Welcome back to Beatles Month!
Today we’re talking with Scott Freiman, the creator of Deconstructing the Beatles, a series of uniquely revealing multimedia presentations about the composition and production techniques of the Beatles. Scott has spoken about the Beatles to sold-out audiences, on college campuses and for companies around the USA. He skilfully draws on original multitrack recordings to reveal exactly how the songs we know and love were put together, drawing out new and fascinating insights about the Beatles and their music.
Scott is also a professional composer and distilled some of the songwriting lessons he’d learned from the Fab Four into a terrific online course, “Learn the Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles” which we found to be a great resource even for those who have no aspirations to write songs themselves but just want to understand music better.
As a composer himself he said that what the Deconstructing the Beatles project really showed him was how much work went into this music that we know and love. Just how creative the Beatles were and how that creative process happened, step by step – not just individually but collaboratively.
That’s what we dig into in this interview: If these songs didn’t magically spring into being overnight, what were the elements that made the band so unusually able to consistently write incredible songs that have stood the test of time. Scott has fantastic insight and there’s a ton to learn here for song writers, composers and for musicians and music fans as well.
We talk about:
- The development and growth the Beatles had already gone through as musicians before their recording career began
- How his training as an editor has influenced how Scott sees their music and how the Beatles themselves combined editing with experimentation
- One specific technique you can listen for in any music but which the Beatles utilised in new and unusual ways.
There’s some really instructive and inspiring ideas in this conversation that we know you’ll benefit from in your own music making and music listening. And it will make you hungry to go watch Scott’s full presentations and maybe check out his songwriting course.
You’re tuned in to Beatles Month at Musical U.
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Scott: Hi, I’m Scott Freiman from Deconstructing the Beatles, and you’re listening to The Musicality Podcast.
Christopher: Welcome to the show, Scott. Thank you for joining us today.
Scott: Thanks so much for having me.
Christopher: I discovered you through Deconstructing the Beatles, and I was fascinated to learn that the man behind that project was in fact himself a composer and a musician in various roles. I’d love to know where you came from, as a musician, and how it all led to such an epic project, that is Deconstructing the Beatles.
Scott: Right, so I started out as a classical pianist, really learning Mary Had A Little Lamb on the piano, for my aunt, at age four, and I trained, and entered contests, and so forth. When I went to college, I knew that I wanted to study music, but I knew I also wasn’t good enough to be a real classical musician. I learned an awful lot about theory. What I always gravitated towards was the kind of taking apart or deconstructing classical pieces, learning the theory and the inspiration behind the pieces, and then putting it all back together. I always kind of liked that, and that was filed somewhere in the back of my mind.
I was a classical pianist, and I taught myself pop and rock piano, and when I got into the Beatles, when I was about 11 or 12, I started to figure out their songs, as a lot of musicians do, is start with the Beatles. I always had a love for the Beatles, but just like any one of us, just normal. We appreciate the music, and I did dive into some of the books a little bit, but that was about it. A few years ago, as I became a full-time musician, opened up a professional studio, wanted to get some people out to see the new studio and maybe get some business out of it, I decided to put on a little talk on Strawberry Fields Forever and St Pepper, and the friends were producers, and composers, and other people from the New York area who had a music background.
They all said, “You need to do something with that lecture,” and so I started following up on some calls, and teaching at a college, giving a lecture at a theater, just exploded from there, and here I am now, kind of an expert in the music of the Beatles, with DVDs, and lectures, and so forth, and having a blast sharing my knowledge with other people.
Christopher: Fantastic, and we’ll be talking a lot more about Deconstructing the Beatles, but let’s pause for a moment, before we move on from your own musical journey. You mentioned that you didn’t think you were good enough to be a classical musician. What do you mean by that?
Scott: Technique wise, I was studying with a famous classical pianist, and some of his students, one in particular, who went on to fame and fortune … I could see that, even though I was second on the recital list, the different between and me was massive. I mean, this was a guy who practiced 10 hours a day or so forth, and I was doing my one hour of practice a day, so I realized I didn’t really have the passion to be a performer in that way. I always did enjoy playing pop music, and accompanying choirs, and things like that, but, again, in college, I majored in music and I majored in technology, computer science. I didn’t really know what to do with the music stuff.
