Monday, 29 August 2016

Golden Ticket: Chromatic Descent Starting From The Root (Ticket 17)


Put a descending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the root note of the chord.

Skippable Theory Lesson

Play the notes E - D# - D - C# - C. This is a descending chromatic line.
Play G and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E minor chord.
Play G# and B above each note of the descending chromatic line. This puts the idea into an E major chord.

Beatles Application

The Beatles probably learned this concept from Lenny Welch's 1962 single A Taste Of Honey (0:14) which they covered the following year. There the line is F# - F - E - D# within the chords F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B major. This same basic sequence is extended in And Your Bird Can Sing (0:36) F#m - F#m (maj7) - F#m7 - B7 - D and Something (0:27) Am - Am (maj7) - Am7 - D9 - F.

In the examples above the first three notes of the melodic line remain on the same chord but putting the first four notes on the same chord yields this pattern from Cry Baby Cry (0:11) Em - Em (maj7) - Em7 - Em6 - C7 and a similar one from I Me Mine (0:31) Am - Am (maj7) – Am7 - Am6 - Fmaj7. Michelle (0:00) extends this pattern to six descending notes (F - E - Eb - D - Db - C) and six chords Fm - Fm (maj7) - Fm7 - Fm6 - Bbm - C.

Every use of the line in a major key is harmonised differently by The Beatles. The most straight forward is the verse of Something (0:05) where the four note line is placed over a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - F progression. The same line is harmonised as C - Cmaj7 - Gm7 - A7 in Sun King (0:58) and in the key of F it appears as F - Fmaj7 - F7 - Gm in Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00) and F - Caug - Fm7 - Fm6 in Fixing A Hole (0:06).

Guest Artist: Frank Sinatra

Rodgers and Hart were early proponents of this progression using C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 in the refrain of their 1937 Broadway hit My Funny Valentine which was later covered by Frank Sinatra (0:02). A mere two years later Sinatra sang over the minor version of the changes on the Harry James And His Orchestra recording of All Or Nothing At All by Lawrence/Altman (0:09). And in 1969 he tackled both in his signature song My Way (0:07 and 0:18).


Though the simplest application is to insert the line into one chord there are many other possibilities. In C major for instance a C - B - Bb - A line over a Cmaj chord would create a C - Cmaj7 - C7 - C6 progression, but you could harmonise the same line with C - G/B - Gm/Bb - F/A or even C - Em - Bb – F. In the key of Am an alternative progression might be Am - E/G# - G - D/F#. Try adding different notes around the line and see what you can come up with.

As well as experimenting with the chords you can use different inversions. Try placing the moving line at the top of the chord - as in the verse of Something (0:05), the middle of the chord - Strawberry Fields Forever (0:00), or the bottom of the chord - Got To Get You Into My Life (0:21). George Harrison's solo song Try Some Buy Some – takes this last option to extremes Em - Em/D# - Em/D - Em/C# - Em/C - Em/B - B7 followed by Am - Am/G# - Am/G - Am/F# - Am/F - Am/E - F#dim (0:00 and 0:13).

Don't just use the minor variation when playing in a minor key (eg. Am in the key of Am) as George does in I Me Mine. The progression, due to it's chromatic nature, works just as well on the ii, iii or vi intervals of a major key. I’ll Be Back is in A major but the progression is Bm - Bm (maj7) - Bm7 - C#m (1:03) – starting on the ii chord. And Your Bird Can Sing is in D major but the progression appears on F#m – the iii chord. And Something's second use of the progression (0:27) starts on Am (the vi of C major). So explore what you can do on those intervals too.

See the full list of songs using this ticket here.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Updated Ticket 17

Check out the new improved post on Ticket 17 - using a descending chromatic counter melody starting from the root note - now in chronological order and complete with exact timings. Everything from Frank Sinatra to Foo Fighters!

Updated Ticket 17 post here

And there's more to coming soon!

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Saturday, 13 August 2016

What Goes Online: Revolver Edition

As you may have heard Revolver is 50 years old this year. I know. Awesome. And kind of depressing too.

