Monday, May 30, 2011

Lyrics 101 b: Picking Words

OK, say you have a basic idea of what words you want in your song... but how do you decide WHICH words? Here's one very, very useful hint from personal experience: DO NOT LOCK YOURSELF into your originally selected words... Be flexible. After you have written the music and start fitting the lyrics syllables into the music (see earlier blog Lyrics 101a), test the words to be sure you or someone else can actually sing them with that music. Be willing to change them if needed. Surely some other wording can get across the same point?

Remember those old tongue-twister riddles of your childhood? "She sells sea shells by the sea shore"? Well, some word combinations are just as hard... especially when you try to fit them into music. A practical example from my current song in progress, "Amniotic Rest":

ORIGINAL WORDS, in 4/4 time showing one measure per line (eight 8th notes), where an underscore shows a half-count rest note:
"Mark __ 9's ex-am-ple that God
un-der-stands my ques-tion-ing __"

Those are great words, referencing a cool story in the Bible, in Mark 9:24 where Jesus didn't zap the guy for saying he didn't quite believe Jesus... Jesus simply healed the man's child. Sadly, my head disagreed with this wording for the lyrics as I tried to sing this-- even in a rather slow song. I had just a half-count to breathe before starting the next line, even if I managed to shove all of those syllables into two measures without stuttering.

RE-WRITTEN WORDS that are far easier to sing;
"Mark _ 9's __Word __God __
un-der-stands my doubts __ __ __"

This says the same and basically misses only one word, "THAT God understands..." In our common language, our head will hear that word anyway, so there's a needed rest by deleted an unnecessary little word "that." And don't be afraid to change your lyrics at the last minute: So often I've gotten to the studio to record a song and found myself tongue-tied trying to get out a line that seemed to work at home during practice.'s your song, you get to enjoy making any changes you want!

By the way-- ONLY you can change the lyrics if you've copyrighted your song.... see future blogs for hints from personal experience. Much Joy in Easy Songwriting to you!
©2011 DianaDee

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lyrics 101 a: Accented counts

How do you know where to divide a word in your melody? Each syllable needs a note, but which note? (see 101b) Which count? In all time signatures, count 1 gets an accent, so put accented syllable there if it fits. Example: "Resounding drum crashes puncture the air."

(1) Since "-sound-" is the accented (louder) syllable of the the first word, it needs to be on count 1. So "Re-" is the last count of your previous measure. At this point, it doesn't matter if it's 3/4 or 4/4 or etc. time.

(2) Both "crashes" and "puncture" are cool color-packing words. Which goes on an accented count? This is where you the songwriter get to decide your time signature -- how many counts will be in each measure. But first: WHAT is an accented count? Quick guide below:
Accented count just means which one is louder, which helps you keep the beat.

-- 3/4 time (also called waltz time since you can sway to it... think of cobra dances:), puts the accented count first, on 1 so you have (LOUD soft soft), Lss, in your measure.
-- 4/4, Count 1 is louder but count 3 is medium loud, more than others, not as much as Count 1: LsMs.
-- 6/8 time is similar to 3/4 except that the 4th count is not as loud as the first: LssMss.
-- 7/4 time is a cool off-beat I love for my rock songs... LssMsss OR you can choose LsssMss. Just add up to 7.

These all assume "quarter notes" but that's perhaps TMI (too much info... not really needed unless you want to count half notes in 2/2 time, etc..... let's not, shall we?!)

(3) So, back to the question, which syllable do you next accent in: "Resounding drum crashes puncture the air"? It's your fun as the songwriter to decide what sounds good to you, what matches the 'music in your head'. Here are some possibilities, where underlines represent music rests:

EXAMPLE 1 ... 3/4 time (3 counts per measure)
Emphasize the syllables "CRASH" and "PUNC-ture" and AIR:
___ ___ Re-
SOUND- ing drum
CRASH - es ___
PUNC- ture the
AIR ___ ___

EXAMPLE 2 ... 6/8 time sounds milder.
Emphasize only the syllables "PUNC-ture" and AIR:
__ __ __ __ __ Re-
SOUND- ing drum Crash- es __
PUNC- ture the Air __ __

EXAMPLE 3 ... 4/4 time (4 counts per measure)
__ __ Re-
SOUND- ing __ __
DRUM crash- es ___
PUNC- ture ___ the
AIR __ __ __

EXAMPLE 4 ... 7/4 time (suggested for hard rock)...
and this example begins differently, on RE, for different feeling,
and the accent is heavy on count 1, somewhat heavy on count 4:

RE- sound- ing __ Drum crash- es
PUNC- ture __ __ Thun- der through
AIR split- ting Ears of all....

HINT: it is easier to write 7/4 songs against a drum machine to be sure you put the syllables where they make the most impact... if you can program the beat to give a slight accent to either count 4 or 5. However, the built-in metronome accents only count 1 since it doesn't know whether you'll be giving the slight accenting to 4 or 5.

WHICH example is right or best? There IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG. Hey -- this is YOUR song... Enjoy! Create whatever music your hear and want to share. And it's a joy for me to share ideas that might bring you Joy in Easy Songwriting for Us all.
--DianaDee Osborne ©2011 has free examples with downloadable MP3's, templates, easy text-based music notation method.