Welcome back to the fourth day of producing “Please Don’t Come Home,” the second song in my ten-song production marathon.
If you’re just joining me, I recommend learning about the original project first. You can also click here to go back to the first day of producing this track.
Alright - now let’s get into the details of today’s music production work…
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Day 4: What Song Structure Is Appropriate?
This morning (Friday the 13th of October! Spooky….) I’m feeling a little better rested than yesterday, and I have the day off.
My biggest frustration for this song is still: “What sections do I have right now? Does this material truly fit into a Verse-Chorus-Bridge structure? How can I make the song work without altering this awesome, free-form, stream-of-consciousness structure? Should I break out of the ABABCB pop-song format that I intended to stick to? What lesson am I supposed to learn from this?
Personally, I think I’m supposed to keep to the pop song format. Stick to my original mission - which means I’ve just gone in a big circle in my head.
One other problem: the 4-minute song limit that’s part of my self-imposed creative restrictions… will I be able to keep to that? This is a long, “jam”-type section. If it’s repeated, it gets even longer. In fact, when I actually time it out - it’s 2:20 already, and I set a 4:00 limit on my songs for this project.
So how do I make that work? Is it even possible? Should I split this section down into parts? Or at least experiment with that idea?
Creating And Experimenting With New Sections
I’m spending the morning thinking about song structure and trying to record new instrumental parts that could connect. I’m not having much luck yet, but I feel like I’m getting warmer to something that will work.
Ok, suddenly I’m combining new ideas: a halftime drum break from earlier, a piano lick I came up with last night, and a new double-time bassline that introduces a bunch of new harmonies.
When I put that bassline in the half-time context, the whole mixture now sounds fucking rad and new. Best of all, I can transition between the double-time and half-time parts (with a little bit of imagination to picture it sounding more professional). This might have some serious potential for a song.
Whoa, now I’m ‘remixing’ my favorite vocals ideas onto the new bassline and shit yea it sounds fucking awesome too. The context transforms the vocals into something better.
More Structural Questions and Creative Frustration
Now I want to hear both parts in the same song - is that possible? The creative resistances I’m hitting now are:
- Should I develop the ideas I currently have, or should I keep looking for new ones?
- What formal structure will best contain and support the ideas I have so far?
Is the form something like “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, but an extended-length version?
It feels like I’m hitting my head against a wall, so I’m taking a break to study some more of the (affiliate link) Ultimate Ableton Live Course.
Vocal Inspiration, Timing, and (More) Song Structure
After a bit, I open up the song again and start messing with the half-time part. I just throw down a random falsetto vocal without lyrics and I LOVE it.
Suddenly I’m in love with this half-time section almost as much as the original idea. This new thing could be the chorus, I think? It’s very short, which could counterbalance the long part I started with. I’m starting to have some ideas.
What if my verses and choruses are very short - just 8 bars each? That’s about 30 seconds each. 2 verses and 3 choruses, then, would be 2:30 total. My bridge is already 2:20, and very high energy. To balance that, I think we’ll need to repeat the chorus an extra time at the end, adding another :30.
In this case, total song time would be 5:20. This breaks my intended time limit, but would resolve my questions about the appropriate formal structure for this music and keeps to the ABABCB plan.
I think it’s alright to sacrifice the time-limit restriction, especially since the Bridge that’s inspiring me isn’t “typical pop song” material.
For now, I will work as if this is the plan. That means I already have my sketches of the Chorus and Bridge complete.
Lyrics and Layers
Now I need lyrics for my Choruses, and music+lyrics for 2 Verses.
First, I took some time to think deeply about what the music and words are saying so far. And, instead of trying to put lyrics to the falsetto in the Chorus, I want to leave that sound as an “effect,” and sing the actual lyrics in a lower register. To come up with ideas for those half-time Choruses, I start improvising the general sound and lyrics I’ll want.
I also start playing with various mixtures of the instrumental layers. It’s cool to swap out the half- and double-time drums between their original sections. There might be some possibilities here but I shouldn’t get too carried away, especially right at this moment.
What do I need next? Probably the Verse music and lyrics, and to refine the Chorus lyrics. I actually like the 7 lines of lyrics I improvised, but the eighth and last line is just muttered sounds, not words. So really it’s just one line of the Chorus left to write, and I already know the end rhyme…
Ok, I’ve worked out at least two ideas I really like for the last line of Chorus. Actually I have a few too many variations, heh. Maybe I’ll change the words up each time, since the verse-chorus will be on the short side in this song.
Just like on my last song, my options for music and words continually narrow as I get further along in the song.
The Verses’ music and words will face a difficult task: must both fit with and contrast with my two parts. The Verses also must be short (only 8 bars). They must be very spare and low-energy, since the Chorus is already a bit laid back.
Most of all, make sure the Verse stays true to the mood and feel that have been defined by the Chorus and Bridge.
Generating Ideas for Verses
I get my best inspiration way past midnight. So I’m staying up late, pushing myself for ideas on the verse, and testing various combinations of ideas I already have.
There are many different ways these existing pieces can fit together, which is cool, but I also sense a need for more contrast. Otherwise this mood might get overbearing and repetitive. Or maybe I’m just listening to it too much for one day.
I give it a couple hours break, then continue trying new ideas for Verses. I did get a really cool one involving a two-part vocal harmony, but it’s unrefined.
Crucially, I also confirmed one of my structural plans: I think my basic ideas for the Chorus-Bridge-Chorus transitions will work.
It also sounds really good to intermingle some fast high hats into the previously half-timed Chorus, allowing the music in the Bridge to alter and transform the Chorus in a “before-and-after” sort of way. (That might not make much sense in words, so be sure to listen to the finished song to hear what I mean.)
Consolidation and Planning for Tomorrow
As I’m coming to the end of the night (early morning), I’m thinking: before I go much further I really should refine, re-record, and optimize the main parts I have so far… the sections I’m sure of.
This would force me to decide exactly what parts I’m keeping, before I get any more attached to the way it sounds in draft form (a common mistake of mine).
This sort of consolidation would be the ideal work to begin tomorrow with. For now I should sign off and try to get some sleep.
Read more! Go on to the next day of production, which focuses on creating a sense of departure and return in the song structure…