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Mike B

Song order on an album

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Many people would say 'it doesn't matter because people don't listen to albums anymore' - and they'd be mostly correct.  There are a certain number of 'older' music fans, though, who do listen to albums/CDs, and not just random playlists.

So the question for a songwriter/performer who is putting their own album together - how do you decide in what order to put the songs?

In some cases it might be easy as the song collection tell a story, but most often the songs are 'stand alone' and the order is not as clear cut.

 

As my songs tend to be all over the spectrum - acoustic singer/songwriter, piano ballad, full-on rock, and almost anything in-between - I try to not put 2 songs together that have the same basic soundscape.  I also try not to put songs together if they are written in the same key or have similar chord structures.  But after that, what ....?

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Excellent question!

I'd probably begin and end the album with strong tunes. That way you make a good first impression & leave 'em wanting more...hopefully. ;)

I've never released an album or EP, but if I were to, I'd be particular about my choice of first & last songs.

Other than that, I agree with many of the things you already mentioned.

 

Tom

 

*BTW is it just me, or do we now have "star rating system" for topic threads? I don't recall seeing that before...part of recent upgrade perhaps?

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As tunesmithth said, you want to start and end your project with strong songs.

I read a biography of Paul McCartney, and he said that some of the best advice he ever received was to make all of his performances "shaped like Ws". So that would mean starting off strong, having a strong middle, and a strong ending. The same thing would apply to an album or EP.

And like you said, it's good to stagger all different types of songs throughout the project.

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I try to always make sure that the start and end are strong - that's very important to me. In addition to the things you mentioned like key and chord structures, I also think about tempo a lot when I think about tracklisting. I don't wanna stay on the same tempo too long so I mix it up and slow things down sometimes.

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1) They're ALL strong!  (well, almost)

2) First and last songs are already fixed, kind of 'bookends'.

3) As the album has a dual theme ('Love and War'), I had first thought of putting all the love songs at the start, all the war songs at the end (except for the final song) and all the 'other' songs in the middle, and I'm still going with that - somewhat. 

Not having multiple 'sounds the same' songs in a row is probably the biggest thing, and that's not hard as there are a variety of styles.

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In addition to the "not having two similar songs in a row" rule, which I agree is important: the first few songs shouldn't give a misleading impression of what the whole album sounds like. For example, if an album is mostly ballads with only a couple of faster/upbeat songs, don't put all of the fast songs at the beginning.

 

On the other hand, I really like it when an album saves a "surprise" for the end. For example, if there are no guitar solos for most of an album, it can be kind of cool when they show up for just the last couple of songs.

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Hi M

 

  Nice subject to tackle. It's almost like picking songs for your set list. What I did notice in some of the albums of the 70s, they put the "45" or radio release on side A and about the third song in. Side A had to be solid and then side B would maybe start out with 2-3 good numbers and if you were lucky the last song was worth playing too. I know when and if my band does turn out a cd, it's gonna follow our set list. 

 

cheers

R-N-R Jim

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I would put the best ones at the beginning. Well, maybe another gem stuck in the middle and another towards the end. If I hear the strongest first, then it's followed by a few not as good songs, I might think the band spent it all in the first go. I might not continue listening. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alphabetic order. It's a man thing.

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Quote

Alphabetic order. It's a man thing.

Actually, I prefer numeric order...just sayin' :D :rolleyes: LOL

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Well, yeah ... track 1 should always be the first track ... I think, anyway.

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Yeah, if you put them in the proper numeric order, you can't really go wrong... 

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I was reading about how streaming has changed things pretty much forever now. And it seems to me that the best way to release an album today would be to just throw away the fillers and release albums with 4 or 5 tracks only. That way every song is killer. There seems to be move to artists just releasing singles until they have released enough for an album, which effectively ends up being a greatest hits album.

 

I am not condoning this, nor am I not sad at the demise of the album. It does seem to be the way things are heading.

