Composing Tip: Look at Lyrics

When I am arranging music I try to look at the lyrics and make the piano sound like them. Here are some examples.

From my version ofIf You Could Hie to Kolob“:

Measure 21-22, “Or see the grand beginning…” : These lyrics are the beginning of the second verse. The measures mentioned are the transition measures. I build here–make the sound get bigger since it is a “grand beginning.”

Measure 32, “Methinks the Spirit whispers…”: For this phrase I slow down and where the word “whispers” is I decrease the volume.

From my choir version ofBehold! A Royal Army“:

Measure 54, “They see his signal flashing…”: Flashing is the word I’m focusing on here. I wanted to make a sound of flashing. If you play it, you will see how the eighth notes in the right hand sound like the word “flashing.”

From my arrangement ofNearer, My God to Thee“:

Measure 24, “The sun gone down”: Right after this phrase is over I do a little trill-like phrase with descending noes, since the sun is going “down”.

Measure 28, “Thy rest a stone”: This measure ends with a half note while the right hand is holding out the whole note. I like that the notes are held out, “resting.” I also dropped the half note to be played really deep, that is the image I had in my mind of a stone.

Measure 29-32,”Yet in my dreams I’d be, nearer, my God to thee”: In contrast to the lyrics right before with a deep sounding “stone,” I felt like dreams lift us higher. So I raised the melody an octave higher and tried to make it sound dream-like, beautiful.

Measure 42-43, “Steps unto heaven”: I tried to make the piano sound like steps going upward so, in verse 43 you will see 3 chords getting higher each time.

Hope these examples give you some ideas of how to look at lyrics and make the piano sound like them!

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