My friends in college went on to Broadway. They became rehearsal pianists. They became musical composers and so forth. I just didn’t feel that I had the same level of talent. I enjoyed it. It was a passion. I still play. I still play in a band, and I have decent chops. Again, the difference between me and a professional, I think, is massive.
Christopher: Gotcha, and you did have a kind of draw to songwriting. I think you mentioned you got into the songs of the Beatles, and you were enjoying deconstructing songs, and that kind of led to going more into composing. Is that right?
Scott: That’s right, yes. After, I had a brief detour for 15 years in the business world, and kept the music going, and then, when I sold my company, I said, “Now, I really do wanna follow the music side and composing,” but specifically film composing, because I found that I loved writing little songs, especially funny songs, songs for kids, but in terms of more sweeping scores and so forth, I liked responding to visual media. I like to have something to reflect off of, to interpret, and to see how the music can enhance the scene.
My focus was really in trying to get into film and TV, and that, by the way, led me to editing, because a lot of the smaller projects, I would either come in as an editor, and end up writing some cues for it, or they would hire me as a composer and I’d have to edit some dialogue or edit some sound effects, and so the music editing and the composing, to me, I kind of treated as there is an audio palette to a video, or to a film, or to a TV show, and music is part of that palette. It has to serve the video. I like that a lot. That’s kind of where I was directed.
Christopher: Interesting. I don’t wanna take us on too much of a detour here, but I am super curious. You said something there, that you realized that it was in the visual context where you were really interested in composing. Did that come out of the editing work you just mentioned or was that prior? Had something given you a taste for that, or how did you know that would be interesting for you?
Scott: I always loved film music. The first time it really dawns on you, when you see a really great film clip and the music just makes the scene, and you realize how important it is … There are a lot of really talented composers who can’t work in film and TV because they want their music to be the focus. In reality, it can’t be. It has to serve the bigger vision of the director and of the visuals. It’s not meant to take you away from that. I really like that. I like being able to see if I can paint a picture in sound that helped enhance the scene. It all tied into the editing, but I always listened to film music. I loved listening to scores. The scores that stand alone, outside the film, are great, but then when you see it against picture and, “Oh, wow, look how it really makes that scene, and how it fits, and how it doesn’t take away from things,” I mean, that’s really where it’s a lot of fun.
Christopher: I see. When you described that kind of editing work, and being in the trenches, and cutting, and making it all fit together, I was really reminded of the presentations you give on The Beatles, and particularly the one I watched yesterday was Deconstructing Sergeant Pepper. The way you dig into the multi-track recordings and kind of pick it apart, piece by piece, I can kind of see the editor’s mind at work there.
Scott: Well, one of the things that I think about the craft of songwriting is I do think there is editing involved. I think it’s maybe self-editing. It may be a producer editing you, a collaborator. Even if you’re putting together loops, you’re editing them together. It is editing in a way, and so when you kind of take apart the music, into its pieces, and see how they are put together, it’s kind of, “How do you edit them together?” There’s definitely a parallel between editing, in the traditional sense of cutting, and splicing, and lining things up, and editing in terms of creating a song, composing, and writing.
Christopher: When you described that first lecture or presentation you gave on the music of the Beatles, it sounds like things really snowballed from there, and it took on a life of its own-
Scott: Yes, it did.
Christopher: -and you had such a great reaction to it. How did that play against the fact that you were pursuing your own music? Did the two relate to each other? Were they separate projects, or how did they coexist?
Scott: It’s a good question. It became sort of one of many things I was doing with music. My goal, when I embarked on a career in music, was to really do everything, instead of just concentrating, which some people do, and that’s great. I wanted to cast a wider net, especially in New York, where I was. In LA, you can get into the scene a little bit easier than you can in New York.
In New York, I felt you needed to be able to edit, you needed to be able to compose, you needed to be able to mix, so I was trying to do all of these things, and the Deconstructing the Beatles lectures were a great way for me to use those skills in a unique way, but also, frankly, I was trying to meet other directors and producers, so it was a great introduction, because people would come to see my lectures, would hear them say, “Scott Freiman is a composer,” and they’d wanna talk to me after the show and say, “Oh, you’re a composer too? We should talk. I have a project.”
