What is a song?

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What do you do to limit yourselves so you can write a high output of songs in a short time? (Maybe ideas for this are posted somewhere, but I haven't looked.)

I did my first FAWM in 2016 and signed up in 2017 but started a new job and never wrote any songs. In 2016, I'd sometimes spend 10-20 hours per song. Now I don't have that much free time and am thinking about setting limits up front.

So my thought is to limit my songs for 50/90 to be only chords (probably acoustic guitar, electric guitar or block piano chords), lyrics and me singing. That way I can be faster per song and if it sounds like a good song bare-bones then odds are it'll sound even better when I go back, rewrite and reproduce (adding drums, bass, electric guitar and/or effects).

A time limit per song also seems like a good idea. I'm thinking a 2 hour limit to write and record each.

Because you asked...
1) A song is whatever you think a song is. For the purposes of 50/90 we aren't usually going for finished, radio-ready tracks but demos which show the structure of the song.
2) I personally work VERY quickly, and can typically go from idea to lyrics to music to rough demo in under an hour. Most of my rough demos would fit the style of recording you've mentioned.
3) Constraints (time limits or otherwise) tend to make for better songs. Or at least they keep you from spending too much time putting lipstick on a pig, so to speak.

Song is what makes the ass go *wiggle wiggle*.

agree with all the posting this far! and its funny, too, back when i was doing 50/90 more seriously (ie trying seriously to get to 50 songs) my definition of a 'song' got looser then it has been during feb album writing month, and included instrumentals, some acapella lyrics-sung only things, maybe even a set of lyrics... whatever floats your boat, so to speak. im not one for elaborate production anyway...(tho having at least guitar, vocal and maybe one other lead/accompanying instrument is nice, if i can)

At base level, I'd say a song = lyric + music, but for 50-90 purposes anything you do - whether lyrics only, music only, or words + music - is a song.

To count in 50/90? A lyric. Or a melody. Or a chord progression.

In regular life, for me personally? A lyric with melody or, rarely, a melody with accompaniment (instrumental, for instances.) Although I guess I could write a song on one of my new to me recorders that would be simply melody.

I actually don't limit myself as far as my definition of a song. I just lower the bar for the definition of finished. I mean that's not entirely true because I do some instrumental stuff for 50/90 which is technically a tune or a piece. 50/90 is more about personal challenge as far as I am concerned. No one's really keeping score. For some folks writing 1 song a month is a huge challenge and for others, writing 50 songs in 90 days is not. So I just say set your goals and your parameters and go for it.

I enjoy skirmishes because I can create quickly but then I find that I rarely go back to skirmish songs to improve/finish them. My preference is to try for less songs and instead spend my time making them radio-ready so I come out of the challenge with finished songs. I see some folks here do 50 or 100 or 150 during 50/90 and I wonder what in the world they will ever do with all of those songs? I have been writing since 2012 and have a grand total of 158 songs of which 28 are instrumental songs I sell on royalty-free sites and 18 were written before I discovered FAMW and 50/90. So really, only 112 songs in 6 FAWMS and 5 50/90s! And I dunno what to do with over half of those! Smile So less songs but better production is my strategy!

But with that all said, I see great benefit to writing 50 or 100 drafts during 50/90 if your plan is to select the 12 diamonds in the rough and polish them up later on. Or maybe it is just a writing exercise to improve! I think it is all good whatever you decide to do! Biggrin

Yes,johnstaples, I agree.

I"m not sure how I"m gonna do it this year - Last year, I set out to make albums for 50/90 and FAWM in the past, but I think I wanna just play it by ear and see what I do.

I'm a fan of the skirmish time-limit, even when not actually doing a skirmish song. Like you, I don't have a lot of time to waste. I want to write more, better, faster.

I believe the only way to develop the skills to write good songs quickly is to both practice writing good songs as well as to practice writing songs quickly.

For my own purposes, my goal for a song is to be "complete for a lead sheet" -- so it needs lyrics, a melody, and chords. Alas, this is something I'm still working toward. This past FAWM I got closer. (I hit 50 songs during February, with only one crapcapella.)

