Tuesday, August 6, 2013

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.

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