I’ve written a lot of bad songs in my day. Some were just a bad idea to begin with. Some were half decent, but not my best work so I scrapped them. Others however have fallen in a tricky spot where they really are a good song, but they weren’t quite 100% ready. They weren’t what I call, well chiseled songs.
Via John Loo Flickr
Cut Out The Fat
The saying goes “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.” Another one is, “Everything in moderation.” I certainly have found these to be true when it comes to songwriting. Too many of us write songs that have great moments, but just too much of them.
Whether it’s a super long intro, too many verses, or that last unnecessary repeat of the chorus at the end, we can easily fall into the trap of writing a good song but not cutting out the fat. Sure the fat on a good steak can contain flavor, but it’s still not meat. People want meat in a song, so give it to them.
How To Know What To Cut
“OK Mr. Smarty Pants,” you might be saying. “Who gets to determine what should stay in a song and what should go? Isn’t every song different?”
Fair questions, I assure you. For one, I’m not the greatest songwriter in the world. I’m just a guy who loves music, like you. The truth is, however, that it’s really simple to know what to cut out of your songs. Every moment of every song should be intentional; it should serve some function. If there’s a part that you can’t justify as being an intentional moment, then cut it.
Generally these parts tend to be extended intros, too many repeats of a chorus, or too many bars of an interlude. Just because a hook is amazing, doesn’t mean it should go on forever.
Get To The Good Stuff
Have you ever found yourself playing a song of yours for a friend? You’re sitting there sharing your latest masterpiece with her, when at some point in the song (during an intro or verse for example) you find yourself both thinking and saying, “Just wait till the bridge. It’s awesome!”
That’s a huge clue that your song isn’t well chiseled. If you’re hoping to get to the “good stuff” in your song so you can impress your friend or show them what the song is “really” all about, then you have too much fat. It’s only getting in the way of what you feel is the best element of your song.
If your chorus hook is the best part, then put it first! Make it the intro. Why wait??
How Songwriting And Mixing Intertwine
The best mixes I’ve ever done (of my songs or clients’ work) are the ones that have the most chiseled and intentional arrangements. There is no wasted moment or boring sections. Every part feels fresh and new. It makes mixing a breeze.
If you’ve ever heard me explain the concept of “sweetening” then you know what I’m talking about. I always set aside time to make sure every moment of a mix is captivating to the listener so they stay engaged. The hardest mixes to do are the ones with way too much fat in the arrangement. A better chiseled song would have led to a better mix. Guaranteed.
Get To Carving
Do you have any songs that you are really proud of? Are they well chiseled? Have you taken the time to go through and methodically strip away what doesn’t add to the song? If not, you’re doing yourself and your fans a disservice.
Don’t settle for an almost good song, go all the way and finish the job!