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Songwriting
18 March 2017
4.55am
Song1441
A Beginning
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18 March 2017
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LikeASir said
I'm wanting the answer to this too. Most of the interviews just give a vague sort of thing like "we play a few chords and see what we make of it" and that sort of thing. I want to know if they had a magic formula of chord progressions or something like that.  

Ive been looking for this year's I know myself how hard it is to write songs let alone 3 hit songs in an afternoon like mcartney did once so he must've some kind of method but he would never admit it or tell anyone 

19 March 2017
1.47pm
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ewe2
Inside the beat
Rishikesh
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The problem with songwriting is it's all of those methods and none of them. There's no magic to it, they worked very hard to learn songs and how they were constructed and by their own and other's accounts wrote hundreds of terrible songs before they got good at it. No magic formula other than lots and lots and lots of practice. After that, if your mind isn't tuned to writing songs, it never will be. There has to be talent to start with, but inspiration isn't going to get you far, it does take work. They had lots of bits of songs that they liked but didn't know where to continue with, and sometimes they could solve that by cooperating. All songwriters have bits and pieces like that that, it seems to be common with other artistic pursuits. Paul Simon has kept a notebook of ideas for decades, Neil Finn is the same.

So be prepared to work hard and have lots of unfinished stuff. Maybe some will be great! But forget about method. Method will not help.

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

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22 March 2017
5.18pm
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PeterWeatherby
A Park in the Dark
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SirHuddlestonFuddleston said
I have a related question. Once those songs were written, how did they remember them all, without the use of notation? It's said that L&M wrote over 50 songs before Love Me Do , and some of them, like When I'm Sixty-Four , were used a decade after they were written. How did Paul remember how it goes?

Furthermore, I kinda disbelieve Paul when he says he can't read music. You can hear him teach a song to George on Let It Be , calling out "D minor", "F6" whatever. He clearly knows his chords, and certainly a lot of music theory, which is evident from the way he describes his bass playing ("I tried using the fifth of each chord" etc). What's the final verdict? Can a dude who knows 6 chords, diminished chords, I-IV-V-I progressions, suspended resolutions, plagal cadences, etc, really not be bothered to learn where the notes go on a staff?

Finally, Paul talks about travelling hours by bus to find a guy who "knew how to play a B7 chord on the guitar." These kids were middle class (except Ringo). They had money for guitars. They couldn't afford a dollar or two to buy a chord book from the music shop? Are they really just being disingenuous?  

How did they remember the songs? Both John and Paul have been quoted in different places as saying that they had a rule that was, basically, if you couldn't remember the melody the next day, it wasn't a good enough song to keep. "If we can't remember how it goes, how can we expect our audience to find it memorable?" or something to that effect. They wrote the lyrics down and the chord symbols above the words, and after that, it was "if you can't recall how it goes, throw it out."

As far as taking the bus to learn B7 vs just buying books, they really didn't have money for guitars. I think both Paul and John (certainly John) got their first guitars "on the drip" (monthly installments), and if I recall right, George's mom bought his for him. Paul tells the story about how John actually stole one guitar when they were at a "battle of the bands" type of contest.

Also, even if they could have afforded books, I don't think they would have gone that direction. Too much like book learning, I suppose, and they hated anything that felt like homework.

Not a bit like Cagney.

22 March 2017
5.23pm
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PeterWeatherby
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Just adding my 2 cents to echo the recommendation of "Many Years From Now." I can't think offhand of another single book where there's so much discussion about how the songs got written. One story that sticks out is how Paul wrote "You Won't See Me " by just messing around with a descending riff on the top two strings of the guitar: "this was written around two little notes, a very slim phrase, a two-note progression that I had very high on the first two strings of the guitar: the E and the B strings. I had it up on the high E position, and I just let the note on the B string descend a semitone at a time, and kept the top note the same, and against that I was playing a descending chromatic scale."

This book is full of nuggets like that.

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Not a bit like Cagney.

24 March 2017
3.21am
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ewe2
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Rishikesh
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PeterWeatherby said

How did they remember the songs? Both John and Paul have been quoted in different places as saying that they had a rule that was, basically, if you couldn't remember the melody the next day, it wasn't a good enough song to keep. "If we can't remember how it goes, how can we expect our audience to find it memorable?" or something to that effect. They wrote the lyrics down and the chord symbols above the words, and after that, it was "if you can't recall how it goes, throw it out."

As far as taking the bus to learn B7 vs just buying books, they really didn't have money for guitars. I think both Paul and John (certainly John) got their first guitars "on the drip" (monthly installments), and if I recall right, George's mom bought his for him. Paul tells the story about how John actually stole one guitar when they were at a "battle of the bands" type of contest.

Also, even if they could have afforded books, I don't think they would have gone that direction. Too much like book learning, I suppose, and they hated anything that felt like homework.  

Also this was 50's Britain, it wasn't until the early 80's that I started seeing affordable high-quality instruction books for any instrument here in Australia. It was a sellers market then and if by some miracle you knew what you wanted your music store had to order it, people didn't carry that stuff. Rock had no mass-market then. Our idea of middle-class doesn't match their socio-economic status either. Paul and George lived in Speke when they first met, a "new" estate filled with the public housing dregs from other Liverpudlian suburbs. 

Paul did teach himself a lot later on, but guitars themselves are a great way to learn chords, its all there vertically rather than horizontally on a keyboard. Learning by doing is something I've experienced myself, I'm no sheet music reader either. But intervals are easy to understand on a guitar fretboard, you can see the shapes in your mind for major minor diminished etc.

Never forget that while these things are useful to describe music, they are not music themselves. That's like saying branches are a tree or girders are a bridge. 

I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

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