Developing Your Song - Less is More [Revised 2018]

Adding more elements is not always the way to make a song sound bigger. Sometimes the way to make a song better is to take away elements. Spreading the dynamic range of your song can make it sound bigger, for example increase the distance between the highest notes and the lowest notes. 

In this particular example we developed a ska song. As you can see in the score/tab it uses some pretty high chords. After adding some extra layers decided to strip the bass back a little to help the overall sound of the song. Let's explore that. Start by taking a listen to the a full mix of the sample song.

The progression in am, C, G, dm. Apart from the click track, the song is guitar, keys and bass. The bass uses root notes and plays a groove that hangs around the start and end of each bar.

ska song bed

As you can hear there was a lot more going on in the audio version that is shown in the music score above. There's a second guitar playing a constant rhythm and some tight keyboard arpeggios at the end of each bar. 

Unfortunately, in bringing this lesson out of the archive we discovered that only the original audio track existed. But, that only emphasises the point of this topic. You don't need to flood a track with instruments. Still, take a look at the tab below.

What's labelled Gtr 2 here was most likely an acoustic guitar playing picked chords, of course matching the pattern of am, C, G, dm. And the bass has been stripped back. Compare the two bass lines. The second version adds more 'pump' because it occurs only at the start of each bar. The moments of silence help highlight the bass guitar's return at the start of each bar.

more ideas for a ska song

I hope this post gave you a few ideas on developing a song by reducing or even eliminating tracks. This is part of being a great player and a great songwriter - getting an overall concept for a song. When listening to your takes think, 'how does this part impact the whole song?' And, if something's got to go (like the acoustic track above) never mind so much. Just use that concept in a different song.

If you want to learn more about how we developed this progression and more great ideas for songwriting take the whole course! Learn awesome techniques for writing excellent songs.

Happy Jamming