Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Simple Tricks to Polish Your Lyrics – Part 3: Using Rituals to Make Great Music

Some musicians found out that a particular order of events or sequence of circumstances can be purposefully manipulated in order to write great songs. They find participating in certain non-musical activities actually compel them to craft music. I'm not saying just any activity would do. For instance, some musicians and songwriters may realize taking a jog, bathing, and then watching television in that specific order drive them to creativity. Others, like Michael Jackson, may only feel comfortable writing music when their pet llama or pet donkey is in the same room with them. For you to be on your musical A-game, a ritual must occur in your day to trigger certain emotions, inciting you to grab a pen, paper, headphone, and possibly your crotch.


When I say "ritual," I'm not referring you to light candles around a pentagram. This is no séance. It's bad enough many of us already believe popular musicians joined the Illuminati. Your ritual should be a list of ordered activities carried out to induce musical inspiration.

Ask yourself this: "When was the last time I felt pretty good writing a song because the creativity kept coming to me?" After you remember that day, you must now remember what all took place that same day before you started writing. Be sure to write your answers down. Then think of another day when you were driven to write lyrics without being diseased with writer's block. Can you remember the events that occurred beforehand? Try to remember all of the days you performed well in generating a new song. Start documenting your everyday life. You will eventually notice a pattern leading to what works and doesn't work concerning the catalyst of your musical A-game.

As I said in Marijuana and Its Use for Creativity, some artists' ritual is to smoke to acheive creativity. And then there are Christian musicians and other singers with religious overtones who feel the need to say a prayer before they write or perform a song. These may be parts of a creative ritual, but I don't believe lone activities will spark craftsmanship. Again, the idea is for you to think back to all of the events that led up to the times you remember "being in the zone" jotting a new song. Smoking kush alone will not spark creativity, nor will the Holy Spirit because your faith in making great music is dead if you don't put in the work to hone your skills.

I found coming home from work in the morning and cleaning my office gave me energy to write lyrics. So what gives you energy? Remember to document what went on in your everyday life in order to see a pattern. Write everyday even if you don't plan on working on music for a particular day. Something that occurred two days ago in addition to what happened today may get your creative juices flowing. Commit to your newly discovered pattern whenever you need a personal push to write music.

Christopher Patton
Hot Bird Music

Need improvement with the production of your music? Or would you like to collaborate with a producer who can add new sounds to your work? Read the Pre-Production and Session Coaching catalog to see how Hot Bird Music can assist you.

This blog post appears on hotbirdmusic.com.

Simple Tricks to Polish Your Lyrics – Part 2: Forming Your Cadence

In Simple Tricks to Polish Your Lyrics - Part 1, we learned to enhance our songs by avoiding cliché rhymes. Now we're going to learn to develop a vocal cadence, or rhythmic singing, for our music. For those of you specializing in rap music, you are probably more familiar with the term "flow" or "delivery." The way you sing (or rap) over an instrumental beat is an art and science in of itself. Always remember the saying: "It's not what you say, but how you say it." The same can apply to music. So let's delve into some examples of vocal cadences.

Image courtesy of Pixomar - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Image courtesy of Pixomar - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

For the sake of this lesson, let's practice with a simple two-bar lyric:

I didn't fall in love, I stumbled upon you Like the rising sun, my love dawned on you

Now there is a combination of ways you can say the same exact words. You can experiment with adding pauses in between words, drag certain words out, and shorten the time you say other words. Here's an edited version of how you may recite the two bars

I didnnnnnnnn't fall in love... I stuuuumbleeeddd upooonnn you... Like the riiiiiiising sun... my loooove dawned on you

Notice I added three periods (...) to indicate a pause between words. And because I lengthened some of the syllables, the two bars may have expanded into four bars instead. It's a matter of playing around with your syllables until you come up with something comfortable.

Here's a fun game to try: Do you know the lyrics to the song Mary Had A Little Lamb? First, sing it in the traditional way in which you were taught. Now sing it differently by adding variations. This should give you an idea of how forming rhythmic words can give your own songs a twist, allowing your music to stand out from others.

Some artists, such as jazz and funk singers, may sometimes have a looser cadence by placing two or three words in a bar without dragging the words. They'll say those few words as if they were talking regularly and stride with long pauses before they sing the next bar. Here is what their lyrics may look like:

Hit me......C'mon...... Don't trick me...Whoa...

Pretty simple, right? But on the other hand, rap artists put more effort in writing their words for each bar. Eminem, for example, tend to have dense and complex rhyme schemes. He may write ten rhyming words within two bars alone. Fast pacing rappers, like Twista, have the ability to say 34 syllables in just one bar.

Another trick to forming a vocal cadence is to participate in scatting. Scatting is the idea of mumbling empty, nonsensical words to a beat. Before you begin writing any words on paper, scat to the rhythm of a drum pattern or to a melodic pattern you hear. You can either match your vocal cadence to the rhythmic pattern exactly as you hear it in the music, syncopate your cadence against the rhythmic pattern, or use a combination of both.

Remember, your voice is an extra instrument to an instrumental beat. Treat your voice as if it is being composed along with a kick drum, snare drum, hi hat, guitar riff, bassline, and synthesizer. When composing music, your instruments may engage in call-and-response or play in unison. Your voice, too, must play a roll. So when you're forming a vocal cadence, allow it to creatively interact with the other instruments.

Christopher Patton
Hot Bird Music

Need improvement with the production of your music? Or would you like to collaborate with a producer who can add new sounds to your work? Read the Pre-Production and Session Coaching catalog to see how Hot Bird Music can assist you.

Simple Tricks to Polish Your Lyrics – Part 1: Avoiding Cliché Rhymes

If you write your own song lyrics, do you tend to rhyme words that your listeners expect to hear from you? In other words, are you writing cliché rhyming words? Here's a test to see if you fall into the same exigency as other songwriters: Think of a word that rhymes with girl. Go ahead. Think of one. Imagine you're hearing the Jeopardy waiting tune with Alex Trebek. Did you think of a rhyming word? Good. If you chose "world" or "pearl" as your word, then there's a possibility some aspect of your lyrics are cliché and uninspiring.