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Let The Ear Focus
Have you ever looked at a printed brochure and not been sure what to focus on? A good graphic designer knows to allow ‘white space’ in a design so that the eye understands where to focus. The same is true when arranging a worship song.
Our songs need ‘white space’. When every instrumentalist plays and every vocalist sings the entire song, there’s no white space – nothing to point the listener to a particular melody, harmony or instrumental riff.
Without leaving white space for the ear to focus, the song sounds the same all the way through.
Action Point: Take a song and experiment with the arrangement. Start with guitar only, add bass and drums on the second verse, save harmonies for the second chorus, repeat the bridge acapella. These are all simple ways to add white space and focus to the song. Have fun finding others!
Songs Have Emotions Too
Dynamics in a song are the equivalent of vocal inflections when we speak – they communicate the intended emotion of a song.
Imagine if your best friend only spoke with you in a LOUD voice. Or imagine if he only spoke in a whisper. Or what if he only spoke in a monotone? How annoying would that be? How would you know if he was happy or sad? Content or bored?
Just as we use inflection in our voices to communicate our emotions, we should use dynamics in our songs to do the same.
Action point: Choose a song and think through the emotions of it. Speak the lyrics and use vocal inflection to communicate emotion. Now, play and sing the song with that same emotion. If we’re in touch with our emotions, we communicate them naturally when we speak. If we’re in touch with the emotions of a song, we should also communicate them naturally when we sing it.
Been There Done That
It’s easy to rest on our laurels and slide on our creativity. Once we get that arrangement down, why bother changing it? (“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”) Looking for way to end a song? Why not use that old trick of repeating the last line three times and slowing down the last time? Works every time, hundreds of time.
Really? Are we that lazy? Are we that void of creativity? Hey, we’re the musicians … the ones who are supposed to be creative! We have a license to create but how often do we settle for the status quo? Let’s not!
Action point: Choose a song and change it up. If it’s fast, play it slow. If it’s slow play it fast. Have the drummer find a a different beat. Find an alternate ending. Read a Bible verse during an instrumental break. Do something different and see how it sounds. You might like it.