“Too Small To Save" was written & arranged in 2008….recorded & mixed in early 2009.
- The original recorded tracks were remixed in 2014.
- That 2014 version is the one you’re hearing now.
My songs typically evolve from….
- a chord progression
- a riff/pattern
- a section of melody
- a central theme
In this case, it was 2 of those elements combined.
1. A guitar progression (riff/pattern)
2. A central theme, which was also served as the title (hook)
In songwriting, it’s essential for the subject matter to blend with the musical feel. In other words, one should complement the other. In my humble opinion, that is the case here.
This particular lyric hit pretty close to home. It was loosely based on my wife’s employer, who shall remain nameless.
The lyrical message was inspired-by…and based-upon changing conditions following the financial collapse of 2008.
Simply put, none of those changes benefited the employees & most didn’t bode well for the financial future of the company.
Much to my surprise, the company survived. The employees however, were a different story. Most of what they lost was never returned.
The financial recovery that followed did little to benefit them.
The title “Too Small To Save” was applicable to both employer & employee. At the time this song was written, both fit the description…seeming doomed to failure.
As you may have guessed, the title was also a tongue & cheek play on that infamous 2008 headline - “Too Big To Fail”.
While banks & auto manufacturers were too big to fail, small companies & employees were “Too Small To Save”. Essentially, the yin & yang of monetary policy.
Structurally, the lyric is brief…with a generous dose of repetition. The message is heavily reliant on imagery & metaphors, which is not typical of my lyrics.
Because the subject matter was both current & dismal, I chose an artsy lyrical format.
Too small…too small to save
Just another business crushed by the wave
One more tiny fish…too small to save
A victim…of the economy
No golden parachute waits for me
Almost 80 years business don’t count these days
No friends in high places…too small to save
Last call…for 401Ks
Get ‘em while you can…they’re fadin’ away
It’s closin’ time cause we’re…too small to save
Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman
Introduction / Verse-Refrain / Instrumental Verse-Refrain (guitar solo) / Bridge / Verse-Refrain / Ending
Musically, the song was built around a single guitar progression. It’s the one you hear being played throughout the intro & verse-refrain sections.
Key of Aminor….BPM 100
Genre-wise, I’d have to call it blues-rock.
The arrangement is guitar-based, utilizing 3 separate mono tracks. My Gibson SG was used for two of those.
The 3rd was a mixture of Strat & SG…with Strat being chosen for the bridge section. Its’ single coil pickups were useful in creating thinner sounding guitar textures.
- One of those 3 tracks contains intermittent lead guitar.
- The other 2 are the primaries, heard throughout the song.
- The verse/refrain sections consist of 1 guitar playing the primary progression, while a 2nd guitar plays 3-note power chords (I-V-octave).
- The bridge was intended to have a unique feel, so both guitar parts change dramatically. The SG picks single notes within standard open chord forms, while the Strat strums triads (3-note chord forms…I-III-V).
The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine.
After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to the Boss unit in 2007.
Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about using synthetic drums. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience of the machine method sold me on the change.
Suffice to say that recording live drums in a single-person home studio setup is a tedious process! Regardless, the marching snare used for the bridge section was an actual drum.
Since machine decay makes crash cymbals sound VERY artificial, all crashes were overdubbed onto separate tracks, using actual cymbals.
Final Production Notes
The recording, editing & mixing were done on a PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam deck.
(*Tascam is on the right, between the keyboard & the rack-mounts)
- Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar – Tom Hoffman
- Vocals – Tom Hoffman
*This article is taken from a YouTube playlist series of the same name.
For anyone interested, I've pasted in a link to the video version, which includes the song in it's entirety.
(FYI - the audio begins around the 15 second mark.)
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