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Entries in production (40)
Over the years I have seen a decline in artists creating demo recordings of their songs which they intend to record and produce with me. Demo recordings can be anything from a simple vocal and guitar recording to a 4 to 8 track pre production mix. Demo recordings provide all the parties that will be included in the production process with a blue print to which everybody can work to. I want to share with you 5 reasons why making demos can help artists and producers work faster and more creatively when in the production process of a song.
Demo recordings help confirm the final stages of the songwriting process. The song’s structure, tempo, key, feel, groove, dynamics and mood should be captured in the demo process.
Choice Of Song
When selecting a song to produce it is sometimes good practise to have a few other songs to choose from. Having a selection of demos from the artist helps you to know as a producer that you are about to invest time into the right song and that there’s not a better song from the artist… a hidden gem that may work better in production.
Distance And Evaluation
Creating a demo gives the songwriter a golden opportunity to step back from the song and writing process. If the song still stands up to everyone’s judgement after a week and needs no further rewrites then it is ready for production. Producing a song that still needs lyrics changing or light and shades discovered can harm the song.
Demos can also be treated as a scratch pad for production ideas. It can help when needing to demonstrate creative ideas to other parties of the production. For example, if a drum loop has been used in the demo and it works then this loop can guide the drummer to work a groove around the demo’s feel. If a bass guitar with a distortion plug in works in the demo then a producer or bassist may try to recapture that vibe with a pedal and bass amp. Trying out ideas in a demo can save time in the production phase as trying out millions of ideas that were never going to work for the song are better recorded, heard and declined in the demo format.
Pressure Free Environment
Being able to create with no real sense of pressure is very liberating, the best and most organic musical choices can be made in this frame of mind. I’ve taken some client demos and used stems out of their demo sessions as for what they’ve created in these frames of minds have been outstanding.
From Creation to Final Mix: Episode 2 is now available featuring producer Fab Dupont helping the band The Arrows to produce a new track.
In this episode they look at using Boom, laying down a bass guitar and synth line in Pro Tools.
Sign up to download the tracks, watch next episodes and more.
In this free Pro Tools video tutorial Russ takes a listen to the track ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’ and shows how to get sounds like those used in the track using just the free stuff in Pro Tools. He even shows you his special sauce plug-in.
Watch this free Pro Tools video tutorial
Mix Magazine has put together this awesome video of Bob Clearmountain and Chris Lord-Alge talking about their career in recording some of the biggest singles and albums of the last few decades.
Hosted by Mix Magazine at Apogee Studios, this 40 minute interview is well worth the watch.
Bob Clearmountain has worked with top acts including The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams with several Grammy nominations as well as other industry awards.
Chris Lord-Alge has worked with an equally long list of top artists including Meatloaf, Cher and Christina Aguilera and the winner of several Grammy awards.
We are very sorry but this video has been taken off line. If we can bring it to you we will.
Russ takes a look at Drumatom, a plug-in that claims to be able to clean up live drums with ease and with amazing results?
I remember as a young would-be producer (before everyone was a producer) and being desperate to get some hours behind the desk. So in a moment of keen excitement stupidity I agreed to produce an album for a female singer songwriter without listening to any of the material, you can guess the punch line. Both her songs and her voice were (to put it kindly) utterly terrible, these were the days before auto-tune. I spent the first two days trying to come up with some kind of possible solution that would give us a decent album, I stacked her vocals and added chorus and reverb hoping that the choir approach may cover most of her sins, truth was that not even a priest could have absolved her from her affliction. As I sat there considering what to do, deep in my gut I knew that this was not going to be a win-win but a lose-lose. To tears and annoyance from her manager I bailed on the gig, he said I was an idiot - he was right. However there was simply nothing to redeem from this situation expect perhaps a book of poetry. I would love to hear your production car-crash stories, we all have them, so feel free to share them in the comments.
Producers As Selectors
In a recent post we presented Fixing Audio In Pro Tools - The Case For And Against and the responses were very encouraging. Bobo 65 wrote “To me there’s only one legitimate reason for fixing anything. This is to eliminate distractions from a compelling performance” and Wwittman wrote “A good record sounds like the artiste performing. On a bad one you ‘hear’ the guy with the computer instead.”
If we remove ourselves from the world we live in for a moment and consider sport, the Olympics in fact. Imagine if the teams for the Olympics were chosen in the same way as much of our music is today - of course the idea is ludicrous - you can’t take someone without speed and make them fast (no jokes about PEDs here please) or an ice-skater and fake the grace of the dance. Of course all that stuff is done live and in the public eye, not in post hidden away, although to be fair I’m yet to go to a gig and find out the band can’t play or the singer can’t sing, but then I was never a fan of (insert band or artist here) anyway. Sports depend on qualified selectors and talent scouts, in our world we call them A&R, but I think in sport it’s a lot harder to cover a bad decision whereas in music we can simply cheat in the production process, an example that comes to mind is Milli Vanilli.
Producers As Curators
Both of the quotes from community members I mentioned earlier in the post use the P word “performance” and Bobo65 nailed it - our job isn’t to hide the crap in bad performances but to remove the distractions from amazing ones, in much the same way that paintings like the Mona Lisa sit on bare wall wall in the Louvre.
The job of a producer starts before you even get to the studio, it’s finding the talent, nurturing it and then doing your technical best to make sure it shines when recording.
The lesson I learnt as an over-zealous would-be producer was a simple but important one, it is OK to polish stuff, just make sure it’s a diamond and not a turd. Discuss.
One of the questions we asked our panel at NAMM 2014 was how optimistic they were about the future of the industry, that video will be coming soon.
There are both opportunties and threats that have been opened up by new technology that have made making music far more open. At the same time the same technology has created challenges such as online piracy, and even online music streaming services offer a small return for the average music maker.
In a couple of weeks Avid will be unveiling their version of the future with Avid Everywhere, it seems every man and his dog has the a version of the future of how we will make and share our music.
Some commentators paint a dystopian view of the future and others remain optimistic. Is everything broken or are there some real signs of hope for the future of music making - or is it just the same as it has always been?
So let us know how you feel, take our poll and most of all leave your comments.
In this free video tutorial Russ shows the advantage of using parallel compression on a drum buss. This video is a sample of over 500 paid for videos on Pro Tools Expert, subscribe for just £20 a year for full access.
Read part 1 of this article here.
4. Tools of the trade
If you want to work, then you need the gear. Music production equipment is by no means cheap, and we often find ourselves making hard decisions and going without in order to try and build a collection of equipment that makes us useful to as many people as possible. The reality is that a client expects you to have at minimum a simple recording set up and computer to function commercially, so the question comes down to how you go about establishing this? The answer is
As musical job descriptions go, ‘music producer’ probably tops the list as the most vague and most indefinable title the music industry bestows upon its practitioners.
The role as I first perceived it when beginning my own journey has completely and utterly changed, and continues to do so. Skill sets I never considered overly important have grown to become integral to the everyday work I find myself doing, while processes originally deemed vital in every scenario have proven to be circumstantial and heavily based on the context of the job.
The producer is meant to be a figure of many talents and resources, capable of getting the work done, regardless of technical, creative or financial constraints. Unfortunately, the value of a producer’s involvement is often misinterpreted and misunderstood by artists, simply because they have never encountered or experienced one before. This is why producers are responsible for anticipating this gap of information and showing artists that they are worth being involved with, for meeting the unspoken expectations.
To attempt to empower fellow producers and provide a guideline to steer their careers in a productive direction, here are 6 unspoken expectations I believe to be consciously or subconsciously considered by every artist when thinking of involving a music producer: