Tickets To Write


Welcome to the master post for all those little Beatles Songwriting tricks that Lennon, McCartney & Harrison (ok Starr aswell!) all used, and are just waiting to be ...ahem... borrowed by you towrite your own tunes


After each summary there's a list of songs by The Beatles (and others) that use this idea. Follow the link to find out a little more about the ticket in context. If it's not linked it means I didn't mention it in the post or I haven't got to that song yet. 

I'm the process of giving each ticket it's own post, but for now try using the search box on the top left of the page.


T1 The flat 6 chord

When you're in a major key try throwing in the flat 6 chord. This works particularly well when you're expecting the root. For example, rather than landing on the I or 'root' chord (e.g. D major) at the end of a section delay the resolution by playing the bVI (Bb) instead, before finally resolving to the I.

P.S. I Love You, With A Little Help from My Friends, I Saw Her Standing TherePolythene Pam, It Won't Be Long, Lady Madonna, Dune Buggy (Presidents Of The United States Of America),Wake Up Boo! - end (The Boo Radleys)


T2 Put your song on a diet

Try cutting away all the excess – ask of each section/repeat “is this part really necessary?” Get rid of intros if you can. Remember, the song is finished "not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".

T3 Make everything a hook

Little guitar riffs, drum fills, swordmandels...

Please Please Me, Here Comes The Sun,


T4 Create intros/outros/solos by adapting existing parts of the song

This will make those parts familiar even before your listeners have heard them.

Please Please MeShe Loves YouFrom Me To You, Can’t Buy Me Love, Help, I'm A Loser, P.S. I Love You, Here Comes The Sun (outro), Blackbird (links), Smells Like Teen Spirit - Solo (Nirvana)


T5 Make sections contrast

...with the other musical sections. Fast/slow, wide/narrow range etc.


T6 Stay off the root chord

Especially as the first chord of the song.

See also T50

Ask Me Why, All My Loving, All I've Got To Do, Don't Bother Me, I Want To Hold Your Hand, It Won't Be Long, She Loves You, Long And Winding Road,


T7 Avoid using all three major chords (I, IV, V) early in the song


T8 The minor 4

If you're in a major key try throwing in the minor 4 chord. This works especially well going to the root chord (I) from the major 4 (IV)minor 6 (vi) or minor 2 (ii).

Ask Me WhyShe Loves You, In My Life, You Won't See Me, I Call Your Name, When I'm Sixty Four, Hello Goodbye, Blackbird, Any Time At All, I Will, The Night Before, You Won't See Me, Nowhere Man, Across The Universe, All I've Got To DoDo You Want To Know A Secret, Honey Pie, She Loves You, What Goes On, The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, Don't Look Back In Anger - pre chorus (Oasis), Wake Me Up When September Ends - verse (Green Day), If It Kills Me (Jason Mraz), Code Monkey - Bridge (Jonathan Coulton), Clown - verse (Emile Sande)

T9 Use fragments of one section's melody to create melodies for other parts of the song

This is similar to T4 only on a micro scale, working with fragments of melody rather than whole sections.


T10 The Aeolian cadence

End a phrase/section/song on the m6 chord (vi) instead of the root chord (I). Don’t be so predictable.


T11 Emphasise key lyrics by having the whole band play the vocal rhythm

See also T30, T36

There’s A PlaceThe End,


T12 Use contrary motion

Especially between the vocals and backing vocals, or between the vocals and the chord progression.

There’s A PlacePolythene PamI Me MineStairway To Heaven - guitar intro (Led Zeppelin)


T13 Make the vocals stay on non-chord tones

... for longer than you would normally do. Be brave!


T14 Write an in-key melody over some out-of-key chords simply by avoiding any notes that clash

There’s A Place, It's Only Love, Blackbird


T15 Change time signatures between sections

E.g. verse in ¾, chorus in 4/4. See also T45

A Taste Of Honey, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Mean Mr MustardThe End, Here Comes The Sun, 


T16 The Picardy Third

In a minor key song try finishing a section, or the whole song, on the major chord for a surprise ending.

See also T46


T17 Put a descending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the root note

This works with major or minor chords. See also T31, T32
Minor - A Taste Of Honey, Michelle, Got To Get You Into My Life, Something
Major - Something, Curl - verse (Jonathan Coulton) 

see also Dave Mustaine


T18 Finishing on a single ringing chord

This will help you keep it short and sweet (T2). 

