March 27, 2023
Contrary to popular belief, the album is not dead. In fact, releasing a full-length album is still a great way to create a compelling product to build a solid promotional strategy around, sell merch, and bolster your act. So, as has always been the case, deciding the order of songs on your album is the main trick. Here are a few tips for getting your album order right.
Obviously, you want to hook your listeners so they continue listening. So, you’ll want to start with a few of your stronger tracks or any singles that have already been released, especially if they’re popular. It’s common to start with the title track, but that’s not the only way to go about it. You also don’t need to start with your absolute best or biggest song. Just something to get people into the album and want more.
Of course, if you’ve got a specific story in mind such as with a rock opera or concept album, you’ll want to start from the beginning!
It’s true that listeners experience music in a much different way these days, and many streaming listeners will cherry-pick their favorite tracks, put together their own playlists, and so on. But even so, when you put out an album, especially if you sell CDs, vinyl, or cassettes, the intention is still to have listeners listen through.
So, think of it like a traditional album. Vinyl records and tapes have two sides, and even for CDs, you can think of the A and B side. Typically, labels wanted strong singles up front on side A, and side B is where more challenging tracks that more diehard fans will like live. Unless you’ve got a specific story in mind, this is a decent strategy.
Even for listeners checking out the album on streaming services, you probably want to make sure anything you really want them to hear happens early.
One way to think about album order is to think like you would when creating a live set. This way of thinking can make it easy for some artists to conceive of emotional flow. For example, some people create live sets by assigning tempo values to their songs. This kind of set starts with a mid-tempo song that’s engaging enough to start things off right, followed by a quick thank you to the audience and venue, and moving to a slightly higher intensity song or two before moving into the show’s first intimate moment, after which a tasteful mailing list pitch might happen.
You won’t be doing thank yous and pitches in your album sequence, but you can still think how you would think for a show, and if you’re an experienced live act, this way of thinking is probably more familiar to you.
Even though it’s inevitable that fewer people will hear the back half of the album than the front, you’ll still want to finish strong. For the closer, perhaps a song that’s strong and exciting but brand new is a good choice. This gives listeners a good memory of the album and harbinger of where your sound is heading and what they can expect from the next album.
There is an art and maybe even a little science to creating a great album sequence, but this is not something you should kill yourself over. At the end of the day, once you’ve got at least a vague idea of what you think the order should be, do this: turn your left brain off, sequence the album in your DAW or mastering software (it doesn’t matter where) and listen through.
Let your intuition guide you and there will be certain things that just stop you in your tracks and feel wrong. Stop and rearrange when that happens. Once it feels right, it’s probably right.
Like all aspects of music making, there’s a lot of thought, psychology, science, and pseudoscience that can go into deciding how you do it, but when it’s all said and done, it’s art, and there’s no perfect way to do it. Just make sure you’re sold, and it’s likely your audience will be too.
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November 06, 2023
One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5