Why do your songs suck?

Why do your songs suck?
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Why do my songs suck? Let me count the ways…!

Lyrics are by far the biggest stumbling block for me. This is mostly because I lack anything worthwhile to say that hasn’t already been said a million times before. The few songs with lyrics I’ve done that I think are at least OK have managed some feeble minor difference, but I really struggle to find something to impart.

To a lesser extent, I have the same problem with the musical side. Every progression I come up with seems to be very reminiscent of something someone has already done. A corollary to this is that I am only slowly learning how to add interest to such things with the dynamics of a song, stops and starts, ear candy, little side excursions. My recent thread on the difference between a chorus, bridge, and middle-8 is part of trying to get better in that area.

The combination of too-familiar musical forms and nothing of interest to say lyrically is a deadly prescription for radical suckage.

And @feaker Paul, your songs do NOT suck. The songs are really good! Do you need more experience on the mixing side? Sure. But that is not the same thing IMO as the basic quality of the composition. That’s a matter of production. So there, neener neener neener! :grin:

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@Chordwainer what is your genre preference ? :slight_smile:

Like many of the people in this thread I also cringe a little when writing lyrics. It’s one of the most laborious tasks in songwriting for me probably because I don’t want to sound too cheesy or derivative. The problem is that “everything” that has ever been written is derivative. For me the most important part of a song is the vocal melody, it’s timing and expression. Lyrics are secondary for me…BUT, I don’t want to ruin a good vocal melody with crappy lyrics…That’s why I don’t usually enjoy writing lyrics. It feels like a tedious chore.

Interesting… for me, lyrics are the starting point for the song… they come first and the melody etc… follow on… it’s the painstaking editing and attention to detail that does my head in…

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I think about this all the time!

One thing I noticed a couple of months ago is that having proper timing is actually important. (Who knew? Haha.) So I’ve been practicing guitar with a metronome a lot, and I’ve made great progress. I’ve also been working on my fingerpicking technique with my right hand with a focus on getting a better tone. I’ve changed my hand position, and grown my nails out a bit to get a nicer sound. These sorts of things make a huge difference! I’ve just been taking more care with my guitar playing, and spending more time in focused practice.

Of course, everything could be better. I’m just focused on my guitar playing lately. I suspect I’ll focus on my vocal skills in the near future as well. Something else I’m doing lately is paying close attention to songs that I love, and seeing what I can learn from them.

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“Timing is everything”…That saying is very true in the music recording world.

One of the easiest ways to spot a novice is their poor timing. Since I began recording I’ve become very aware of timing because it’s so important for creating a tight, pro sounding track. Using a metronome is a great way of improving your timing. Recording your playing or singing is also a good way of analyzing your timing, pitch, dynamics, etc. Recording can make you a better musician. Conscientious practice and objective observation can take any musician a long way.

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Most of my original stuff is slow to mid-tempo rock centered around acoustic guitar, although they all end up with a lot of electric guitar as well before all is said and done. Americana style stuff is one of my favorite genres (although as a listener I spend plenty of time with other genres).

There are different ways this is (or isn’t) true. For me, songs that are rigidly on a fixed time grid can sound robotic and lifeless. Many great songs drift in their tempo through the tune, as I’ve discovered by loading them as reference tracks in my DAW and scrutinizing closely. It’s an organic thing, pretty much impossible to quantify, and one of the hardest things to get right IMO in a one-person mode in the home studio.

Just wanted to draw that distinction between instruments feeling like they’re playing together, which is what I think @Wicked was probably getting at. I fully agree with that.

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Tell me about it. I can’t even write a response to a post that doesn’t already have a response saying exactly what I would have said.

I think it basically comes down to the fact that trying to be too original kills music making for me. I hate the idea of making music that is too similar to something that’s already done. Does the world really need another song with palm muted distorted guitars? I don’t like the idea of making something unless I feel like I can make it better or at least different from what’s already been done.

Also, the idea writing an entire album worth of music in the same genre bores me to death. But then this makes me want to stick every stupid trick I can think of into a single song, then the song becomes a mess.

The really dumb part is that as I write this, it’s obvious that my thought process is wrong. I still get excited when a band comes out with a new album, even if all their songs are pretty much the same. When I’m listening to music, I don’t need to be presented with brand new ideas with every song, I just need something slightly different to entertain me for a couple minutes. So why I think my music needs to be more special than the music I like to listen to is beyond me.

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Yeah, lots of 70’s songs and earlier have drifting tempos.

One very obvious example is Suffragette City by David Bowie. It starts off at a certain pace and then it starts speeding up somewhere around the time Bowie starts to sing. It actually picks up speed quite quickly and then levels off for most of the song, though the timing is never really perfectly consistent throughout. I think it speeds up a little at the end too if I recall correctly. It almost sounds like either the whole band was recorded live or the rhythm section was played live and when Bowie started singing they realized the tempo was too slow so they signaled each other to pick up the tempo.

Yes, that’s what I meant, but I still think it’s important to have good timing throughout a song. No human will ever have the timing precision of a machine. But musicians who regularly play without having fairly consistent timing stand out like a sore thumb and they sound really unprofessional, just like playing an out of tune instrument or being a pitchy singer.

There’s nothing wrong with the timing of a song drifting in either direction as long as the instruments all drift together. There’s always exceptions to the rule though.

