Have you had the opportunity to bundle up, hot tea, hat, gloves and all, walking around your neighborhood Christmas caroling? If you haven't, you've absolutely got to add this to your bucket list. In the meantime, how about we take it easy and learn about how we can write our own carols?
For those who are unfamiliar, “Carol (noun) is a religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas.” Why Christmas chimes in with shedding light on some of the origins of what were soon to become the holiday themed carol. “Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.”
First things first, although there is something to be said for the charming innocence of just diving right into any new genre, style, art or lifestyle - there’s also a reason why many legends say that it takes decades upon decades to really hone in on the craft. So, where does one look to when just getting started? Up at the legends.
We couldn’t be more serious in suggesting that you do a marshmallow filled stovetop cocoa cook up and cozy up with a blanket. Sit for a few hours and just soak in the holiday spirit by listening to some classics, be it watching It’s A Wonderful Life or listening to Bing Crosby as you drift off into an afternoon nap under the warmth of the fleece. There’s a reason that you can become a truly charismatic and relatable writer if you put yourself in another’s shoes. In moments of trying to mimic the holiday spirit, especially when you’re not really in the mood, you’ve got to figure out what sparks the merry thankfulness within our soul.
Be sure to listen as a listener too, not just as a musician. It’s so easy to get lost in the chord changes and lifted by a flawless riff - it’s important to try to keep the ear of a beginner. You’ll not only keep things interesting but you’ll also be able to write from the perspective of a non-musician. This may be helpful when writing melodic-centric music such as the holiday caroles.
The arts of subtly in percussion, repetition in melody, depth of vocal harmonies and lush strings are some of the defining elements of the classic carol. Lyrically, the Christmas carol has a wide variety to offer. In our humble opinion, we do believe it may be best to truly tap into what the holiday spirit means to you. Does it represent a lazy, food-filled afternoon with your family and a toasty whipped-drink to top of it off? Do you have years of memories playing Monopoly, always almost winning? Like any expression, try to embody how the feeling feels to you and alchemize it into your art of choice - be it the tuba, harp or your very own vocal cords.
Finally, once you consider all of the above - abandon it! Take creative liberty to dash an electric guitar or a heavy metal voice into the mix. The holidays don’t need to be traditional, in fact, you could be birthing future traditions just by letting go of that creative control. We hear bells in the distance, enjoy!