I Saw Her Standing ThereFrom Me To You , Twist And ShoutThe End (and just about everything else!)


T19 Subvert a 12 bar blues song by altering the number of bars

See also T33, T34, T35

I Saw Her Standing ThereI Me Mine, Come Together, Almost (Blues Brothers), Riverboat Song (Ocean Colour Scene), Mission Impossible Scene (Lalo Schiffrin)


T20 End with a couple of triplets

A cool ending especially if they're ascending and/or chromatic, but possibly too much of an iconic Beatles cliche for anyone else to get away with using.

T21 There is NO ticket 21


T22 Bluesify your melody

Make your vocal lines spicier by adding the b3, b5 or b7 into major key melodies. Be bold dahling! 

From Me To YouShe Loves You, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, I've Got A Feeling, 


T23 Write fewer lyrics

Aid catchiness by repeating the first verse rather than writing a 3rd or 4th.


T24 Use parallel lyrics

Word echoes. Rhyming ideas. Lyrical pairing. Whatever you want to call it, if you're using a word, use the plural of it again somewhere else in the song. Or the verb form or past tense. Repeat the sentence structures.

Most songs including From Me To YouHold Me Tight, Come Together, A Day In The Life, 


T25 Transplant stock chord progression/musical patterns from other genres

This will give your song freshness and familiarity at the same time. See also T43.

From Me To You (Jazz) Hold Me Tight (Doo-wop), Every Breath You Take (The Police) (60's R&B)


T26 Write in an AABA structure

Only verses and a bridge. NO chorus. The title should be at the beginning or end of the verse.

Almost everything on first two albums. Also -
(Title first) Hey Jude, Lady Madonna, The Long And Winding Road
(Title last) P.S. I Love You, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You

T27 Try placing your key lyric on the highest point of the melody

Does it stand out more effectively?

She Loves You, It's Only Love, 


T28 Use at least one out of key chord

Almost every song!


T29 Use Polyrhythms

Mean Mr MustardThe End, Something (bridge),


T30 Emphasise key lyrics by having the whole band drop out 

See also T11, T36

Come Together, Can't Buy Me Love, The End,


T31 Put a descending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the flattened 7th

See T17, T32

Eleanor Rigby, Helter Skelter, Cry Baby Cry,


T32 Put an ascending chromatic counter melody within your chord progression, starting from the 5th

See T17, T31

Hey Bulldog, Glass Onion, Savoy Truffle, Besame Mucho (cover), Hangar 18 (Megadeth), James Bond Theme (Monty Norman), Creepy Doll (Jonathan Coulton), Chains - intro (k.s. Rhoads), The Mission - 1st verse (Queensryche), 


T33 Subvert a 12 bar blues song by changing the chord sequence

The most common approach is to mess with the turnaround (last four bars). See also T19, T34, T35

Can't Buy Me Love, Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry), Stuck In The Middle With You (Stealers Wheels)


T34 Disguise a 12 bar blues song by avoiding the AAB lyric structure

See also T19, T33, T34, T35

You Can't Do That, I'm Down


T35 Use 12 bar long sections in non 12 bar blues songs 

See also T19, T33, T34, T35

Fool On The Hill, Don't Bother Me


T36 Emphasise key lyrics by changing chord on every syllable or word  

See also T11, T30

The End,

T37 The Lennon Edit

Look at the vocal line and simply remove beats or whole bars at points where there are gaps in the vocals.


All You Need Is Love, I Me Mine, Any Time At All, The End, You Never Give Me Your Money,


T38 Use an ABCCC rhyme scheme

'Nuff said. get to it.

Come Together


T39 Don't start the melody on the first beat

Use anacrusis (starting the melody with a 'pick up')

Hey Jude

or start the melody after the 'one'


T40 Don't use all seven notes of the scale

Create some deliberate ambiguity by what you DON'T play. Let people assume they're hearing notes and mess with those assumptions.

Come Together, Rain, Love You To,


T41 Use the same ending for two sections

This can give a sense of unity to quite different section 

Golden Slumbers, Blackbird (chord sequence), Let It Be



T42 Have a completely unique concept for the song

If no one else has ever written a song about 'that' or from that angle it will cover a multitude of songwriting sins. Unfortunately this is quite hard to do...

Her Majesty, Octopus's Garden


T43 Use the fourths Luke!

