Quality control

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How do you decide which of your songs are keepers? Is it obvious pretty quickly or does it take you a while to weed out the weaker songs? In a band situation, does everyone know when a song sucks or is there discussion/argument? Do you try and fix weaker songs or do you just trash them and start fresh?

n/a (Nick A.), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 19:53 (twelve years ago) Permalink

All of the above, pretty much. It's a big thing for us, since the guy who does most of the initial writing is already overly-self-critical and then we're all overly critical too.

But I guess, when I think about it, the stuff that we wind up keeping usually follows the same pattern - guitarist brings in an idea, we jam on it, we like the initial feel of it, and then we just keep jamming, editing, jamming, editing at subsequent practices until we feel like it's ready. The ones that we can't quite get into at first are usually the ones we labor over more intensively and then wind up discarding anyway.

As for the discarding process, it's usually just a matter of whether a song keeps making it into the set, or we keep saying "I don't really feel like playing that one," until we practically forget how to play it, so I guess it's more intuitive than thought-out.

A-ron Hubbard (Hurting), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 22:15 (twelve years ago) Permalink

If a song isn't a keeper by the time I'm halfway done writing it, I don't bother finishing it. As a a result, I don't follow many songs through to completion. I don't usually show anyone anything I'm writing until it's done or mostly done.

Steve Go1dberg (Steve Schneeberg), Thursday, 1 February 2007 00:18 (twelve years ago) Permalink

you should ask mark danjer about this one. yeeks.

king eagle of the Lemon Creek group (skowly), Thursday, 1 February 2007 00:56 (twelve years ago) Permalink

if I open up a project and start listening to it and go "huh?" AT ALL, then it's out. If I listen to it a few times, work on it a little bit, and at ANY POINT I go "huh?" then I quit and dump the whole thing.

It's faster for me to start over than to try and fix something that doesn't catch me. It has to sound a certain way, if it starts seeming dull at any time then I know from experience I'm better off ditching the whole thing. Maybe not all the raw materials, soundwise, but the whole arrangement gets binned.

After stuff is finished, it gets tougher. But usually it's a relative sense, like what catches me more than other stuff, what perks up my ears the most, top ten, etc.

I'm usually the pickiest person about this out of every group I've been in or worked with.

TOMBO7 (TOMBOT), Thursday, 1 February 2007 21:22 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i think i get better idea of the songs after playing them out in a live setting for awhile...there were songs that - right after we first wrote them - i thought were "great"...then at a show, you start playing them and all the energy drains out of the room and you start to feel really wierdly exposed and self-conscious and you realize this isn't great, at all.

M@tt He1g3s0n: oh u mad cuz im stylin on u (Matt Helgeson), Thursday, 1 February 2007 21:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink


Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 1 February 2007 21:40 (twelve years ago) Permalink

My approach is like an amalgamation of tombot's and matt's. I'll rework a structure entirely from base elements. Then see if it works at smaller shows I play around town. Really small gigs with friends and I can have fun with it. Then I can rework the structure again later. But then again, I don't think I ever *stop* reworking something. I just get to a point where I'm ready to record it. It might be modified again next time I play it out.

Songbirds of Darker Florida (cprek), Thursday, 1 February 2007 21:58 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I guess there are 4 stages to my quality control process:

1. As I'm teaching the song to the band, I change parts and tweak it until I'm happy.
2. Once there's a working version, I let the band make suggestions on things to change if they feel that something could be improved. E.g., the other guitarist might change a few parts or add a bit of singing.
3. If I'm still unhappy with the song and the lyrics are OK, I rewrite some or all of the parts.
4. If we can't get past 3 with a song, and the majority doesn't like it, the song is axed.

Currently, we have one song that's reached 4 and one song that's in stage 3 awaiting the rewriting of the chorus. I might have axed it or totally rewritten it, given my druthers, but the rest of the band protested.

