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The Story Behind The Song (Too Small To Save)

“Too Small To Save" was written & arranged in 2008….recorded & mixed in early 2009.

  • Those original recorded tracks were edited & remixed in 2014.
  • That 2014 version is the used for this SBtS video.

The Idea

My songs typically evolve from….

- a chord progression

- a riff/pattern

- a section of melody

- a central theme

In this case, it was 2 of those elements combined.

1) A guitar progression (riff/pattern)

2) A central theme, which was also served as the title (hook)

In songwriting, it’s essential for the subject matter to blend with the musical feel. In other words, one should complement the other. In my humble opinion, that is the case here.


Subject Matter

This particular lyric hit pretty close to home. It was loosely based on my wife’s employer, who shall remain nameless. The lyrical message was inspired-by…and based-upon changing conditions following the financial collapse of 2008. Simply put, none of those changes benefited the employees & most didn't bode too well for the financial future of the company.

Much to my surprise, the company survived. The employees however, were a different story. Most of what they lost was never returned. The financial recovery that followed did little to benefit them.

The title “Too Small To Save” was applicable to both employer & employee. At the time this song was written, both fit the description…seeming doomed to failure. As you may have guessed, the title was also a tongue & cheek play on that infamous 2008 headline - “Too Big To Fail”. While banks & auto manufacturers were too big to fail, small companies & employees were “Too Small To Save”. Essentially, the yin & yang of monetary policy.

Structurally, the lyric is brief…with a generous dose of repetition. The message is heavily reliant on imagery & metaphors, which is not typical of my lyrics. Because the subject matter was both current & dismal, I chose an artsy lyrical format.



Too small…too small to save

Just another business crushed by the wave

One more tiny fish…too small to save


A victim…of the economy

No golden parachute waits for me

Almost 80 years business don’t count these days

No friends in high places…too small to save


Last call…for 401Ks

Get ‘em while you can…they’re fadin’ away

It’s closin’ time cause we’re…too small to save

Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman


Song Structure

Introduction / Verse-Refrain / Instrumental Verse-Refrain (guitar solo) / Bridge / Verse-Refrain / Ending


Musical Fundamentals

Musically, “Too Small To Save” was built around a single guitar progression. It’s the one you hear being played throughout the intro & verse-refrain sections.

The song is set in the key of Aminor….BPM 100

Genre-wise, I’d have to call it blues-rock.

This arrangement is guitar-based, utilizing 3 separate mono tracks. My Gibson SG was used for two of those.

My Gibson SG....complete with its coffin-style case


The 3rd was a mixture of Strat & SG…with Strat being chosen for the bridge section.

Its’ single coil pickups were useful in creating thinner sounding guitar textures.

My Strat in-studio


- One of those 3 tracks contains intermittent lead guitar.

- The other 2 are the primaries, heard throughout the song.

  • The verse/refrain sections consist of 1 guitar playing the primary progression, while a 2nd guitar plays 3-note power chords (I-V-octave).
  • The bridge was intended to have a unique feel, so both guitar parts change dramatically. The SG picks single notes within standard open chord forms, while the Strat strums triads (3-note chord forms…I-III-V).

The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to the Boss unit in 2007. Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about using synthetic drums. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience of the machine method sold me on the change. Suffice to say that recording live drums in a single-person home studio setup is a tedious process! Regardless, the marching snare used for the bridge section was an actual drum.

Unfortunately, the machine decay rate makes crash cymbals sound VERY artificial. So… all crashes were overdubbed onto separate tracks, using actual cymbals.


Final Production Notes

The recording, editing & mixing were done on a PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam system.

Blog attachment - Story Behind The Song (Not-For-Profit Life)


Performance Credits

  • Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar – Tom Hoffman
  • Vocals – Tom Hoffman

YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/8A6W4OarAWY


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile


The Story Behind The Song


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