About 2 weeks ago I posted an album challenge. I gave myself a deadline (Oct 8, 20013) and invited anyone else who wants to come along. Finish your own album. Ask questions. Give advice. Or just follow the process.
On my first album I decided to do the strong songs first. Trouble is the beginning of the process is where you are least rehearsed for performance, recording, and production. So this time I’m starting with the unformed songs. I’ll practice on them and be honed for my favorites later. This one had no lyrics and was missing a chorus or at least another part. Songs needs parts!
Writing on paper works better for me. Yeah, who knows. So I lugged out my over-sized notebook and started scribbling. I like to write about twice the lyrics I’ll need and then pick out what I think works best. Sometimes I can mix and match from different groups of lyrics.
An important thing with lyrics is finding the right tempo. So I put up a metronome and started singing. I try to find a place where the phrasing sounds right. It’s kind of like a horse running through it’s gates. Sure it can trot extra slow but wouldn’t a canter be better? I don’t ride horses. With a metronome running you can figure our which phases or words work. Some may have too many syllables. Some may not roll off the tongue. Some may have too much sibilance.
While the song is still incubating the tempo is often slower then the final version. I think this is because the song isn’t rehearsed enough. Uncertainly can slow things down. Here is the very first tempo. It’s 7 BMP slower then the latest version.
After I spent some time singing it I realized it worked better faster. Incredible discovery! Faster has more energy. I also thought the slower tempo made the phrasing lag. I was running out of breath.
Wait. Back up. The very first thing that happened was I got a melody. My first instrument was voice. Often a song will come to me as a melody and then I figure out the chordal structure. I sit down with my guitar or keyboard and just bang our the chords until I have something that works with the melody. This one is very popular one: 1, 4, 6m, 5. Is this the axis of awesome progression? Nope. But it’s pretty close.
Getting the chords together helps me solidify the melody. Often, my first melodies are more like outlines. Rehearsing with the chords and tempo helps me nail down the melody. And that’s crucial if you plan on doing some tight doubling. I do.
The chords can also suggest natural places to go for a bridge or chorus. If you know a little music theory you can easily come up with some natural chord changes and see if they work. (Theory is kind of like search and rescue. While you might get lucky searching the entire ocean it’s better to know where the ship sank.) I don’t tend to think about things in terms of verse/bridge/chorus. For me it’s more about variations and changing gears in the song. So long as things stay interesting I think you’re ok.
In the next post I’ll talk about whatever wanders into my thinky part. Could be lyrics. Could be production. And I’ll share the next 2 incarnation of this song.