I feel that songwriting is a process of experimentation and refinement, not momentary genius, at least for me. If there are good parts in a song but the song as a whole is a failure, then song should be axed and the good stuff recycled. There's a limit to this kinda refinement, however, else you'll make your bandmates crazy.

A knife to his wife Eve and his credibility. (goodbra), Thursday, 1 February 2007 22:23 (twelve years ago) Permalink

For band stuff: if it comes together reasonably quickly, everyone can remember it, and it rocks a crowd, then it's a hit. If it seems like too much effort and re-writing for not enough crowd reaction, then it's probably going to get axed eventually.

For solo stuff: work, slowly chip away at stuff that makes me go "huh?", listen, repeat as necessary

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 1 February 2007 22:27 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I've cut down a lot on the early stages of quality control since I've been writing songs in GarageBand. It's so easy just to move the bits around like legos and hear how everything sounds together before presenting the song to the band.

A knife to his wife Eve and his credibility. (goodbra), Thursday, 1 February 2007 22:28 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I haven't had a live band in years, which has changed the quality control/weeding process immensely. I did have performers who sang songs that I had already written in Reason/Cubase, but they often served as the very last layer of filtering.

Firstly, I tend not to write songs down when I first come up with them. Or, if I do, I write down just the main verbal hook, and maybe a Gregorian style sketch of how the music should go with them. If a song germ isn't catchy enough for me to remember it, then it's unlikely it will get written.

Then, there's a lag in the demo-ing stage, between the song getting blocked out in Reason, and then properly demoed with vocals and all, in Cubase. I often wait from overnight to a few days to finish a song. Songs which are catchy or have something compelling about them will get finished much more quickly, while those that aren't will languish in the sequenced but still in progress folder.

Finally, once a song is finished, then it goes into the final QC stage of going up on the MySpace, being played to other people (manager, the performers in my previous band, friends) and has the final YesOrNo. By the time it's got through all that previous filtering, there's usually very little debate beyond a very little bit of arrangement. But that was the nature of my Svengali/Songwriter role in that band.

This of course has been very different in other bands which were more collaborative.

I Am Totally Radioactive! (kate), Friday, 2 February 2007 11:13 (twelve years ago) Permalink

one good test for me, i think this works better with repetitive/form music, rather than linear music....

listen to things on a micro scale. loop 4 bars/8 bars/whole sections. if it gets boring, it probably is boring.

with band based stuff, i try and play with people who i respect so much i'd never question what they're doing. granted, most of our stuff is improvised. i think of my drummer as some sort of self generating beat machine. i'll play something he'll complement it. of course. same goes for the rest of our players. looking back at older bands it was those horrible "hey mr bass player, why don't you try doing this kind of groove, look watch me play this" moments that really killed everything.

george bob (george bob), Friday, 2 February 2007 14:10 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I feel like a lot of times my band gets rid of songs in progress not because they're bad necessarily but because they just aren't coming together fast enough. The most satisfying songs are the ones that come together really quickly, because it seems like there's something really natural about how they come together. We have a few songs that we really labored over and ended up keeping, but they seem more stilted and artificial. However, I think this might just be an insider perception, since I'm aware of how they came together.

Anyways, there's usually a consensus on what's working and what isn't, but I think I'm a little pickier than the other members, and there have been one or two songs that I took out of the set because I didn't want to play them anymore. It isn't so much about crowd reaction as it is about how I feel when I play the songs. If I feel awkward or unrocking when I play them, they generally fade out of the set pretty quickly.

n/a (Nick A.), Friday, 2 February 2007 17:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...

Yo just reminding y'all that this is mad import

calstars, Saturday, 26 September 2015 01:34 (three years ago) Permalink

My quality control method is basically 1) write a lot of songs, 2) throw most of them away.

"Tell them I'm in a meeting purlease" (snoball), Saturday, 26 September 2015 10:23 (three years ago) Permalink

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