Turning a Band Into Songwriters – 10 Songs In One Hour
While most bands have good or even very good drummers, guitar players, and bassists (notice I didn’t say singers), most bands don’t have good songwriters. In fact, songwriting is usually an afterthought with most bands. That’s why I came up with the 10 songs in one hour challenge.
That’s right, if you did the math, you quickly figured out that the band must write a song every 6 minutes to stay on target and THEY MUST STAY ON TARGET. That’s the challenge. You must enforce that they have to get 10 songs done in one hour.
Here’s how I do it:
I divide the band in groups of two. If they are a three piece, I’ll jump in and play along. Each group gets a guitar, a small amp, and small PA system. I put a wall of gobos (sound deadening device) in between them and I hit go while recording both the guitar amp and vocal mic from each room. One person is expected to sing, the other is expected to play guitar. After each song is written, they must switch.
While this method might seam a little off the wall, it’s the best way to get a band to work creatively together. It breaks down a lot of barriers and it’s common for about 10% of the songs to be very good. I like this method because it solves a lot of problems. It forces the band to be a band.
One problem the 10 songs in one hour challenge fixes is the notion that the singer has to come up with all the melodies. Why? Okay, a singer should be able to sing, but the melody is the entire song in my opinion. The only thing separating a great song from a crappy song is vocal melody, in my world. So, let’s get the entire band in on writing the melodies. You’d be surprised how good your drummer might be at creative vocal melodies.
A lot of guys are shy in front of the mic. I’ve never recorded any Kansas type bands where the entire band can sing. I’m lucky to find a band where one guy can sing. So the guy with absolutely no clue about singing must get on the mic and do it. Even when a terrible singer gets on the mic, the intent is usually clear. A real singer would have no problem making your drummer’s melody sound great. So when you force a guy to sing, he usually adapts to his situation.
It forces everyone to play guitar or similar instrument. This is great. It makes the drummer pick up an instrument that he’s not used to. If he can’t play it, he must deal with it. That’s part of the process. He can play one note lines if he has to. I just want a song. Seldom does proficiency at the instrument effect the quality of the song.
While there are certainly exceptions, a band that is not used to writing a lot of songs, simply won’t write a lot of songs. By adapting to this lighting fast method, the band will understand that not ever song has to be great. In fact, you need to write a few terrible songs on purpose just so your brain will be creative enough to do something interesting. Bands play it safe all the time. They feel like each song has to be great. In fact, it’s the opposite. I noticed it more with 80s pop groups who weren’t going to be dropped after the first record like they are now. They would come up with the most screwed up, stupid songs sometimes. Listen to a bunch of Human League. They had at least 3 top 10 hits, but then listen to “Black Hit of Space” or “Empire State Human”. You can tell they just messed around. When you are actually being creative and experimenting is when you will come up with your hits and your crap.
I’m not saying that the 10 songs in one hour method is the best method for all bands. I think it’s a great method for bands who need to come together as a group. It’s a great songwriting tool for any band that just expects the singer to write songs. There is no finger pointing. Every band member is responsible for writing great tunes in this situation.