Songwriting Step II: Making the words appear singable

The next step in the Story-to-Song process is to prepare the text for the first singthrough. I take that big block of words all strung together and shape it to look like one long poem. This essentially means looking at the text and imagining reading or singing a line of words. Inhale, speak or sing as many words as is comfortable, exhale. In song writing speak, this means hitting the carriage return or “enter” on your computer keyboard when it is time to exhale after the last word you speak or sing.

For example, here was the story I spoke for my new song:

When I was sixteen, I broke up with my boyfriend. We had been dating for 2 1/2 years (for over two years). I had just discovered Ani Difranco, and her songs made me feel liberated like a liberated woman. I decided I didn’t need a boyfriend. I could be independent on my own. My mom told me that I had made the biggest mistake of my life, and then I started to doubt myself. But she was wrong. My boyfriend didn’t define who I was. I defined who I was. I decided who I wanted to be, and I didn’t need a boy to do it for me. Besides, most of the time we were going out he wanted to change things about me to make me different than who I was. And I listened. He told me he hoped that I never got fat because then he might not be attracted to me anymore. So what if I get fat? Then I get fat. I’m still me and I’m still beautiful. Most of the men I have dated have been that way most of my relationships of them that way me doing whatever is needed to keep my man happy and feeling good about himself. But what about me. Now I seem to get left behind. When is it my turn to figure out what I need. Who’s going to help me be me.

A line of words feels good to sing the simpler the words are. Simple phrasing feels good to those who may be so inclined to sing-along. Simple phrasing, when connected with well thought out inflection, accentuation of syllables or what Malcolm calls “a slur slong,” and appropriate and timely pauses, which gives the singer time to take a breath and the listener time to digest the meaning of the story thus far.

Taking the story above,¬† I reshaped the block o’ words and created something that I could attempt to sing:

When I was sixteen,

I broke up with my boyfriend.

We had been dating for over two years.

I had just discovered

Ani Difranco,

and her songs

made me feel liberated

like a liberated woman.

I decided

I didn’t need a boyfriend.

I could be independent on my own.

My mom told me

that I had made

the biggest mistake

of my life,

and then I started

to doubt myself.

But she was wrong.

My boyfriend didn’t define who I was.

I defined who I was.

I decided who I wanted to be,

and I didn’t need a boy

to do it for me.

Besides, most of the time

we were going out

he wanted to change things

about me

to make me different than who I was.

And I listened.

He told me he hoped

that I never got fat

because then he might not

be attracted to me anymore.

So what if I get fat?

Then I get fat.

I’m still me

and I’m still beautiful.

Most of the men I have dated

have been that way

most of my relationships have been that way

me doing

whatever is needed

to keep my man happy

and feeling good about himself.

But what about me.

Now I seem to get left behind.

When is it my turn to figure out what I need.

Who’s going to help me be me.

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