Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What makes a Great Song? not over production

I have written over 2,000 songs, 1,000 are recorded, 500 music only and another 500+ just lyrics, I have taught others what It takes to make a great song, what is the test of a good, or great song.

First to tell if a song has potential you must hear it in it's simplistic from. I have heard and advised many on how to write better songs and consulted, critiqued many, many songs.I have learned over the years as An Indy Record Label owner ,A&R exec., a songwriter myself, what a good or great song will sound like. 

A great song with only one vocalist and one instrument,say piano or acoustic guitar.Many take sub par songs that are called filler songs, meaning songs needed to have a full CD, while the CD may have one or two good songs on it.What many try to do, producers,managers,engineers, is take a sub par song, not a hit song, and record it with a big production, effects and the like.

A song that is over produced Will not make a OK song a good song and certainly not a great song no matter how much fancy production is used.So what makes a great song?

 A great hook is essential, not over rhyming as this is the sign of a novice, unless its rap music.A good melody and chorus  after hearing it, one wants to hear it again and again.Lyrics should be one of the main concerns, if your a great lyricist, but not even an OK composer, this is where collaborations come in, know your weakness, and build on your strengths.

When submitting a song to a song publisher they want the voice clear, the lyrics to be heard and the simple accompaniment of the song, not a polished produced full song, those songs go to the A&R department, or agents, they want a finished product, so know your target audience and what you plan to do with that great song.The lyrics should flow effortlessly, they should read with a natural rhythm and have a strong hook that stands out.

As a pro song writer I start with the hook, this is not easy and takes practice, a strong hook and great chorus is what will drive the song, I take my great hook, and write the verses around that.

Let me give you an example of what I mean about a great lyric that flows well with out any instrument.The song I wrote and recorded back in the 80's while I was in a music ministry called Mantle, the songs title is 'The Winds Of England'

The Winds Of England by Danny Louis abaldo

Verse1 A long time ago from the shores of England
Came missionaries,mighty in the lord
They came in power,they came in holiness
Proclaiming the gospel of the scarlet cord
Through the Wesley's,by the word of God
Came to us the winds of change

Chor Don't let the winds die down, grace still abounds,
We'll make a might sound like the winds of England.
Let it burn in our hearts,fan a new start,
We'll do our part with the winds of England.

Ver2 The winds of Africa, the winds of Asia,
Bring the winds once more to America.
We need revival like the days of old,
Though the stories been told , we need to hear it again.

Chor repeat Don't let the winds die down, grace still abounds,
We'll make a might sound , like the winds of England.
Let it burn in our hearts,fan a new start,
We'll do our part with the winds of England.
Yes, we'll do our part with the winds of England.

You may not be into, or like Christian music, but I do.
This example is one of the best I could post to let you read it aloud and see how a great lyric flows with no music.Now some modern songs and experimental songs may have no flow, no rhyme or reason, as you read modern music lyrics they seem not to flow, but this is where the proper music composition comes in and whats called singing the words with proper Phrasing.

Read some of David Bowie's music, or U2, anyone you like, and when reading the lyrics, BEFORE hearing the song you may say to your self wow, this does not flow or make sense, after the song is heard and the seemingly out of sorts lyrics are heard in the song it blows your mind, that those lyrics make such a great song

My second point is that many times people  write the music first than the lyrics and this is where vocal phrasing comes in, meaning certain words extended, other words run on and than are short and than a long word sang out again and repetitions of this, so there are many things that make a great song, the first example was a lyric with no music it flows has a good hook and is pleasant to read, the other great songs may be almost unpleasant to read alone, but the whole of the song is great, so if you write music it works like the flow of lyrics, it should have a strong music hook maybe several, and the melody should be so memorable you find that you are thinking about the melody or humming it, as it is catchy.It is a song writers dream to hear some one whistling or humming a tune they wrote, as this tells you Job well done, you achieved your goal.

If you have never gone to one of the music capitals and shopped your song, it can be a hard and discouraging thing, as an A&R exec., or music publisher will put your CD on and listen to 30 seconds of your song if your lucky, that's just the way it works, so word of advice ,if your song has a long music intro and no hook your done, re record the great intro or shorten it dramatically and get right in to your hook a good strong lead. Could you imagine being the first A&R exec, that listened to PINK FLOYD, I mean talk about long intros, all outstanding by the way, as well as Super tramps 'Crime of The Century' one of the greatest and first Rock Albums of the 70's that used a lot of classical music in their unique style, no one has come close to original composition and mixed POP- rock and 100% different from any one in the 70's and may I say even to this day.

 So make your mark, follow your heart, If your stuff is non commercial as a lot of my music is not, thats why I am an Independent INDY music artist,But a word to the INDY artist, just because it's an INDY production, or CD does not mean it should not be well written, thought provoking lyrics. 

 So, what ever style you do, start with the basics, once those are mastered like in English composition, break all the rules to the content of your heart, a song is a form of art and even producing and engineering, so who is to define what art is,I will  be creative, be different and make sonic Pisces of art.

 You can hear my different styles of music by going to the bottom of the blog and follow the links to my stuff, see what I am saying how some INDY music can be way out there, but still great to listen to, hope you take a listen.'abaldo

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mp3 conversion tips A to Z

In the PC revolution, we musician's make full use of the now popular Mp3 format for making songs available on line for free to see what people like or to sale , there are many places to sell you CD in Mp3 format Sound, amazon, many, many others CD baby the list is endless, and your own website.