Revolver remains my favourite Beatles album largely for the breathtaking scope. Here's some interesting articles.

Ultimate Rock answers Five Big ‘Revolver’ Questions

I was surprised the see the consensus on which song they'd cut (it wasn't Yellow Submarine) and the best cover (Earth Wind & Fire’s Got to Get You Into My Life) and I think this is spot on

Exactly what is it that makes Revolver so great? 
Along with Rubber Soul, this is the time in their career where Paul and John are equals. For the first few years, it was Lennon’s group, and, beginning with Sgt. Pepper, McCartney started to take over. But for a couple of albums, they were on the same level.

Guitar World breaks down the tech side

Ray Davies reviews Revolver in 1966 (and doesn't rate it)

Vanilla blogs on the downside of Revolver

My review of Revolver. How The Beatles Reimagined Rock 'N' Roll

And the LA Times proposes it might just be something in the water. Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Freak Out - 1966 was a great year for music.

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Monday, 8 August 2016


OUT NOW: Episode 5 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!

0:00 Intro

Quote: Men In Black

1:22 – John's Unlocked Music Clues From Anthology

More on Happiness Is A Warm Gun
More on I Will

5:35 – Good Lyrics = Good Song (And Bad Lyrics = Bad Song)

More on Across The Universe
More on Yesterday

8:40 – The Overall Sound (Is What's Important)

More on This Boy

9:58 – Subconscious Sabotage (Slight Return)

More on Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite

11:09 – Paul's Focus (“I just fitted words to it”)

More on Martha My Dear
More on Yesterday

15:15 – Chords Are Exciting! (And So Are Key Changes!)

More on From Me To You

16:53 – Paul - Able To Leap Tall Genres In A Single Bound

More on Honey Pie
More on Tomorrow Never Knows

18:30 – John Got (No) Rhythm

More on Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Post on Ticket 37: The Lennon Edit
Post on Ticket 52: The Lennon Extension

19:50 – Imagine A Jump (Mighty Mike)

A mashup of John Lennon's Imagine and Van Halen's Jump available here
Mighty Mike on Facebook

21:10 - Conclusion (Part 1)

In Spite Of All The Danger (The Quarrymen)
Johnny One Note (Rodgers/Hart) sung by Ella Fitzgerald
More on Because

28:44 – Concluding Conclusion

Video: Lennon or McCartney?

Monday, 1 August 2016

Updated Ticket And New Podcast Episode

I've just updated and expanded Ticket 19 with a whole load more examples of 'different bar blues' (like I'm Down, Come Together etc)

read it here

the next episode of the podcast is almost finished - if you subscribe now you'll get the previous episode as well!

Friday, 24 June 2016

Ari Koinuma on Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby

Me: “How’s my father?”
Doctor: “Not well. he has Pennylaneitis”
Me: “What is that?”
Doctor: “We’re not quite sure but it’s in his ears and his eyes”

Speaking of which - here's a couple of interesting video lessons from Ari Koinuma

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Monday, 30 May 2016

What Goes Online Jun 2016

Just a few updates and links...

BSA Podcast ep 4 is live! Right Now! Join the mailing list to get the exclusive download link. And please remember you need to click on the confirmation email to er ... confirm.

I've just updated the post on The Band Who Needed No Introduction (about introductions)

And if you haven't watched Conan O'Brien interviewing Beatles scholar Mark Lewisohn I strongly recommend checking it out.

I was honoured to have my rap track My Ride (download the song here) featured on a recent episode of the NUSIC New Music Podcast (ep 127). Download the podcast here.

I also got to throw in my 2 cents on a songwriting roundtable with heavy hitters like Gary Ewer, Ari Herstand and Kevin Thomas over at the One Minute Song website run by friend of BSA Lee PatRead the post here

On Wednesday I'll be reprinting an interview I did for the Creative Gibberish blog, touching heavily on the subject in 'inspiration'. You can find that over at along with some of my new demos and videos of former pupils in action.

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