How do you choose a track order for your album?

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  • @elliottlawrence Mar 3

    Now that FAWM is over it's time for my favorite topic: how do you choose your album order?

    I firmly believe that the order of songs can make or break your album. Put all your upbeat songs first and the rest of album runs out of steam. Put similar songs together and your album can sound too repetitive.

    My approach last year was to make a graph with all my songs and draw arrows between them if the transition sounded nice, and then try to find a nice path through all of them. Not gonna lie, it took me longer to choose a track order than FAWM itself. πŸ˜€

    So I'm curious, what are other people's thoughts/approaches to this?

  • @ianuarius  Mar 3

    I picked names that sounded cool, organized them based on the energy level of the drama I imagined appropriate for the pacing, and then wrote to songs to match that.

    I don't know how well I succeeded, but that's what I did. 😁

  • @tcelliott  Mar 4

    For my album I listed bpm, key, and title. I made a playlist and rearranged the songs. I listened to the last fifteen seconds of one song then the first fifteen of the next song. I start with the idea that the song order should go fast fast fast slow. But be don’t hace that many fast songs on the album. And sometimes th scams bpm can feel different speeds.

  • @zecoop  Mar 4

    I load them all into bandcamp and then move them around until I find an order that works. A lot of mine are collaborations with vocals, and I have tons of different styles, not to mention the instrumentals I write. It'll take a few weeks. πŸ˜€

  • @standup  Mar 4

    I do it by feel. Start off low key or high energy? Where do you go from there? Picture a curve, and where the curve ends. High? Low? How do you get there? I ended my EP on a really long low key song as a wrap up. WIth upbeat stuff to start, then used some kind of picture of a curve to get to the end.

  • @andygetch  Mar 4

    Depends on the theme, genre, and type of songs. Good thread. If there is an expectation people will listen beginning to end, then there is a lot to be said for varying tempo and key from song to song and thinking about how to start and end.

    The listens for the songs/albums I posted on Bandcamp taught me I don't need to spend too much time on album order. The last two had a chronological order associated with the theme. Maybe this FAWM one too.

  • @cblack  Mar 4

    I've only released 1 EP so far, which was 7 songs. In this case, I had a song I knew had to be last, and I then worked by feel on the rest of the ordering. It helped that I really only had 2 fast, high-energy songs. Needed to spread them out a bit, so the slower, less-energy songs needed to separate them. Then, once I had the high-energy songs and the final "bonus track" in place, I basically chose the ordering based on song length. Not too many short songs in a row, that sort of thing.

    I imagine it'd be more difficult with a full-length album, but yeah. I'll still be using the same idea: Find the songs that definitely need to be at the start or end (my first FAWM song this year was obviously an intro, for example), then separate the types of song, then figure something out from there.

    But I do definitely agree that song order can make or break an album. My current 8 FAWM songs, played in the order they were created, doesn't feel right. So a new order will be required.

  • @mdavisto  Mar 4

    Dramatic opener. Then the berries, grouped by theme or energy.

    Then the songs I like less, but that some people dig for some reason.

    And then a strong finisher.

  • @sailingmagpie  Mar 4

    I think it depends what format you're releasing your album. If it's on CD the expectation is that people will listen to it all in one sitting. If digitally, people will cherry pick a lot more.
    I released my debut album late last year on Bandcamp and, looking at my plays, the first half gets significantly more than the second half. This means it pays to front load it with all the best songs, which is annoying as it won't necessarily flow well then.

  • @sailingmagpie  Mar 4

    Also, I was a DJ for years and one thing I will say is, it doesn't really matter what songs you put next each other, as long as the end of one segues well into the intro of the next.

  • @soulbird Mar 4

    I've always tried to follow the unities of classical drama - start with morning, go through the day, include the night time songs towards the end and try and bury the weird ones around the middle of side 2...

