Op-Ed: Write A Great Song First, Get A Great Recording Second

john_lennon_writing_song.jpgYou’ve spent countless hours and thousands of dollars in the studio.  You’re equipped with the best microphones in the world.  You’ve gotten the most amazing vintage gear and have learned how to master all your effects pedals as well as every plugin known to man.  You even managed to scrape up your money to get the best producer that your collective bank accounts can buy.  So how could you possibly go wrong??  What could possibly stop you now??  How about not having great songs to back it up. 

Obviously, we care about recordings, technique and all the other
details (it’s much of what this site is dedicated to), but the point we
want to stress is that great songs surpass many problems that might
come up with bad gear or a poor recording.  It should always be your
aim to get the best possible recording that can be made, but don’t
forget it’s WHAT you’re recording that is more important than HOW you
record it.  Have you heard some of Black Flag’s early records lately? 
They often sound atrocious, but they also have the emotional wallop
that makes you want to put your fist through a mirror (Damage
reference, anyone?)  It’s debatable whether any good recordings of
Daniel Johnston exist, but everyone knows the guy because he writes
great songs – recorded on his basement on a cheap boombox or engineered
by Steven Albini in a recording studio made of fluffy clouds, the songs
would still be amazing.  

All of us have to go down the rabbit hole of recording in the studio, but just keep some perspective when you go.  With all the tools at hand in our DAW’s, it’s far too easy to clutter your music for no reason and forget
about what’s really important.  In between arguing about subtle mic
phasing, the drummer being a little off the click or the .02
milliseconds of reverb you’re trying to add to the vocal,
intermittently ask yourself: Where is the melody?  Where is the hook? 
If you or your band struggles to find this, you’re not the only ones
are going to be having trouble.  

I would rather listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine” every day for the rest
of my life on a tiny half-broken clock radio speaker than most any
other song of the past 30 years played on the best audiophile stereo
system available.  Why?  It’s a classic song.  It’s timeless, it’s
catchy and it’s universal.  It moves people.  While it’s great to have
all the other
bases covered, ask yourself a more important question.  Have you
gotten the song you really wanted – something memorable?  At the end of
the day, it’s all people care

  • Sam

    Wow, imagine over any song in the world. A Little insane there my friend