Hi Mike,@Profusia: Hi Thomas, sorry for the late reply. I'd intended to post this on Tuesday, but I got distracted by 'life'.On Tuesday I'd listened to the song 3 or 4 times. The 'delay' in replying gave me the chance to listen to it again after 3-4 days.
On Tuesday, I was going to write that the song 'grew on me'. That's even more so today! I still like it. I agree with previous posters that it's great to hear original songs and I think you did a great job in composing the music and lyrics and and playing sax. I also thought that the vocalist gave an excellent performance on what - for a vocalist - was a difficult song to sing.
My 'personal impressions' (always with the intention of helping you reflect and perhaps learn) is purely from the perspective of a 'listener'' I do play tenor sax in a couple of amateur Big Bands and I'm no great shakes at solos or improv. So I'll leave it others to comment on these.
My main impressions are:
- you played a short intro and a long solo. It didn't sound to me as if the sax was 'present' (in however limited a way) during the whole performance. Being extremely B&W about it, it was as if someone had pressed an 'on/off switch' for the sax at 2 points.
- the vocals were quite 'dense' in the sense that a) there was pretty much no 'space' between verses or between verses and chorus and b) each line was 'packed' with syllables; at times I wished (as a listener) that there was a bit more 'space' (as a punctuation mark) between verses and choruses. Each was a 'musical and lyrical phrase' and just as I thought 'hey, that was a nice phrase', the next one had already started. So at times, the 'density left me a bit 'breathless'. I'm amazed that it it didn't leave the vocalist breathless too!
- I found your solo (tenor+sop) long. For me personally, the tenor solo sounded just about the right length as an 'íntermezzo'; I do realise (from Big Band numbers) that 16-bar - or longer solos often repeated by different instruments. So there's nothing 'wrong' with the length of the solo, I just personally was ready for the vocals again at the end of the tenor solo.
- the 'cadence' of a song consists of patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. I'm no songwriter but from what I've read and watched, the 'best' cadence seems be one in which the stresses fall on "meaningful" (high-value) words rather than on common 'connecting' words (and, or, to, at, etc). In the chorus, having the stresses fall on less important words (while the important ones were unstressed) irritated me. I found it really weird. But, if it's deliberate, it does have the effect of being unusual!. A less important point is that there are one or two 3-syllable words in the 'verse' that the singer has to get out in the time where - in the rhythm - there's time to to (usually) sing just one syllable. I found this less 'strange' today, probably because I already knew the lyrics. I'll give some examples of the cadence below.
- I really enjoyed your tenor solo! For me, it suited the 'mood' of the song (and vocals) perfectly. I enjoyed the sop solo slightly less. Not only because it was (for me) an unnecessary extension of the tenor solo but because (in pitch and style) it also seemed to stray more from the 'mood' of the song. As a tenor player, I'm of course biased.
- The vocalist had an assertive (but not over-assertive!) voice and very clear diction. 'He had a certain 'presence' however he played with the timing and dynamics. I felt that you could perhaps have emulated this more in your intro: a more assertive tone, a bit more more attack on your notes and clearer separation between them.
So turning all these around into 'suggestions that you might want to consider' for future compositions:
- build in more 'space' between verses and chorus (as punctuation marks) that also allow you to play a few backing notes that remind listeners that you're still there
- consider where the stresses in the cadence fall and what effect this has on listeners
- consider whether the listener would prefer one long solo repetition (as in this song) or multiple shorter solo's mixed in with vocals (in this song: one solo on the verses and later - following some vocals - another solo on the chorus)
- consider how you're going to 'set the mood/tone' of the song in your intro
Again, I'm just one of many more listeners. I'm not being deliberately critical. I really did like the song (5 times over!). I really do hope that you'll continue to write more of your own work and I hope that these impressions may help you in that.
PS examples of cadence:
Swim with sea lions and sharks, [OK]
Turtles and penguins too [and = weak]
Marvel at Everest [at=weak]
Have a crack at K2 [OK]
Behold Saharan sands [in normal speech: Saharan sands]
Hang with Orang Utans [in normal speech: Orang Utans
Blue footed Boobies that dance [OK: blue footed 'is 3 syllables, other lines have 2 introductory unstressed syllables. Blue-foot Boobies?]
