It’s the same for musicians: if your audience went away feeling buoyed up or brought down, that’s what they’ll remember. If you’re really lucky, they may remember a snippet of a tune or even a phrase from one of your lyrics. But that’s not what will stay with them. It’s the emotions. How did they feel.
Of course, I get that you can’t actually make anyone else feel. But you open up avenues in people to access the feelings that were already budding inside. Something you do — the chords, the melody, the instrumentation, the harmonic relations, the lyrics, even the costuming, staging, and lighting — inspires a feeling in your audience.
Music Is What Feelings Sound Like
In fact, the feelings that you call forth in one listener may be quite different from another. Some listeners hear sadness in a minor key. Others hear resonance that can lead to joy.
You can probably identify your feelings within some of your music. If you are an instrumentalist, you may think of the scene or the experience that inspired the original idea for the piece. If you are a songwriter, the lyrics or the music (or both) likely connect to an emotion that you felt with you started to create the song. Georgia Cates wrote “Music is what feelings sound like out loud. I sing songs that speak from my heart. They tell my story, how I feel.”
So re-connecting with these emotions and offering a chance for your audience to do the same can be a beautiful, cathartic, joyous, or depressing expression. Read the context for that quote from Dr. Angelou below. What is it that you really want to bring to your audience? And that you want to bring your audience to?
Here’s my suggestion: start with how the song makes you feel. Now, how can you accentuate that for your audience? Ready? Go.
Here’s the context of that quote from Dr. Angelou. (Notice how you feel while you read this?)
I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.