A good song can take you somewhere. It can also bring you back to the same place when you hear it again. They can become a personal anthems, theme songs or banners for an entire generation. As one is being written and interpreted, a good song begins to take on a life of it’s own. It almost tells you what it need and where it wants to go.
A good song is always subject to interpretation as it’s performed or recorded. As they are interpreted, I’ve seen a good songs fall apart and bad songs made to sound as if they’re good ones. Certain elements of musical interpretation that can make or break a song. Here are a few of the many things to consider:
Key. Too low and it’s not sing-able. Too high and it’s painful to the singer and the audience.
Artist. A good song in the hands of the wrong artist quickly becomes a bad song. However, a good song in the hands of the right artist will magnify the song’s greatness. What makes wrong and right artists for songs? Mostly it boils down to two things, style and believability. Is the song in the artists musical comfort zone/ palette? Can the artist make the song his or her story as they “tell” it? Do we believe it?
Arrangement. A four minute guitar solo intro probably isn’t the right answer. Most people would never give the song a chance :^)
Tempo. This is the big one. It’s all about the tempo. While some songs can be done fast or slow, there is a workable range and accompanying style that will make it work. I know of dance producers that would have a crowd in the studio. As they were working on the song in the control room, they’d watch the people in the other room to see when they began to move to the beat. When the crowd started dancing they knew they had it.
So what about a song’s tempo range? Is it so slow that it’s painful? So fast that it’s not able to be enjoyed? Musicians and producers refer to the desired tempo as the groove. There is a comfortable groove for each song to sit where it feels right.
I recently wrote an up-tempo song for a project. When it came time to record the song, I knew it needed to be slower and more meditative. It worked both ways, but there is a slow tempo range that worked as well as a fast tempo range.
Our lives flow like sets of good songs – one after the other. When you hit a spot where something’s not quite right you should first check your tempo. Is it painfully slow? Pick up the tempo. Is it so fast that it’s not able to be enjoyed? Slow it down a bit.
One final note: When an album/CD is being mastered, there is a process needed to decide on the spacing between the songs. Too close together and it doesn’t breathe. Too far apart and it throws off the impact of the next song. This too applies to life…
Life was created to be enjoyed. If you’re not enjoying it, check the tempo and the spacing between the “songs”.
So I guess the question is, “Does life imitate art, or is life an art?”