Recording of Student’s Lyrics Set to Music

In my last entry I posted the melody we composed collaboratively at the second workshop for the music theatre students at Thousand Islands Secondary School, based on the lyrics to William Blake’s “The Tyger”. This poem was presented as an example of lyrics featuring a consistent meter and which would be ideal for setting to music in a short period of time, which we were able to do in a matter of minutes.

In the first workshop I played for the first time a piano arrangement of lyrics written by one of the students, which I had worked on during the weekend before. I had promised to do a live demonstration of setting lyrics to music in the class, but the meter of these lyrics was a little too irregular to work out the timing of the words “live” in class. I liked the lyrics a lot so I took the time to set them to music on my own.

For today, I made a quick ‘scratch vocal’ recording of the song, which is posted below with the lyrics.

This helps illustrates the process of setting lyrics to music for a client. Once I’m given a copy of the lyrics, I compose the melody first, then add the chords. I then meet with the client to perform the music and get his/her feedback. Once the music has been approved or after changes have been implemented, I record what is called a ‘scratch vocal’ track, which is just a bare bones recording of the vocals and accompaniment on piano or guitar. When I was working at Parks Alberta, the interpreters (the employees who would write and perform the musicals I wrote the music for) would have to be ready to perform their musical productions within 2-3 weeks after the music was first heard, so this recording would help them learn the words early on. It is also helpful to record the song early on to work out the timing of the vocal melody.

So here’s the song:

“HOW A SECRET SPREADS” (lyrics by Noah)


I told Sarah And Rebecca

And Sarah’s kept it so I know

But Rebecca, (she’s a gossip)

And soon enough she let your secret go.

She told the barber,

And the baker,

And that surly old hat-maker

And his friend from across the pond

He told the chemist

And the medic

And the man who lives above Jeannette

The one whose face is unnaturally oblong

– Mary! I told you not to tell anyone!

Are those the only people who know?

Mary – Umm

He told his plumber

Then his sister

And the burly man that kissed her

And the girl that never wears the same hat twice

She told her dentist

And her handyman

But no one really quite as grand

As the girl that told it to the bishop’s wife

  Since the lyrics are a work in progress, the next stage would be to adapt the final version for piano and vocals. Then a draft of a recorded version (featuring whatever other instruments were decided upon) would be prepared for the client to hear. The key of the song may be adjusted at this point to suit the singer, then the final instrumental version would be produced. Once it was completed, a ‘guide vocal’ version would be prepared for the singer to learn the song. In this case, with luck the song will be featured as a part of  a musical that the class will perform, which would be a lot of fun I imagine.

Until next time,