Song Doctor Blog
Read about how to write better songs
This week, I made a mistake during the recording of a vocal. I'd pressed 'record' but because my headphone extender lead is starting to fray at the connector, I couldn't hear all of my playback consistently. It kept shorting out. While I was mucking around trying to get both left and right channels at full signal, fiddling with the lead and connection, I missed my cue. But the song improved markedly because of it.
Suddenly, there was much needed space where there had previously been a bunch of words packed into four bars like a fistful of frightened sardines. Now, the new 'mistake' or 'missed take' space created a sense of anticipation for the next line, closely followed by a sense of relief when the 'punchline' hit. The words immediately after the space became lit up like a Christmas tree. Useful, because they're the title of the track. Helpful, for the singer, because now she can breathe during the chorus. Effective for the writer, because the whole point of the song had taken centre stage.
In essence, my ballsup fixed my ballsup!
This points to the principle of being in the room. If I hadn't been trying to get a better vocal take, if I had been trying to fix a bit of kit on the fly, if I hadn't been trying to make a new recording at all, I wouldn't have captured a solution to something's that been quietly nagging me about this particular song despite the fact that I've sung it in concert a number of times and rehearsed it maybe a hundred both solo and in ensemble. It took putting the song in a different environment, a different room, a different drafting process, me being in a diffferent role, to get to the bottom of the issue.
Remember, your lyrics are words to be sung. That means creating space for your singer to breathe, which in turn allows time for sound waves to hit the eardrums of your listeners and actually register the meaning of the words. If the singer is repeatedly slipping up over a line or phrase, maybe you need to rewrite it rather than sack the singer as a first option. Part of bringing a song to life is being in the room with it, getting it off the page, working through the practical results of your writing. This can mean singing it to yourself repeatedly, singing it front of an audience to see what a fresh response is, giving to someone else to sing or reinterpret, making a draft recording of it, putting it in different environments (solo, band, acoustic, electric, studio) so it can develop. Then you can see its strengths and work on its flaws from all angles, not just staring at the screen or the scratch marks on your page. I think of this as making your song three dimensional, rather than two and I think you get that by spending quality time with your songs, regularly. Your input may pay off more than you expect.
Talk more soon