  • @tcelliott  Mar 4

    Looking at the bandcamp plays... those first two songs should be the songs you want people to hear.. or in marketing terms, should be the two that'll make them want to hear more.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 4

    first i go through quickly and set up a first draft through instinct. then i listen to the sequence and make changes, then do it again, and again, until i hear the album and it sounds right to me.

  • @chipwithrow  Mar 4

    Years ago, Lou Reed released an album (New York, maybe?) in which he stated it was meant to be listened to in order, like reading a novel. That always stuck with me, and when I did a couple of albums of folk music for kids and families back in '07 and '09, I sequenced them like a day in the life of a kid. Not exactly, but with that in mind.
    I am going to try again with the Album Challenge through the Facebook group (participated in discussions but didn't do an album after 50/90), and I imagine I'll try again for a chapters-in-a-novel approach.
    When Jerry Garcia died, the Grateful Dead had about 10-12 recently written originals that never made it onto an album. In my mind, I have sequenced those songs into an album a few times. A good mental exercise, I think.

  • @billwhite51 Mar 4

    @chipwithrow when i met lou reed, he told me the one thing that really bothered him about the new CD technology was that listeners rearranged the sequence of the tracks to their own liking,,,after he had spent so much time thought and energy getting them in the correct order. things are so much worse now, that so few people even listen to complete albums, let alone listen to the songs in the correct sequence. i guess the era of the album id fundementally over. we are back to the era of singles, which wouldnt be bad if they put them out on 45s with a B side.

  • @unclephilly Mar 4

    I've been mulling this the last few days. My problem is I have at least 3 songs that I picture really easily as albums closers but struggle to think of two of them having to sit in the middle somewhere. It doesn't help that I haven't had time to record everything yet, so I can't actually sit and listen to everything.

    I'm 95% sure I want my first track as my first track, but it's a bit of a slow burner - flies in the face of the opening with a bang tradition.

  • @musicsongwriter Mar 4

    Just depends on the concept of the album. I listen to each track and see if the songs naturally go one after another, I often re-arrange the songs so it takes me a while to settle on the order.

  • @elliottlawrence Mar 6

    It's cool to see what everyone's thoughts are on this! It's a shame that for most albums, the first few tracks get played way more than the rest, which is why so many albums tend to be front-loaded, but I always like to space the best songs out so the album doesn't feel lopsided.

  • @songsville  Mar 6

    Wow, you guys put a lot of thought into this, And rightly so. Nice tips here. @sailingmagpie I have noticed that pure mathematical tailoff too -- forget about your last 6 songs, no-one will play them. Just pick your best three and whack 'em at the beginning. Though as an advocate of the whole-album experience, that does sting ...

    I have a different problem in that my albums tell a story so when I write track one it has all the scene setting etc and each song tell the next part of the story so basically I can't change the order. That puts pressure on the first three to be great right out of the box which is not easy ...

    Still, bandcamp has that thing where you can have the listener start at track 5 or whatever you want, I should test that out ....

  • @silvermachine  Mar 6

    Its easy. I make a 14 sided dice out of guitar wood and then throw it to get the album order.
    So I end up with an album order of tracks: 5, 10, 3 , 4, 4, 3 ,2, 5 ,
    6, 8, 4, 3, 11, 4 . Brilliant.

  • @tcelliott  Mar 6

    @silvermachine Why didn't I think of that?

  • @barrygoldman  Mar 6

    It all works out naturally to me. As I make the songs for an album I keep a working order with ideas of what kind of songs can go between what. I have ideal flows for an album in my head and I'm always listening to my tracks to see what goes well after the next. I try not to keep songs of the same pace together but the majority of my tracks are either 140, 150 or 160 BPM so it's tricky.

  • @sailingmagpie  Mar 7

    @songsville I have track 4 as my landing song. All the tracks have been played around the 30-35 at most, apart from the landing track, which currently has 169!
    One thing I regret is putting an introduction track at the start. I feel like I wasted 2 minutes of prime real estate!

  • @songsville  Mar 7

    @sailingmagpie so it does work. It will try it, thanks. BTW you can delete/move that intro track anytime, keep the album constantly evolving ...

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