SONGWRITING: Keep it Simple
With the potential to invoke thousands of instruments and sounds at the touch of a button, sometimes using minimal instrumentation and a sparse musical arrangement provides maximum impact.
In the age of Pro Tools, MIDI loops and GarageBand, powerful laptop computers and flexible software synthesizers, it’s easy to layer your recordings with handfuls (or hundreds) of instruments and sounds. It can be amazing to add pan flute, strings, sound effects, vintage synths and nearly anything else that you can think of, with the touch of a button.
Having said that, when you’re crafting your tracks at home or in a studio, it’s important not to get carried away. I did the same initially when I was exposed to these options. Where you want to add practically the whole library (almost).
While trying to squeeze these sounds, arrangements can easily become too dense and thick if you keep adding every new sound that comes to mind. This can be true whether you’re layering software instruments on your laptop or overdubbing track after track of live audio in the studio.
Whatever your genre – rock, blues, country and anything in between – be mindful of the choices you make when it comes to how many instruments or sounds you use and how thick or sparse you make your musical arrangement. In many cases, your track will benefit from you consciously leaving space for the song to breathe and for the listener to be drawn in.
The French writer Antoine de Saint Exupery said, “It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.” The lesson can hold just as true for song creation and recording as for anything else.