I was writing a new song via "Skype" with my buddy Tony Rackley from South Carolina yesterday. Tony co-wrote the song "Old New Straitsville Moonshine Run" with me that Greg Cahill and the boys from Special Consensus recorded (GREAT RECORDING by the way!!).
Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5g0WlaLLHw
Tony had an idea and we ended up with another "shine" song LOL...hey, never enough of those...right???
Anyway, we had the lyric and the melody fairly well nailed down. Now....TO FIND THE GROOVE!!! This particular song actually sounds good either really fast ("burner") or in the what I would call "medium drive" category. But, how do we go about finding the exact "groove" for this one??
First a couple things:
1. Speed DOES NOT equal GROOVE or DRIVE!!!
You can have a song that is slow but has that "groove" that you can't help but sway to or just "feel"!! In addition...playing a song too fast many times destroys the "groove". "Drive" is talked about a lot in bluegrass music and so many times playing a song TOO FAST actually destroys the "drive" or "groove" of the song.
2. Small changes in tempo and make BIG changes in the "groove"!!!
A couple of clicks in BPM (beats per minute) can completely change the feel of a song and can ruin or enhance the "groove". Don't underestimate the effect of moving the tempo a couple BPM either way!!
So...how do I find the "groove"????
You need a metronome!!! This should be a MUST HAVE for every songwriting to have in their songwriter tool box. Click tracks have been used for years in recording but with the availability of the smart phone, iPad, computer etc there is NO excuse for not having a metronome any more!! There are so many free apps out there it is crazy...so do you have a metronome app on your device??? Why not...go and get one NOW!! :)
So now that I have my metronome...fire that baby up and set an approximate BPM for your new song. Play along and sing...does it feel a little "draggy"? Does it feel "rushed"? At first I usually make some larger jumps just to test the limits and eliminate the wide swings and begin to "hone in" on that perfect "groove". Some writers say they try to match the listeners "heart rate". So if you are writing a slow ballad people probably are sitting listening to the song quietly and may start around 70 BPM. But if the song could be used during a workout on a treadmill to run to...well...I wouldn't know much about the running part LOL...but maybe you'd start out at 120 or even 140 BPM and adjust from there.
Either way keep making up and down adjustments while experimenting and honing in on that perfect BPM. I have a song that I wrote with my buddy Wyatt McCubbin where we even went back and forth between 116 and 117...funny but it sure seemed like ONE click made a difference :) Or maybe it was just us LOLOL!!!
Now getting to using a click track during the recording of the demo. I HATE playing to a click track as while it keeps you rock solid on the tempo...it hinders the song from "breathing". So it is a double edged sword!! My co-writer Mike Evans is a MONSTER rhythm guitar player!! One of the best...he can find that BPM...that "groove" without the click track and stay on it like walking on the top of a fence!!! Amazing and I love the demos we do with Mike playing rhythm guitar. the "GROOVE" never wavers!! Me...I'm not that great at it so sometimes I need the click and sometimes I can hang it without it...your mileage may vary.
Anyway...will be writing again today with Wyatt McCubbin and hopefully we'll finish one that we started a while back and start on another idea that I have :) We are planning on doing a couple/three guitar-vocal demos, so him and I will be doing this exercise today for sure and trying to find that perfect "groove"!! So, after you finish your song...fire up that metronome and get your "groove" on!!! It makes a BIG difference in the FEEL of your song to the listener!! :)
Have a GREAT day and remember: Write more...whine less!!!