Not Being a Slave to Sheet Music

Last week, I wrote about how songs make us our own scrapbook, and I reflected on how whenever I hear the recorded version of my song “Like They All Did,” I am brought back to the first time I began recording songs for my first album.

Allison Merten Recording "Worth the Wait" at Willie Martinez's Studio

Allison Merten Recording “Worth the Wait” at Willie Martinez’s Studio

Last week’s post got me thinking about how nervous I was during the majority of the recording sessions for my first album, TEMPTATION.

Allison Merten Recording Drums at Willie Martinez's Recording Studio

Allison Merten Recording Drums at Willie Martinez’s Recording Studio

I remember being really stressed out at the studio because I had this idea in my head that the way that I recorded my songs needed to be the way that I performed them. I remember Willie Martinez telling me that the more I performed, the easier the recording sessions would become.

Willie was right. I remember how much easier it was to record the last few songs on my album than it was to record the first few.

But where did this mindset come from that the recorded and performed versions of my songs had to be the same? I think it’s from band class. When I first began performing my songs, I treated performances like I did band concerts. In band class, when I practiced, I had to practice the music exactly as it was written on the sheet music. When I performed at band concerts, I had to perform the music exactly as the sheet music dictated. This is how I was used to practicing and performing.

Eventually, this mindset began fading away as I began to recognize that as a musical artist I have the power to decide how my songs would sound at each show. If I wanted to change the guitar strum pattern, I could. If I wanted to repeat the chorus an extra time, I could. If I wanted to perform the song in sassy way, I could :-P. I realized that they are my songs, and I can perform them however I want 🙂

Allison Merten at Mother Fool's Photo by Amber Sebastian

Allison Merten at Mother Fool’s
Photo by Amber Sebastian

I took this new mindset into the recording studio, and I began to be okay with being able to make spontaneous changes to my songs in the studio.

When I perform now, I feel excited when I have the opportunity to change up my songs. I feel like my songs can be performed a little differently at each show, depending on how I feel or who the audience is.

I hope that this insight that I gained will help me have an easier time recording my next album. 🙂