Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.
One of the problems with a lot of the mainstream music today is the sense of formula you get when listening to it. As in a lot of the artists are all using the exact same sounds, rhythms, lyrics and general tools to make the same music over and over again. The limiting of possible combinations between sounds that I talked about in the earlier posts is being completely overdone on account of everyone wanting to have the same success. When actual creativity is scarce, people try to apply a tried-and-true formula. As in all those ‘artists’ trying to copy Kanye West since he released “808s and Heartbreak”, or the deadmau5 sound, redone almost to death by a lot of otherwise talented artists, such as Madeon. When some sound or style catches on in a big way, everyone wants to profit off it in some way or another, until the the media becomes so saturated with the thing that the bubble eventually bursts and it’s suddenly gone. A good example of this happening is the exploding popularity of grunge in the early 90s. The Seattle sound had become such a moneymaker that stores were selling ‘authentic grunge woollen shirts’, while the music itself had become a repetitive blur of dark guitar harmonies and angsty lyrics. This happens over and over again, and not only with music, so there’s never been any surprise there. The paradox of the thing, in my opinion, is that this sense of formula actually makes mainstream music less accessible to the masses. Listening to the same music over and over again is tiring.
I know, right? Courtesy of RetroJunk.com
One mistake some artists make when trying to establish their sound is to set limits in all the wrong places, like wanting to only create within one particular genre, or only writing music in one key (like Metallica’s first three albums, pretty much wholly written in E). Once they get into this, all their music starts sounding exactly the same, which also assures recognisability, but not in a good way. Artists making these mistakes further exacerbate the problem with a lot of the music being made these days.
The trick, obviously, is knowing when to stop setting limits (as well as knowing when to set them – as I’ve written in the previous articles).
I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly how to set these limits and when to stop. It’s basically up to the artist and what he wants to achieve, but what I’ve learned is that having a little bit of common sense usually helps a lot in determining whether setting one limit is truly useful or useless. Like there’s no point is wanting to only write music in one key, using only a certain number of chords, or only using a certain tempo or rhythm.
The one thing I’ve actually learned while writing these articles is that I’m certainly no authority on the matter, although I’ve managed to discover a few tricks that help me achieve MY sound. I hope I’ve explained these well enough to be helpful in any way. Feel free to comment or drop me a line via the Contact page for further discussion on the matter.
Cheers and thank you for reading.