Which version do you prefer?
- Final production
- Submitted original song
- Middle production
The Adventure Begins
Whenever I get hired to produce a song, I feel a buzz, eagerness, excitement, as I know I am about to embark on an adventure that will take me to places I have never been before.
I am aware that I have to make the song mine, understand its feel and the songwriters intentions, before I even start my production. So I memorise the melody, the chords and play the song over and over until I get the feel and start hearing in my head the sound of the production.
Then together with the songwriter we play the song until it sounds right. As a consequence, with this particular song we first decided that the composition would grow in intensity throughout the 3 verses and 3 choruses and reach the climax right at the end, on the bridge.
This is the songwriting music production analysis of the first take.
Take 1 Didn't Work
So I started the production with this goal and decided to do the following:
- Verse one would have two guitars in octaves playing the ostinato.
- Verse two would grow in intensity with a third guitar defining the harmony, which the ostinato did not, and the drums would come in defining the groove behind the beat.
- The chorus would then increase in intensity with strings harmonising the 7ths Chords. The guitars would create counterlines and the drums would help everything grow.
- After the first chorus the song would calm down again but quickly grow to a stronger verse with more harmonic tension and stronger couterlines played in octaves.
- The last chorus would then resolve into an explosive bridge with strong layered background vocals and sustained double harmony with guitar.
- And finally we would end up with a last conclusive soft verse with one guitar and vocals.
We contacted 4 different drummers to lay down their tracks after we had finished and recorded all the previous objectives. However this proved very difficult since the song at this stage was sounding good and the drummer would only need to accentuate the pulse with a simple melodic two bar feel.
- The first drummer after hearing the song decided not to give it a go.
- The second drummer after hearing the song forgot about the gig.
- The third drummer did not listen to my recommendations.
- The 4th drummer did make it work and get the right feel across.
So I mixed the song, heard it and said to myself:
“ It does not work, back to the drawing board and let’s start over “
I know I always get it right in the end so I did not mind too much throwing away a month’s work. So I closed my eyes and imagined the song as a spectator and bit by bit I felt what was wrong with the first take which in summary was: Too Much of Everything.
Solution: Do The Opposite
This is the songwriting music production analysis of the second take.
So I decided to strip the song down to the basics:
- The versus would float on a 4 beat underlating groove with an ostinato that did not define the harmony.
- The chorus would come alive simply by defining the harmony.
- I would achieve the climax in the bridge by doing the opposite: silence and sweetness.
- The vocals would now be softer but more intense.
What is Unique About this Final Production?
No Bass and Little Drums
Notice that the accompaniment to the vocals is guitar centered with very little drums and no bass. I achieve this by:
- playing the guitar in a very melodic manner and with very precise tempo,
- defining the chords with absolute clarity and with balanced voicings.
The consequence is that the guitar, the accompaniment, sounds good on its own and requires very little more to help the vocals sound better.The drums just help define the first beat of the bar, but also in a melodic manner.
Notice how I define the harmony and how the strings slowly add more intensity by allowing the guitar to come through with clarity. Again this happens because I write each line with nice melodic values that makes everything sound good on its own.
I believe a good song tells a story you can relate to but this takes a few minutes. This is a song to enjoy from the start and to enjoy most once it has finished as you will feel the story it has opened up in your mind and soul.
In this recording I chose to record with maximum dynamics and the most natural sound.
The dynamics are the responsibility of the performer but my recording studio is designed for capturing the acoustic sound. I achieved this by balancing the direct sound and the room sound with correct mic placement.
In the recording you will hear only two reverbs, minimum compression and hardly and eq. In summary I have used very little signal processing. Once again this is because I gave every instrument the maximum melodic value. All the parts are fun to play because they sound good on their own and this comes across in the recording.
If plu would like to learn more about songwriting skills please visit the Creative Guitar Academy.