Composing a Story-to-Song is a multi-faceted approach to songwriting. It is not only writing a song but also discovering and revealing layers of truth from a person’s story. In one story, there can be many layers of meaning, and it is my job as a composing guide to try to find the meaning that will speak to many. This meaning is communicated in the chorus. The more universal the meaning, the more people will feel a personal connection to the song and want to sing along.
Since learning the STS method, I have had an increasingly difficult time stomaching commercial music with its clever lyrics and rhyming lines. The stories have less pull for me after working with the raw material of real people’s lives.
Writing a song from a spoken story does not mean that shaping lyrics is any less difficult than coming up with a clever rhyme. On the contrary, it may be more challenging.
When a person tells a story, they choose words that can be difficult to work into a song that will feel good to sing—sustainability, established, despondent. My job is to use as many of their actual words as possible. These words are like a fingerprint for the storyteller. They are unique to that person. Each person tells their own story in a way that is uniquely their own—with their own inflection, cadence, and vernacular.
Just as I could not imagine anyone telling my own story, I would never deign to try and claim someone else’s in story or in song.
Another element of creating a Story-to-Song is to find the groove in a person’s spoken voice. This is a part of songwriting that I am still practicing. When I work with Malcolm, he can find the tempo and groove just by listening to a person speaking their story. It is remarkable.
Try as I might, when I am listening to a person speak, I cannot yet hear their groove. I hear music in the timbre and the rise and fall their voice, but I am less certain of whether they are speaking in a swing or straight groove, say nothing of finger picking or strum patterns.
As I continue to learn the intricacies of this method, I will continue to write about what I learn. I hope it helps with your own songwriting!