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Hahaha, everything you wrote is so true. I don’t even comment in most threads because even though I have opinions I just don’t think my opinion needs to be heard and it’s probably going to be redundant anyway.[quote=“bozmillar, post:15, topic:1268”]
The really dumb part is that as I write this, it’s obvious that my thought process is wrong. I still get excited when a band comes out with a new album, even if all there songs are pretty much the same. When I’m listening to music, I don’t need to be presented with brand new ideas with every song, I just need something slightly different to entertain me for a couple minutes. So why I think my music needs to be more special than the music I like to listen to is beyond me.
[/quote]

Exactly.
Sometimes I intentionally write something typical and crappy…I feel that getting the junk out of my system prepares me for writing the good stuff. When I say “good stuff”, I don’t necessarily mean “unique stuff”, but unique and good would be the best of both worlds.

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I had already been marinating on starting a thread about “Influences”. I think these comments lead right into that, but it’s probably another topic so I started that thread here:

Just as when mixing we use “reference” tracks to get the sound and balance in the ballpark, the same can be done for vocal or instrumental performances, or songwriting, or production techniques. Perhaps this is a way to be “less sucky”? :dart:

Ha ha! I don’t have a song that sucks! There’s a good reason why… I have never written one! What generally happens is my chums Phil and Richard come up with a song, and I put together a bassline for them and sometimes suggest chord structures… Having said all, once I pull my finger out and qualify to have some songs bashed, you can all rip my feeble efforts to shreds…

So what inspires you people to write a song???

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I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years. I wrote my first song because I was leaving my friends behind to go to college, and I felt so sad and conflicted about it. Songwriting has always been my way to help make sense of my feelings, and the many difficulties in life. I remember a bunch of times that I wrote a song and it was something that I needed to hear. It’s cathartic, explorative, that sort of thing.

Lately, as I’ve been attempting to build an audience for my music, I focus on writing songs that are based on video games or TV shows or whatever. It’s got to be something that genuinely inspires me in the first place, but then I try to create a piece that captures something expressed in the game/show I’m writing about. And I’m motivated because I know that people will listen to it when I’m done.

For me it’s usually like a dream-state or something. An idea, an inspiration of emotional origin but mental content. Something I want to say. Something I want to shout from the bleachers. :slight_smile: I really think it’s a combination of left brain stream of consciousness (words), and right brain ideas and concepts + emotions. They have to be in sync or it’s a mess. Making it work with a musical idea can be challenging if it doesn’t come along with a melody or rhythm. Sometimes imagining the performing of this new piece on a stage can help. “Theater of the Mind” and all that fun stuff. :grin:

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It seems that your writing ability is not the issue, but your own assessment of it. Not sure how you get around that one without a complete change of mental attitude.

Why don’t you write and record something regardless of your misgivings and post it to BTR? You may be surprised by the reaction, and you never know, that reaction may be enough to start a change in your attitude.

BTW when we (Salem) write songs for an album there is no intention of sticking to one genre. Whatever we write, we record. It just so happens that nine times out of ten the song turns out to be rock/metal because that’s what we love but we don’t limit ourselves to the genre at the onset.

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I have no problem writing songs. Chord sequences, melodies, arrangements - and especially lyrics - come very easily to me. Of course, that is no indication of the quality of those songs, but that discussion belongs on BTR.

The only reason I say this is because on this thread I see a lot of (what I interpret to be) low self esteem and crippling self-deprecation.

I think a lot of this stems from the self-inflicted pressure to be ‘original’, I see this so often in my studio with bands and artists.

“Our” music is Western Art Music. For all intents and purposes, there is no other type. Because of the way WAM is structured, there are no original chord sequences left, and probably no original melodies. So if you’re worried that someone else may have already ‘done’ what you have written, you’re right. But it’s time to get over that fact. It doesn’t stop people like McCartney, Jack Blades and countless others from writing, so it shouldn’t stop you.

With lyrics, you have a greater chance of being original, but again, I see many people crippling themselves through the belief that whatever they write should be show-stopping. Nothing could be further than the truth. Just write it down and stop worrying about it. Look at all the bog standard lyrics that accompany most commercial songs. “Da doo ron ron” I mean, even a six year old child could do that.

As for subjects to write about…
You can write about millions of things, literally anything. But this fact in itself can be daunting, I know. So try narrowing down your options. Try this: watch the news and pick the story that you can relate to the most through personal experience. Then write your lyrics. Honestly, it’s not difficult. Just try not to get too specific. The more ambiguous you are about the subject, the more people will be able to relate to it. And here is something you will discover - when people ask you what the song is about, and you explain the lyrics to them, they are invariably very impressed.

Here’s the kicker - you strive so hard to be original, but if you truly achieved that, the chances are that no-one would like your song. The reason people like songs is because they have a melody/sound/chord structure that is reminiscent of one they already like. They may not be able to name that song (if they can, the chances are you have got a little too close to the original) but the familiarity brings them a warm fuzzy feeling.

Originality, by and large, comes from performance. That’s why songs are covered so much. Same song - new performer. People never grow tired of that, so the desire to be original in your songwriting is demonstrably a misplaced one. (I’m referring to mainstream here - there are obvious exceptions such as Cage, Glass, Messiaen, even our own Emma to a degree).

So release those shackles - and get writing!

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Amen Adrian - you nailed it. :beerbang:

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My songs don’t suck. #justsaying

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:thumbsup::ok_hand:

Well said Adrian! And I agree with Boz, I also have that misgiving that I expect more from my own compositions than I do from artists I admire. I guess I need to give myself permission to tread the same paths.

I just feel presumptuous, I suppose is the right word, in proffering material that seems so obviously derivative. But I’m definitely not giving up! My song “Love Songs Left” about all the love songs already having been written actually took that bull by the horns and tried to turn it to my advantage, and I think it worked. I believe that song, at least, does not suck. :grin:

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