Today we’re joined by Matt Blick, who is the man behind the Beatles Songwriting Academy, a website dedicated to analysing every single Beatles song to learn what makes them tick.

Since founding the site in 2009 Matt has written over 500 detailed posts on what he’s learned from studying the songs of the Beatles – and he’s written over 300 songs himself.

You see, unlike some song analysis websites you find, Matt’s site is particularly notable for being very practical in its focus. Although it’s fascinating to read his posts purely for interest, every one is written with the active songwriter in mind, to inspire and guide them to better and easier songwriting, inspired by the principles used by The Beatles themselves.

In this conversation we talk about:

  • How The Beatles could obey and break the conventional rules of songwriting so expertly if they never learned music theory.
  • Some specific ways The Beatles modified chord progressions to be more effective and distinctive in their songs.
  • Matt also shares what actually causes writer’s block and how to fix it.

We also talk about the ways Matt has benefitted from all his Beatles studies in his own songwriting, including specific examples of songs he’s written using particular principles he learned from the Fab Four.

You’re tuned in to Beatles Month at Musical U.

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Matt Blick shares the incredible insight he's learned on his mission to analyse every Beatles song for his website, Beatles Songwriting Academy.



That was such a fun and fascinating conversation! If you haven’t already stopped this podcast to run off to and learn more, let’s do a quick recap.

Matt grew up attending a progressive school where he credits the music teachers as having encouraged creativity in his music learning. After dabbling on a few instruments he really took to guitar, and music became the major thing he was consistently interested in.

He said that an openness to opportunities and willingness to say yes to things that were beyond his comfort zone was what led to him having such an interesting and varied musical journey. It seems like this came from a combination of his devotion and passion for music and the understanding that failure isn’t the end of the road, it’s actually just a step on the route to success. I loved his barre chord analogy, where you need to fail at playing a barre chord a couple of hundred times before you finally nail it.

This relates to the principle of being prolific and for songwriters: being willing to write bad songs. He made a powerful point that writer’s block is actually just fear in some form or another, fear of getting it wrong or doing it badly. I think that realisation alone, plus giving yourself the permission to fail, especially if just privately, can be a major unblocker for any of us who’ve struggled with writer’s block in the past. I thought his additional tip, that sometimes the way forwards is to intentionally “fail”, for example by intentionally writing something totally terrible or cliché, is also a terrific piece of advice.

Matt’s journey as a musician also led him to start teaching which required him to be able to actually explain what he could do himself – and that’s allowed him to write some really fantastic material on his website, The Beatles Songwriting Academy. As I said in the interview, it’s particularly notable for being very practical, not just theoretical analysis. So as a songwriter you can’t help but come away encouraged and inspired, and as a non-songwriter who’s just interested, it’s a super-cool window into the amazing music of The Beatles.

I was really keen to hear where the project came from and it was surprising to hear that this wasn’t the inevitable project of a lifelong Beatles superfan. In fact he started in part to answer the question of whether The Beatles were as good as people say they are. 9 years and 90-plus songs in, it’s clear that Matt’s been able to learn a ton of useful songwriting principles from the band, and it’s wonderful that he’s gone to the great effort of codifying and sharing it all online. As he put it later in our conversation, this stuff can all be learned, and it can be learned a lot quicker if you take advantage of sites like this rather than just trying to bash away at it yourself trying to figure it all out from scratch.

We talked about a couple of his “Be-altetudes”, “Blessed are the prolific”, and also “Blessed are the co-writers”. And again, his observations on the Lennon/McCartney partnership weren’t just interesting from an analytical point of view, they were really practical. If you’ve got stuck not being able to finish songs, or you haven’t known how to tell if your songs are “good enough”, or you’ve wondered how to find the balance between writing a lot of songs and polishing them to perfection, his ideas on what made The Beatles such effective songwriters can be highly valuable to you. And reassuring to hear him point out that they didn’t hit a homerun every time, such as George Harrison’s combo of “Something” followed by “Old Brown Shoe”!

We got into the nitty-gritty a bit too, talking about distinctive chord substitutions and altered progressions that The Beatles used. You can find a lot more detail and examples of these on Matt’s website, but what I wanted to repeat here was the underlying principle that The Beatles didn’t come up with totally wacky things that broke all the rules, they did it in moderation – and it’s almost always possible to trace those distinctive ideas back to the influences they originally learned them from. I think that’s a great example of how The Beatles’ greatness was learned, not inborn, and it was great to hear Matt’s perspective on that question of music theory: that yes, of course The Beatles understood music theory inside-out, even if they hadn’t explicitly studied it and wouldn’t have had a clue about the “correct” terminology. They had internalised all of the rules and norms, and they did it through intense study and practice of music.

The other big stand-out point from talking through a few of Matt’s “Tickets to Write” was that the lessons we can learn from The Beatles’ song writing aren’t all odd, esoteric breaking of rules. In fact some of the most important are simple, broad ideas that I think many songwriters might avoid using, fearing that they were “cheating” or too simple to make for a good song. We talked through repeating verse one again, turning it into a kind of additional refrain for the song, and also how reusing lyrics or lyrical structures can both make the song more memorable and make it far easier to write a full set of lyrics for.

I said to Matt after we finished recording that I could listen to him talk about The Beatles for days! And I expect you might be feeling the same way, so if you’re looking for a lot more of these fascinating nuggets of Beatles song-writing wisdom, head to for the full Beatles Songwriting Academy.

I’m sure that a large part of what makes Matt’s site so great is that he is himself a practicing songwriter, and so it was instructive to hear how he’s taken on board some of these lessons and principles in his own work. From his prolific 47-song year in 2011 to reusing verse one in his song “Let’s Build An Airport”, to making use of some of their unusual chord combinations, it’s clear he’s practicing the lessons he’s shared through the Beatles Songwriting Academy, and I’m excited to hear his new album, Fifty Five Stories Down. You can learn more about that album and Matt’s projects at, and as always we’ll have links to that and everything mentioned in the shownotes for this episode at

Thanks for joining me for this episode and stay tuned for our next one where we’ll be speaking with Scott Kuehn of Clarion University about the powerful underlying messages in the music of the Beatles – and the impact that had, including how they engineered exactly when and how to make all the teenage girls scream during a song!

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