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The Song Remains...Elusive


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Been in a bit of song 'writing' flurry of late-  in addition to my on going contributions in My Critical Mess (a prog-ish rock collaborative), a new piece for a compilation effort soon to be released hereon, I'm also wrestling with some other personal ideas that don't have a specific purpose. I just wanna record them. And that leads to my point: I'm struggling with knowing when to back off and when to dig further. Overworking a musical piece, I would imagine, is very much like overworking a visual art piece- it ultimately will undo the work and negate the effort leading up to.

Anyone care to share their perspective on this struggle- to tweak or not to tweak?

 

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45 minutes ago, diablo175 said:

Been in a bit of song 'writing' flurry of late-  in addition to my on going contributions in My Critical Mess (a prog-ish rock collaborative), a new piece for a compilation effort soon to be released hereon, I'm also wrestling with some other personal ideas that don't have a specific purpose. I just wanna record them. And that leads to my point: I'm struggling with knowing when to back off and when to dig further. Overworking a musical piece, I would imagine, is very much like overworking a visual art piece- it ultimately will undo the work and negate the effort leading up to.

Anyone care to share their perspective on this struggle- to tweak or not to tweak?

Someone released a Miles Davis recording comparing the original takes of 'Bitches Brew' with the final result.
Miles pulled a lot out of the compositions.

My point is you can always pull stuff out. Just don't mix down any tracks!

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15 minutes ago, killerteddybear said:

Just don't mix down any tracks!

While I agree that nondestructive edits can be a blessing, there's also something to be said for committing to the finish line.  The age of DAWs has let these companies sell endlessly to our OCD leaving folks perpetually "one more" track/plugin/mix away from "finished".

In general, I'd say:  Don't tweak.  

I would give yourself maybe 2-3 rounds of edits and then ship it.  Give yourself 1-14 days in between each so you come back to it with "new ears".   Be honest about if there's something wrong and add or remove accordingly.  I had a friend who did graphic design and they normally had a fixed number of revisions in the project budget, since everyone tends to futz endlessly if you let them.  :) 

@polarais one person here who I recall shipping music regularly.  Any specific tips on how you avoid the tweakitis?

 

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Every song is it's own thing, there's no rule that will apply to everything. As the writer you'll be the only one who knows if it meets your vision. 

It can help to work on a song, let it rest for little bit and come back to it with fresh ears to see what you like/dislike. 

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Record any ideas you have. Better to have those scraps than to lose good ideas. Make sure they're stored in an organized folder, with easy access.

As far as re-working and/or adding tracks, simpler is better. Think about what YOU would like to hear as a music fan, NOT a guitarist. RBlackmore said PTownshend told him to keep it simple, to give the listener something they can grab onto and take them on a journey.

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It can be a freaking rabbit hole. It can also be an exciting and fun freaking rabbit hole but that depends on how much time you have.

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3 hours ago, sixesandsevens said:

While I agree that nondestructive edits can be a blessing, there's also something to be said for committing to the finish line.  The age of DAWs has let these companies sell endlessly to our OCD leaving folks perpetually "one more" track/plugin/mix away from "finished".

In general, I'd say:  Don't tweak.  

I would give yourself maybe 2-3 rounds of edits and then ship it.  Give yourself 1-14 days in between each so you come back to it with "new ears".   Be honest about if there's something wrong and add or remove accordingly.  I had a friend who did graphic design and they normally had a fixed number of revisions in the project budget, since everyone tends to futz endlessly if you let them.  :) 

@polarais one person here who I recall shipping music regularly.  Any specific tips on how you avoid the tweakitis?

 

Good advice from 6&7.....at the end of the day, you gotta be happy with YOUR a music.  Maybe it NEEDS to be tweaked. Or maybe not. 
Only you know for sure. Before I press record, I have finalized the arrangement on my music.  But that is just my workflow. I know I am no help, but just make yourself happy. 

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Think of it like writing a report, story, article, business letter, etc.  You have a first draft, second draft, etc.  Put the music aside for a little while and come back to it to figure out what stays or not.  What comes out is an opportunity for another song to be worked up. 

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2 minutes ago, mrjamiam said:

I heard it said, in the context of visual art, that a piece is never finished, only abandoned.

I believe I've heard that, too. I was also duly cautioned to avoid over working pieces because at some point inspiration changes to exasperation.

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Make a mix of the original idea/song.  Then add stuff etc.  Compare them.  Which conveys what you want?  

Also, I recently heard someone on a YouTube thing say, "Take some time, but then just go ahead and release the song.  You can always make another one."  I thought that was also some good advice.  

6 hours ago, diablo175 said:

I believe I've heard that, too. I was also duly cautioned to avoid over working pieces because at some point inspiration changes to exasperation.

Yes, and at that point, I'd say take time away from it, come back, break it back down and see where it's too much.  

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I wear a lot of different hats as sideman/session guy, writer/artist, and producer.

Ive found that the fastest way to lose perspective is to produce your own material. Not to say that you shouldn’t be a writer and artist and work on your own material, but it’s incredibly important to me to have a second pair of ears that I really trust. Otherwise it’s too likely to get buried in extraneous tracks and parts, your own “cleverness”, and ultimately, lower quality work.

I found that I could produce someone else’s project quickly and efficiently, but would take forever on my own projects, and end up incomplete, or disappointed overall. The transition to trusting someone else, and really working on the process was uncomfortable at first, but I’ll never go back. 

I highly recommend that you find someone with producing experience in your field and pay them for the project- you can work out a budget per song, or for a group of songs, but NOT doing that guarantees that you’re left to your own devices, and drawing only on your own interpretation of your music- which is like the difference between YOUR opinion of your kids, and an... impartial perspective 😆

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6 hours ago, geoff_hartwell said:

I wear a lot of different hats as sideman/session guy, writer/artist, and producer.

Ive found that the fastest way to lose perspective is to produce your own material. Not to say that you shouldn’t be a writer and artist and work on your own material, but it’s incredibly important to me to have a second pair of ears that I really trust. Otherwise it’s too likely to get buried in extraneous tracks and parts, your own “cleverness”, and ultimately, lower quality work.

I found that I could produce someone else’s project quickly and efficiently, but would take forever on my own projects, and end up incomplete, or disappointed overall. The transition to trusting someone else, and really working on the process was uncomfortable at first, but I’ll never go back. 

I highly recommend that you find someone with producing experience in your field and pay them for the project- you can work out a budget per song, or for a group of songs, but NOT doing that guarantees that you’re left to your own devices, and drawing only on your own interpretation of your music- which is like the difference between YOUR opinion of your kids, and an... impartial perspective 😆

This is good advice.  The difference between my solo albums under my name and the A.C. Rev albums is AC...Aaron Campbell, my collaborator. He also happens to be a master arranger. He hears and adds BGVs, grooves, and parts I would never have thought of. I often tell him “You make my songs better.” 

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On 12/2/2020 at 6:58 PM, Jakeboy said:

This is good advice.  The difference between my solo albums under my name and the A.C. Rev albums is AC...Aaron Campbell, my collaborator. He also happens to be a master arranger. He hears and adds BGVs, grooves, and parts I would never have thought of. I often tell him “You make my songs better.” 

It's like the old proverb:  If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together. 

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Update: I took some advice offered here and got with someone to help me produce my current project. He's also the engineer. So far, the guidance he's offered has been helpful and pointed out some weaknesses in my playing/recording. I'm up to my 4th revision/re-recording of the tune (not counting the very first one recorded years ago and titled differently) but I think it's gonna pay off. Hoping to drop it as part of the Homage to Hamers project that some UK HFCers and I are still doing.

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