SONGWRITING: Using space and letting songs BREATHE (case study: L’Altra)
I’m listening to L’Altra’s brilliant song “Better Than Bleeding” right now. I want you to take a listen:
This song just oozes raw emotion and beauty. Listen to the brilliant use of SPACE in their writing. The song begins sparse, and evolves with layers, as it progresses.
As the verse before the chorus ends… there is a large gap after Joseph and Lindsey sing a different, faster rhythm. Notice how the chorus has a faster vocal rhythm than most of the vocal rhythms in the verses.
Midway through the song, they add a few odd-time measures (slow measures of 7/8) where the guitar is up front. Perfect juxtaposition to the simplicity of the overall arrangement.
By and large, the song makes use of quarter-note pulses and rhythms, but not in the vocals. The drums and Wurlitzer 200 piano usually pulse on the 1, 2, 3, 4… and the guitar and other keyboard parts are usually adding “sprinkles” of melody and countermelody, to create spice and variety.
L’Altra is one of the most perfect bands I have ever heard, and I can’t get enough of this particular record, “Different Days” (2005).
Don’t be afraid to use space in your songs… and let them BREATHE. Your songs will be all the better for it.