Here’s One Thing The Beatles’ “Blackbird” Can Teach Recording Musicians

Recording can be an arduous and frustrating process. And Paul McCartney knows this.

Recording musician
Paul McCartney (photo via Beatles Music History)

McCartney recorded The Beatles’ “Blackbird” all by himself — just him, a guitar, and an engineer at the controls in Abbey Road’s studio two.

Having an engineer surely made it easier on McCartney, but a lot of indie musicians don’t have that luxury.

Often, you’ll be in your bedroom or basement managing the controls while also trying to focus on playing your instrument.

This can make things even more frustrating.

But there’s one thing we can learn from McCartney’s recording session of “Blackbird.”

You see, he recorded 32 takes of the song, 11 of which were complete from beginning to end.

Thirty-two takes. That’s so many, even in today’s digital music world.

The point is, take your time in the studio. If you have to record two takes, 32 takes, or 72 takes before you get the right one, do it.

Because you know what … McCartney’s last take of “Blackbird” is the one that made the official recording.

Record one more take. It’ll be worth it. 

Paul McCartney Doesn’t Know How To Write Songs

Okay, Beatles superfans, calm down.

Before you prepare your beautifully crafted hate comment, let me explain.

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney

I didn’t say this, okay? This is straight from your man, the Great Paul McCartney.

In an interview with NPR, he said songwriting is more complicated than just learning it like math or architecture.

“You’ve never got [songwriting] down,” he said. “It’s this fluid thing, music. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t like to be blasé or think, ‘Oh … I know how to do this.'”

He went on to explain how he teaches a songwriting class but admits to his students he’s figuring it out as he goes.

“I teach a class at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys,” he said. “I do a little songwriting class with the students — and nearly always the first thing I go in and say [is], ‘I don’t know how to do this. You would think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever know how to do.'”

This is a great mindset to have as a songwriter.

If you say, “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” then you’re next thought is probably, “I need to figure out how to do this.”

This will lead to continual learning.

Continual learning leads to improvement.

Improvement is what every songwriter really wants.

So let’s all just admit we don’t know how to write songs.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know I love Evernote for songwriting. I use it exclusively. And you can use my referral link to get a free month of Evernote Premium (woot!)

How To Write A Song In 5 Simple Steps — Part 2

Click here to read How To Write A Song In 5 Simple Steps — Part 1.

3) Start writing

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney (photo via Mojo Magazine)

There are two common ways songwriters start a song: music first or lyrics first.

A lot of songwriters start with the music and melody before writing the lyrics, often coming up with gibberish lyrics in order to find the structure of the melody.

For example, Paul McCartney woke up one day with a melody in his head. He came up with nonsense lyrics so that he could remember the melody and get the phrasing just right.

“Scrambled eggs, oh you’ve got such lovely legs,” he sang. This became one of the most covered songs in recent history, the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

On the other hand, when you start with the lyrics, make sure they have a repeating rhythm and words that sound good together and rhyme. Think of it like writing poetry.

4) Edit and play!

Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Paul McCartney and John Lennon (photo via Zumic)

This is the fun part. Sing the melody over and over, smooth over the awkward phrasings, work out the kinks, and give your lyrics more focus.

If you’re a new songwriter, make sure the melody is in a range that works for your voice. As you get the hang of songwriting, you can start writing melodies that stretch your vocal range, getting you to inch out of your comfort zone. That’s how you get better!

RELATED: How To Get Better At Songwriting

5) Get trusted feedback

Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Paul McCartney and John Lennon

This is not when you post your song online; you’ll get so many different criticisms that you won’t know which to listen to.

What you should do first is go to someone who has a good musical ear and will be upfront with you. This could be an honest friend or a fellow musician (not your mom!).

Now, stop imagining yourself as a songwriter and just start writing!

While you’re at it, you should check out Evernote, the app I use to do all of my songwriting. Get a free month of Evernote Premium here.

Versions of part 1 and 2 were originally published in iSing Magazine