Take your chord progression backwards through the circle of fifths (which makes it a kind of circle of fourths) for a classy and powerful ride.

You Never Give Me Your Money, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight,


T44 Minor 5

Just like T8 we're swopping what would be a major chord for a minor one, but this time on the fifth degree of the scale. Much less common so more unexpected.

I'll Get You, Julia,


T45 Change keys between sections 

Like T15 but with keys instead of rhythms. Can give a real lift (or drop) to the new section

Penny Lane, Blackbird


T46 False Picardy

Act as though you're going for the final chord but land on a VI chord instead (making any necessary changes to the melody).

See also T16

You can use this as a false ending - Something
or the final chord - And I Love Her, Lately - Stevie Wonder


T47 False Ending

Works well if you go to a non root chord like a IV, vi or VI

Something,


T48 Static Melody/Changing Chords

Repeat the same melodic idea over a changing chord progression


Note: this technique is a characteristic of most 12 bar blues and blues based songs (eg Johnny B. Goode, Birthday, Can't Buy Me Love)
T49 Employ Madrigalism

Try reinforcing the meaning of the lyrics through the music either in the groove, arrangement, melodic shape, chord progression or structure.

The Long And Winding Road, A Day In The Life

T50 Stay Off The Root Note In The Melody

See also T6

Get Back


T51 Use The Mixolydian Mode

Especially when you're writing a two or three chord song

Paperback Writer, Rain, She Said She Said, The Inner Light, Tomorrow Never Knows, Within You Without You, All Right Now (Free), Highway To Hell (AC/DC) Summer Song (Joe Satriani), Celebration - Verse (Kool And The Gang), Best Of Both Worlds (Van Halen)


T52 The Lennon Extension

Create a momentary time signature change by simply adding a beat, especially if you need extra space to fit more words into the vocal line.

See also T37

Don't Let Me Down


T53 Write A 'Jazz-Style Intro' Verse

Whether you use a verse/chorus structure or a tradition AABA form, try kicking off the proceedings with an introductory section that differs from the other verse sections

Honey Pie, Here There And Everywhere, P.S. I Love You, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Julia, also - I Got Rhythm (Gershwin), Night And Day (Porter), That Old Black Magic (Porter), The Lady Is A Tramp (Gershwin) Here At The End OF The World (Matt Blick), and in a strange way, For Those About To Rock (AC/DC)


T54 Unify Your Lyrical Imagery 

Draw all your metaphors and similes from a narrow pool of concepts

Julia - sea and sky,
also - There Goes The Moon (Matt Blick) – moon


T55 Let Two Become One 

Got lots of song fragments lying around? Join two (or more) separate incomplete song together to make one whole song. Good for co-writing (A Day In The Life) or just using up your own random ideas (I Am The Walrus).

I Got A Feeling, A Day In The Life, Dig A Pony, I Am The Walrus, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, You Never Give Me Your Money, also - Layla (Derek & The Dominos), Zooropa (U2)


T56 Write Your Melody Over Phantom Chords 

Create musical tension by writing a melody over a chord or progression and then sing it over a different one. It will push you into new melodic territory.

A Day In The Life (verse – I just had to laugh), I Want To Hold You Hand (bridge - and when I touch you)


T57 Use Rhythmic Displacement 

Repeat a melody or riff, but start on a different beat. The 3 over 4 hemiola (T29) is a small example of this approach. More info here

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?, Something's Gotta Give (Mercer), Fascinating Rhythm (Gershwin) Something's Coming – West Side Story (Bernstein) Cult Of Personality – riff (Living Colour), Black Dog – riff (Led Zeppelin), Kasmir – riff (Led Zeppelin) Walk This Way – riff (Aerosmith)


T58 Write a Descant 

Have a second vocal melody singing more or less the same words, at the same time as the main vocal line. Takes a lot of skill to make it work, but can sound awesome

Help, It Won't Be Long Now, She's Leaving Home, Hello Goodbye, also - Good Vibrations, Sloop John B (Beach Boys), California Dreaming (Mamas And The Papas)



T59 Turn A Technical Exercise Into A Song

Don't just practice your instrument in isolation from your songwriting, turn whatever you're working on into a riff, chord progression, groove or song. There's no greater rut buster.

