Author Topic: Thoughts on Song Length  (Read 195 times)

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Offline Bill from November Sound

Thoughts on Song Length
« on: November 28, 2017, 02:38:29 »
Is less than 3 minutes to short?

I notice the big boys do 2:50 fake ending (for the radio) and then the song continues to around 4:00 real ending for Download/ CD . For today's real commercial groups this is pretty much like clockwork.

Anyway, I'm at just under 3 minutes and I don't have anything else really.

I know some of you do those hour long progressive rock compositions  :)  but otherwise what do you think? How many minutes do you shoot for? Do you do the radio ending/ real ending thing?
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

Offline Leonard Scaper

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2017, 10:33:48 »
Interesting about that 2:50 fake ending....I never noticed that.
 
I honestly have never thought consciously about song length all that much but I don't tend to plan things out........I just hit the red button when something is feeling right and see what happens mostly. As I look at it I'll bet over 3/4 of the songs in my catalog are withing five seconds of being 3:30. It's odd and I can't say I planned it that way but I do think that 3:30 seconds is right about where the limit of listener attention lies in general.

I like a longer song if things are really working well and it is taking that long to fully develop. I also like a short song (2:50-ish) sometimes when things are working perfectly and all the elements get tied together right away. A concise ending like that can entice the listener and make them want to spin it again right away.

Good thread topic and something that folks should be aware of....curious about other's thoughts.
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Offline Roberto Cianchetta

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2017, 13:21:21 »
Hi @Bill from November Sound ,

I am not a great listener of nowadays music.

I think that it depends always on what is the project - that means, how you "work" on songs and how you "build" them. I like both long and short songs. I agree with @Leonard Scaper thoughts:
I like a longer song if things are really working well and it is taking that long to fully develop. I also like a short song (2:50-ish) sometimes when things are working perfectly and all the elements get tied together right away. A concise ending like that can entice the listener and make them want to spin it again right away.

I love short songs when they deliver beauty and leave me with need for more. I love long songs when they bring me in emotional places or give me visions of some kind which I haven't expected.

I started to think about the length of a song pretty earlier, when I was about 15 years old. At the time, I was already a big fun of Pink Floyd (For example, I loved to watch and listen to "LIVE AT POMPEI": the song Echoes pt.1 and pt.2 are good example of long songs I really enjoy).


So, even if i liked a lot this stuff, I was also listening to Louis Armstrong recordings of the late twenties and thirties and Billie Holiday with her beautiful combo in the late thirties (Lester Young and Teddy Wilson for example) . I was surprised of the shortness of those songs and asked me why they did it so short. Well, I had to find out that they could not record longer because of the technical limits of the recording equipment of the time. Well, I realised that they had to be very good to put all they wanted in their song in the limit of about 3 minutes. Since then I am a great fun of short songs.

On the other side, how could I ever enjoy some stuff like IDIOM '59 part1, part2, part3 of Duke Ellington (about 14 minutes length)from his album FESTIVAL SESSION if it would be less then 3 minutes?


Cheers,

Roberto

Offline MrBouzouki

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017, 13:48:07 »
I'm a great believer in that the song / idea tell you as you are creating it. Unless you are going for a cookie-cutter radio play song then the muse should be your guide. 
I'd hate to think I was constrained by formula in any way, although we often work in our 'comfort zones' if we are making our own music.
I guess in the end it's all down to conforming  to 'the man', (ohh and by the way... which one is Pink ! ... lol) possible fame and fortune but constrained artistically, or are you happy ploughing your own furrow and just happy in being a creator.
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Offline Chargedvt

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2017, 14:05:46 »
My songs generally come out at between 3 and 4 minutes. That's not deliberate, it's just the style of song I do.
People in general have shorter attention spans these days, hence short songs on the radio crammed full of hooks.
But if you want to make an 8 minute opus, go for it. If the song is great, length shouldn't matter

Offline Vince

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2017, 14:38:01 »
Hi @Bill from November Sound   my wife listens to top 40 radio - but even back in the day on AM radio the songs were much shorter, I believe maybe to fit in more commercials. The early days of FM seemed to break that, but now they are like the old AM radio only in stereo.

I think @Roberto Cianchetta has an interesting point about the technical difficulties making early recordings.

I don't mind a long song if it can hold my interest, and to be honest - that is hard to do. If I go longer than 4 minutes (which I consider long) it's because I get carried away with my guitar playing.

I don't have anything to base my opinion on, but I think a shorter song would be easier to sell to a publisher.  Not that that would be all that easy.

Vince



Offline Roberto Cianchetta

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2017, 14:43:17 »
I guess in the end it's all down to conforming  to 'the man', (ohh and by the way... which one is Pink ! ... lol)
;) :D ;D

Offline Bill from November Sound

Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2017, 22:37:40 »
 
Quote
ohh and by the way... which one is Pink ! ... lol
You know, I always thought they really made a lot of sound for a duo! I mean there's Pink and there's Floyd, right?.  :D

Great to hear what everyone else is doing regarding song length! If you have anything to add please keep it coming!

