Cookies, Part Six: What, You're Still Reading This?

Wow, are you still reading this? I feel like some kind of musical Bob Vila or something: First, we want to grind down the corner fittings with our belt sander, making sure to sand with the grains of the wood, rather than against…you know, that kind of thing. Well, I'm glad you're still here, because this part is going to be fun. Having figured out the form, and having hung lyrics on the notes in our melody, we're now going to get into the music.

This happens in two stages. First, I have to notate the melody for the vocal line. Then, after notating the melody, I have to decide what the chords will be. After all of that is finished, we'll make what's called a "lead sheet". A lead sheet is one page of music that contains only the vocal melody and the chords. It's like an outline for an essay, or a map for a road trip. It shows us all the major landmarks, and lets us see the shape of the song all at once. Later we'll fill out the piano accompaniment. So, our goal for this stage is to build a lead sheet.

So, to dictate the melody, I usually sit down away from the piano and try to work out the melody on my own, without the aid of an instrument. It's a good exercise. The important first step is to pick a key. This is an incredibly important step. There are many factors in picking a key, but the most important factor is the vocal range of the person who's going to sing the song. I imagine that either I'm going to sing this song, or one of my male friends will sing it. So I'm going to pick a key that's comfortable for the range of a tenor. If the key is too low in the tenor's voice, the song won't have any energy. If it's too high, he'll have to strain. Another factor in picking a key is the range of the piano. In other words, if we pick a key that's too low, then the piano will have a majority of its bass notes in the lower reaches of the keyboard, which will make the song feel heavy and muddy. If we write a key that's too high, the piano accompaniment will sound too light and feeble. You also want to pick a key that's easy for the piano player's fingers to navigate. The less sharps and flats the better.

I've attached the lead sheet here. Click on it to enlarge it in a different window. It's difficult to explain here how I came up with the chords without getting way too technical. Email me if you want to know. For now, the next step is to fill in the piano accompaniment. This is where it all comes together. Stay with me.