#1
A fellow musician and I were discussing how I'm afraid of not being able to build an audience with my music. I don't want to be so eccentric that nobody likes my music. I want to be somewhat normal, singing in tune, using a common time signature, consistent tempo, some of the standards. However, he said that the artist should never consider the customer when it comes to the art itself. He said if I'm only doing that stuff to please the audience, then stop.

What do you think? Earlier this year, I sent some demos to a producer, and he said I should re-record using a metronome because my tempos aren't consistent. I looked at it as though he was right and I was wrong, so I went back and re-recorded them with a click track. He liked the demos more afterward. However, I had to greatly change a couple songs because there were some intentionally large shifts in rhythm and tempo that he said would not be appealing to most people.

Did I make a mistake? Should I have stuck to my guns and kept the "rhythmless" versions? At what point do we make sacrifices to please the listener? Should we stick 100% to our creative spirit, even if it means doing something eccentric like changing the tempo in a dance song every other bar?

If you're a professional musician, and you depend on music for money, I don't see how you can seriously ignore the audience. You'd have to be one lucky SOB who can do whatever you want, regardless of how weird it is, and still have a huge paying fan base.

But looking back, so much criticism and so many suggestions have shaped and changed my art along the way. A lot of my songs aren't as enjoyable to play anymore, but they fit certain social norms (consistent tempo, being in tune, in key, etc). Maybe I should throw all of that away and go back to what I originally wanted.
Last edited by glooper23 at Oct 6, 2016,
#2
You can always do both - weird and commercial. Many artists have multiple projects to satisfy all aspects of their creativity. It is also not unusual these days for an artist to record multiple versions of a song (so-and-so Remix, so-and-so Dub-mix, etc.). For me I go through phases - sometimes to please others, sometimes for my own entertainment.
Last edited by Sayonara6String at Oct 6, 2016,
#3
Pleasing the audience is the whole point of performing. "Artists" who don't want to please audiences are best advised to stick with their day jobs.

But there is a difference between weird and bad. You have to be able to play/sing in key, in tempo, in rhythm, and generally in some some sensible way. Achieving basic musicianship is not selling out. If you enjoy what your audience enjoys, that's the perfect situation.
#4
Just make the music you like making. Although it sounds cheesy, if you alter your art to satisfy a certain demographic, it often comes off as "fake", and won't appeal to that demographic.

As for the producer's comments, he may be right with respect to a certain demographic. I wouldn't worry about it though, as the chances of a random song of any type coming out of nowhere to rule the charts and make you some cash is at zero percent. Instead try to work on gaining a local fanbase who like the music you like making.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#5
Quote by glooper23

Earlier this year, I sent some demos to a producer, and he said I should re-record using a metronome because my tempos aren't consistent. I looked at it as though he was right and I was wrong, so I went back and re-recorded them with a click track. He liked the demos more afterward. However, I had to greatly change a couple songs because there were some intentionally large shifts in rhythm and tempo that he said would not be appealing to most people.

Did I make a mistake? Should I have stuck to my guns and kept the "rhythmless" versions? At what point do we make sacrifices to please the listener? Should we stick 100% to our creative spirit, even if it means doing something eccentric like changing the tempo in a dance song every other bar?

I think you may have misunderstood what he meant. You can use a metronome even if there are tempo changes in a song. Just set it to a different tempo for different sections. Your problem most likely was that you didn't stay in time. Then again, sometimes too many tempo changes make the song lack coherency. It's not all about appeal, it's also about learning how to write a good song. I have heard many songs that are really just collections of riffs and the riffs just don't work together at all - they are too different. But I can't tell what he meant. Maybe he actually thought that your songs were too progressive and lacked appeal. And if those were the words that he used (that it wouldn't be appealing to most people), then I don't think that's good advice.


But looking back, so much criticism and so many suggestions have shaped and changed my art along the way. A lot of my songs aren't as enjoyable to play anymore, but they fit certain social norms (consistent tempo, being in tune, in key, etc). Maybe I should throw all of that away and go back to what I originally wanted.

Yes, you should do what you want. But if people have told you you go out of tempo, out of tune, out of key, then that's really not about "social norms". It may just be that you actually were out of tune, played notes that didn't fit the chords at all and your timing was bad. Depending on what people mean by them, those things are not about opinions. You can't excuse bad musicianship by saying that "I do things my way, this is just my style". There is a difference between something being bad musicianship and your own style. (Then again, people may also have meant that your songs are too progressive and you should not have any tempo changes or key changes. And then I would disagree with them, though sometimes people do get too progressive with their songs and that makes them lack coherency. And that makes the song sound like it's not complete.)

And I'm not saying that you are a bad musician because I haven't heard any of your songs. This was just what came to my mind and I'm not trying to be mean or anything.

Take what you want from other people's criticism. If you don't like other people's advice, you don't need to listen to them. But listening to other people's advice doesn't mean you are making your music more appealing or anything. Songwriting is also a skill and there is good songwriting and bad songwriting. Letting other people listen to your music may give you another perspective and you may get some improvement ideas for your songs. No, you shouldn't stay in one key or one tempo if you don't want to, but you should also always ask from yourself "does this modulation/tempo change/transition work".


It would help if you posted some demos of your songs so that we could hear if they are weird in a good way or just plain bad.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Oct 7, 2016,
#6
MaggaraMarine

Here's one of the tracks I sent him before using the metronome:

https://soundcloud.com/heyaaronhatch/american-drone-demo/s-9ufeG

I recorded it quickly to get the point across to the producer; but regardless, I was satisfied with the way it sounded. I've almost always played by myself and have my own ebb and flow with rhythm and tempo, so if that makes for a bad musician, OK. I see good / bad as whether you can accomplish a goal or not. If your goal is to sing in the key of C, and you're singing an F# in the song, then you're off key and not good. But if you go in without a specific key in mind or with the intention of going out of key, then you're a good musician - or at least not necessarily bad. Same with tempo - if your goal is to stay at one tempo and you keep moving out of it, then you're not good. Me, I didn't have a goal of staying in one tempo - I just play to whatever rhythm I want.

