The best way to learn to be a great songwriter is to study the past masters. And my personal pathway to songwriting (like most of my generation) was through John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

You may scoff and scorn them as ancient history, outdated and irrelevant to today’s dance-groove-oriented scene. But most of what you hear today is derived from those two revolutionary Liverpool lads 50 years ago.

Although the Beatles’ songs are simple in most cases, they contain some amazing complications that make the songs rise above the ordinary pop songs of their day (or later days). Part of that was using more than the ordinary chords — like diminished chords, sus4 chords and that delicious 6th chord that ends “She Loves You.”

Another of their wonderful techniques was the innovation of the bridge (or as they called it, “The Middle Eight”). They worked hard on getting some novel twist for the bridge but never making it sound out-of-place and bringing it back to the song naturally rather than forcing it.

My example today is not one of their hit singles, but an intelligent and creative uptempo song by John Lennon. “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” was featured in the movie “Help!” and is on the soundtrack album.

This is a “call and response” song with Lennon singing the lead and Harrison and McCartney repeating his phrases back to him. It is yet another of their twists on the standard “I love you” songs. To break out of the rut, Lennon & McCartney ingeniously engineered “She Loves You” and then the opposite in “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” (the way everyone sings it, although the formal spelling is the official title).

The chord structure is also a common variation favored by L&M. The 4-bar refrain starts out with I-vi-ii7-V7 instead of the usual I-vi-IV-V7 progression.

The Beatles play this in the key of E. I will use the key of C since that is where I sing it and it simplifies the chords used.

In the key of C, the refrain is C-Am-Dm7-G7.

The song quickly moves into the first verse and lends some interesting variation with a I-iii7-ii7-V7 progression (C-Em7-Dm7-G7).

Following a standard pattern of singing two verses they then turn in to the bridge — and this is where the artistry shines through.

Ending the first verse, the Dm7 resolved to the G7. But when the second verse transitions to the bridge the Dm7 leads to Bb — and now we are in another key.

We are now in Eb and following a pretty standard I-IV-I progression — Eb-Ab-Eb — but being in different key, it sounds exotic. The same phrase is repeated in this “Middle Eight” leading to the transition back to the key of C. The second time through, the chords are Eb-Ab-Db (Notice the circle of 4ths) and the Db is simply a half-step above the original key of C, so the vocals sustain on the Db and glide down to the C to pick up the last verse.

There is an instrumental with the same chords as the verse in the key of C and then they go back to the bridge one more time which resolves into the last verse (repeat of verse 3) in C.

The Beatles were always good about having an introduction and an ending to their songs instead of fading out or just stopping cold. In this case, they go through the transition to the bridge, but change it.

When the Dm7 leads to the Bb, they hold it an extra measure, then follow it to the IV (F) and end on the C for a clean 1 measure ending.

Overall this is a text-book perfect example of creative songwriting. They fulfill the listener’s expectation yet add a couple of fresh elements to make it rise above the standard pop song. And it only takes two minutes and twenty seconds!

And of course, it has John, Paul, and George harmonies. Nobody could beat that.

Listen through the song and perhaps look at the guitar tabs to follow along when they change keys and do their other magic.

Respect your elders, study the masters, and become the best songwriter you can be with inspirations like The Beatles.

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For those who cringe at the thought of music theory, I would like to share my experience and give a tip.

First — you gradually learn music theory as you continue to play and write music. You don’t have to go to school and take a course, you don’t have to read a bunch of dry and boring books. It just happens as you continue to do what you love to do — make music.

For example, if you play guitar you will soon learn that songs are in keys. And each key has certain chords within it and other chords that aren’t included. And after that you learn that if you know some chords are major and some are minor, you can fit them in to spice up a song. Pretty soon, you will be interested in learning more types of chords to improve your music — like 7th chords, sus4 and even diminished chords.

Now the tip — to learn where all these chords fit in and how to know when to use them, I recommend learning the cycle/circle of 4th/5ths. The reason this has two names will be apparent when you learn them. The best tool to use the circle (so you can look them up and not have to memorize them) is a simple graphic you will find many places on the internet. If you don’t like the one I show you here, just search for the term (circle of fifths) and take your pick.

