the Duchess causes a lot of confusion online. She's from Kirkcaldy, a town on the east coast of Scotland, 11 miles north of Edinburgh.

But as for what The Bird And Bee is, it's unclear. Many say it's a plausible name for a Pub, but the fact that the Duke is 'having trouble with a message' always conjured up the image of him preparing a talk for a group like the Women's Institute.

But what do I know? And did Lennon know? Probably not. Perhaps that very McCartney style vagueness was another reason Lennon disowned this tune.

Next time we'll finish with a look at the music and arrangement.

*The proverbial phrase “old enough to know better” dates back at least to Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) “My experience is that as soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all”.

**Another parallel is the meals – breakfast/tea (The king cooking breakfast / the duchess arriving for tea)

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