So it was really an excuse to meet people. Not jumping too off in the distance here, but that’s how I got my current job, because someone saw me at a Beatles lecture. My current job is I’m running a music tech company that is revolutionizing the way music is cleared and licensed, and the way composers report their music, in cue sheets, so that they can get paid royalties. I found out about the opportunity because someone saw me at a Beatles lecture, and started meeting with composers, listening to their issues and their problems, and we formed this company, and now we’re doing that. It’s an example of trying different things because you never know where they’re gonna lead, and in this case, I had no idea where a lecture on the Beatles would take me, but it was fun. It was getting good reaction. I was meeting people. There you have it.
Christopher: Very cool, and that company you mentioned, there, is Qwire. Is that right?
Scott: That’s correct.
Scott: Q-W-I-R-E, that’s right.
Christopher: Awesome. Well, from my conversations with recording artists and composers, that is an area ripe for innovation, and for somebody … Not to overstate it, but to fix it, it’s important work you’re doing.
Scott: It’s a whole other talk, but let’s just say that it’s incredibly archaic in the way all this work is done, and that’s why composers don’t get the royalties they should, and songwriters don’t get the royalties they should. In order to fix that problem, it requires technology, and that’s what we’re working on.
Christopher: Fantastic. For the people listening who are starting to get a sense of what Deconstructing the Beatles is all about, could you just give them the kind of nutshell summary of the project and the different presentations you’ve developed as part of that?
Scott: Sure. Deconstructing the Beatles, I describe it as a way of getting a new appreciation for the creative process, especially when it comes to the Beatles, but it applies beyond the Beatles. How do you get inspired to write a song? How do you arrange the song? What kind of transitions does it go through, from idea to finished product? That’s what it is about, and I gear my lectures for a fairly wide audience, so I have songwriters and producers who really gravitate towards what mic were they using and where was it placed, to songwriters who wanna know about the theory, to people who are just fans and they wanna know some of the stories. I find, whether you’re a kid or a college student who knows the songs but doesn’t have any of the historical context, or you’re a baby boomer who grew up with the Beatles, there’s something to be gained. I try and put together the story of an album, or the story of a time period, and show how the Beatles were evolving as musicians.
Christopher: Terrific, and you show it so well, through explanation, and examples, and audio tracks, where you can really hear the point you’re making. It’s fantastic. What I wanted to ask you was … We talk on this show quite often about talent and the idea of being gifted in music, and the Beatles are one of, if I had to list them, probably the top three names that will always be brought up in a conversation about that kind of thing, “Ah, well, Lennon and McCartney, they didn’t know any music theory. They just wrote the songs, and they just had the gift.” You have studied not just those albums for the presentations, and their various works, but recently you put together a new “Birth of the Beatles” presentation, all about where they came from and those early years, and so I’d love to hear your perspective on that and how much of a journey was involved in getting to the point where we have these amazing songs we all know and love.
Scott: Right. There are a lot of kids, teenagers, who can strum a few chords on a guitar and who have a decent voice, that are not Lennon and McCartney. What’s the difference? Clearly, I think they were incredibly gifted, and incredibly creative, and very much personalities who wanted to continue to push things, so that’s part of it. Part of it was listening, their ears. They listened to everything. You hear them tell these stories about playing in Liverpool or in Hamburg, where they were playing with all these other bands, who were other Beatles-like bands, but they would get ready to go on stage, and they’d hear the band singing Long Tall Sally. They’d go, “Oh, no. That’s part of our set. What do we do now?”
They started learning B-sides, and they started pulling out a Fats Waller tune, or a Peggy Lee tune, or things that they knew the other groups weren’t playing. This gave them exposure to different styles of music. It forced them to learn, very quickly, huge repertoires of music, and that was all part of this evolution, because, when they started to really write songs, consciously or unconsciously, they were grabbing chord patterns, or rhythm patterns, or ideas, from these songs they were performing, and then they were adding to that and making it their own. I would say, beyond their personalities, which made them sort of primed, if you will, to become the Beatles, it was the fact that they listened to everything.
When Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10 thousand hours of performing, absolutely. They performed, and performed, and performed, but so were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, so were Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. These other groups were doing that, they were performing. What was different about the Beatles? They were really determined to make it big. They were listening to everything. They were continually adding new music to their sets, and they were trying the craft of songwriting. I think that was really important, and that got them to the point where they could find their way to meet George Martin, and then things get even more progressive with them, because … What I talk about in The Birth of the Beatles is getting them to Abbey Road.
