Drifting in and out of consciousness (oxfordhacker) wrote,
Drifting in and out of consciousness

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Three minute rule

Some time ago (the exact circumstances are hazy enough that it was either several years ago, or at the pub, and most likely both) I formulated a rule that music tracks shouldn't last longer than three minutes. This resurfaced in my mind while playing 'Guitar Hero: World Tour' which, for understandable if not entirely forgivable reasons, features a number of tracks of truly punishing length. I can find it in my heart to forgive bands from the olden days for meandering guitar solos or bass grooves, perhaps because it seems that those were necessary parts of the genre (to my under-educated ears, anyway). Solo noodling, too, is easier to appreciate when you're playing (well, OK, 'playing') along. It may frequently be mastabatory, and tiresome to listen to, but when you're the performer it can offer a satisfying opportunity to show off your (ersatz) musical chops, so you can empathise with the choice. In fact, the track that really bugs me is 'Some Might Say' by Oasis. It's not that it's terribly long, it's just too long. It's as if, having produced a perfectly serviceable rock track, they had some tape left over so just repeated the last bit of the chorus over and over again to avoid wasting it. It's not even self-indulgent, unless they enjoy playing that bit much more than the evidence would suggest.

I suppose what I'm saying is not actually that all tracks should be only 3 minutes long, just that it should be the default, and bands should seriously consider whether they can justify making something longer. If Oasis had been simply been asked, "So, how come it takes five and a half minutes, then?" they would have been forced to confess that really it's two verses, two choruses, and instrumental in the middle... and then a two minute coda that sounds like it was supposed to fade out, except the producer nodded off. I mean, you only have to look at the lyrics to raise suspicions that there might be some redundancy involved. Tip: if you're finding copy 'n' paste a useful lyric writing tool, you might wish to tighten the song up a bit. I'm not saying all long, or even all repetitive songs are bad. I'm just tactfully suggesting that if you're writing a song and find yourself thinking "Hmmm... We could put another instrumental in there" or "Why not repeat the chorus again at the end?" or "I know, we could just do the first verse again", don't. Knock it on the head. It's done.

Is there a good technical or rights-related reason for bands pad their songs this? Or is it just the equivalent of double-spacing your essay to make it look like you've done more? Because you're not fooling anyone.
Tags: music
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