Sunday, November 13, 2005

Turning a Band Into Songwriters - 10 Songs In One Hour

By: Brandon Drury

While most bands have good or even very good drummers, guitar
players, and bassists (notice I didn't say singers), most bands
don't have good songwriters. In fact, songwriting is usually an
afterthought with most bands. That's why I came up with the 10
songs in one hour challenge.

That's right, if you did the math, you quickly figured out that
the band must write a song every 6 minutes to stay on target and
THEY MUST STAY ON TARGET. That's the challenge. You must enforce
that they have to get 10 songs done in one hour.

Here's how I do it: I divide the band in groups of two. If they
are a three piece, I'll jump in and play along. Each group gets
a guitar, a small amp, and small PA system. I put a wall of
gobos (sound deadening device) in between them and I hit go
while recording both the guitar amp and vocal mic from each
room. One person is expected to sing, the other is expected to
play guitar. After each song is written, they must switch.

While this method might seam a little off the wall, it's the
best way to get a band to work creatively together. It breaks
down a lot of barriers and it's common for about 10% of the
songs to be very good. I like this method because it solves a
lot of problems. It forces the band to be a band.

One problem the 10 songs in one hour challenge fixes is the
notion that the singer has to come up with all the melodies.
Why? Okay, a singer should be able to sing, but the melody is
the entire song in my opinion. The only thing separating a great
song from a crappy song is vocal melody, in my world. So, let's
get the entire band in on writing the melodies. You'd be
surprised how good your drummer might be at creative vocal

A lot of guys are shy in front of the mic. I've never recorded
any Kansas type bands where the entire band can sing. I'm lucky
to find a band where one guy can sing. So the guy with
absolutely no clue about singing must get on the mic and do it.
Even when a terrible singer gets on the mic, the intent is
usually clear. A real singer would have no problem making your
drummer's melody sound great. So when you force a guy to sing,
he usually adapts to his situation.

It forces everyone to play guitar or similar instrument. This is
great. It makes the drummer pick up an instrument that he's not
used to. If he can't play it, he must deal with it. That's part
of the process. He can play one note lines if he has to. I just
want a song. Seldom does proficiency at the instrument effect
the quality of the song.

While there are certainly exceptions, a band that is not used to
writing a lot of songs, simply won't write a lot of songs. By
adapting to this lighting fast method, the band will understand
that not ever song has to be great. In fact, you need to write a
few terrible songs on purpose just so your brain will be
creative enough to do something interesting. Bands play it safe
all the time. They feel like each song has to be great. In fact,
it's the opposite. I noticed it more with 80s pop groups who
weren't going to be dropped after the first record like they are
now. They would come up with the most screwed up, stupid songs
sometimes. Listen to a bunch of Human League. They had at least
3 top 10 hits, but then listen to "Black Hit of Space" or
"Empire State Human". You can tell they just messed around. When
you are actually being creative and experimenting is when you
will come up with your hits and your crap.

I'm not saying that the 10 songs in one hour method is the best
method for all bands. I think it's a great method for bands who
need to come together as a group. It's a great songwriting tool
for any band that just expects the singer to write songs. There
is no finger pointing. Every band member is responsible for
writing great tunes in this situation.

About the author:
Brandon Drury has written about songwriting
and producing
on for since 2005.

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