What I talk about in the Beatles of 1963, which is the other recently released on DVD, is what happened when they meet George Martin. Martin had the classical background, he had the arranging background, he knew how to work in a studio, all stuff that the Beatles didn’t have. Put that all together, these creative people who are dying to learn, who wanna do new things, who are creative, and who are hungry, great work ethic, and pair them with a guy who says, “I have the stuff you’re missing, and I can work with you.”
Put it together, and that gives you the Beatles. That’s, in my opinion, how this all comes together, is they had to be ready for George Martin, and George Martin had to say, “I’m willing to work with these guys,” but once that connection was made, that set them on the road to being the Beatles we know and love.
Christopher: That is fascinating, and it’s such a different perspective, I think, than a lot of us inherit, culturally. We just have this mythology around the Beatles, and to hear you describe it, just then, there was a real process to it. There was a real story. There were characters, like George Martin, who had an important role to play, aside from just the Fab Four. It wasn’t them in a bubble, magically writing amazing songs. There was a reality to this.
Scott: Yeah, and by the way, I say the same thing about songwriting, is that a lot of people think, these Beatles’ songs, McCartney sat down with a guitar and the song was done, and they get frustrated because they know it doesn’t come that easy to them. But the truth, and one of the things I try to bring out in these lectures, is that, these songs, maybe the ideas came quickly, but they were worked on, especially in those early days, with Paul and John collaborating. Paul would toss something out, and John would say, “That lyric stinks, gotta replace that,” and John would write a song and say, “I need a bridge,” and Paul would put in a bridge, and they would work on that.
They’d work on the harmonies. These songs were crafted. As simple as they seem to us, there’s a lot of craft that went into there. That, to me, is what songwriting is about. It’s not the speed at which you can write something. It’s, “How do you take a good idea and make it better through the craft, through really getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t work for the song, adding that really interesting chord, or that dynamic change, or that shift that makes the song more interesting, adding that hook which grabs the listener?”
The Beatles were really good at that stuff, and that comes from a lot of that listening they were doing, a lot of that performing they could see the crowd reaction when they did certain things, and George Martin adding in, “Here’s a better way of doing the harmonies,” or, “Here’s a cool production technique we can use.” There you have it.
Christopher: I see, so it sounds like it’s a mix of editing and experimentation, to get them from the initial idea for a song to the final produced recording. Is that right?
Scott: Yes, and again, I think people have this concept of sort of the Sergeant Pepper era, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper. They’re doing all this fun stuff in the studio, and yes, that’s true, but even early on, a song like Things We Said Today, or And I Love Her, or If I Fell, In My Life, these are songs that Paul might’ve dreamt of yesterday, in bed, and went downstairs and wrote it down or recorded it, but it took George Martin working with him, to do that string arrangement, to really make that song what it is today, as beautiful as McCartney’s lyric and melody were.
Other songs, you hear them go through evolutions, and you hear them trying little things in the studio, little things, “Let’s add a little harmonica there,” or whatever. That’s the craft. It’s kind of fun to see some of those decisions they made, early days, but even all the way through to their final albums.
Christopher: For you, as a composer yourself, what have been the most interesting discoveries or learning points? As you picked apart these tracks, and dug into the backstories and the evolution of each song, are there any things that you took away and it changed how you thought about composing?
Scott: Yes, I think, certainly, if you study the Beatles, what they called the middle eights, the bridges of their songs, and … Again, a lot of these songs we know by heart. We’ve listened to them a thousand times. We’ve never really dug in and taken them apart. You see, “How does that bridge function? How does it take you in a different path, and then, when you come back to the verse or the chorus, you feel great about that? It’s going from a major to a minor, or a minor to a major, or going to a relative minor, or just these shifts. How do they do that? How does that bridge help complete the song?” I think, especially in doing my songwriting course, taking apart some of these bridges, “Oh, that’s so cool, how they do that.”
