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Time to Sink In



Some songwriters advise us to give a song room to breathe, give it space, and make it less busy.

While I agree this good advice, I also like to think - give things a chance to "sink in".


Often listening to lyrics is like drinking from a fire hose. You can't do it, so plenty of water doesn't make it down your throat :)

To avoid this, we need to meter out the lyric so it gets absorbed by the listener's brain, not discarded because the listener isn't ready for more information.

A repeating chorus, a musical interlude or even a stop or breakdown in the song can give the listener a break.


Is there a poignant line in the lyric of your song?

Is there a climax in the storyline?

Is new information flowing too fast for a typical listener to keep up?


If so, add some room to allow things to sink in. You'll make a better connection to your listeners if you do :)




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Hi Paul

Some good sound advice here, I will keep it in mind



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I agree. Spaces and the art of letting a song breath. I believe this is one of the toughest tasks in songwriting, especially when you're writing by yourself and don't have a band to rehearse with, then the problem will solve itself, your bandmates will simply tell you to shut the hell up. :P It's difficult to lean back, and naturally let the music fill out the spaces. A lot of songwriters, when it's time to let the music "speak", a time when you should really let the lyrics (and vocal melodies) sink in, hit panic mode and instead fill the musical parts with vocals. What happens then is that we feed the listener with too much vocal and lyrical information so we lose their interest. I've gotten better at it but I'm guilty of this myself in the past.


That's the hardest part of arranging, you really need to step out of yourself to be able to focus on what the song wants and needs, not what you want or need. A big difference and usually makes wonders once a songwriter figure it out. Again, not saying I don't do it, just saying I'm more aware of it nowadays and that alone helps a ton.


Thanks for sharing Paul. Good stuff!



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Paul C, 


I couldn't agree more with your & The S's take on this point.  Often, for me anyway,  a lyric needs a little time to breathe and be absorbed by a listener.  To take it a step further I would suggest this should not only be considered in the arrangement, but also in a larger sense of a lyric 'sinking in' or being absorbed and digested by an audience over several listens.  An example that comes to mind that I recently heard again is 'Possession' by Sara McLachlan.  First time i heard that song I was drawn in by the dreamlike, ethereal, airy beauty of the vocals & arrangement.  Only upon further listens and reflection did some of the darker images of the pathos and stalkeresque elements of the lyric become apparent to me (maybe 'Every Breath You Take' by the Police fits this mode as well?).   One of my favorite songs, 'Franklin's Tower' by the Grateful Dead, has evolved with me over time as the imagery of the lyric continually expand for me as my perspective grows (from the child let loose in the world, to the parental figure on the other side of that gaze, as well as other elements).  


I struggle with this issue a lot as I work on creating lyrics/songs, am I asking to much of the listener to get my message in one take?  Some might say this is the difference/dichotomy between pop and art, but those first two songs I mentioned were quite popular.  I sometimes hope an emotionally charged or catchy chorus can hook a listener in and the full meaning of the rest of the song can be absorbed by a curious listener over time & repeated listens.  Maybe I am being to optimistic?   I get this is a step past your initial point, but I hope it relevant. 


Anyway, thanks for raising the issue.


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Great post Paul, you said so much with so few words! I could have written a novel and still not have said as much as you. That's a real problem I have with songwriting and in my day job, which kind of makes the subject so appealing to me.


Anyway, I hope you don't mind me posting a song into your comments because the minute I read this I started thinking about this song. I love this song and have tried to work out why, I sometimes do really believe it is actually a songwriting lesson disguised as a song and it kinda echos exactly what you are saying.



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