Circle of Fifths

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I learned to play the guitar when I was about 13 –8th grade. My family had a 3rd or 4th hand acoustic guitar originally bought for my older brother, but since he was left-handed, it just laid around unused for a couple of years.

I had a Beatles song book and I had all the Beatles records (and loved them) so that was my stimulus to learn to play. The guitar wasn’t easy to play, but I was determined. I even persevered when I broke the high E string and didn’t have any means to get a replacement (I was just a kid in a small town and had no idea how to go about getting a replacement). I just adjusted my chords so they didn’t use the high string.

After learning the basics, and being determined to stick with it, I really longed for an electric guitar. Eric Clapton had one. Carlos Santana had one. Jimi Hendrix had one. I really needed one!

Then I saw it — the perfect guitar.

On the inside back page of most comic books were lots of novelty items for sale. X-ray Specs

I play a little guitar

Read more on A Little Guitar…

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Music theory — ugh!

It’s like the musical equivalent of long division. Nobody likes it, nobody wants to learn it, it’s hard!!!!

Well — that’s why we lazy boys (TM) love to find shortcuts.  And today’s shortcut is  a way to remember the Circle of 4ths/5ths.

Oh boy!  Ain’t We Got Fun! OK — let’s get into it, kiddies.

First of all — why do we need these pests?  Eddie Vedder don’t need no steenkin Circle of 4ths.  Justin Timberlake neether!

But those who want to remember little things like how many sharps or flats are in a certain key, or what the major chords (and relative minor chords) in a guitar song will be — here is today’s magic trick.

Four Crazy Guys Drank At Ed’s Bar
Freddie Can Get Drunk At Every Bar
Fidel Castro Gets Drunk At Every Bar
Fred Can’t Go Driving After Eight Beers
Fat Cats Get Down At Ed’s Barbecue
Four Chorus Girls Danced All Evening Bare
Four City Girls Dance An Excellent Ballet
Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket

These are really amusing little bits of gossip — but they are also the order of Sharps in a key

Read more on You’d Better C# Or You Will Bb…

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I thought it would be cute if I made a fake birth announcement to brag about let everybody know that I have a new guitar.

Fender Foto Flame Telecaster******

We joyfully announce the arrival of a modified, customized 1995 Fender Telecaster Deluxe.

Although the new arrival does not yet have a name (any suggestions?) it appeared with a gorgeous Foto Flame finish, carbon graphite Moses Neck, Fishman active pickup mounted in the bridge and a special 5-way toggle switch to get a wide array of sounds from James Burton traditional Tele to Jimi Hendrix Strat to Clapton Les Paul with Marshall Stack to whatever-else.

The new arrival was greeted by his grandfather, a 1956 Gibson ES-125T archtop electric, his parents, a 1975 Kramer G400 electric and a 1975 Lyle dreadnought acoustic, a surly sibling, recent vintage B.C. Rich Warlock and some less reputable acoustic and electric relatives.

The family was grieving over the loss of their favorite uncle, a 1962 Fender Jaguar who went missing several years ago, and this new addition is just what we needed to cheer up everyone.


For those who are interested in technical specs and are dazzled by BS, please continue reading after the jump.

Read more on A New Addition To The (Musical) Family…

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What better name for a musician and luthier — Keith Medley.

Keith has been obsessed with playing “… the music I heard in my heart.” But six strings wasn’t enough.  What about the 7-string guitar?  Or a 12-string?


A documentary called “Creative Spirit” will cover the building of this instrument and show Keith playing it.

He says it wasn’t so hard building it — but it took him a couple of years to learn to play it.

“Hall Of The Mountain King” Keith Medley and his 27-string Medley Guitar from Jon Grimson on Vimeo.
In the video, Keith plays classical theme “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg (1875).

Not quite satisfied yet, Keith is reportedly working on a 34 string guitar.

Thanks to Oddity Central


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