Saturday Songwriting: Welcome to the Bo Diddley Beat

“Welcome to the Jungle” is not a song I’ll be covering anytime soon. Nor will emulating Slash blazing through a guitar solo (not for lack of wanting to). So what can an Americana Aficionado like myself, (and likely yourself too), glean from a song like Welcome to the Jungle which lands at #467 on Rolling Stones list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

A surprising amount.  

There’s the simple idea of taking a melody and moving that pattern around on the guitar. Lots of blues songs do that. (Plenty songs in other styles too). But as useful as that idea is, it’s not very exciting.

I guess if I were stuck for anything else to share in this I’d use that but I found something better.

A lot better.

Something that connects Gun’s N’ Roses, to The Band, to George Micheal to Roger Rabbit.  

It’s the Bo Diddley Beat (or, as Keith Wyatt points out, “Shave and a Hair Cut, Two Bits” which knocks off the Roger Rabbit connection).

The Bo Diddley Beat is kind of irresistible—as Roger Rabbit demonstrated here

What songs have used this Rhythm? 

A whole bunch by Bo Diddley obviously, as well as “Faith” by George Michael, “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow, “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly, and of course, “Welcome to the Jungle” uses a version of the beat too.  

There’s one more connection that really surprised me when it came up while i was playing around with the Rhythm. One with a huge connection to Americana and classic rock.   

I teased it a little earlier and you’ll find it in the video.  

Enjoy! 

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Anastasia Trusova’s art. Find out more about Anastasia’s work here.

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Saturday Songwriting: The Blues

Every week, I aim to dig up a tidbit to share with you about music. I do a lot of that digging in Rolling Stones list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” This week my proverbial shovel hit “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ’n Roses with a clunk. 

It’s an undeniably great song. One I grew up with. I remember hearing it for the first time on MTV. I also remember my older brother’s disdain for Axl’s teased and spayed loft of blond hair. At some point I ended up with a felt Guns N’ Roses poster on my wall. There were a million hair bands in the late eighties. Guns N’ Roses always felt different.  

Last week I started listening to and looking at the chords and tabs for it. There’s a lot going on. In the process, I realized that we haven’t talked about the blues. If we’re going to make any headway digging out “Welcome to the Jungle,” we need to talk about the blues. That’s what we’re doing this week.  

The Blues is kind of like Zen. It seems simple, easy to master, yet you could spend a lifetime dedicated to either and still have more to learn. The simplicity of the blues is why it ends up in method books for beginning guitarists. It’s also why often the first song a person writes is a blues song. Everything from Jazz, to Rock, to Gospel, has borrowed from and built on the blues. That includes “Welcome to the Jungle.”

BEAD Guides Chord Flow offers a simple way to understand how a simple blues progression is be put together. You could even use BEAD GCF principles to play around with, explore, and build off that form if you wanted to.  If you decide you want to dig deeper with the blues, Ethan Hein’s blog is a great resource. 

Enjoy! 

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Peter Ferguson’s art. Find out more about Peter’s work here.

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Saturday Songwriting: Van Morrison – Into the Mystic

Into the Mystic is a classic Van Morrison Song, (and number 474 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time). 

It’s simple enough for a guitar player who’s starting to learn chords, but as is often the case, there’s a lot that goes into that simplicity. 

There’s the strumming that opens the song, and feels like a boat rolling over the waves the sea. There’s the single string mute midway through the pattern that sounds something like a rope or pulley thwacking against a mast. 

The thing that sticks out for me however, are those little melodic guitar fills in the chorus of the song. Those are something a songwriter could steal and use in their own song. This week we’re going to focus on those melodic fills. 

They could be complicated to explain. Someone could spend a lot of time talking about what key they’re in, and what interval they are. Not me though. I skipped all that and did the hard work of getting rid of the complicated bits.

This weeks sheet is all about those melodic fills. There’s a video too, so you can see and hear more clearly what the sheet is talking about. Once you learn how to play those licks on this song, you can go and use them anywhere you want. 

