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Do your songs pass the bare bones test?


djowens123

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That's pretty much the only way I write, record, and perform my songs: voice and guitar. Sometimes I add some harmonies or an extra part or two when recording, but most of what I've done lately has been bare bones.

 

If I had known that there was going to be a test, I would have studied.

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Two schools of thought. My recent attempts at youtube live videos are nice for me to force myself to not produce until it is actually written.

 

It's easy to stop short on the writing side cause it just sounds so damn bitchin' all worked up with drums and a squeezbox. But forcing the bares bones test is important. For me.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody does pass that test. Take any bit of it and sing it with guitar and it's great.

 

Mama... just killed a man.

 

Any bit of that song works on a bare bones level. Scaramoosh business included. It's all great songwriting right on through that a song.

 

Techno might be a better example. But modern R & B suffers because they don't put stuff to the test. It's "beats" oriented. In other words... not song. How much better would a Beyonce track be if the care of a Webb or Simon went into it before it hit the beats?

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I write with one instrument, usually guitar. I'm not much of a finger picker/arpeggio guy like some other skilled players here - I just strum. Within that limitation, if the song sounds ok with just strumming and singing then I'm happy.

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody does not pass that test, and yet it's an awesome song. I think we need a new standard.

 

 

Agreed. The "barebones test" is good for proving some things but I don't think it's foolproof. Some stuff falls through the cracks:

 

-arrangement heavy songs like Bohemian Rhapsody or stuff that has complex polyphony that's difficult to recreate as a solo performer.

 

-modal-based songs on one or two chords (which sound very boring on an acoustic guitar or piano eg. Tomorrow Never Knows)

 

-music that relies on texture for some or most of its content (think krautrock or PiL's Metal Box, heck any electronic-y kind of music).

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Bohemian Rhapsody does not pass that test, and yet it's an awesome song. I think we need a new standard.

Not so quck, CM... having looked at those lyrics on the page, I think the song could pass such a test. Sure, we love (or hate to love or perhaps love to hate) that song as recorded in part because of its elaborate and enthusiastic go-for-baroque production (sorry... a terribly worn pun... we used to have a studio nearby with than name, even; when the studio owners are on a pun... it's over. :D) But I think the lyrics hold up pretty well.

 

In fact, though the memory is hazy, I think it was seeing an acoustic solo version (a pretty over the top one, to be sure) of the song at an open mic that made me take a second look at the song. (I was definitely in the third class above, love-to-hate, at first but I hadn't given the whole song a chance... I was just rejecting it because of the over the top production.)

 

 

Anyhow... I think the bare bones test is a pretty fair one, though there are certainly exceptions... I don't think I'd want to hear all of Carmina Burana done by one guy with a guitar. :D

 

I'd also like to offer the punk cover test... a la the Dickies. (A band I hate but no one should discount the discipline with which they followed their 'winning' game plan.)

 

From "Silent Night" to "Nights in White Satin" (to "Night Fever"? I stopped paying attention earlier rather than later), the Dickies pursued their singular vision to solid niche commercial success -- and proved (at least to me) that many of the songs they performed did not (entirely) lose their charm even when done as frat boy formula punk.

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I'd also like to offer the
punk cover test

 

 

LOL. Somewhat OT: with alarming regularity (I would say every 5 years or so), somebody I know comes up to me and says "Hey dude, I've been listening to this really cool album where this band does all these stupid lame old songs - but they do them PUNK STYLE. It's awesome, dude!!!"

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LOL. Somewhat OT: with alarming regularity (I would say every 5 years or so), somebody I know comes up to me and says "Hey dude, I've been listening to this really cool album where this band does all these stupid lame old songs - but they do them PUNK STYLE. It's awesome, dude!!!"

It's like banana peel sight gags... the rubes never get tired of 'em.

 

:D

 

 

 

Looking above I see that my occasional practice of responding to the OP before reading the other posts has led me once again to essentially re-tread the same territory as other posters, in this case, the indefatigable Lee K.

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CM I know exactly what you mean and there is always the exception. For that song i would have said exactly the same but check out BR on youtube classical. It is class. Well worth listening to. Made me think that there isn't anything that can't be played by guitar. Honestly, check it out it is brilliant. However, i agree that there a lot of song's that aren't appropriate for the bare bones challenge.

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"A Day in the Life" is another one that doesn't really work on acoustic. I'd say that for us mortals, the bare bones test is probably a good guide, at least as long as we're working in a folk/blues/rock tradition.

 

 

Someone posted a solo acoustic version here a while back of "Day In The Life" (with just the John verses) which worked pretty well.

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you can save a bad song with production, though. it's called boy bands.

 

Or....Lenny and The Scapers.:wave:

 

Seriously, though, lately I have taken to working tunes up just on the acoustic. After watching videos by the likes of Derrick Trotter and Lee Knight a lot of my stuff seems a bit overdone.

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I purposely record my tunes stripped down to see(hear) if they hold their own.

if they seem okay totally stripped down to one axe and one vocal or just a pianner and one vocal then I can add to em and they seem even better.

the very best songwriters do this as a rule.

thanks for lettin' me share. TD

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