I got a few insights from a songwriting presentation recently, the main one being that the fundamental ‘rule’ in all art, whether it’s songwriting, painting or writing etc, is unity. Which means that each element of the work of art must work together to support the main idea, message or emotion.
It makes sense, and seems obvious but it’s the hardest thing to do. Like with songwriting and arranging -it’s easy to put in bass, guitar, vocals with lyrics, drums and percussion -but how well do they work together? Does the guitar solo fit? Is the drum beat the most appropriate? Do the lyrics really match the emotion of the music? Is there groove in the bass, and does it work with the whole song or is it doing its own thing? Does the structure of the song work well with each section building on the previous, or are they kind of separate?
For example, I heard one demo from a music student recently and I was impressed with the production quality and especially the range of different instruments and sounds. I noticed the intro had an Indian feel with sitar and Indian drums, but then later in the chorus there was a Latin feel with South American percussion and later even a Middle Eastern drone.
It was impressive at first, but you don’t walk away after hearing the song with a single impression of the song. It was all hazy, complicated and easy to forget. It didn’t convey a single emotion or tell a story or inspire with a single melody…
And isn’t that always our problem at first? Making things complicated? Trying to do too much. Trying to prove ourselves or be over enthusiastic.
You may have several elements to work with and consider, but it’s your job as the artist/creator to take those elements and make a complicated thing simple for the listener/viewer/reader in order to impact them in the way you intend to. I suppose it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Like they say about the experts in a field: they make something difficult look so easy and simple when it’s not.