The Beatles - Get Back

McCartney’s Songwriting Process

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It’s a treat to watch some of the video snippets from the recently released “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary. I’ve not had opportunity to see the entire documentary yet, but a short excerpt I came across today is a fantastic little peek into Paul McCartney’s songwriting process.

Though the video is obviously edited, it still gives the impression that McCartney had a way of starting a song from almost nothing, and in short order have a song that the others in the band could play along to.

Here’s the excerpt:

No doubt McCartney’s process, like everyone’s, is a bit different depending on the song. In the bit we get to see, it appears that the song “Get Back” started mainly as a development of a rhythmic idea for the guitar.

You hear that guitar, then McCartney improvising some melodic ideas in his falsetto voice, and you can hear the occasional word “back” as he mumbles a guiding vocal, trying to find something that works.

Very quickly you hear the melodic shape that we associate with “Get Back” — a short ascending melody that repeats, then reverses and moves downward, along with the words “Get back to where you once belonged.”

If you ever needed convincing that some of the great tunes out there start with simple improvisations, with different ideas that get spontaneously glued together, this is a perfect demonstration.

In my last post I suggested to new songwriters that they try to write quickly and not get hung up in a long, laborious process. You can see in this video that McCartney has no intention of letting his inner critic take over. He really doesn’t stop; he keeps trying ideas, tossing out the bad ones and keeping the good ones.

And the closer he gets to what he thinks “Get Back” should sound like, the easier the ideas seem to come.

This short video is a perfect workshop/masterclass for how songs in the pop genres can be written, just allowing improvisation and stream-of-consciousness take over and having fun. It’s worth trying!


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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One Comment

  1. The “Get Back” documentary is great for Beatles fans, but “McCartney 1-2-3” is better look into the song writing process.

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