NEW: I'm experimenting with creating this audio version of the post. Let me know if you find it helpful:
So we all understand the value of a repeating 'hook' line in songwriting. But how do you repeat the same words multiple times without boring yourself and your listener to death?
First of all, please know that much on the radio DOES bore. Sometimes it's not the best song/singer/performance that gets on the radio (I know; shocking :)
If YOU want to repeat hooks or other lyrics in ways that engage instead of anesthetize the listener...
Never repeat a lyric exactly the same way!
- slightly alter nuances such as vowel shape, vocal tone, emphasis and/or volume.
- make major melody variations, taking the line up, down or another place entirely.
- change the way you end the lyric, shorter, longer or falling off.
- add or delete a slur or scoop.
- add or subtract vocal embellishments/licks or words like 'yeah, no, uh, aw oh yeah, or a repetition of the last lyric.
- When recording, you can cut and paste a word, line or even a whole chorus if this means it saves enough studio time to stay within your budget. You need a smart production team to call this wisely.
- Sometimes you want the repetition to take on a machine-like exactness, especially in some pop, electronica and hiphop genres. Again, a smart production team is needed to choose these kind of production values on purpose for the chosen effect.
How do you know...when to alter or exactly repeat repetitive lines? Go back to the reason the voice exists... to deliver messages that get the desired response. Ask yourself what each way would communicate. What is the message-between-the-lines of the sound of altered or exact repeats? Which way gets you the response you want? Pick that one.
AND... please let me know if you find the audio version helpful. All Things Vocal podcast is now also available on iTunes!