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Tommy Turtle's Tips for Perfect Parody Pacing (pg. 1 of 2)

Tommy Turtle's Tips for Perfect Parody Pacing
Page 1 of 2

Making a new song match the original, and sing well to the original tune, is as important as writing clever new lyrics. The analysis of meter, or "scansion", is sometimes referred to as "pacing", although this more properly refers to the tempo at which a musical piece is played.

Tommy has a few shortcuts to help one's lyrics scan, or pace, to the original.

Let's assume that our hero is writing a parody of one of the most-played songs ever, "Yesterday", by the Beatles, so that most readers will know the tune.

"Yesterday" (that's easy enough)

"I stayed home from work and watched TV all day."

We want to check this line against the original. Some people count the syllables in each, like this:

"All my troub-les seemed so far a-way = 9
"I stayed home from work and watched T-V all day" = 11

So, they know they have a problem. Need to cut two of them.

"Called in sick and watched TV all day" = 9

So, this seems to work. But this method is incomplete, as the next line in the new parody demonstrates:

Our hero's first try:

"Now I need an excuse or I'll lose my pay" = 11
"Now I need a place to hide away (original) = 9

So, he trims two syllables off:

"Now I need an excuse or lose pay" = 9

Seems OK? Hmm...

I. Tommy's Long Method

Scansion involves another issue besides just the number of syllables, and that is stress. You know what we mean by "stress": We naturally say some syllables more loudly or forcefully than others, even if we are saying them only in our heads.

For example, say, "Happy Birthday".

Did you say, hap-PY birth-DAY, with "py" and "day" emphasized? No, of course not. One says, "HAP-py BIRTH-day", with "hap" and "birth" emphasized -- or, "stressed".

Here's where Tommy's method will save you from many glitches. We'll look at the long way first, then see the short-cut method.

Instead of just counting syllables, take advantage of the fact that we now work with computers instead of typewriters, and use the "cut and paste" feature to put the new line right below the original line:

"Now I need a place to hide away"
"Now I need an excuse or I'll lose my pay"


Separate each word into syllables, and capitalize the stressed ones, just as we did with "Happy Birthday". If you're not sure which syllables are stressed, sing it out loud (with no one around), and it should become apparent. (You can skip the dots. See note #1, below)

now i NEED a.. PLACE to ..... HIDE a- WAY
now i NEED an ex- .......CUSE or .....i'll LOSE my PAY

This method makes it apparent not only that the syllable count doesn't match, but also that the stresses won't match.

AND it tells us the same thing about the proposed fix up above:

now i NEED .a. PLACE to ......HIDE a- ..WAY (= 9)
now I NEED an ex- ......CUSE or ..... lose pay (= 9)

The syllable-counting method wouldn't show what this method does, namely, that it's not going to sing right. If we try to force the new line to scan (match) the old one, it sounds weird:

now i NEED .a. PLACE to . HIDE a- . WAY (= 9)
now I NEED an EX- .... cuse OR . lose PAY (= 9)

Can you see the problem? To sing this to the original, we have to stress the "ex" in "excuse", which is not natural -- the natural pronunciation is "ex-CUSE".

Knowing the problem is the first step toward a solution. Knowing that the new line must stress on the third *and* fifth (and seventh) syllables, our hero racks his brain and comes up with:

"Need a good excuse or lose my pay"

Still nine syllables, of course, but let's use the new method, which checks both the count and the stress at the same time:

now .i. NEED .a ..PLACE to HIDE .a- WAY
need a GOOD ex- CUSE ..or LOSE my PAY

Ta-da! It works!

(Of course, many other lines would also work.)

Click the link to Page 2 at the bar at the top of the page to see the much shorter and easier method on Page 2, or just click here.

[1] You do not need to use the dots, just white space, as Tommy's former web host did. However, this site automatically deletes all extra spaces between words, so the dots were needed to space them properly.

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