Being in a band is not an easy career/hobby/passion. It takes time and money and dedication to keep a band running and it infuriates me to see people put in a serious amount of promotion and then sit on their creative asses and write uninteresting crap. It’s hard getting people to even listen to your band, let alone buy a record or come to a show. Part of that reason is most people are going to assume your band blows because most of the time it does. I am probably not the first to admit this, and I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but when I go see a local show, I automatically assume the bands aren’t going to be very exciting or good. This is an acquired attitude. As a kid I was just happy to be in the pit, getting shoved against the bass drum, hearing the crash cymbal so loudly that the sound was more crackling ear drum than wash. Running in circles, drinking 40s and swinging my arms wildly were more important than the content of what I was hearing. It just needed to be loud, fast and angry. I wasn’t naive. I just hadn’t been bit by the desire to create new fascinating sounds and hooks. I hadn’t come to expect other people to want to do the same thing.
Art is a copy cat game. Even true geniuses are inspired by something. Call it mimesis. Call it lifting. We do it. I think one of the problems in music is that people lift their influences from drying wells. Drainage, Eli.
Rock music should not be easy to make. Playing power chords doesn’t make you Green Day or Nirvana. Playing noodle-tech-butterfly-metal riffs does not make you Metallica. So here are some haphazard rules I made up. Follow or disavow them at your own risk.
If you are able to write an entire song in one day and be fully satisfied with it, you are not pushing yourself hard enough to be considered an artist. Just because you managed to string it together doesn’t mean it matters. The name of the game is being profound. Getting on that stage means you think you are doing something that is worthy of my attention, so make what you are doing matter.
Our job when writing music is to create gravity. The center of that gravity is the tonic. If you aren’t always secretly pulling the listener toward the eventual tonic, you are failing ass. But more importantly consider the idea of sucking a listener toward something. One chord should suck you into next and then the next. A chorus should be an inevitability, not the part of the song you repeat just because that’s where you are in the song. From the first sound of a song, the last note has to be inevitable. Your song is a finely tuned Rube Goldberg, not a set of dominos.
Adding more notes to your boring riff doesn’t make it less boring, just more complicated. You are making beige more beige. Approach riff writing like the Gordon Lish school of writing. Say in five notes what you would say in fifteen. Move through the chords of a scale, not the scale itself. This is also the most bullshit of the rules as there is great rock music that use more notes than a Mozart opera. Basically what I’m saying is make sure EVERY SOUND MATTERS. Waste ye not the attention of your listener.
If you still don’t get it and want to see what I’m talking about, check out Weatherbox.