I remember when this was something that I didn’t know – and didn’t know that I didn’t know.
I’d learn the notes and words, apply the odd dynamic – then put on my ‘terribly interested’ performance face as I sang for the audience. And people bought it.
I guess I wanted every note to be beautifully sung, and wanted to be admired for my clean technique. That meant that there wasn’t much room in my head for actually getting to the emotional meat of the song.
I’ve actually had much more success with this when speaking, rather than singing for audiences. Guess I found it easier to do just one or the other. Hah! As I say to my students all the time “When did I ever tell you that making music was easy?”
With my Barbershop choruses I no longer have the luxury of ignoring the musical and emotional flow of a song. The 6 judges and the Barbershop audiences have an expectation of being excited, or moved by the sweep and forward motion of what we’re singing.
The ‘story’ arch of a song is usually much like a novel. The stage is set and the theme introduced. The theme is developed and driven towards the BIG MOMENT – when the heart is broken, or the declaration of love is blurted out, or the sweetest irony is wistfully stated, or unbridled exultation and joy bursts forth. After that there’s usually the ‘and that’s the way it is’ denouement – which can be either whispered, shouted from the rooftops, or emotionally hauled back into something more world weary.
In all the best songs, the melodic, harmonic and the lyric high point is the same. Usually the climax of a song isn’t difficult to find – you just need understand the value of identifying it. Driving the song towards that point, and building the excitement – well, that’s another post.