Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles (pt.2)

Welcome once again to my mini blog within a blog of Dominic Pedler's Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles – read the previous parts here

Chapter One: Tension, Resolution And The Power of V

Being honest, starting with a chapter on the role of the five chord felt like opening a book on Dickens with his use of full stops or capital letters. Surely this is too basic?

But I learned some stuff. Pedlar opened my eye to how many times the big climax occurred on a V or V7 chord. Most of the places where they sang “WOOOOOOOOO” for a start (She Loves You, From Me To You) and many of the big bridge build ups (Twist And Shout, Can't Buy Me Love, A Hard Day's Night) (p.2). And Day Tripper's bridge must hold some kind of record for sustaining the build up over 12 bars!

Part of the reason the V7 to I is such a powerful chord change is the unstable tritone core of the chord. For instance in A7 the notes are A C# E G. C# and G are a tritone (a flattened fifth apart whichever way round you play them). But if the C# could pull up one note to a D and the G one note down to an F# and you have a D major chord – just add the A you already have (p.4,6). What do you do with the E? I don't know. Make soup?

I also learned that the tritone is the most dissonant because the vibration ratio is the most complex – 32:45. By comparison an octave is 2:1, a fifth 2:3 and a major third 4:5. (p.5) How useful is that? Pass. I'm sure knowing vibration ratios is a great help in picking up girls.

Pedler likes his tables and one featuring a 'dramatic dominant' moment from each album (p.9) is my fave so far. Many feature either stops or walk downs back to the root chord (eg You've Got To Hide Your Love Away – 0:35).

Pedler is also good at spotting lyrics that coincidentally comment on what's happening in the harmony. These lyrics accompany a dominant (V) chord heading to the 'home' tonic (I).

“And meanwhile back …” (Penny Lane)
“Lead me to your door” (The Long And Winding Road)
“You're coming home” (It Won't Be Long Now)

Too early to say if this will get annoying.

I wrote "genius" next to the musical example of If I Fell

Don't hurt my pride like her.

The vocals at this point are briefly in unison but as they head for the D9 chord everything points to the melody hitting a D (b d c# b c# -). But they split up on the word 'her', Lennon dropping to a C natural (the b7 of the chord) and McCartney jumping to E (the 9th). Sheer Genius. Beautiful. Can't wait to get to that song.

The publishers did a great job securing the permission to print musical examples. There's probably one per page on average and they're very well laid out.

Pedler mops up by looking at altered V chords like the Augmented (Oh Darling, One After 909).

A great first chapter.

PS a couple of people have commented or asked about Walter Everett's two volume The Beatles as Musicians. In 'further reading' Pedler says these books are “unquestionably the ultimate source for the advanced reader” and on “a level far beyond this modest introduction” (p.768). So now you know!  


Other versions -
UK The Songwriting Secrets ... (Kindle)
USA The Songwriting Secrets ... (Hardback)
USA The Songwriting Secrets... (Kindle)


  1. Knowing vibrationratios is great for picking up chicks wearing the shirt that says, "Talk NERDY to me."


  2. I definitely need to get me one of them thar T shirts!