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frankencut

In the process of cutting down a song to a suitable length for an audition – whether that be in terms of a number of measures (16-32 bars) or a span of time (30-60-90 seconds) – I sometimes feel that the singer has not simply edited the song, but, instead, they have unintentionally rewritten it. It has turned into what has come to be known as a “Frankencut”.

This happens most frequently when a singer wants to showcase a certain part of their range, usually the upper half, their “money notes”. They pick the measures of the song that hover in that vicinity, and devise their cut accordingly. In the process, they eliminate the measures, the notes in the original melody that set up those high notes. They also edit out the words in the lyric that correspond to that phrase. The grammar of both the text and the music is altered.

To best illustrate this point in this post, I have used the classic song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. I have notated it in 2/4 for demonstration purposes.

Ex. 1 – The song proper in 24 bars.

franken1

Ex. 2 – This is a 16-bar cut of the song. It has been edited in order to highlight the higher notes of the melody, the upper part of the singer’s vocal range. Notice how the melody is altered, changed. Notice how the lyric becomes just a string of words rather than a complete thought.

franken2

While this is definitely an extreme example of a Frankencut, I have played many that have come close to this.

Ex. 3 – This is the last 16 bars of the song which would serve as a good 16-bar cut.

franken3
Keep in mind is that the song that is “new to you” is probably not new to those who will be listening to you: the company reps. (HINT: Read the copyright date.) We know how the song goes: “Why did you change it?” Some cuts do work well, but there are also cuts that can perk up our ears and raise our eyebrows, and not in a good way.

Personally, I also believe in respecting the work of the Composer and Lyricist. Some of the Frankencuts that I have played and listened to over the years have essentially thrown out and ignored the craft put into those songs by the original writers. -And when I personally know some of those writers that can add a bit of an uncomfortable je ne sais quoi to the proceedings.

Since my space is limited here, the one piece of advice I would like to give in regards to avoiding a possible Frankencut is this:

-Sing your cut for someone else besides yourself and your voice teacher and accompanist. Find a set of fresh ears.
-Better yet: Give your cut to someone else, and listen to them sing your cut.

Let the reactions and feedback guide you to your next step.

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