The evolution of music is something to behold. You have to know quite a bit about music history to understand the direct influence certain genres have had on our culture here in the states and abroad.
The most significant and long-lived music influence in contemporary music is rock and roll.
Perhaps this is because it’s one of the more fundamental genres. It’s easy to learn, and it’s easy to understand. The most-recorded rock song in history is based on three chords. That’s it! “Louie Louie” is a feel good song that nearly everyone who’s ever picked up a guitar has played. First released as a rock song in 1961, that little Jamaican ditty has enjoyed a long, celebrated life.
The other day I saw a post on Twitter from @lizstrauss that highlighted 5-second recorded segments of every No. 1 song ever. It was interesting to listen to several minutes of it as every segment was a totally recognizable bit of music history. Just 5 seconds…that was it. I hadn’t thought about some of those songs in a very long time. So I went to Youtube.com to listen to many of them all the way through.
What struck me most about this little exercise was not nostalgic. It was about songwriting and production. The first cut was “The Wayward Wind” by Patsy Cline and then a version by Frankie Laine. There was such a rich musical ambience around the vocalist in each version…like an orchestra really. Beautiful rich music oozed out of these cuts just a little more than 3 minutes long. Wait! 3 minutes?
Three minutes and a few seconds is not very much time by today’s standards. But somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes made a perfect cut for radio. And what’s more, the songwriters were so gifted the essence was captured beautifully. A longer version just wasn’t necessary.
For songwriters today, it would serve them well to go back … way back to listen to very classy stuff that was mainstream music in the 1950s and early 60s.
With the number of musicians today who play a variety of instruments, layering sound in any genre to give it a rich wonderful sound is an excellent way to make music stand out from the bare, stripped back essence of what we normally hear. Cutting down the time on songs means cutting down on some costs. If the reason songs are longer is because you don’t have enough material to fill an entire CD…don’t worry about it. It’s the quality of everything in music that matters.
And if rock is the genre you think you must play, give that some more thought. Too many people are trying to break a career on that style alone. There are so many options to consider, I can’t imagine why limiting yourself to one style is so important. Mix things up a little and combine elements of rock with something like the blues, bluegrass, jazz, country, or cajun. You never know what you’ll come up with unless you give it a try.