Getting 'That' Feel

Paul considers facets, and Roger talks phrasing


Paul:  Hello blog readers. It’s time for a new blog from Better Daze, namely Roger and me, and today’s topic is finding that feel. Song writing is such a diverse undertaking, there are so many facets to consider, words, music, tempo, genre, but whatever you choose there is the feel to consider. I think it’s one of the most important aspects to a good song. If it doesn’t feel right it will never stick in the mind of the listener. I know its subjective because what feels right to one may feel wrong to another, so the acid test is how does it feel to you the songwriter.

To me it’s that old saying of “it gets your good feeling feeling good” You know that feeling that you just can’t sit still, your foot starts tappin’, your hips start shaking and you just have to get up and rock with it.

That was the impetus behind “Pumping the A” on our first recording Riding the Nova Train. I was sitting in my kitchen listening to my washing machine crank out this rhythm that had a cool shuffle beat to it. I recorded it and took it to the studio and Roger uploaded it and straightened out a few beats and we had a groove going that was magic to my ear. Once we had that feel it was just fun to create around it. There was another song on “Nova Train” that was such a great feel and it was all created by Roger called “One Eyed Jack”. It’s a brilliant piece of editing drums to create a unique feel, about as funky as you can get.

On Musical Schizophrenia there are songs that get their feel from guitar parts Roger came up with, most notably the strumming rhythm “Sail Away” or the beautiful classical finger picking style of “Mary”. These guitar parts had movement, a direction to follow that was unmistakable. The feel was set up by the music.


Roger: A lot of times you’ll hear a person play a song, or be trying to figure out a song, and you will get all the notes, timing and tempo, and you’re like “okay, great”, then you’ll play through it and it’s just not right.  It just doesn’t have the right feel.  At the same time, you will be listening to an artist that you enjoy, wondering how they got it to feel like that. 

One of the tricks I find very useful for doing that is instead of just looking at the notes, look at the phrasing.   Within each phrase - say there’s five notes and a line that you really enjoy, and you really want to get it just right – within those five notes there might be two or three different techniques (on any instrument, it doesn’t really matter what it is).  It’s how you phrase the notes and different techniques combined that makes it a musical thing.  You see, that’s a trick.  When you’re writing and you sit there and play a part you think is really cool, you keep trying different phrases and it will inspire a better outcome.  If there is a certain sound that you’re not getting, it might just a technique that you just don’t already possess so that’s another one you can learn and put it in the toolbox for later. 

Another way to make feel come out of a song is phrasing multiple instruments.  You can shift the kick drum or the snare or put a rest on a melodic instrument and it will be huge.  And that’s another thing within a phrase, sometimes it’s the rest and how long the pause is between notes that makes it feel a certain way.  A great example of that is "The Quiet Man" which we find has a very interesting feel.  There is one guitar playing kind of on top of the beat, finger picked multiple strings at a time, then there’s another guitar sliding around on it over the top, and finally the two guitars combine to make it have it’s over all sound and feel.   That is more the phrase than what notes you used.