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You may scoff and scorn them as ancient history, outdated and irrelevant to today’s dance-groove-oriented scene.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.

Filed under Guitar by on . Comment#


Many musicians and songwriters still believe that they can strike it rich by becoming a recording artist.

It has never been easy — and seldom lucrative — to be a star. In the top 40 era (1950s through 1980s) most artists who had a major recording deal went broke in a big way. Recording and songwriting royalties were swallowed by the record companies and music publishers. The artists were even paying the record companies the majority of their live performance money since those companies paid for the touring expenses (and charged huge interest on the “loans”).

Creative bookkeeping more often favored the companies than the artists — even the Beatles. Their first recording/publishing deal was a giant rip-off.

Yet even today, people have stars in their eyes about having a hit song.

Here’s the reality — you need to get your song played 1,000,000 times on Spotify to make $3,000. And only a handful of songs ever reach that. And those songs are all “Producer” songs — the artists are just puppets.

Winners of competition shows (American Idol, The Voice, Star Search, etc) have signed outrageous contracts to get into that system and their future career is basically indentured servitude.

The people making money today are doing their own live performance and tour bookings and are licensing their music themselves.

The glamor has faded — but it was always just a mirage.

Filed under Music Business by on . Comment#


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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Today is the International Day of Peace.
I grew up in the Beatles generation, and I thought the world was coming to an end in 1969 — not because of the Viet Nam War, but because the Beatles announced they were breaking up!
Fortunately, the music didn’t stop. Especially John Lennon (and — yes, you have to include Yoko) who tirelessly campaigned for Peace and Love. “Give Peace A Chance” and “Imagine” and “War is Over If You Want It (And So This Is Christmas”), the “Bed-In” in Toronto.
Teddy R-bigstick-cartoon 
But reality is not kind — there has never been a cessation of war.
I learned a Christmas song when very young — “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” and the last verse is so melancholy.
And in despair I bowed my head,
There is no peace on Earth, I said
For Hate is strong and Mocks the song
Of Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men.
Happy International Day of Peace.
Let’s all try to get along.

Filed under Politics by on . Comment#