Certainly, that’s kind of a little thing that they were really good at, is, “How do we make the song more interesting, so it’s not just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a bridge in the same key, then another verse, chorus, then we’re done?” Those little tricks are great. Those little chords that take you in a different place, there was one that got John Lennon very excited in I Want To Hold Your Hand. “I’ll tell you something I think you’ll understand,” and it’s a minor chord coming out of nowhere. It doesn’t sound that revolutionary today. Back in the day, very revolutionary. There are a lot of those things, all the way through.
I just did lectures on Abbey Road, and some of the things George Harrison does in Something, just beautiful, Paul’s bass line. I’m kind of giving you a bigger answer, but I think what it gives me is a great appreciation for the nuances in their songwriting and in their arrangements, absolutely. There’s something really wonderful about hearing the first take of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, with George on the guitar. It’s just beautiful. The recent box set of The White Album, that just came out, has an early take of John trying different guitar picking and guitar strumming on Julia, and talking about how he wants to approach the singing of the song. Hearing those things and hearing them work at the song I find very inspirational.
Christopher: Fantastic. There’s something I’m struggling a bit to put into words, that I want to ask you about there, which is … We’ve talked a bit about them experimenting and trying different things, and some of the examples you just gave, a lot of people hearing them would be like, “It’s music theory stuff, so the way they’ve thrown in that other chord, or the way they’ve done the bass line, there’s music theory rules about that kind of thing.” One of the other things that the Beatles are often held up as an example of is folks who didn’t know music theory but still wrote amazing songs. I guess what I’m reaching for is … How much were these innovations kind of random experimentation until something clicked, or how much did they have kind of tricks in the toolkit that they brought out again and again in different songs?
Scott: Definitely more on the experimentation side, but they knew enough to say, “I wanna do something different.” Originally, it was, “I wanna do something different in the song.” Later, it was, “I want my voice to sound different or my guitar to sound different.” Take a song like Your Blues, from The White Album. It’s a blues song. It’s a 12-bar blues, but it’s not. It goes along like a 12-bar blues, and all of a sudden there’s an extra measure thrown in, and an extra chord thrown in, and it goes into a different place. It’s pretty much a blues, but it’s not exactly a 12-bar blues. For the most part, all of their songs have something that makes it slightly different than what you would expect, a slight little twist, going in a slightly different direction.
A song like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds moves through three tonal areas. The verse with the arpeggios is one part, the B section, and then the chorus is a different section. One part’s in three-four, one part’s in four-four. Just try and write a song with neighboring keys. I’m trying to remember what it is. It’s like E flat, A flat, C. It’s something really close. It’s really, really hard to do, and yet no one listening to Lucy in the Sky is thinking, “Wow, this is a really hard song to sing.” It’s beautiful. I think that’s all ear. That’s, “Wow, that’s a kind of cool chord. Let me see if I can go off in this direction,” much more so than any knowledge of music theory, which they did not have.
Christopher: Gotcha. I think one thing that’s remarkable is that they didn’t innovate, come up with some clever ideas, and then kind of rinse and repeat. Every year, or every album, they came up with a whole new fresh set of twists on the common music.
Scott: Yeah, one of the things that sets the Beatles apart is there are few bands who kind of reinvent themselves with every album. There are people like … I think Bowie did that, clearly. I think that, to a large extent, Radiohead has been doing that, maybe Queen, other people. Some people do a concept album or something like that, but, in general, you know it’s them. With the Beatles, when you got a Beatles album, it was like, “Wow, who’s this group?”
The difference between Hard Day’s Night, which is ’64, Rubber Soul, which is ’65, and Revolver, which is ’66, and The White Album, which is ’68, I mean, they’re four completely different groups. That amount of change, in that short period of time, is really what makes them so amazing. I mean, they were really only together for about eight years, as a recording artist, and the transformation was astounding.
Christopher: You mentioned something, there, that jumped out at me from your Sergeant Pepper presentation, which was about it being often seen as a concept album, and there is obviously this idea behind it, that they are Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but you made a really interesting point about that, and I wonder if you could share that.
Scott: It’s not really a concept album in terms of what Paul was originally envisioning, which is, “We can pretend we’re this band, and maybe tell the story of this band,” or something. There’s no story, but if you look at the songs on Sergeant Pepper, I believe each one takes you into a different world. You’ve got different characters, like Lucy, Mister Kite, Lovely Rita. Each song is a different style. You go from the carnival to India, to music hall. You’re bouncing around, and so it’s almost like the band is leading you on a tour of these different characters and these different styles of music. In that sense, it holds together for me, but it’s not a Tommy. There’s not a story attached to it.