Oh will you give me a chance [OK: "Just give me a chance" is one syllable shorter as intro ]
To show you
Walked through history on the Chinese wall ["history" - 3 syllables - sang as 1]
Where we’ll watch pairs of duelling Albatros [too many syllables in this line for comfort. Intro 3 syllables and "duelling"in 1 syllable]
Over the whole song just 2 examples of "many syllables per line" means that all other lines in the verses have IMHO a perfect cadence! This is definitely the most important 'take-away'. It's not at all easy to do as a lyricist and you've done it remarkably well. You obviously know what you're doing. If the vocalist is fine with these 2 lines, just forget that I even mentioned them.!
Wow so much to digest here - thanks a lot for making such an effort to share your thoughts, and for your kind words.
I guess I should own up. For some reason I thought everyone would realise that I sang it myself - but I can see now that there was no way for people to really know that, other than that I'd never have suggested shooting the vocalist if it had been anyone else. So yeah "wrote the theme tune, sang the theme tune". Apologies if that reference isn't universal ("Little Britain")
My songs are usually hard to sing. I'm a monster for not leaving much breathing space between phrases for one thing. I write melody first, and then lyrics afterwards (ALMOST if not quite always) and then realise what a hard job I've given the vocalist. If you wish you are at liberty to assume that more than one take needed to be stitched together to get through the bridge because of lack of breathing space . I couldn't possibly comment
I didn't want to impose sax backing underneath the vocals for fear of muddying things, and as you saw there really wasn't room for any sax fills between the phrases so effectively the sax is indeed switched in and out as and when required. Perhaps I should consider some subtle backings to give it more of a "member of the band" presence. It's an idea worth exploring so thanks. Some of my songs do have sax fills and/or backings. I also do sometimes produce songs which are vocal, solo, vocal, solo, vocal. Or indeed just the classic 32 bar vocal, 16 bar solo, 16 bar vocal (from bridge).
The length of the solo break is why I switched between tenor and soprano. Ideally I would probably usually include a 16 bar solo and then back to vocals on the bridge, but, having written as many lyrics as I had, I didn't want to throw any away hence put in a full 32 bar chorus of improv, albeit split across the 2 horns to try to inject some variety. But I totally understand your point.
Your points about which words the stresses fall on is really interesting so thanks for bringing it to my attention. It's not anything I've ever consciously considered, or heard about before. It kind of does make some sense, but I don't appear to be sensitive to it at all. Perhaps now I'm aware of the concept I'll become sensitive to it. But right now I'm really happy with the lyrics and how they fit with the rhythm so am not going to tie my self up in knots over that one. I guess I just write what sounds right to me, and hope that's the best way I can evaluate it. I'm really sorry to hear that it irritated you though, and obviously its a concern if it would irritate a significant percentage of listeners. I can't say I wrote it this way consciously or for effect, but, I like to mess with rhythms, and distract the listener a little, so maybe subconsciously I could have written it this way to create a similar effect. I'm not a true jazzer, not by a long way, but it is an attempt to write a "jazz standard" style song, and I see a large ingredient of jazz as striving to challenge the listener (and inadvertently the player or singer quite often unfortunately).
The sop solo isn't good - I fully accept that it needs improving or replacing. I don't write bridges that are easy to solo over (at least for me!)
No plans to stop writing. My debut project was a studio album of original jazz/showtune style songs using 7 different female vocalists across the 18 tracks, with lots of different permutations of vocals, solos, and backings etc. I've had 16 tracks from that album played on BBC Introducing local radio so far (which doesn't mean a fat lot other than it can't be total rubbish I guess) and they also invited us to a live recording and videoing session to perform 4 numbers from the album and interview me, and nominated us for consideration for playing at New York WinterJazz Festival (although we didn't get selected). I'm still new at this and obviously it's an expensive game with no financial reward to speak of but I'm definitely encouraged to keep going. This song is part of the follow up project which is all self-produced at home (to save money) using electronic trickery and a mix of the jazzy/show tune tracks and retro soft-rock, piano ballady type stuff (some without any sax). Whether the BBC will ever play any of my self-produced stuff with my voice on it is yet to be discovered - the production quality clearly isn't going to be as high, but, for someone who wasn't playing a musical instrument 7 years ago I'm happy with how it's going. I've still got a hell of a lot to learn, but loving it
Thanks, sincerely, for all of your input,