A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Quantity and Quality

When I used to play and write in bands, there was always a discussion about quantity vs quality when it came to writing songs.

One band I was in between the years of 2001 and 2005, wrote all up 14 songs. The focus here was more on what we assessed as quality.

We had a white board in our rehearsal space and we would write down ideas we just jammed.

The idea was to bring in our top 3 riffs each week and we just jammed them and we recorded them as well. Whatever we didn’t use would go into the backlog and then get cleared after six months if we never returned to that idea.

We would listen to the tapes, from the session and start writing on the board the things we liked.

And we would give the bits we liked names, like Tool Riff, Maiden 2 minutes solo rip off, Dream Theater Learning To Live outro, thrash section, Groove section, Machine Head All In My Head drum intro and so forth.

Then we would structure these bits into a song, as certain sections stood out as verses and so forth.

And the working titles always sounded silly, like “That Dick Head”, “Missing One Shoe”, “Filth” and many different ones. The titles also came about based on abstract words the singer would use to demonstrate what kind of syllable words he wanted for that section.

“Filth” became known as “Faith” once it was all done and dusted. “That Dick Head” became D.N.A.

It was fun to do, but also frustrating and a very long process.

Because once we got the music down, the lyrics and vocal melodies would take just as long. We even took to the stage with lyrics unfinished, and the singer just mumbled his way as he had the melody down, just not the words.

And yes, sometimes, “Faith” and “Filth” got transposed, because the singer spent so long singing “you are nothing but Filth” and I changed the words to “you gotta have faith”, at a few of the earlier shows when we debuted “Faith”, he sang, “you gotta have filllllllth”.

Brilliant, hey. And a good laugh even to this day.

Personally during that period, I was writing a song a week, in so many different styles or a blend of styles as it was the only way I could remain happy in the band.

My view always has been that quantity will create quality.

In other words, the more bad songs you write, sooner or later, the good ones will come. There is a reason why “Slippery When Wet” moved a lot of product, and that’s not including all the hairspray boxes which got shipped.

Jon, Richie and in some cases Desmond Child, wrote over 50 songs for the album.

Working on songs, that others might think or see as a bad idea is actually a good thing. It’s the simple secret to good songs. Flesh out the bad songs and suddenly good songs will come to the fore.

The other is to get to a co-writer or for you to become a co-writer for someone else and share your ideas with others. Maybe those bad songs are not so bad to other people.

Music is such a subjective and personal experience, meaning each person will experience it differently.

Songs that David Coverdale had intended for other musicians ended up being Whitesnake songs. “Fool For Your Loving” was written for BB King and “Is This Love” was written for Tina Turner.

When Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora started writing with Desmond Child, the songs were meant to be shopped around for other artists, instead they kept them. And then after they didn’t make the “Slippery When Wet” or “New Jersey” album, the songs got shipped out to Alice Cooper, Cher and others.

And Bryan Adams let go of songs he wrote with Jim Vallance, which didn’t seem to fit his style, like “War Machine” which became a Gene Simmons sung, Kiss song.

Van Halen (when David Lee Roth re-joined) used musical ideas from their 70’s demo recordings to craft a new album in the 2000’s.

So keep those ideas flowing and never throw em away.


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