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I think you're right. I don't think album size/number really matters any more. Heck, even the CDs I bought 10+ years ago, I would rip pretty much immediately. Which by default would mean songs I didn't listen to much would get binned eventually.

 

I like the idea of doing project batches. Organize them according to whatever theme you think is best. You can open the project at whatever number you want, be it 1, 3, 5, 10 - whatever. And you can keep it as that static bundle, or even keep adding to it over time. People who put down money for the bundle could get future songs for free, like a subscription or membership but where they're not paying extra necessarily. 

 

And it makes it easier on the artist, especially if you like to explore styles. 

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I have read a few references to, but not actually taken the time to understand what it actually means (mainly cos I can't be arsed listening to his music), that Kanye's last album is a "work in progress" which appears to mean that he keeps updating and changing it. I can't actually see how that would be a good thing. I mean, does that mean that the future is only ever releasing one album and spend the next 30 years just constantly rewriting and re-recording it?

 

Then I think of Star Wars.... 

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10 hours ago, Murphster said:

I was reading about how streaming has changed things pretty much forever now. And it seems to me that the best way to release an album today would be to just throw away the fillers and release albums with 4 or 5 tracks only. That way every song is killer. There seems to be move to artists just releasing singles until they have released enough for an album, which effectively ends up being a greatest hits album.

 

I am not condoning this, nor am I not sad at the demise of the album. It does seem to be the way things are heading.

The simple fact is most people don't listen to 'albums' at all anymore.  IF you do (and I do!), you're in the minority and it may be because of your age (that's me!)  New cars dont' even come with CD players standard any longer, but connect to Spotify and Pandora through your phone, or offer subscription radio.  But generally, artists/bands are still releasing regular albums (or 5 song EPs).  I guess the point is, that 'song order' hardly matters these days, yet I still want to have some semblance of a collection of stories' to my album.

 

On a different note, my new Subaru didn't come with a CD player ($1000 upgrade to the sound system that included one!) so I had to rip all my CDs to a USB thumbdrive.  After doing that, I found out it plays the albums (I have the files stored in folders by album/artist anme) olayed in alphabetical order, not original album order!  I had to go into the files and rename every song to add the track # (using Foobar software) - wouldnt' be such a big deal except I've got over 400 albums on the stick!

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Hi M

 

  I think it's gonna take a generation or two of music listeners to blot out the album concept. I mean, new music listeners are exposed to the album format by default because alot of music has been released in this format. Also, album tracks are usually good if not better than the song released as the featured song, people will want to hear more than just "the hits". Alot of artists are geared towards writing an album or EP type release because it's showing a time period or time stamp of their creativity. Plus an album sometimes in total length equals to what a "live" set consists of. Granted they'll pick and choose the make up of their future set lists once they have recorded enough material to make that so.

  Plus, with the comeback of vinyl in the market place and the fact that we over 30s still out number the listening population.That being said, it will be quite awhile before the album concept or collection goes away all together.

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Someone brought up the impact streaming's had on the continued viability of the album concept.

I ran across an announcement of this a while back.

Since I'm not sure how many have heard about it, figured I'd share it here.

If this is any indication, it seems the future of the digital album format is in jeopardy.

 

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/03/itunes-will-stop-taking-lp-submissions-ending-multimedia-album-format/

 

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/6/17087184/apple-itunes-lp-submissions-stops-march-2018

 

Tom

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On ‎4‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 11:33, tunesmithth said:

Someone brought up the impact streaming's had on the continued viability of the album concept.

I ran across an announcement of this a while back.

Since I'm not sure how many have heard about it, figured I'd share it here.

If this is any indication, it seems the future of the digital album format is in jeopardy.

 

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/03/itunes-will-stop-taking-lp-submissions-ending-multimedia-album-format/

 

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/6/17087184/apple-itunes-lp-submissions-stops-march-2018

 

Tom

 

I sell little on iTunes anyway, and this is not surprising - they have been promoting the Apple streaming music over iTunes for some time.  I never pointed people to iTunes unless they asked, CD Baby includes iTuenes/Apple Streaming anyway.

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