Martha My Dear. also Tears In The Rain (Joe Satriani), Sweet Child O Mine (Guns N' Roses), Dust In The Wind (Kansas)


T60 Drop to the 7th Chord

Start on the root chord but immediately drop down a semitone to the 7th chord in the scale. This will produce a disconcerting "where are we?" effect. For slightly different flavours try the VII or VII7, vii or vii7, or even the dim7 or half dim7.

VII I'm So Tired, Martha My Dear
VII7 Sexy Sadie
vii Yesterday


T61 Don't Bore Us, Get To The Weirdness

If your song has something really unique consider using it in the first 20 seconds. Got an unusual instrument, weird riff or complex time signature? Resist the temptation to introduce it gradually. Grab your listener with the cool stuff right out of the gate.

Martha My Dear (key and time signature), Strawberry Fields Forever (mellotron), Living On A Prayer - talk box (Bon Jovi), Everything In It's Right Place and Pyramid Song - drumless weird time signatures (Radiohead)



T62 Write Two Bridges 

Why have one bridge when you can have two? Tricky to pull off without looking like you don't know what you're doing.

Martha My Dear, I'll Be Back.


T63 Use The 'Other' Scale

There's a very good chance that as a songwriter you favour either the major or minor scale in your writing. If you play punk, praise and worship or country it's probably major. If you play any form of metal it's probably minor. So this ticket is simple. Write a song in the 'other' scale.

The Beatles preferred major keys, but here's some of their minor songs

Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite
Don't Bother Me
Eleanor Rigby
Glass Onion
I Me Mine
I'll Be Back
I Want You (She's So Heavy)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps


T64 Try Writing For Kids 

Use repetition, clear melodic patterns, simple vocabulary and grammar with some ridiculous concepts or or words. And don't forget to add something naughty!

 All Together Now, Piggies, I Am The Walrus, Yellow Submarine, Octopus' Garden,

T65 Build Up On The V Chord 

Nothing gives a sense of building to a glorious inevitable climax like hanging out on the V chord (or better yet the V7) for a few bars till you resolve to the root (I).

Twist And Shout (bridge), Day Tripper (solo), Here Comes The Sun (bridge), Birthday, Back In The USSR (intro)
 also - Let's Dance - intro (David Bowie)

T66 Write An 'Occasional' Song 

i.e. a song written to celebrate a national holiday or commonly shared life experience.

Christmas Time Is Here Again, Birthday,

also Too many Christmas songs to mention! and Happy Birthday To You, Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder) Shrove Tuesday (Matt Blick), Auld Lang Syne, Happy New Year (Abba), Father's Day (Groucho Marx), First Of May (Jonathan Coulton). 

See also Ticket 42: have a completely unique concept for the song.

Ticket 67: Repeat Verse 1

Aid catchiness (and save yourself some hard work!) by repeating the first verse rather than writing a 3rd or 4th. And if that doesn't work you could always repeat one of the other verses instead.

A Hard's Day Night, All My Loving, Birthday, Blackbird, Dear Prudence, Do You Want To Know A Secret?, Fixing A Hole, From Me To You, Golden Slumbers and too many others to mention

Also Sabotage - (Beastie Boys)

See Also

Ticket 23: Write Fewer Lyrics
Ticket 41: Use The Same Ending For Two Different Sections

Ticket 68: Use The Root b7 6 b6 Progression 

This idea can be started from a major tonic chord (Dear Prudence) or minor (While My Guitar Gently weeps) and often appears in the bass line of the progression. (Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks continues this progression with 5 4 b3 2 1).

Dear Prudence – main riff
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – main riff
I Am The Walrus - 2nd half of each verse (eg sitting on a cornflake)
Magical Mystery Tour – bridge
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – verse
Wild Honey Pie - instrumental

also

25 Or 6 To 4 (Chicago)
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin)
Dream On - verse and end of chorus (Aerosmith)
Gloomy Sunday (Billie Holliday see also Sarah McLachlan's version)
White Room – verse (Cream)

See also

Ticket 1: The Flat 6 Chord
Ticket 7: Avoid Using All Three Major Chords Early In The Song
Ticket 8: The Minor 4
Ticket 17: Chromatic Descent Starting From The Root
Ticket 28: Use At Least One Out Of Key Chord
Ticket 31: Chromatic Descent Starting From The b7th
Ticket 32: Chromatic Ascent Starting From The 5th
Ticket 51: Use The Mixolydian Mode

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