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Music Production: The Evolution of a Song

Explore the Evolution of a Song: Which Version Do You Prefer?

This article delves into the intriguing journey of transforming a song from its raw, original state to its final, polished music production. Experience three distinct versions of the same song: the refined final rendition, the untouched original, and the initial draft that didn’t quite hit the mark.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the art of music production and songwriting through the eyes of Phil Martin, as he shares his process of making a song his own, collaborating with songwriters, and navigating the creative challenges. Join us on this musical voyage as we uncover the magic that happens behind the music.

Song Evolution Showcase

This video showcases three versions of the song. You’ll hear the final production, where the song has reached its polished form after my work. Additionally, you’ll get to listen to the original, raw version of the song as it was before I started working on it. Lastly, you’ll also hear the initial draft, which unfortunately didn’t quite hit the mark.

Behind the Music Production

Whenever I’m hired to produce a song, I’m filled with anticipation and excitement, ready for the unique musical journey ahead. My first step is to truly make the song my own by understanding its essence and the songwriter’s vision. I memorize the melody and chords, immersing myself in the song until I can envision the production’s sound.

Collaborating with the songwriter, we fine-tune the song’s performance, often deciding on key elements like building intensity throughout the verses and choruses, culminating in a powerful climax on the bridge.

This marks the initial analysis of the songwriting and music production process.

Music Production Songwriting Analysis

Take 1 Didn't Work

I initially had a clear plan for the production:

  1. Verse One: I began with two guitars playing in octaves to establish the ostinato.
  2. Verse Two: I aimed to gradually intensify the song by introducing a third guitar to define harmony, with drums coming in to establish the groove behind the beat.
  3. Chorus: My goal was to further increase intensity with strings harmonizing the 7th chords. The guitars would create counterlines, and the drums would play a crucial role in building overall dynamics.
  4. Post-Chorus: After the first chorus, the song would briefly calm down before transitioning into a stronger verse. This verse would feature increased harmonic tension and more pronounced counterlines played in octaves.
  5. Last Chorus: The final chorus was intended to culminate in an explosive bridge with layered background vocals and sustained double harmony supported by the guitar.
  6. Conclusive Ending: Finally, the song would conclude with a soft, conclusive verse, featuring just one guitar and vocals.
Music Production Songwriting Analysis Phil Martin

The Drummers

We reached out to four different drummers to add their tracks after completing all previous aspects of the song. However, it proved challenging because the song was already sounding good, and the drummer’s role was to enhance the pulse with a simple, melodic two-bar feel.

The first drummer declined after listening to the song. The second drummer forgot about the gig upon hearing the song. The third drummer didn’t follow my recommendations. The fourth drummer successfully delivered and captured the right feel for the track.

However, even with this clear plan, when I mixed the song and listened to it, I realized that it wasn’t working as intended. So, I made the decision to go back to the drawing board and start over.

Take 2 Success

I always trust that I’ll get it right eventually, so I didn’t mind discarding a month’s worth of work. I closed my eyes and observed the song as a spectator. Gradually, I pinpointed what was wrong with the first take, which essentially boiled down to “Too Much of Everything.”

My solution: Take the Opposite Approach.

In this songwriting music production analysis of the second take, I decided to strip the song down to its fundamentals:

  1. The verses would ride on a simple 4-beat undulating groove with an ostinato that didn’t dictate the harmony.
  2. The chorus would come to life by merely defining the harmony.
  3. I aimed to achieve the climax in the bridge by adopting the opposite approach: silence and sweetness.
  4. The vocals would now be softer yet more intense.

This marked a successful shift in the song’s direction.

Unique Production: No Bass, Minimal Drums, and Melodic Focus

One distinctive aspect of this production is the absence of bass and the minimal use of drums. This unique quality is achieved through:

  1. Melodic Guitar: The guitar is played with a strong melodic focus and precise tempo, allowing it to stand as the primary accompaniment.
  2. Clarity in Chords: Chords are defined with absolute clarity and balanced voicings.

The result is that the guitar accompaniment possesses a captivating standalone quality, requiring minimal support to enhance the vocals. The drums, although sparingly used, play a melodic role in defining the first beat of each bar.

Waves Plugin J37 tape

The Strings

Another remarkable feature is the definition of harmony through strings, gradually intensifying while allowing the guitar to shine with clarity. This effect is achieved by infusing each line with delightful melodic values, ensuring that each element sounds exceptional on its own.

The Narrative

This production tells a compelling story that unfolds over a few minutes. It is a song to be enjoyed from beginning to end, with its true magic emerging after it concludes, leaving you with a profound story etched in your mind and soul.


The decision to record with maximum dynamics and a natural sound adds to its uniqueness. While the performer is responsible for the dynamics, the recording studio is designed to capture acoustic sound. This is accomplished by skillfully balancing the direct sound and room sound through precise microphone placement.

You’ll notice only two reverbs, minimal compression, and hardly any EQ in the recording. In essence, minimal signal processing was used because each instrument was given the utmost melodic value. Every part is enjoyable to play and stands strong independently, a quality that resonates throughout the recording.

If you’re interested in honing your songwriting skills, please visit the Creative Guitar Academy.

Key Insights: Navigating the Evolution of a Song

Certainly, here are the four key takeaways from this article:

  1. Song Evolution: Gain a comprehensive understanding of how songs evolve from their raw form to a polished production, with insights into the distinct stages of this creative journey.
  2. Music Production Insights: Learn about the art of music production, including making a song your own, collaborating effectively with songwriters, and navigating creative challenges.
  3. Adapting to Mistakes: Discover the importance of recognizing when a production isn’t working and how to pivot successfully by taking an alternative, often simpler approach.
  4. Unique Production Elements: Understand how minimalism, melodic focus, and clarity can create a unique and captivating sound, and how to balance dynamics and achieve a natural recording quality in your music projects.
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