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How do you pick songs for your album?

maire-aine 09 Jul 07 - 09:56 AM
Maryrrf 09 Jul 07 - 11:06 AM
mrmoe 09 Jul 07 - 11:53 AM
BTMP 09 Jul 07 - 12:32 PM
Sooz 09 Jul 07 - 12:44 PM
Phil Cooper 09 Jul 07 - 04:05 PM
Maryrrf 09 Jul 07 - 08:37 PM
Charley Noble 09 Jul 07 - 09:04 PM
Jim Lad 09 Jul 07 - 09:46 PM
Deckman 09 Jul 07 - 10:19 PM
Celtaddict 09 Jul 07 - 11:33 PM
Stephen L. Rich 10 Jul 07 - 12:53 AM
Songster Bob 10 Jul 07 - 12:58 AM
Skivee 11 Jul 07 - 01:27 AM
GUEST,Ian cookieless 11 Jul 07 - 03:41 AM
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Subject: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: maire-aine
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 09:56 AM

Do you just pick your favorites, or do you try to create a theme? What other ways have you used for selections? Thanks.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 11:06 AM

I don't think a "theme" is necessary (although it can and has been done successfully). Here's the way I went about it. Did a 'rough' recording of my favorite songs - the ones I enjoy most, and then listened to that over a month or so with a critical ear, to decide what 'worked' and what didn't. After I'd decided which songs I thought were best, I started to group them together so as to get varying tempo, keys, etc, but not in such a way that was completely jarring. I made several rough 'demos' and listened, then made my final selection of 11 songs. Everybody has a different method, but one thing that is important, I think is to make sure that you vary the tempos and keys in order to keep it interesing - unless of course you are making a CD specifically for dance music, or meditation, or something of that nature. It helps if you have a trusted friend who will give you an honest opinion too. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: mrmoe
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 11:53 AM

going in, I have a pretty good idea of the project's length.....in my next effort, I've chosed 3 songwriters I'd like to include; chosing the writers before the songs.....one by Kenny Girard, one by David Buskin, and one by Carl Watanabe.....I'll write the rest of the songs and fill the predetermined (40 minute) length.....


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: BTMP
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 12:32 PM

All of the suggestions above are also what I typically use, except I also try to have at least 1 or 2 instrumental songs along with vocals, just to break things up. Also, I try to identify whether a song is 'up' or 'down', i.e. I wouldn't want an album with 12 'murdered my girlfriend' songs, if you see my point. Balance in all aspects is good. Good luck on your project! -btmp


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Sooz
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 12:44 PM

Put on the songs you like, but also those that your audiences like or they won't buy the CD!


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 04:05 PM

We try to find songs that fit a mood and go from there. The projects tend to morph while in progress. I know folks randomize the cuts and put specific songs on their ipods, but we hope our original order of songs can be appreciated.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 08:37 PM

Good point from Phil, the order might become less important since a lot of people don't just put on a CD and listen straight through anymore! I'd still try for a mix of keys and tempos though.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 09:04 PM

I like themes even if I'm not entirely consistent! Maryrrf's system is really the best for me. Listen to a rough cut of the CD and if after a while you're tempted to skip over a track, delete it. Spare the buyer that distraction.

I also find that some songs which work well live, never seem to work well as well recorded. That seems especially true of novelty songs or parodies; once you've got the joke you're less inclined to want to hear it executed again.

There is also the question of who you think you target audience is. Mine is probably other singers rather then general listeners. Others might be more oriented to school children or other groups. You might give that some thought as well.

Then there are those who sort their tracks alphabetically...

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Jim Lad
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 09:46 PM

I like what Phil said.
Really depends on what you want to do with the cd. Best advice I can give is "Be true to yourself". Everything else will fall in line.
Truth be known, I'll bet almost every folksinger here, has a cassette hidden deep in a closet somewhere that they wish they'd never made.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 10:19 PM

Vodka helps!


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Celtaddict
Date: 09 Jul 07 - 11:33 PM