Enjoy! 

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Ava Roth’s art. Find out more about Ava’s work here.

The Musical Idea:

The video of me talking through “Into the Mystic,” (and also a bit of “Lean on Me”). 

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Saturday Songwriting: BEAD is a Memory Hammer for Guitar

Hello there from the middle of a Fearless Songwriting week. This week’s been good to me. I’ve got six songs out of it so far. But Truth be told, I’m working a double tomorrow I won’t be writing a song. 

Get six days into a Fearless weeks and then simply quit, isn’t that against the rules!?! Sometimes knowing what’s enough is more important than the rules. Which is why often during the week of a Fearless Challenge, I declare a pause on this email, and I send out a prompt from sometime in the last year, and call it a day. This week however, I found myself with a bit of extra time to put together a new BEAD Guides Chord Flow sheet.  

When I talk about BEAD Guides Chord Flow a lot of the time, it’s a little abstract. Sure, I relate it to a one of the Greatest Songs of All Time (according to Rolling Stone Magazine), but the sheets I put together don’t have any reference the guitar. This time I wanted to create a sheet that ties in directly to the guitar.   

If you’ve been on this list for a while, you likely know that BEAD Guides Chord Flow is a memory tool for songwriters. It’s like a hammer. It’s memory hammer. It arranges and nails chords into an order that nearly guarantees they will sound good together. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if the guitar did the same thing? 

Wouldn’t it be cooler if the memory tool it used was related to BEAD Guides Chord Flow as well? 

Well, guess what?  

It does, on both counts! 

BEAD Guides Chord Flow is built into standard tuning of the guitar. The sheet below will outline how. (Aren’t you glad you’re on this list)?

If anything on this sheet or any other sheet I send out feels confusing, let me know. It’s my job to make this stuff as clear as possible. When you tell me I’m not doing my job, it’s a big help.  

Meanwhile, 

Enjoy! 

The Prompt:

Art by Steeven Salvat, full image here. More about Steeven here

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Saturday Songwriting: The Fearless Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

We’re skipping the prompt this week because this Sunday is the start of the next Fearless Challenge. The challenge of the Fearless Challenge is to write seven songs in seven days. Writing seven songs in seven days can sound pretty intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. That’s ok. Not everyone who takes part in the challenge does it with the intention of writing seven songs. Some just want to write one or two. The Fearless Challenge is here to give yourself an opportunity to write songs, if you write seven that’s great, but it’s also great if you write just one.  

Years ago, I first decided to write seven songs in seven days because I was frustrated by not writing any songs. It had been years since I’d written a song. I was also about to return to The Rocky Mountain Song School. I didn’t want to show up to the Song School again without any new songs. 

I didn’t care if the songs were good.  

I just cared if the songs were done.

Even “done” was negotiable. Done for me was, done enough so I could come back to the song and work on it later. Anne Lamott might call that a Shitty First Draft. Leonard Cohen might call it a few blackened pages. If you’re a frustrated writer like I was, deciding it’s enough to just show up and write a shitty song or two could be exactly the thing to help you feel better about songwriting again. One or two songs could be enough. Deciding what is enough is important.  

Community and support is important too. In the Fearless Challenge, the songwriters who are doing the challenge with you will be your support system and community. You may think you’ve written a trash song, they’ll tell you the part of it that song that are working. (Often, I’m not aware of any working parts in my songs). You’ll get the chance to see what’s working in other people’s songs too. They’ll be so grateful your there to give them new perspectives on their songs.

The challenge isn’t for everyone, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that it could be for you. Hope to see this Sunday, the 22nd on the Fearless Challenge’s Facebook Group.

If you have any questions, check out this FAQ about the challenge.  

Enjoy! 

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a page I worked up this week. It’s a map of the chords in BEAD Guides Chord Flow. (I skipped the flat and sharp chords for this sheet to keep it simple). The first row is major chords in BEAD GCF order. The second row is minor chords.  The third is (dominant) 7s.  Eventually this will all be part of my book. 

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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