Last blog I put down some of my thoughts on "parties" or "point of view" and making sure that "point of view" is consistent throughout the song. The tweaking process includes reviewing many things and a couple important things to review are "point of view" and also "tense". It works in the movie "Back to the Future" but most times not so much in songs. However, some songs mix tenses but it can be both tricky and effective if done correctly. I wrote a song called "A Letter to Myself" which drove me crazy to write as it is a song about "If I could write a letter at my current old self and send it back to myself at 16 years old, what advice would give myself in the past. I love the song but it was a "struggle" to keep it making sense when talking about the my present, my past, and the 16 year old "me's" future. I think it turned out pretty good and love singing the song but it was a "pulling out my hair" tweak session. (Those who know me, know that I've pulled out way too much hair over the years LOLOL)!!
So, today let's talk a little about "tense". It is amazing how easy it is to mix "tenses" in a song and not catch it. Of course we are talking about "past", "present" and "future". Just as "point of view" when you start to write a new song you want to make a conscious decision in which tense the song will be written, or be aware of the combination of tenses during the song. It is then important to be consistent throughout the lyric. Let's talk about each:
1. Past: This is common to talk about things that happened in the past. Nostalgia, things that happened in the past within a relationship, memories, etc. Sometimes songs do talk about the present and then jump back to memories in the past BUT the song should still be focused at "present" even though the singer is "thinking back". Words like "did", "was" verses "will" are keys to the tense of the song.
2. Present: Today, right now, in the moment. This is songwriting in "real time" so to speak. In some ways this is the hardest as it is easy to jump back or jump ahead in tense when talking about today. Remember, you can talk about the past and future...but...still be in the present tense.
3. Future: Talking about what will happen in the future will be writing a song about something that will happen in the minutes, days, years to come. Again, you can write a song in the present tense and talk about the future but the song should still remain in the present tense.
Jumping tenses, just as jumping "point of views" can confuse a listener and you want to try and avoid either in your songs. So, you'll want to add "looking at the tense(s) throughout your song" to your "tweaking list". What is the tweaking list? Maybe I'll share my "tweaking list" in a future blog :) Your mileage may vary!
Remember: Write more...whine less!