Is my song any good?
Firstly, you are the only one who can really decide whether your songs are good or not. This decision process has always come intuitively to me, but I’ve been able to identify a few criteria. Primarily, the answer lies within kind of non-specific subjects, like:
- Not taking myself seriously
- Enjoying being a newbie
- Having fun
- And the past 5 years or so, I have found immense joy with the visual aspect of music.
These are in my opinion the most important key factors in making good music. I do have some more specific strategies too though, which I greatly enjoy. Here are some questions I (now automatically and subconsciously) ask myself when I want to know if I’m doing it right:
1. Can you move to it?
An obvious question if you’re making house music, but I truly believe it’s a useful thing to ask, regardless of genre. Body language is a central part of making music, whether you’re making cybergorestep or tropical hammock senerades. If your music isn’t making your body or facial muscles move (in normal or strange ways), you’re doing it wrong.
Let’s say you’re making music for a daydream you’re having. Is the mental movie running? Can you move around in the environment you’re imagining, along with the music? Are the soundwaves and your brain dancing together?
2. Can you hum it?
This point depends on what kind of music you’re making of course, but I really like the memorabililty given by a good melody and chord progression. To practice humming melodies has also trained my musical hearing very well.
I think including more music in the traditional sense (scales, chords, etc.) gives it more longevity, and makes the connection process in the step above easier. Sound design is definitely an amazing thing, but I imagine having elements that can be reproduced by humans as an important part of music (catchy melodies and rhythms).
Anyway, Imagine a crowd shouting the lead synth of “Avicii – Levels”; that’s no problem. Now imagine a crowd “singing” “Skrillex – Bangarang”. Enough said.
However, Skrillex’s song would probably yield far more interesting results if we’re applying rule #1. “Can you move to it?”.
3. Can you listen to it on loop for hours without going crazy?
I read this advice some time ago, and it has served me very well. If I don’t like my music, then what’s the point?
I’ve heard from others who force themselves to finish everything they make, even if they don’t like what they’re making, and then they never want to listen to their creations ever again. I understand the discipline mentality going on, but to be honest, it’s self-punishment.
Anyway, listening to stuff on loop is an inherit part of making electronic music, and I’m glad for it. It’s a great way to quickly find out if your ideas are any good.
For example, I am now working on an epic brostep/trance track (feat. Mr. dududududu), which I started a couple of days ago. I’ve listened to parts of it as well as the full thing like 100 times, and:
- I’m moving to it
- I can hum it (although difficult with dubstep tracks)
- I’ve listened to it for hours, and I’m still not crazy.
For a fun simple thing like a brostep track, this is good enough for me. I’m also having lots of fun making it, which is a consequence of the rules above, funny vocals, and being a wizard rather than a mere music producer.
The 4th rule is difficult, but those who know me will understand its importance:
4. Does it communicate?
In my view, instrumental music is like the words in a book. They involve all the senses on an imagined level, and music should do the same in my opinion. Grammar, sentence structure, style and other technical aspects should of course be as good as possible, but from my experience, music has little meaning without a story to tell.
What I ask myself subconsciously is whether my music is communicating what I’m imagining. A few sub-tips within this 4th rule can be found in these articles:
- Music production vs. language learning – Because music is essentially a language to communicate with.
- Exaggerate – Because music is abstract, and communication therefore needs to be clear.
- It’s important to pick a good title – Again, to make communication clear.
- Don’t re-tell jokes – Because telling your own stories your own way is better than imitating someone else.
It doesn’t have to be stories in the traditional sense either. It can simply be whatever is in your head – images, feelings, colours, and so on.
5. Are you having fun?
Play is actually a really important part of our evolution. Way too many electronic musicians take themselves way too seriously, and are paralysed by perfection.
Enjoy yourself. Otherwise, what’s the point?
6. Are you taking care of yourself?
Remember to take some breaks. The longer you sit on your ass, the more clouded your sense of judgment becomes. On several occasions, I’ve spent entire afternoons and evenings, diligently crafting an amazing piece of music. I’ve then listened to it the next morning wondering what on earth I was thinking. Also, sitting too much is bad for you (and I do it all the time).
Furthermore, there’s more to music than making music. Turn off your computer, and dig out your pen and paper for some surprisingly productive and clear-thinking creativity. Actively make sure to seek silence and a variety of activities.
Take some time to develop your mind, body and soul. There are many good resources out there, such as my favourite blogs.