Christopher: Gotcha, I think it’s so interesting. I think part of what I loved about your presentation was hearing the stories behind the songs. I’m not somebody who goes big on band trivia. I really would struggle to tell you the names of the members of Radiohead, for example, despite them being one of my favorite bands. I don’t hero worship musicians. I just hero worship their music, and so it was surprising to me how much I enjoyed hearing the backstory of the songs, and I think it’s because, aside from these fascinating tidbits along the way, like John Lennon writing Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite! coming from a circus poster, a real poster advertising a circus … That was fantastic. Aside from that kind of fascination, I think it was that it humanized it all. When you tell the story of one of these song’s origins, I can kind of get a feel that, “Okay, the Beatles were actual people, and these songs didn’t spring into the world out of nowhere.”
Scott: Yes, yeah. I think what it does is it says, as a songwriter, anything can be inspiration, as trivial as a poster hanging on your wall or the newspaper, like A Day in the Life. The newspaper was an inspiration for John. He was just staring at it. Corn flakes commercial for Good Morning, Good Morning. Salt and pepper shakers, salt and pepper became Sergeant Pepper. I mean, songwriters are thinking about this stuff. I know songwriters who carry a notebook with them, and they hear someone say an interesting phrase, and they write it down. I mean, that’s great. Inspiration can come from anywhere. The fun part about hearing the backstories of the songs is you learn that, that, the Beatles, again, there’s no magic to where you get your song inspirations from. It can be anything, as trivial or as non-trivial as you want. Right?
Christopher: Absolutely. Apart from this Deconstructing series, where you’re taking apart particular tracks and particular albums, you also have, as you mentioned before, a songwriting specific tutorial series. It’s a course online, which is “Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles”. I loved one of the points you made in that, that, in a sense, what draws together a lot of the material you were sharing there was this idea of tension and release in music, and how the Beatles used chords and progressions in different ways to create that. I wonder if you could talk a bit about that and maybe an example or two of how the Beatles created tension and released in a different way then we’re maybe used to.
Scott: I think a lot of music, including classical and jazz, a lot of the great music, plays with your expectations. Beethoven was a master at this. He would set up the theme, and then he would take you on this journey and somehow bring you back to the theme. Mozart and Hayden, they had this sonata form where you would bring back the theme but then you would somehow shift it so that, instead of taking you to a different key, it took you to the key of the piece, and you would end that way. “How did they do that trick?” was always kind of fun.
In a lot of ways, that’s what the Beatles did with their songwriting. They would create tensions. Here’s some examples. They would do things like hold on to a dominant chord. Think of Day Tripper, where (sings). The bridge builds, and builds, and builds, and the Beatles are singing ahs and ahs, and it’s just going, and going, and going, and going, and then suddenly, (sings), it comes back. I mean, you can picture the girls screaming in the audience at that. That was one of those tricks that they knew. She Loves You, the pause at the end, “With a love like that, you know you could…. be glad.” or “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide…. I wanna hold your hand,” and then, bam, back.
That’s how you kind of can do it in your lyrics, in the structure, but you can also do it with chords as well. You can take someone into a different place, and a good example of that is Something. the verse is in C. The bridge is in A major. At the end of the song, it takes you away from the A major, and you come back. You land in the C. He does that with a little trick, and those little tricks are kind of setting up, making the ending really feel good. It feels like it’s all resolved.
So you can do it with chords by taking someone to a different place, and then prolonging the return to the tonic. You can do it in the structure of the song, where you hold a lyric phrase, or a riff, or a chord a little longer, a little longer, and then bring them back. Those were some of the things that the Beatles did from their earlier tracks all the way to Something on Abbey Road.
Christopher: Terrific. I always love, on this show, when we can talk about the listener’s experience of music, and how we can think about the music we’re making and how it affects the listener, and that idea of tension and release, it’s such a versatile one, that you can go away, and listen to your favorite Beatles’ album, and just ask yourself, “Where are they creating tension and how?” Even if you don’t know the music theory terminology or the concepts behind it, you know, as a listener, “Okay, it’s building up, and, and, and now it’s releasing.”
