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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Album Track Sequencing Like Baseball Batting Order


Well, here it is mid-May and we're well past spring training and into the second full month of the 6-month regular season.  On June 21st of this year, after the draft but before the all star game in July, you can expect another full-length album of new music from me, I'm proud to announce once again (for the 8th time).  Baseball doesn't have coaches, they have managers.  It's maybe the equivalent of being a producer of a record.  When you're not a major leaguer (or major labeler) like me, you produce your own.

In the great American sport of baseball, one of the most important things the manager does is choose the lineup.  Also called the batting order, there are some important positions with interesting informal names like leadoff, contact, three hole, cleanup, heart, bottom and last. 

According to the great American movie High Fidelity, the subtle art of making a great compilation tape is a delicate thing:  You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention, then you've got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you've got to cool it off a notch.

So, when you think of the purpose of those batting order roles and those mixtape rules as they might apply to the order in which songs appear on an album, some interesting notes may form, such as:

1.     Leadoff:  get on base, get off to a good start, grab the fans attention, a killer, 4th best?
2.     Contact:  keep momentum, take it up a notch (faster, louder), hold attention, 3rd best?
3.     Three Hole:  the most commercial appeal, yet cool it off a notch, #1 best overall
4.     Cleanup:  power, solidify success, a power ballad, 2nd best
5.     Heart:  driving others home, mid-to-up-tempo, five should actually be the 5th best
6.     Heart:  driving others home
7.     Bottom:  slower, less pressure
8.     Bottom:  slower, less pressure, shorter than #7 to hold attention
9.     Last:  similar to leadoff, resume speed, should be 6th best

Most albums have more than 9 songs, but you get the idea.

Other factors may include alternating tempo, key, length & style to hold listener attention:

·       Length:  You never want two really long songs back-to-back.
·       Tempo:  You never want two really slow songs back-to-back, unless the second one is much shorter (see #8 above).
·       Tempo+Length:  You generally want to insert shorter, faster songs right after slower, longer ones.
·       Key:  You never want two or more songs in a row that are in the same key, if possible to avoid.
·       Genre:  You never want to put stylistically similar songs together in the rotation, if you can help it.
·       Instrumentation:  When you only have two songs featuring an atypical instrument, separate those as well.

This is not to say that you can't know the rules, intentionally break them, and still be successful.  I've heard it said that fans of the band AC/DC enjoyed the fact that their songs reflected a signature sound, and that their albums delivered that consistently.  In other words, they liked the fact that the songs all kind of sounded the same.  That said, they added a little variety here and there, for example, by unexpectedly adding bagpipes to their otherwise heavy metal sound.

So, when you've got an album's worth of new material recorded and available for release, you're about to play ball.  Before you can, however, you get to put on the manager's cap and think of who you want where in the order to give your team its best chance to score and win the game.  Just like the all-American pastime, the record business is about the same thing:  getting hits.  It's fun because you get to be creative with it, figure out how to strategically keep the listener from hitting the fast forward or skip to next track button. 

The order is always important, despite what recording artists may say to the contrary, and always carefully chosen.  My records are no different.  13 new songs in the best order I could muster up.  Probably too much thought goes into it, but thanks to the power of electronic word processing documents and tools, the cutting/pasting and rearranging is quick and fairly painless.  This next one is no different.  Hope you enjoy the songs, and the track sequence!!!  As a reminder, my "opening day" is June 21st.