You songs should have been recorded at 24 bits and 97Khz .24 bit is most important as 48Khz is acceptable but the 24 bit a must, in a pro studio they use 24 bit /96KHZ and many cheap sound cards have these specs.

Yes you will after the mastering stage dither down to 16bit 44.1Khz as all Cd's are recorded, dithered down to this CD standard.

A wave format will always have a better sound, just listen in a good car stereo and compare a burned CD in wave form and than in mp3 you should hear the difference.

Wave to Mp3 conversion is a simple thing, but some things you should know are as follows:

If you have a plug in by waves called the L2 you will see the dithering process gives many choices and many wave forms and  such. This plug in is my number one tool in the  mastering process.

Most do not have these expensive waves plug ins ,they are not cheap and a good bundle can cost from 2,000 to 4,000.

Note that before you convert to mp3 you will dither the wave, compress it and once dithered you can not just go back and convert the mp3 to wave form and re -tweak it.
 In the wave form it will sound like all your tweaking, and mastering took, but once converted back to the original Mp3 no changes will have taken, again this is due to dithering and once dithered that's it, so always have copies of your songs in wave form in case you want to change the song.

Now you want to always have a Hi-Fi mp3 setting the max is 320 Baud, but some places like amazon only allow a Hi-fi of around 290 or so, a standard low-fi is 128 Baud I have on my free sound click page all low-fi and it sounds, well... like low fi and a tad crappy, you must have a paid music page to upload Hi-Fi, the alternative is to sign up at Boost independent, you get a page and can post Hi-fi, it is an odd site they charge people .69 cents for a download and you only get 1/2 of that, not much.I use the Boost site just to have a good page to post my music in Hi-fi and man what a difference a baud Hi-fi mp3 sounds in relation to standard 128 baud, a 160 and above is much better.

Now some, not all mp3 converter plug ins software give you the option to choose between to kinds of conversion

1.CBR Constant bit rate
2.VBR variable bit rate

If you can, convert your songs in the VBR and this is why, you will notice first off in VBR it does not go up to 320Baud this is because in a wide sense , but the only way I can make it simple is. VBR is more like a limiter it does not change the mp3 sound and CBR does, it is constant and is more like a compressor and so it squashes the single as a compressor does, and one can use a compressor as an effect due to The drastic change a compressor can make to the over all sound, but a limiter does not alter the sound at all just controls the peaks, I use a limiter far more than a compressor, I use a soft knee compressor at a ratio of say 2:1 just enough to not let the loud passages of a vocal stand out and keeps the vox track even.

Louder is not always better, in the industry the new thing is louder is better, sometimes, but not always, a compressor can pump up the volume in great measure, but can also squeeze your sound till it can sound unnatural. so louder is not always better, but I do use compressors in the mastering stage to bring up the over all CD so all songs are the same loudness so one does not need to turn up or down the volume, this is not PRO standard the CD should have the same loudness factored in so no one has to turn it up or down, unless they want to hear your great song louder.

In acoustic music, easy listening,jazz and others loudness is second seat to using a limiter to keep all the subtle music timbres to be enjoyed.

So variable bit rate makes a better sounding Mp3 than Constant bit rate, MP3 Pro is a out dated standard and had its day, much has changed.

 1.keep several copies of your songs in Wave format at 24 bit .

2.conversion to mp3, if no choice the software just converts it, all will give you at least the window to set the baud rating so go as High as you can .note the higher the rate say 320 will be a file at least two times larger than a mp3 in 128 low-fi, so if that is an issue remember, just as a 24 bit 96Khz wave form will be much larger than a wave form in standard CD quality digital of 16/44.1Khz.

3.Once your song is in Mp3 you can not change it later as it has been dithered some software does not even tell you about dithering, it will just convert you wave form to mp3, when this happens it is being dithered down sampled esp. from 24 bit to 16.

4.A good mix and a great master using a hi-fi conversion even CBR if no choice will sound a lot better on your mp3 player.

5.Mp3 is a squashing of your audio, so experiment, choose wisely and listen to the mp3 player on your monitors, small PC monitors and head phones in a Mp3 player, if something is wrong you have a saved waveform to re do it, and by the way do not forget to save the wave form as a back up before you even mix down, master, or do anything so all, changes can at a latter time be changed.

6.Mp3 Id3 tags.Make sure all mp3 songs have these tags, they are stored in the mp3 and are a must, what are they and what is the purpose.In short, when editing the ID3 tag window, you will see a screen pop up that has a form to fill out.Name of song,artist,copyright,and other info.This is important and a must if you are selling your songs.With out a ID3 tag your song will say unknown artist as it plays in a mp3 player.You want your name and song title going across the screen it is a way for a universal tag to be read and all info will appear.The bonus to this for an Indy artist or anyone that wrote the song and converted it to MP3,  the date of creation is stamped on your work and no one can steal a song that has a mp3 ID3 tag, so make sure you do not over look the tag. The tag is your ID.You get full credit, so do it.

Any questions feel free to ask, I offer free a email based school, mentoring, consultation you ask the questions you need answers for and you will get a detailed email with links and info. I do not sell anything, all my mp3 Cd's are free to down load at


These are free to down load in low-fi my Hi-fi songs are posted on boost I have the boost logo on some of the blog's just click that and you will hear my new CD the War Machine, also at the bottom of the blog you will see links, click my new CD The war machine, this will take you to the boost site and you can listen to all the songs for free, but the site does not allow you to download them for free, that's them not me,but they are free on sound click. I posted on boost so my students could hear the difference in a Low-fi and hi-Fi sound, compare and you will see.

Until next time, happy recording
Danny Louis Abaldo