I think what the producer was saying is that I should stop playing whatever rhythm I want and focus on a fixed tempo. Here's the recording I sent him for the above song using a metronome:

https://soundcloud.com/heyaaronhatch/american-drone-metronome/s-YHg7Y

He also told me to get rid of the intro in the first version, so I listened. Not sure if that was smart or not.

Maybe the song sounds better with the metronome, but I had a hard time having fun trying to fit the song into the click track. That's probably because I'm not used to staying in a fixed rhythm from years of moving at my own wavering tempo.

Obviously, if I play this with a drummer, I'll have to either get the drummer on the same rhythm page as me, or I have to adjust and stick to a set of tempos.

Lastly, the middle section of the song around 1:30 is supposed to have a slower tempo, eventually returning to the original tempo for the final chorus and solo ending. And of course ignore the shitty playing on the solo - I'm aware that isn't good. :P
Last edited by glooper23 at Oct 7, 2016,
#7
The recording with the click track is definitely better (at least to me). The problem with the original track is that because the tempo is not consistent it is difficult to listen to. My mind keeps trying to find a tempo but the speeding up slowing down makes it too difficult to get a handle on so part way through I just gave up. Music for me (and I think for most people) needs consistent tempo. Think "head bobbing". If the average listener struggles to find the tempo they will give up. You have many of the elements of a very good song but when you stop to do the single note stuff you kind of lose me because the rhythm disappears. I'm with it, then you lose me, then you start strong again, then you lose me. If this is just a demo to showcase the song it doesn't need the single string portions which just repeats the melody.

A producer looks for commercially viable product. He is looking for a total package; good songs, solid musicianship and potential mass appeal of the overall product. A producer says to himself "what's in this for me"? While there are some producers who look for struggling artists with a different vision and try to mold that artist into a viable product, most are looking for commercial talent who are studio ready. Artists that they can record, get a recording deal for and get product released by a major label. You may want to also consider getting better quality recordings before sending stuff out to potential producers. Producers and labels get lots of submissions everyday and you need to realize that like it or not the artist or band that sends in a quality professional demo will stand a better chance of getting a second listen. The others end up in the circular container next to the desk.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Oct 7, 2016,
#9
Rickholly74 I agree.

TS

There is nothing wrong with natural tempo changes - you don't need to be robotic. The tempo can live a bit. Sometimes playing with a metronome makes the song sound a bit monotonic. A good example is Iron Man by Black Sabbath. There are some subtle tempo changes here and there and they kind of make the song "breathe". I have heard a cover where they obviously played to a metronome and it just didn't sound good to me. It kind of sounded too polished and it felt like some of the parts were dragging a bit (because they were). So being metronomic is not always necessary or even preferable. But being able to play to a metronome and being able to keep tempo is important.

If you want it to have a tempo change, you can do it but there are better and worse ways of doing it. I think right now it feels a bit random. You could maybe end the section before the tempo change with a chord that you would let ring for a while or something like that.

BTW, how has your songwriting changed after listening to other people's advice? If you really prefer doing everything your own way, then do it that way. But I would suggest trying different ways and finding the way that you prefer. You should listen to other people's advice, but you don't need to follow it religiously.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#10
glooper23
don't ignore the audience and don't ignore yourself
find a middle ground where you're both happy
#11
Rickholly74 thanks for your help. By single note parts, I'm guessing you mean the two segments after the first and second chorus? Do you also mean the part where I sing "Do you please in conspiracy"?

MaggaraMarina thanks, maybe a single chord before going into the "bridge" before the final chorus would help. As for how my songwriting has changed from advice, I've put more of an emphasis on making songs have one tempo, which has required me to practice triplets and half / double time. So I guess some of my songs have become annoying little shuffles at parts to compensate. Other than that, I've removed a lot of long intros and have focused on using fewer instruments and effects. Some of the advice has been helpful, but like you say about Iron Man, sometimes I look back at how my songs used to be and feel like they were more fun and alive. Now they feel more correct and robotic.

But I also don't want to be disliked. And I can't avoid that entirely, but I'd rather people want to listen to my music and not be turned off like RickHolly74 was with the first recording. I guess there's something I'm missing when it comes to rhythm. I didn't grow up on music (didn't listen to any until I was 17), so it's been challenging to learn the basics that most of you probably take for granted. I earned a degree in music, so I have some proficiency, but I've spent 10 years on ear training with little to no improvement. I've improved a little on beat and rhythm, but it seems like my internal rhythm that I enjoy doesn't jibe with most music fans who are used to something more consistent. People tell me my #1 problem is groove, which doesn't seem like something you can sit down and figure out. Almost as if you either acquire it growing up or avoid the dance floor the rest of your life.

I'm not saying it's impossible to be taught groove or rhythm, but it feels like someone teaching me how to read & write in my 30s. Doable, but when your dream is to be an author, it makes for a steeper climb than if I was learning at 10.
#12
Quote by glooper23
Other than that, I've removed a lot of long intros and have focused on using fewer instruments and effects. Some of the advice has been helpful, but like you say about Iron Man, sometimes I look back at how my songs used to be and feel like they were more fun and alive. Now they feel more correct and robotic.
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The challenge of being an artist is channeling your emotion through "correct" technique and rhythm and pitch and so on. It takes practice and discipline, but when you achieve it, people start to understand your music and connect to it.