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Old 06-05-2014, 06:19 PM   #1
GuestRoomFan
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Question Making songs sound more "compact"

Hi guys! Once again I'm looking for help from my fellow songwriters :-)

I'm a singer and guitarplayer and play in an indie/alternative band. I write the songs for the band (think Radiohead, The National), and I think I've come a long way as a songwriter since I started writing songs two years ago.

However, I have one problem I can't seem to get rid off. My songs don't sound "compact" enough.

I want to become a really good songwriter, and I'd say I'm halfway there. My songs don't sound like shit anymore, compared to two years ago, and people actually seem to "like" them. But rarely will they put the songs on repeat.

I want to write songs people not only think are "okay", but really love and find addictive.

So, I started thinking, what could it be? Are the songs too long, ARE THERE TOO MANY BORING INSTRUMENTAL PARTS? Are the arrangements not strong enough? I don't think the melodies are the problem; I think I have a decent enough grasp of catchy vocals.

But, I could be wrong. So I would love some feedback from the community. To help me get a clear head, and listen to my songs in a more objective way. Help would be appreciated.

We recently recorded three demo's: feedback would be appreciated. Can you guys help me turn these "decent" songs into "great" songs? I know I'm asking a lot here, but 15 minutes of your attention could help me out a lot!

https://soundcloud.com/utah-the-band
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:15 PM   #2
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I'll give a listen to your band now and tell you what I think after I do.

Right off the bat:
Get a new singer. The singer is trash. Dull, lifeless, not doing it at all.

Last edited by macashmack : 06-05-2014 at 07:17 PM.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:26 PM   #3
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@mac: I haven't listened to the stuff but he's influenced by The National, whose singer is kind of "dull and lifeless". Maybe he's just into the aesthetic.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:28 PM   #4
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I don't know the National. I mean, if that's what you want then do it, but most people want to listen to someone who can sing well
Don't listen to me though idk what I'm talking about.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:33 PM   #5
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the power of repetition will go a long way for you. I write for a metal band and we have a bunch of riffs that are just one off, but the real magic lies in the repeats of the intro at the end...or a melody that is transcribed into the bridge that might have different riffs running through it for example.....stuff like that. Be clever about your riff placement, and think about melody too. you can do a lot of cool things once youve gotten comfortable with making a song repeat but NOT being repetitive.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
I don't know the National. I mean, if that's what you want then do it, but most people want to listen to someone who can sing well
Don't listen to me though idk what I'm talking about.


this. dont listen to this dumbass the singer is fine.
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Old 06-05-2014, 07:53 PM   #7
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i agree with the singer. have him take some lessons. though i can also tell a small part of it is in the mixing, it might be better if redone.

the biggest problem is that there are no clear hooks and the structure isn't very -- you used the word compact, i think that's a good word to use. like, i was listening to tied and eventually i ended up going to facebook for three minutes before realizing "****, i was supposed to listen intently". so i'll give it to you that i may have missed something, but what i WILL tell you is that a great song never gives the listener the opportunity to wander off -- it always keeps the audience interested.

it doesn't sound bad, but it doesn't stand out. a good first place for you to start would be working on your hooks.
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Old 06-05-2014, 08:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slap-a-bass
this. dont listen to this dumbass the singer is fine.

The singer is NOT fine. It's not an opinion, the singer is simply not good. Now if they don't care for the singer to be good that's one thing, but if you do then he needs to get better or they need to get a better one.

He's asking for real advice. I'm not sugarcoating it.

Last edited by macashmack : 06-05-2014 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 06-05-2014, 08:32 PM   #9
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Hey, is that Kimi Raikkonen on lead vocals? Sounds just like him.

I don't know what "compact" means in terms of music but if the question is: Do these songs draw me in so I want to listen to more? Nope. I don't know how else to say it, sorry.
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Old 06-05-2014, 09:50 PM   #10
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The guitar work is good I quite like some of it. The recording is not good as is the singing. Get a new singer or get him some training
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Old 06-05-2014, 10:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
The singer is NOT fine. It's not an opinion, the singer is simply not good. Now if they don't care for the singer to be good that's one thing, but if you do then he needs to get better or they need to get a better one.

He's asking for real advice. I'm not sugarcoating it.

Lol. I agree with macashmack here. The singer is pretty boring.
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Old 06-06-2014, 06:55 AM   #12
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Your singer is flat..all over. The worst part of the song is the singer is not interesting and adds nothing to it. It's mostly monotone. Play his vocal melody on the guitar. How many different notes are in the melody?

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still going to be a pig.

On the other hand, the guitar is okay, but I think it overplays. The drums are the second most lifeless thing on the track, until your double stop solo.

