Important Steps In The Evolution of a Song
In this post I want to make a couple of important points about the evolution of a song, using the example of “Never Was To Be” by Daryl P Hall and Andy Roberts
The 30 day song challenge is all about putting the work in, getting ideas flowing, developing technique and prompting the generation of enough good song ideas from which to pick one or two to keep. But now I want to talk about what can happen to a song after the initial period when it may or may not have been considered “finished”.
Never Was To Be
The song developed from an online collaboration within the Songwriters Circle, which is not an unusual occurrence. Lyricists post their latest writings and musicians will offer to supply the music. Or maybe somebody will strum and hum a tune challenging anybody to come up with a set of lyrics to fit – perhaps less often.
Often when faced with somebody else’s verse in black on white I read it and fail to make sense of it as a structure. When I write my own lyrics, I always have a rudimentary tune in mind, to provide the scaffolding. Then I develop a better tune to fit the verses, maybe add a refrain and change the lyrics to fit the new tune. So my answer to the riddle ‘which comes first, the lyrics or the music’ is kind of both.
Anyway, this time the writing jumped out at me from the screen. I could immediately click with Daryl’s lyrics when posted in the group, with no title. Unlike many which are contributed, I could immediately ‘hear’ the rhythm of a song in this one.
March 2011 Never Was To Be – Podcast version
This video was recorded shortly after setting the lyrics to music.
The words needed to be adjusted a little to fit the tune and to scan consistently. I made a few small changes, and brought the chorus in after verse 2.
Its also a great topic for a song, one which has the potential to touch people’s hearts. And a story which demands attention
The tune is primitive, not terribly original, but pretty and fits the lyrics.
There’s another version on soundcloud from the earliest days which is similar to the video 1. Slightly creaky vocals on this song demo.
January 2012 - Never Was To Be – Live
Ten months later.
I needed to memorise the lyrics well enough for a public performance. This is an important step in itself. Memorising a new song these days involves playing it over and over, maybe 2 or 3 times a day for several days in a row. During this time, some of the words may be clipped or changed slightly.
On replaying Video One and the Soundcloud just now, I was a little surprised to realise just how much the tune has evolved. this is one of the main points of this blog post: Once the lyrics are polished, a tune is finalised and a demo recorded, that isn’t the end of the development of new song. It can carry on changing, improving, maturing, informed by the passing of time and the exposure to new audiences.
Daryl’s lyrics allowed me to get something over to the audience, and feel an immediate response, something which only happens with a few rare songs in just the right circumstances. Other songs may fall down at this point and be consigned to the back catalogue of songs once completed and learned that get forgotten again because they don’t bridge that gap for one reason or another.
So the other point is that in the end, it’s only after having performed a song to a live audience that I can truly confirm that the song works.