If you’re serious about performance, then I’m sure you’re familiar with the amount of practice involved in getting a song to that perfect point.

If you’re serious about performance, then I’m sure you’re familiar with the amount of practice involved in getting a song to that perfect point: when it is so ingrained in your mind and body that you don’t have to think about the physical action of producing the notes and you are free to let your singing flow unhindered to connect with your listeners. This is one of the unique joys of being a musical artist. When creating a song, and especially when crafting a song into a truly “singable” state, the musical art becomes a lot like painting, sculpting, or other arts that utilize physical media. As a songwriter, you are taking the raw material of notes, chords, rhythms, and words and sculpting them into something beautiful. And like the other arts, this essential process can be hard work!


Sometimes, of course, you may produce a real gem with little effort, a song that just “writes itself.” Count yourself lucky, and realize that it may simply be an unexpected result of all the hard work you’ve been putting in on all your projects. More typically, though, you’ll need to come back to a song repeatedly to really make it sparkle.


To end up with a song that is a pleasure to sing and that speaks to the audience, you have to mold the various musical and lyrical elements until they all work together seamlessly. Each song will require a different journey from initial idea to finished composition. You might need to add a bar between the end of a verse and the beginning of a chorus in order to build up to a better climax and allow time to breathe. Or, the song may need a jolt of intensitylike a quick key change with no break from verse to chorus. As I said in my last installment, the content of the song and the emotion you are trying to get across will help you make these choices.


Art Supplies

The only way to know what works for the song is to sing it! Another amazingly obvious statement, I know, but it needs to be said. It is one thing to have a song developing in your head or in bits and pieces while you’re plunking on the piano or idly strumming your guitar; it’s another thing to get it going with full voice and effort, with the complete accompaniment playing. You have to hear for yourself what people are really going to hear when you perform the song live or commit it to a recording. This is where the practical tools of songwriting really come in handy. If you are creating the complete package of music and vocals together, some kind of multi-track recording capability is a must. It could be an inexpensive cassette 4-track or a home mega-workstation with megabytes to spare; shareware computer program that lets you put down two tracks or a full-blown virtual studio with tracks and effects limited only by the size of your hard drive. The simple point is, you need to get the music recorded, sing seriously with the accompaniment, and then go back and adjust the music to suit the vocal or vice versa. And then do it again. And then again. And so on You get the picture. Just as a potter will keep turning and turning the ceramic piece until it’s just right, so the songwriter needs to hone each song.

Originally posted 2009-01-09 20:14:20.