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Once you free your mind about a concept of music and harmony being correct, you can do whatever you want. –Giorgio Moroder
A typical album usually consists of one or more songs with hit potential (as seen in subchapter 5.2), one or more slow songs (optional, as seen in subchapter 5.3), plus a whole bunch of so-called “fillers”, songs that add additional play time to the record and thus turn it into a full length album. Fillers are often regarded as being irrelevant, but this cannot be the case on your killer album. It will be quite the opposite in fact:
GREAT FILLERS ARE ONE OF THE ELEMENTS THAT MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHEAP POP ALBUM AN A GREAT CLASSIC RECORD.
FILLERS WILL ALLOW YOU TO BE A TRUE ARTIST.
If people still like (and even buy) the old classic Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or Fleetwood Mac albums for example, then it’s because those albums are real pieces of art.
They’re not just one hit plus a bunch of irrelevant crap – those are albums you can actually listen to as a whole, where every song is important, and where every song is a masterpiece. Those albums often tell a story, sometimes they’re even concept albums, and they’re interesting. That’s why people still love and buy them today.
IF YOU WANT TO PRODUCE AN ALBUM THAT PEOPLE WILL LOVE AND MAYBE EVEN BUY, THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO PRODUCE A KILLER RECORD CONTAINING ONLY GREAT, INNOVATIVE, RELEVANT, AND REVOLUTIONARY SONGS.
THERE MUST BE ZERO BORING FILLERS.
By now you should have understood that you need to have at least one song on your album that has hit potential, and that it may also be a good idea to have a good slow song too. If you really want to make it right, then you’ll have two or three hits on your album, plus one or two slow songs with some real message.
That’s a total of 1 to 5 songs, and it you follow the Golden Rules (and you have to follow them, unless you’re a true genius and you come up with some incredibly cool and unexpected ideas), then this means that you now have a bunch of songs following a predefined structure already. While it’s absolutely no problem to have that many songs of the same kind on your album, it’s pretty bad idea to stick with that scheme for all of your songs.
YOUR ALBUM CANNOT BE BORING OR IRRELEVANT.
Not all of your songs can be the same, they cannot all fit the same pattern, following the same rules. Potential hit songs usually follow rules, while fillers will allow you to bend or even to break those rules.
The biggest mistake musicians make when writing their fillers is to apply the Golden Rules Of Pop to those filler songs too, probably hoping that all of their songs may become potential hits. Or all songs on the album are so weak that artists hope that at least one song will turn out to become a hit by chance, if they simply apply the Golden Rules to everything on the record. That’s bullshit of course, and this approach will only make your album sound very, very boring. Instead of trying to turn all of your songs into hits or to put them all onto the same level, you should know what songs will be hits, and then you should only apply strict rules to those songs.
If you can’t say which of your songs may be hits and which ones don’t, then chances that all of your songs are simply irrelevant are quite high. In this case you should seriously consider rewriting some stuff, or to start from scratch all along.
IT HAS TO BE OBVIOUS TO YOU WHAT SONGS WILL BE HITS.
You’ll apply the rules to those songs, while you’ll have complete artistic freedom when it comes to your so-called “fillers”. As Yoda would say: “Do, or do not”. So once more, because I really want to make this clear:
Applying hit rules to all of your songs will make your album boring, and it will limit your artistic freedom.
Simply putting your weaker “wannabe hit singles” as fillers onto your album will render your entire record irrelevant.
Fillers are those songs that will allow you to show what you’re capable of as an artist, and they will allow you to surprise your fans. While you have to follow rules when it comes to writing hits and slows, it’s the fillers that give you back absolute freedom. In the end there is just one rule when it comes to your fillers, and that’s that there are no rules.
Fillers don’t force you to follow any rules. Fillers offer FREEDOM. Do whatever you want. Use the fillers to show off what you are capable of as an artist, and prove the people who are buying your album that it’s worth every penny they spend. In the end people pay for art, not for crap. Therefore every single song should be SPECIAL.
That’s quite the opposite of what you’ll find on 99.9% of all amateur albums, and even most professional albums don’t offer a lot of variation.
EACH SINGLE SONG SHOULD BE UNIQUE.
And you should be able to name at least one element per song that makes it different form all other songs on your album.
This special element may be an additional instrument, an effect, it may be a special arragement, a additional vocal track, or you may even use elements form other styles or genres. It doesn’t matter what makes every single song special, just remember the following:
EVERY SINGLE TRACK ON YOUR RECORD MUST BE A HIGHLIGHT ON ITS OWN.
So in the end you’ll have two kinds of songs on your albums:
non-hits. (aka fillers)
As soon as you accept this, you’ll be able to enjoy the freedom to do whatever you want. There are absolutely no limitations on what you can do with your fillers, as soon as you simply admit that they’re not hit single candidates.
Fillers can be anything – from a few seconds of simple noise (Type O Negative used to do this) to highly complex songs such as Daft Punk’s Giorgio By Moroder, a 9’05 minutes song featuring a monologue by musician Giorgio Moroder, who speaks about his early life and his career as a musician. Think of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or Iron Butterfly’s In A Gadda Da Vida. Okay, those songs have even been hits too, and this demonstrates that even unconventional songs may become exceptionally attractive. Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk wrote a whole bunch of cool non-standard songs too. Or think of Radiohead or Beck for example.
Do some crazy shit. Do something people wouldn’t expect to be featured on some self-produced album. This may also be an opportunity to play around with different or unusual instruments, or to mix up your own genre and style with unusual subgenres and subjects – think of anything from percussion to didgeridoos.
While your hit and slow songs will probably follow a more traditional VCVCBCC, CVCVCBCC, or VCVCAA structure (or at least something similar), this does not apply to your fillers. Your song structure can be whatever you want, as long as everything fits together and it doesn’t get boring.
So please do something different then. Be creative. Be unconventional. Surprise your fans. It doesn’t have to be on the same level as Dream Theater’s craziest stuff, but please try to break out of the traditional pop song scheme at least.
Try to write a song that’s absolutely UNIQUE. Create something that has never been done before, or reuse ideas in a completely new way. Don’t be conventional, and don’t be afraid to try out something radically new.