I'd leave if you were playing live, or at the very least feel sorry for you.

Best,

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Old 06-06-2014, 12:01 PM   #13
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I listened top the first two tracks.

First : Cool songs!

Second , since you asked for some criticism, my advice would be to relax on the lead guitar for some parts. It's constant and gives a repetitive sound to the arrangements since it never really goes away. I would recommend playing around with different parts, changing registers, or having verses where you simply play nothing and let the part breathe on its own. That's an arrangement issue more than anything.

There's way too much cymbal hits in the top song and they sound artificial - you'll want to tone that down or eliminate them completely imho.

The singer needs some work, especially in relation to timing. I'm less concerned with the "attitude" since you seem to be going for a relaxed Mark Knofler type singing, which is an artistic choice. But there were some phrases where the timing of the syllables weren't really tight rhythmically.
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Old 06-07-2014, 11:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
I'll give a listen to your band now and tell you what I think after I do.

Right off the bat:
Get a new singer. The singer is trash. Dull, lifeless, not doing it at all.


Okay, so, that would be me you're hearing :p Thanks for the feedback anyway, appreciated. And I mean that. Bit harsh but I can take it. Actually I AM taking vocal lessons as we speak, so, working on it (besides, I'm not very happy with my vocal takes either, I was tired and know I can sing better).

Quote:
Originally Posted by slap-a-bass
the power of repetition will go a long way for you. I write for a metal band and we have a bunch of riffs that are just one off, but the real magic lies in the repeats of the intro at the end...or a melody that is transcribed into the bridge that might have different riffs running through it for example.....stuff like that. Be clever about your riff placement, and think about melody too. you can do a lot of cool things once youve gotten comfortable with making a song repeat but NOT being repetitive.


Could you give an example, using one of our songs? I mean, what parts could we spice up, using those tricks, you think?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AeolianWolf
the biggest problem is that there are no clear hooks and the structure isn't very -- you used the word compact, i think that's a good word to use. like, i was listening to tied and eventually i ended up going to facebook for three minutes before realizing "****, i was supposed to listen intently". so i'll give it to you that i may have missed something, but what i WILL tell you is that a great song never gives the listener the opportunity to wander off -- it always keeps the audience interested.


Okay, any ideas on how we could spice it up? Do we need to make the songs shorter, or are the arrangements the problem - not enough hooks, as you put it?
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuestRoomFan
Okay, so, that would be me you're hearing :p Thanks for the feedback anyway, appreciated. And I mean that. Bit harsh but I can take it. Actually I AM taking vocal lessons as we speak, so, working on it (besides, I'm not very happy with my vocal takes either, I was tired and know I can sing better).


as you practice, you'll get better, but honestly i really do stick to what i said about the mixing being at least partly at fault.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GuestRoomFan
Okay, any ideas on how we could spice it up? Do we need to make the songs shorter, or are the arrangements the problem - not enough hooks, as you put it?


both. if you want to write songs that appeal to people, and i mean really appeal to people, you have to stop thinking of music as a musician and start thinking of it as a listener. does it mean being a musician's musician is bad? hell, no, you ever listen to rush? seriously.

as a songwriter, you need to understand what the average human ear is capable of interpreting. i forget where i read this, but someone once said that "the human is ear is only capable of understanding one melody at a time. anything else is appealing only to the mind or the eye." i'm not sure i agree 100%, but the underlying point is very valid -- when's the last time you heard someone complement the synth sound on a rihanna track?

if you're doing vocal-based music, the function of the song is, 99 times out of 100, to be a vehicle designed to deliver the vocals. pop and rock, whatever the subgenre, is almost always vocal based music. even riffs and the like come second. so don't overcompensate. given the quality of your vocals and the persistence of the guitar, it's almost as if the vocals don't even need to be there.

learn to deliver melody, and learn to deliver lyrics. these are the keys to what you want to do. i suggest writing a four-chord pop song. seriously, about whatever. if you can't do that convincingly, you're not going to be able to do anything more complex convincingly without so much trial and error that you'll have forgotten why you were doing what you were doing in the first place. start there, and branch out.
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Old 06-08-2014, 12:09 AM   #16
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I've always thought an awesome way to improve your son writing is to write down the lyrics, chord progressions, bpm's, key signneture and stuff of songs that you'd most like to write like.

Once you look at 10 songs you like from an analytical point of view, you'll get ideas how to build what you're looking for.

When you see a song you like goes 'verse, pre chorus, verse, pre chorus, chorus, solo, verse 1, chorus...at 95 bpm, with a particular chord progression - you'll be holding a recipe for a great song :-)
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