Personally, I like albums with a 'theme' and even though I too may cut them up or pick favorite tracks, and have made my own recordings of my favorite songs of all my favorite artists before iPod made it so easy, I still really appreciate a theme, and the flow of an album. Of course, most themes are pretty elastic, and it is interesting to see sometimes what someone will include on a themed album.
Some that come to mind:
Gordon Bok's SCHOONERS (one of my Desert Island Disks)
Danny & Geraldine Doyle's EMIGRANT EYES (ditto)
Some old Clancy Brothers (Irish Songs of Drinking and Blackguarding)
any number of old ballad, regional, or sea song albums
Also, when I look at an album, thinking of buying it, I like to see something familiar so I have an idea what sort of thing to expect, and something unfamiliar or what is the point of buying it? I know most performers have songs that are always requested that they would have no interest in recording (like 'The Unicorn' requested of every Irish band) though including one or two of your own 'greatest hits' or most requested would seem a no-brainer, but I certainly have known musicians to skip those and record only the ones no one ever requests because the musician wants to boost those; I think this is an error, and to me it would make more sense to include some favorites to lead the listening audience into the less known or more [sophisticated? arty? varied? who knows what else to add] pieces.
The old LPs or cassettes offered the possibility of one side more 'serious' and one more light; with CDs that does not happen, and while I understand the idea of varying the pacing, occasionally the pacing can vary too abruptly resulting in a jarring sensation.
A really good live performance will often have a pace and flow that lends itself very well to tracks on an album, even a studio album, though as Charley notes, some things don't work as well in the studio as they do on stage. (Others are better in the studio, even if they do not require effects unavailable on stage.)
I also like the track list on the outside of the packaging to indicate more than just the title, for example original songs or instrumentals.
Also, people very often record the songs that are relatively new in the repertoire, whether just written or just added. But it seems to me that often when someone has been performing a song longer, it acquires a depth of interpretation that was not present at the first; I often wish singers would re-record something because I like the current, mature version better than the recorded 'green' version; I expect this applies far more to traditional or tradition-based than pop of course.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 10 Jul 07 - 12:53 AM

Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What are my best songs?
2) Of those, on which do I deliver the most consistantly good performance?
3) Do I want other instrument and voices on those songs?

    I am assuming, simply from the fact that you are asking this question, that this is going to be your first recording. That you are asking questions at all tells one that you are not going into the project without having given it some thought. Once you've answered the above questions you'll be ready to take the next step. Work out arrangements with other musicians BEFORE you go into the studio. This will save a good deal of aggrivation and money. Decide whether you want to record your arrangements live to disc (all of your msicians in the studio, at the same time, functioning as a band) or multitrack them (record each part separately). As you start recording you will find that your songs will start to take on shapes and tones that you may not have anticipated. You will find yourself wanting to add songs to or delete songs from your original list because of the way they do or don't fit with what you have already recorded. Choosing song for a CD is kind of like trying to put together a 3D jigsaw puzzle the reconfigures itself every time you fit in a new piece. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. If you've been performing for any length of time, then you have a pretty good idea of how to build a set. There's a learning curve to it, but not a terribly difficult one. Follow the musical instincts that you already have in place and you'll do just fine. Keep in mind, however, that a recording is not a live perfprmance. It is a different medium. A recording studio, properly used, can be an additional instrument. Find yourself a recording tech with some experience and judgementif you can. That will grease the wheels considerabley.

Stephen Lee Rich


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Songster Bob
Date: 10 Jul 07 - 12:58 AM

This is a good question. In my case, I made a tape about 20 years ago or more, and haven't made another recording, though I'm really anxious to make one. The problem is deciding what I want the CD to be. My originals? My current favorites? Stuff from my current working bands (there would be a contrast to match all contrasts, if I did that -- electric minstrel banjo and Civil War rock songs)? My friends' favorite-songs-that-you-do, Bob? Ones I think I do well? Ones I think deserve more exposure? Ones that show off the different instruments I play? Live recordings? With other players/singers or solo? Ones I think will 'sell?'

All of the above?

Decisions, decisions. I'm actually recording with the electric band now (Last Gold Dollar), even though we can't seem to get gigs. Our thinking is that a CD will either help advertise us or act as a memorial to a fun experiment (essentially, we think the folk-rock bands of the 60s messed it up by concentrating on originals or British folksongs or US country music & blues, when they should have used rock sensibilities on American old-time music and traditional song; despite this, we do several originals of mine). And I joined the Civil War Comrades due to a recording project (The Civil War, Amerimusic, available through civilwar.com), so I have that recording experience behind me, too, though the choices of songs, styles, and instrumentation were not mine.

Anyway, I don't have any real advice, just the admission that I'm in the same boat.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: Skivee
Date: 11 Jul 07 - 01:27 AM

We look at songs that we have brought into the act since our last recording, as well as new songs we want to introduce.
Fifty minutes of songs in the key of Am, with guitar, pennywhistle and Bodhran, with an AABB verse followed by AABB chorus that repeated two lines from the cerse, about some brave lads lost when a ship sank, all at 60 bpm, in 6/8, and sung with great sincerity, and the same harmonies, would drive the listener to drink, murder, or suicide.
So we build a grid that compares various factors of the songs/tunes we are considering. We try to avoid putting many songs in the same keys, with the same basic subject, the same tempo, the same instrumentation on the same album. If we have a reason to put similar pieces on the same ablum, we make certain that they are widely separated on the recording. We try for as much variety as possible. We look at pieces that we think we can perform with a fresh treatment.

Oh, we also pick pieces that we can play with reasonable musicality.


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Subject: RE: How do you pick songs for your album?
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 11 Jul 07 - 03:41 AM

All of the above. Plus, you may find that a song that works very well live unexpectedly just doesn't work the way you want in the studio (for all kinds of reasons), so rethinking during recording may be necessary, and therefore possibly some weeding out. Also, the running order is crucial, I think, to create a mood and an overall 'shape'. The same 12 or 14 pieces may work or not work as an album, depending entirely on their running order.


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