I have been working on a song that is an ode to my family. The working title is “here we have my father”. Not so catchy but it is the first line of the song. I wanted the song to be poignant and beautiful but still pack some impact.
I had started out with a simple chromatic walk down on the bass, which is just the scale from top to bottom. Rhythmically I had had quarter notes of the scale for each, that’s 4 to the bar, so it had a brisk marching quality to it. Which, incidentally, I thought sucked.
I tried slowing it down, I tried eliminating the walk down, I tried everything I could think of and then I realized that this was not inventing the wheel, this was song arrangement.
I did the time honored thing of thinking about various songs I loved that might give me an inspiration for an arrangement for this song.
In any event, I am crawling around my memory trying to come up with something when “Blackbird” popped into my head. I love the guitar arrangement for that and when I heard it, thought, “I will never be this great”. I loved it.
I read later that McCartney got the inspiration and partial bass line from a Bach piece, so there’s that time honored thing I was referring to earlier.
I tried it as just a one string bass line as I sang the song, and realized it was simply all going by too fast. That’s when I had the great idea (an idea frequently suggested by my pal, Cliff Eberhardt (www.cliffebernardt.net) in his song writing seminars.) of slowing down the entire song by giving each of the chords twice as much value. So that we only had two bass notes per bar instead of four and I slowed down the delivery of the lines by the same formula.
To illustrate, here’s the first line of the song and how the bass notes went along:
D C# B A G F# E A
Here we have my father, moving kind of slow
But each note was one beat. What I did was stretch it out so that each note was given the value of two beats. Suddenly the song came together like it was meant to be.
Next, I tried to incorporate a second harmony note for the guitar so I would be playing two note chords as I sang, ala Blackbird. So I wrote a single line on the B string to harmonize with the Bass part.
Then I thought it might be interesting to try doing just tenths on the sixth and third string and alternating between the two. Then I realized that I could play them together and get a really cool guitar part. And to change the texture, I would sometimes just play tenths on the sixth and third string or twelfths on the sixth and second string.
Now I had a piece that seems to enchant audiences, but it is four verses with no bridge, just a little turn around. The audiences keep asking for the song, but I’m thinking that it needs something else to complete it—a release from the pattern, but it must be brief and exhilarating and then right back into the song. But how?
I’ll let you know how I figure that part out.