How do you choose which songs for an album?

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Friends and family are asking for CD's of my music - so I've decided to go ahead and make an album. 12 songs, I guess? My problem? Between FAWM 2016 and 5090 2016 ALONE, I have a catalog of 80+ songs. All my songs need some mixing, overdubbing, editing...even re-recording, so none of that is a factor in choosing which songs....But seriously..how do I choose? My songs are little bubbles of my soul and each and every one of them is special. I've tried to go with a theme, but I don't want to just do the jazz/blues songs and miss out on the rock, don't want to just do the silly things....want to do another instrumentals. Then there's the collabs that I really enjoyed, but the parts of the collabs that are mine can be finished and flushed out if I"m that attached to the piece.

So, how do I choose what songs go on the first CD? How do you choose?

I try to group the ones that fit together (without being afraid to have varying genres) in some way. And a good running order. If you can get 11-14 songs together that flow from song to song and feel cohesive you'd be further along than most.

Or just pick the 12 you'd show an absolute stranger if you had to.

You could do a "best of" collection. If that is still too constraining, how about a 2 CD set?

All I can say is, I go through the same quandary when I think about trying to make a representative/or even "best of" sample. I haven't done it yet. It seems so hard to eliminate many of those moments of creation for me too, but some kind of objectivity is clearly called for. Since you are willing to re-record, you are ahead of the game. I've been afraid to do that, fearing the 'magic' of the original will be missing, even if it was flawed. I'd suggest getting a supportive listener (or several) to offer up their picks. And then add anything you simply can't bear to leave out, but get some feedback on those too; what would make it more accessible? Sometimes we love our songs for reasons other than the general listener will. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just hard to separate them by ourselves.

When I and my playing partner did our CD we chose songs that went over well with the people that listened to them. There were some that we wanted to include but for one reason or another, they weren't as popular. We did some live shows and open mics, plus we would record some songs on youtube and make music videos so we had enough feedback to get a good sense. Do you think that FAWM and 50/90 feedback could be of any use to you? Also, if the songs aren't too long, you can do 20. We did 12 songs and it didn't quite hit 40 minutes. I actually felt like we were cheating a bit with only 12 songs.

I've been slipping my intended tracks Into shows to gauge audience reaction. A few months ago, I did an online cd planning concert to get feedback. I didnt' get the participation I was hoping for, since it was a little last minute, but I did get a lot of feedback. Oddly, songs I didn't expect to go as well were the most enjoyed, and vice versa.

I've been swapping songs in and out for a few years, and have a good few hundred options. At first, I was concerned that I was picking too many slow songs, since I try to maintain a 3 or 4 to one ratio during shows. Feedback showed that wasn't a concern. An album of nothing but ballads would be just as welcome, if not preferred. Go figure.

I guess it really depends on who you're making the album for. If it's so you have something to look back on, and you're mostly doing it for you and a few friends and family, record your favorites. If you're trying to actually sell it and recoup costs, listen to your audience. You can always release a pile of singles, and bundle them into best of collections, organized however you like, as well.

One thing to think about is how much production you plan on doing. I perform as a soloist 99% of the time, so any time I add full production my core fans don't like it as much, since it stops sounding like me. That said, the general public is more responsive, so my EP is a blend of both extremes and some middle ground production.

Good luck on the decisions. Smile

Try to give them a 4 track EP which is sort of like best of compilation. This way you don't get a headache on deciding which song to go for an album or a 2 CD comp out of choosing 80 songs you recorded. If they want more then you give them another EP! Anyways for an EP, choose songs that you like. they don't have to be your best songs, and that's why it's less of a headache! Oh and don't hesitate choosing cover songs if you really like them!! Going this route you save valuable time and frustration of choosing which songs would fit an album or best of 2 CD comp. Smile

How do you choose which colors to use in a painting?

How do you choose which words to print on a page?

Audio is a medium, which you should bend to your will. So, define your will.

If you want to show your friends and family what you've been up to, then show them a wide swath of what you've been up to.

If you want to sell a large number of records, then pick the songs that will sell the most records.

If you want to use the cd as a demo for getting gigs for your band, pick the songs that will do that.

Just make sure not to start such a big project without knowing why you're doing it. If you know why you're doing it, you'll have a framework for every other question.

I completely agree with Gargamel. Except for the Smurfs thing, I'm not sure what he has against those sweet creatures. Wink

Interesting topic, as now that I've got well over 100 new songs written this year (between FAWM, 50/90, and FB Song Skirmish), I feel like it's time to do some culling and curating and picking of favourites for learning better and performing occasionally. Thanks, @Mel Gargamel for the ideas of how to structure such a project.

