Finding the Song’s Heartbeat (A Personal Reflection on the Creative Process)

Guest post by GoGirl Emma Back

This was originally published on www.shesingsoutloud.com.

Songs are not solid. They move, they change. For me, the power of song is in the performance, the moment, the doing, the unleashing of the music, sourced within. The recording process is when songs become fixed (as in not movable). They no longer exist in the moment, but become frozen, just so, throughout time.

As I step back into the recording process of “little world” some fear is arising in this fixing. Creative procrastination reigns decision: I crave the flavor of spontaneity, stubbornly resisting choice. Decisions like “This rhythmic pattern.... yes this!” over other options. I struggle through the final choice of lyrics – the moments I have glossed over in live performance, mixing up words, allowing the jumbled phrases to emerge dependent on the energy in the room. Most things are already “fixed” when I perform, but the dose of spontaneity keeps me feeling alive.

Perhaps, I too often allow songs to be partially unfinished. But, just as this is driven by the craving to feel free, most of all, in the studio, I am afraid of loosing the freshness that comes with acting moment by moment on creative impulse. I am afraid of not having the beauty of live performance - the elements of change, the surrender into the unknown, the free-fall into the audience’s listening - to guide me.

I must remember: Music always moves.

As I enter this phase, it is time to make solid things, constant things. Art that will stand, survive. Art that has grown up into adulthood; no longer uncertain, unfinished, no more partial to mistake or accident than clear seeing.

Stepping into the recording process gives opportunity towards another breakthrough in trusting creative instincts. It forces me to find that perfect combination between surrender and control. It makes me give up perfectionism. It inches me towards embracing both the unknown, and the right to know. It carves into me unshakable faith in the art itself: not a faith based in perfectionism, but a no-bullshit, I-have-every-right-to-do-this-just-the way-I-please kind of faith.

Songwriting is the first step of creative surrender; co-existing within the realms of form, knowledge and intention. Recording, is the next.

Yes, for me, the recording process is about fixing songs in place – nailing them lovingly and gently to the wall, pinning them down when they flap wings and want to fly in a whole new direction. The art of polishing is in itself a kind of artistic mastery.

Inside this process, today, I am finding tempos - uncovering the soul-heart beat of each song. Discovering the place where it vibrates naturally, the pace it wants to move. The inner pulse. The foundation of its life force.

What I look for is the moment where the beat disappears, where there is no longer separation between how I feel in my body, how I receive the sounds, and what I take in from the metronome.

When the beat disappears the song is whole. The beat becomes the foundation, but like any heartbeat is imperceptible unless you press your face against its warm, vibrating lungs.

One tick off and it becomes a struggle to respond. One tick off and I am listening more to the tick tick tick tick then to the music itself. I feel the music is getting pulled, no longer in its own, natural rhythm but generated from the outside.

What I look for is alignment – within, without: The moment when my whole body isn’t trying anymore to play. The place where the song, the flow, the rhythm comes to rest, roosting on top of the tick tick tick tick. Imperceptible. At peace. Here, each element of the song come into its full being. Here, each separate sound, each polyrhythm dissolves and is simply whole. This is the heart-beat of the song. Finding it, is the first step.

Best of luck in all your creative endeavors this week.


Emma Back is a songstress, fiddle and live looping artist and the founder of SSOL (She Sings Out Loud) where she supports women performers to move beyond fear, doubt and shame to embody feminine wisdom onstage and in the creative process so they can unleash their true voice and power in the world.

You can hear Emma’s music and learn more about her at www.emmasong.com. To learn more about She Sings Out Loud, visit www.shesingsoutloud.com.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.