How long is a piece of…song?

When Morning Comes, on the album Armin2016, is a short, rhythmic track with a real hook of a chorus in which the key changes from minor to major. That’s followed by a throbbing drop and and outro of pulsating synths. It’s simple but full of energy – a song with which to greet the day, as the name says.

That being said, the little 2-minutes-and-15-seconds song was almost a complete dud and in fact had gone through no fewer than 10 iterations over a period of almost two years. It started as a very nice melody, I thought, which sweetly segues from minor to major in the chorus. However, typically me, I overworked it right from the start, and it turned into a monster octopus of a track with 27 stems/instruments, overly long at 4:16, and with this weird hybrid of Asian instruments and a Steinway piano. I had in my head something to do with the sun coming up in the east in the morning and then moving across the sky to the west… Well, that was a fine fiasco.

Eventually I had to just stop and whittle the whole thing down to the essence, which was that little tune. To that arrangement, I added a big electro bass track to make it sound less ethereal and more grounded, and a stack of heavy beat tracks – because, after all, this is Trance. In the end, there were 6 melody tracks, and 8 beats tracks.

When I sent it off to my sound engineer for mixing, I had been struggling with it for so long that, for the first time, I had no well thought out preproduction notes to give him. (Because by that time it was definitely not well thought out.) And then we had one of those technical hitches where, because of us working on two different versions of Logic, one set of stems went missing. Of course, if you don’t know they’re there you wouldn’t know if they’re missing, would you?

In the end, we got it sorted, proving again that less is more with some songs. The only things I had to say to him then was, like the orphan “Oliver Twist” begs in the novel by Charles Dickens, “Please sir, I want some more.”

Please sir, can I have some more “When Morning Comes”?
(Mark Lester as Oliver Twist in Oliver! (1968)

I thought for a pretty charming tune it could have been repeated, and still been less than 5 minutes long. So, I asked, could we please double up the arrangement? Luckily, the engineer had his head together and said NO. Very politely, but no. That would have put the project right back to where it started.

Listen to When Morning Comes

The heart of this piece is a hypnotic synth loop-beat combination, which runs under the melody – see if you can pick it up:

What do you think? Not long enough? Or like a piece of string – just long enough?

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