The crapcapella genre gives the lyrics and melody of a song. The only thing it is missing is the chord progression. I continue to be a fan of the genre, particularly as a way to experiment. It's lo-fi a-capella, but it is the bones of a song, and when someone collaborates with you and plays the song, it totally sounds like the same song.

Once I started hitting 50+ songs, I refined what I personally consider to be a "song" for the sake of these challenges. Like my "3in10" improvisation challenge, these days I don't consider things to be song-length unless they hit 2 minutes. It's much easier to make these refinements when you know there's basically no way for you to fail. (I mean, worst case, I do what I did last year and spend an hour improvising songs. I improvised ~20 songs over an hour last year. They didn't all go 3 minutes, but they were all at least 2. There were assorted false-starts and failures that weren't posted, etc.)

I consider these introductions to songs. The ones I love will get played and revised further, but I won't know I love a song until I'm introduced to it.

This is a very esoteric question. In the game audio industry, where most background music has no lyrical content, some people prefer "track" while others are cool with "song." There's also "BGM" which I suppose is the most technically accurate umbrella term, and "piece" or "work" which I never liked because they feel... pompous, or something.

I've recently started calling any musical piece a "song" because I don't think we should make a distinction based on which instruments are used, unless we're talking about genre. And yes, voice is an instrument. Lyrics are language, and that language is part of the quality present in the voice performance, just like any other instrument has qualities other than simple notes.

That's my perspective, at least. Smile

As for constraints, they're always helpful. I like to write music based on concept art, but I'm a games composer, so that's kind of my thing in general.

I'm gonna do lots of 60-second instrumentals because it's a niche I've gotten into and I'm building my library. No one has to listen to them. Also, when it comes to songs with lyrics, I've found that my best ones are written in under an hour.

I do several things for time management
1) Limit my writing time to one hour (like in a skirmish, or on my lunch hour). That hour may be in shorter chunks throughout the day. Maybe I might stretch it to two hours, rarely three and often that is on a collab. My goal is to get the idea down so that if it is one of the ten percent of the songs worth developing later, at least I'll remember it.
2) Simple recordings with a decent USB condenser microphone, often one-take and most of the time one or two tracks.
3) Artificially limit songwriting choices through random selection for chords and tuning, can always change them later.

I've been watching this thread, --there's another one from the pre2017 forum... may be archived, or here, some were saved over... will check later if get a chance. Anyway, I think it's a great thread to keep going, --it's educational.

Anyway, I just read in some book last week, a "poem" is a poem and not a song since can, does, stand alone fully complete as it is, --a poem.

However, a song, the author implied as I read it is "like", a three legged stool? If you pull up the lyrics of any song, "generally speaking", it may make no sense without the other legs:
"... ewwww eee ewwww, baby baby, I love how you love meeee, I really dooooooo, ewwwww eee ewwwww...." and etc. So, "needs" the music to be a "Song".

Also, I infer and suppose, a:
1, 4, 5 progression, G, C, D thumped even to 12 Bars... well, if just that, -- is not a "song".

Now, add a "oh how I love you baby", and/or even just a 6 Note Pentatonic Scale run, and vwah lah... -- it's a song.

No one is "qualifying" good bad song, stand alone lyrics, or music. But, like for a movie, background music, is just that, --ambient ongoing and never ending for a shot, or segment, or moment, --not a "song". And someone shouting those words above on a street corner may not be accused of Busking, unless playing a few chords to it Wink

A song, called a "song" within that frame can be what you say it is, however for a "jury of your peers", they will likely need to see it framed in that context to agree it is a "song", good or bad --irrelevant.

So there you go, the answer to one of the secrets of life, right here on FAWM5090. Glad you came, aye! We have all the answers here, just ask. Smile

@jcollins What about songs without words? OK Google! Fix your definition!!!! Smile

Oh, wait..."A musical composition suggestive of a song." So, ok, then. Smile