Offline GTB

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2017, 23:20:35 »
I think it depends on many variables: have you put over the point? who are your target audience? how and where will they listen? Is the song fast or slow? happy or sad, comic or serious, for dancing or relaxing to etc. Is it formulaic or commercial?

I guess I usually aim for a condensed narrative, with enough repetition to drive home the point.  Sometimes I shorten songs though, e.g. use a cut down chorus except in the outdo.

fwiw my shortest is just over 1 minute, my longest is about 6 minutes - so far.

No rules :-)

GTB

 
valar morghulis
GTB

Offline Knate

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2017, 01:17:36 »
I think it depends on how long a song can keep the listener engaged.  You dont want to lengthen the song for just for the sake of it.  If you have nothing else to add then so be it.

I mean, many of the Beatles early hits and classic Motown tracks dont even make it to 2:30, while on the other end of the spectrum, Bohemian Rhapsody and Sweet Child of Mine are both 6 minute classics. 

Let a song be what it wants to be.

Offline Jurgen

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2017, 01:46:07 »
Hi @Bill from November Sound

well... Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix (who's birthday it would have been on 27th) is only 2.26 and that's one of the greatest songs ever. I sometimes think it's greatness is partly down to it's length - it make the listener want more.

So much in one song and so short.

I think if you can get a song done around 3 mins you're doing well. It's hard to edit your own work but if songs are too long they can become self indulgent.

If you've got something in 2.50 and it has a hook that makes me want listen to it again then you've done  great job.

Can we hear it?  ;)

cheers

Offline MichaelA

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2017, 12:56:00 »
My last song posted on here, 'Our Town', came in at just over 5 mins - and in my opening post I asked people to tell me if they thought it too long. It was a narrative song, with a story spanning the years, and in the end I though the length just dictated itself. One person, however, did think it too long. But others, especially if they had gotten into the storyline, thought the length just fine. One person even said it should be longer!

So I've concluded that narrative songs that people can get into are one type of number where you can get away with longer length - in fact sometimes you just have to go long to tell a decent story. People with shorter attention spans are not going to listen to my stuff, for example, in any case. I'm just in the slow lane these days!  ;)

For me as a listener though, unless there's lots of twists and turns in a song, or striking development throughout, then without a strong storyline then a song is better relatively short - say under 3.30. Ideally shorter.

When I started out as a kid in a covers band, however, we always used to try and sneak in an extra chorus or two. That meant we didn't have to learn as many songs to fill up our set - and we'd still get paid! Happy days!  ::thumb::
If you like novels with a musical theme, why not try 'Sixth Beatle - When Music Changed The World', easily found on Amazon and Google. It is amazing, although as the author I may be biased!

Offline Bill from November Sound

Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2017, 14:44:54 »
You all are giving me a lot to think about. :)

@MichaelA I was listening to "Our Town" again today. (Please take this as a compliment) Your vocals are so improved!!!!! Seriously, both the accuracy of your singing and the smoothness of the vocal processing chain are so far beyond your earlier tracks! Great, great work! ::thumb::
I also agree that 5 minutes is not at all to long for that song. It kind of pulls you in with that melodic lilt and desire to find out how the story ends.
Re: live gigs - I got my start as horn section in merengue bands (Puerto Rican dance club music) ... a 4 hour gig would be about 5 songs!!!!  :D It was exhausting.

Offline MichaelA

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2017, 18:27:14 »
Hey @Bill from November Sound , wow a Puerta Rican dance band! I can well imagine that would have been exhausting. But amazing fun though!

Thanks so much for revisiting 'Our Town' and passing on these encouraging comments. I am just singing/recording my competition entry at the moment and trying to convince myself that I can sing. So this did just the trick for my confidence, cheers!  ;D

Offline TrevorGilligan

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Re: Thoughts on Song Length
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2017, 14:42:49 »
If you were a famous artist, you can go as long as you like.
But if you are not, 3 mins max.
you have 30 seconds to show off the song, if not, you lose your listener. P.S. In this 30 seconds, start off with a gentle chorus, like with just vox maybe, then go into your 1st verse. This is the time you have to keep listeners entertained.
In 3 mins, you should be able to fit an entire song. If not, then your not onto a winner, even if it is 10 mins long.
In most songs, intros, outros, etc go on and on, and on, coldplay do this a lot, but they can afford too, but really Clocks could be done in less than 3 mins - but it goes on for about 7 mins, same with chapmagne supernova, etc...
I dont understand why artists starting off, have a bass drum + snare for about 1 minute, before anything else happens, you arent known, im giving you my time, you are wasting it, and i just click off.
That is my tuppence worth.
I entered a song into EuroVision for Ireland, it had to be less than 3 mins, listen here : https://soundcloud.com/trevorgilligan/warm as you can hear, i fit a lot in 3 mins, i could have made it 10 mins, but it would have all been extra padding!
Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, etc... Trevor Gilligan


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