WOW! THANK YOU ALL for the insights and suggestions! These are all very good points and thoughts! After reading this, it was very easy to whittle it down. Thanks! ROFL

You've got 80+ songs this year, so you're far ahead of the game. This is a friends and family sampler. You don't need to stick to one genre. You're just burning it yourself? As needed? Or are you shelling out money to have it professionally mastered?

If you haven't already, make a playlist of everything you've done. Walk around listening to it for a few days, to find out which songs stand out for you, and which make you cringe. Listen to melody, lyrics, and performance. Then go through any songs that are nearly identical in theme and mood. Pick the best one to share with others, and keep the rest for yourself.

Shuffle the list, and repeat the process until you've only got 20 or so left. See which songs play well with the others. Maybe 12 sets up a story that makes 4 more powerful. Maybe 9 is slower and in a lower key than 8, so playing it first creates a different mood than if you play them the other way.

The cool thing is you're not getting RID of any of those special little bubbles of your soul. You're just looking for the best, brightest, shiniest ones that you can share in a special way. Because you can always give everybody the link to your FAWM and 5090 songs, and let them take a bubble bath.

"Bubble bath" (!!!)
I am *so* going to borrow that @iveg!

Or you could look at your 5090 song list and see that you have like 10 of them listed as favorites. So start from there. Assume that's your cd unless you decide to replace one of those songs. That makes the job a LOT easier. You still have a month left in 5090, so that's another 25 songs at your current rate. If 5 of those are also "favorites" that gives you 15 songs to arrange the best way.

For me, of the hundreds, it's the 15 or so I have memorized, plus a few others I have played the most and am working towards memorizing. My DIY creative project started with three song theme EP's (one on Bandcamp to date, a couple more are close, but I got sidetracked). and when I get enough decent recordings to fill a CD then maybe I will burn some. I have no expectations of making money. Maybe just enough to break even on CD manufacturing cost, or maybe I will burn my own too.

Ok, Andy, how do you decide which ones to work towards memorizing? *sticks tongue out*

[@brrrse] A couple months ago I was asking myself this question. I decided the one best of for me would need to be my good feeling songs. Not to be confused with good songs. I personally don't want to preach a bummer anymore. That's why I haven't been able to play this summer.....because it is a bummer. Anyway, my CD was a best of and I think it was about an hour. However, I may cut a few before burning a new version. I have plenty of dark stuff but I wanted a cheerful persona stereo type that should be suitable for all audiences.

@tcelliott Good question. The test is if I feel the song enough to play it once in front of other people, usually at a singer-songwriter circle or at the Greenmarket that @Chip Withrow and I frequent. I also play for a yoga flow class about once a month. Being able to play it well with just me and a guitar is a factor. Hopefully getting some kind of positive reaction or feeling. Then I play it again. There have been a couple of songs that I did not feel that strongly but other people liked more than I did. Sometimes the simpler ones get memorized faster LOL.

More good ideas! The live performance angle is out for me due to my obligations at home. Not comfortable with the "Street Jelly" thing - so no "online performances" either. I don't play a portable stringed instrument so I haven't tried to memorize any of my songs. I don't really have any "listeners" - and the only feed back I seem to get is from FAWM and 50/90 however there aren't a lot of people commenting in 50/90. I guess I'm going with what @iveg said and look hard at the ones I've called my favorites and keep writing. I can use October to produce the CD. Thanks everyone!! Smile

Interesting thread - been following for a few days and I knew I wanted to say something but not sure what.
The first time I put together an album it was so I had something to give to places that might want to hire me to perform. And it was full of "bummer" songs (@jcollins)! In fact, my dad listened to it on a long drive and said he liked it, but he wondered why it was so sad since I'm not.
Then I put together 2 albums of kid/family music, and I really wanted to sell those. I had them professionally mixed, mastered, and packaged. If any of you email me your mailing address, I'll send them to you for free and pay shipping just to get rid of a few of them - this was right around the time people stopped buying physical CDs (at least mine).
I put those together so the songs sort of followed a day in my life as a dad/husband/teacher/musician. A few years ago, a few of us 5090ers swapped CDs, and I did the day in the life approach again.
Then last 5090 and this FAWM I did instrumentals to be played in yoga classes. My goal was 60 minutes of music. I mixed and mastered them myself and gave the album a name - eventually I'd like to have some physical CDs to sell in our studio, or maybe cards with a download code.
So, each of my albums has had a purpose and a goal, even if I didn't necessarily achieve the success I imagined.

My first "album" was a cassette of uptempo instrumental and techno stuff my sister could work out to. Did a couple more at friends requests. Those were all pretty much no quality control, just get them completed :P Latest stuff has just been putting my FAWM, SongFight and 5090 songs in chronological order, for my own consumption.

I have to say again how awesome all your responses are, here in the thread and in private messages. It's all really helped me find my voice and direction.