Scott: That’s right, and a lot of it’s subconscious. I mean, the problem I have with a lot of the music of drum, and bass, and things like that, is the way they create tension is the drums drop out, and then, when the drums come back in, everyone starts dancing again, but that’s the same thing. It’s creating tension. You’re waiting for the drop. When it all comes back, everyone’s happy, but it’s so much more interesting, to me, to try and do it through the structure of the chords or the structure of the song. It’s difficult. It’s not as simple as I just maybe hold a chord for a bar longer, because it has to work. It has to be memorable. It has to be hooky. It has to be something that people wanna sing. That’s what the good songs, the best songs, do, in my opinion. I mean, even a song on a single chord, you can have things you do in your phrasing to kind of take the listener along for a ride and maybe hold something for a little bit to bring back that tension.
Christopher: And I imagine that’s a fairly major component of effective film scoring for you too, as a soundtrack composer?
Scott: Yes, absolutely. I mean, a big, big thing is, “How do you do that without, again, taking away from the action?” You can pound brass, and have cymbals crashing, and so forth, but the most effective horror movie scores, if you think about, could be a single string note, just holding, and the audience is extremely tense, ’cause you know something’s gonna happen, but it’s not big, it’s small, so all kinds of ways to create tension. Again, studying the Beatles’ music, and picking almost any song, and looking at the ways that they might have made the song more interesting, you find a lot of them have to do with, “How do we take listeners in a different place? How do we prolong something, and then release it in a satisfying way?” things like that.
Christopher: Gotcha. And so I have to wonder, having gone into composing yourself and studied the Beatles in such depth, as a Beatles fan and a songwriting composer in your own right, how has your opinion of the Beatles or your perspective on them changed from the beginning of this project through to where you are now?
Scott: A great question. I would say that, before I started all this, I thought the Beatles were great musicians, great songwriters, loved the songs, clearly inspiration for other groups. What this project, this big Deconstructing the Beatles, has done is it really showed me how much work went into this music and really how creative they were, I mean, how they can put together a masterpiece like Rubber Soul in 30 days. I mean, how do you do that? How do they collaborate?
One of the keys, I think, to the Beatles’ career is the collaborative element between the four Beatles. Hearing tracks develop, learning how they worked in the studio, even hearing some of the chatter, when I get a chance to do that, is really interesting. You can hear them evolving, suggesting ideas, moving things along. I think the craft, and how creative these guys actually were, and what their work ethic was like, that is really what has changed the most for me, is that I appreciated them, now I really appreciate them.
Christopher: Wonderful. Well, you clearly have your hands full, doing important work at Qwire in rights management and licensing, but I have been binge-watching all of your streaming presentations-
Scott: Thank you.
Christopher: -and so I have to ask … Are there more Deconstructing Beatles projects on the way?
Christopher: Can we hope for more in the future?
Scott: We have out, quickly, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper, White Album, Early Beatles, 1963 Beatles. Magical Mystery Tour will be out on DVD. It’s currently in theaters, nationwide, in the US, and it will be out on DVD early 2019. We just filmed Abbey Road, and Abbey Road was kind of like my white whale, because I just didn’t know how I was gonna fit it into one lecture. The answer was it’s two lectures. It’s one on side one, one on side two, and the reaction has been great. That will be coming out into theaters, probably, mid 2019, and then out on DVD in the fall, and then it’ll be on to probably Let It Be. I have one planned for ’64, ’65, and maybe one on after the Beatles, after the break up, and then we’ll see.
Christopher: Fantastic. Well, I’m deeply reassured to hear there is more coming for me, ’cause I am looking forward to those. The best place to find those is at deconstructingthebeatles.com, is that correct?
Scott: That is correct, and that will give you trailers. I have a lot of smaller videos on different aspects of the Beatles, which are kind of fun, and then there’s also a link where you can see all the DVDs, including the Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles course, which is what you were talking about earlier.
Christopher: Fantastic. Well, it’s been such a pleasure to get to talk to you, Scott. Thank you for creating such fascinating presentations, because they really are a treat to watch, as well as being, I think, very instructional and inspiring for aspiring songwriters and music lovers in general, so just a big thank you for joining us on the show today.
Scott: Well, thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed the chat. I hope we’ll get to do it again sometime.
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