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Blog // Sounds
September 7, 2009

Dragging A Song From Dud To Demo

Going through some old files recently, I stumbled upon a Sibelius score that was enigmatically titled, “G alt concept.” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the file turned out to be a near complete song idea for a tune in 7/4 (not surprisingly, in G). The info suggested that I had worked on […]

Going through some old files recently, I stumbled upon a Sibelius score that was enigmatically titled, “G alt concept.” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the file turned out to be a near complete song idea for a tune in 7/4 (not surprisingly, in G).

The info suggested that I had worked on this song for only a few days, almost three years ago. To be blunt, it sucked in a lot of ways and if I was in a more harsh mood I probably would have just hit the delete button right away. I mean, take a listen,


But, I’m trying to be a lot more generous and forgiving with myself these days (yeah, I know). So, I started looking for the good in this steaming pile of programmed rubbish. Before I can explain what I thought could be salvaged, let me outline what I think makes up a good song.

A good tune is usally a balance of musical ideas, sound and performance. If you can get all three you are onto a winner. Sadly, this tune (in it’s current state), looks more like this,

But, one out of three is not bad! Seriously. In fact, I’m finding more and more that this simple schema is a great way to go through old files, projects and sessions and decide what is worth salvaging. Great musical ideas can always be re-performed and rerecorded. Great performances can always be edited into different contexts. Great sounds can always be cut up, sampled and reassembled.

This kind of creativity largely depends on being able to listen openly and suggestively. Listening back on this file I was able to sense a good idea I couldn’t quite exploit at the time. But, I could now hear how it might be brought to life.

The bones of a song structure are in place. There’s an alternating A and B section that make sense, well at least the head and bass do. A halftime middle C section that occurs twice and really grooves well. A D section for two solos that doesn’t work so well and bridge, or E section in 7/8 that really could do with making a couple of longer appearances.

An hour of editing and marking up in Logic gave me a more solid arrangement, with a greater sense of space and pulled the song length out from a cramped three and a half minutes to a more satisfying five minutes. It has also clarified what I need to find in order to make the rhythm guitar work better – four layered one bar grooves or riffs.

And, that’s exactly what I will be working on tomorrow morning!

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