Grover Is The Answer.Posted: October 10, 2013
I love music, but I’m not musical.
There’s always music playing at my place. I listen. I try to understand songs and how they’re put together. I’ve tried to write songs. I do well with lyrics for blues songs, and I write solid alma maters.
Most of my friends are like me. They love music, but aren’t musically gifted. Also like me, they don’t mind talking about things they know nothing about…like music. Our conversations usually touch on matters like the connection between Bob Marley and the 1970’s television show, The Banana Splits.
Something that limited my songwriting efforts, besides not understanding notes and rhythm, was an inability to express how I wanted my lyrics performed. Specifically, I wanted to know how writers communicated that they wanted a line or word growled.
Growling affects how we hear songs. Lyrics take on an emphasis when a singer growls them.
I felt I’d fail as a song writer if I couldn’t let performers know how to sing what I’d written. But if I asked musicians they would know I didn’t know what I was talking about. No band would buy a song from a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing. It was a dilemma.
So I talked to people. Smart people. Folks who are tops in their fields. None of those fields were music; none of the folks could help me express on sheet music that I wanted a growl.
My next step was to speak with my friends. I brought the topic up one warm afternoon, between rounds. The strain was evident as great minds considered a question they weren’t qualified to answer. Then I realized that one was not straining.
The Answer Is…Grover?
“You know, don’t you?” I said. She nodded and smiled. “Grover” was all she said.
I gave her my best “where is this going?” look. “Think of Grover, from Sesame Street. How does he talk?” I did my best Grover impersonation. I still didn’t get it, but I was happy that she was communicating on my level.
“Do it again. Think. How does Grover sound?”
I imitated the blue Muppet again and realized I was growling. “Yes” she told me, “and there’s your answer”. Following my next blank stare, she stopped trying to help me discover the answer myself.
“Draw a picture of Grover on the music over what you want the performer to growl. Everyone knows how he talks, so they’ll growl wherever they see his drawing.”
The best solutions come from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. The key to success is matching what you need to know with those who know the least about it.
So now I’m a songwriter who doesn’t know how music works, emboldened by advice from someone who knows as much as I do.
Yeah, this is going to work.