Picking up where we left off in the last class, our third class took a deeper look into how we set lyrics to melody. Kind of like writing lyrics, there’s no real rule to writing a melody and some of the best ones stem out of improvisations, akin to a musical brainstorm session.
We started out the class by playing a few songs, our instrumental cover of the Hendrix tune “The Wind Cries Mary” that features Dave on the acoustic bass, and an original song, “Smiling Hearts," which happened to be the “unfinished song” from the first workshop! Our students recognized it instantly when we got the chorus.
Next, we sat in a circle and shared some lyrics that had been written during the week, this time with the idea that we would be trying to sing them. Some students who were shy to read their own lyrics allowed the person next to them to read the lyrics for them. We talked a bit about what the mood of the lyrics might be and what sort of qualities a melody could have in order to have the same mood. Nobody wanted to take a stab at singing just yet, so Nathaniel had the idea to just speak the words while we improvised an instrumental accompaniment. We were able to experience the same lyrics over different musical backdrops, which created different moods and intensities. Our first attempt was received well at first but ultimately was scrapped because it was “too dark.” Once we settled into a more laid back groove, one student started singing the words in an improvised melody and this became the start of her first song.
We split into two groups, to come up with two songs based on the two sets of lyrics that had been shared. Our students identified that one of the key elements of most melodies is repetition. Some interesting ideas that came out of the discussion of repetition:
· Sometimes the melody and/or words can repeat but the music changes (including change of instrumentation)
· An idea could repeat but with a slight variation
· Repeating lines can alternate with new lines, keeping the song grounded in a general idea while allowing it to go different place
Both groups had at least one student playing guitar, two singing, and one playing violin or viola, which were especially excited about! By the end of the class, each group had written a verse to a song with a melody, chord progression, and lyrics. We had just enough time at the end to bring the groups back together and share what we had written before we all had to part ways until the next time. We’re on a homework hiatus for now, to celebrate the beginning of spring, but in our next workshop, we will introduce one more fundamental topic – the bass line!