Join Scott Jacoby for an in-depth discussion in this video Picking and optimizing the right song, part of Music Production: Techniques and Concepts.
- As a producer, the single most important thing that you're going to do is choose the right song. We all love to get into the production. We all love to place mics and record stuff, and make beats, but at the end of the day no matter how great the production is the song is king, it's all about that. Not just that; the song is the thing that creates the synergy between the artist and the person who's singing that song. It's so important. The way that I like to do this is when an artist comes to me, they might have a song in mind that they want me to record, but I ask them, can I listen to five of your songs and then let's choose the best one.
Sometimes the one that they wanted to do is not the best one. The other thing not to take for granted is whether the song is ready to go. I might say to them, this is great but it doesn't have a bridge. This is great, let's do this song, but the structure is all kooky of the song, let's fix this thing. Do whatever you need to do to revise and make this thing perfect before you start recording it. It's super important that the song should inspire. It's got to inspire you, it's got to inspire the person who's singing it, and of course it has to inspire those who listen to it.
And how does someone get inspired listening to something? Well, I think the singer needs to sell it, they need to own it, and the person on the other end, whether they're listening on their headphones or in their car or on their phone, they're going to be there believing it. It's that belief that creates a magic between the audience and the artist. Another thing that's super important is to find a good match between the singer and the song. This isn't a given, either. You can have a great singer singing a song, and it's not the right song for them, and you can have a lousy singer singing a great song, and it's not going to make them great.
Got to find a good match. How do you know? I think there's something when the lyric matches the perspective of the artist and whether the melody is right, and whether the vibe is right and the song production. Let's take a listen to something that I think is a great example of the match between a singer and a song. This artist is named Michael Blume, and the song is called The Same. ♫ As I trip on the pavement, ♫ And when it's how you fell, ♫ How you got distracted ♫ What went wrong, how did that happen ♫ And you're fine but you're shaken ♫ And everybody stares, but nobody ♫ Goes to help you 'cause nobody cares ♫ We all live such lonely lives ♫ Material plastic ties ♫ The first part is satisfied ♫ The first tune is daily died ♫ And I forget to pay attention ♫ You would think I'd learn my lesson ♫ But the years go by and I don't change ♫ I just complain, I stay the same - Cool.
So I don't know about you, but I hear that song and I'm buying it. I'm totally into it and hooked. I hear the one measure keyboard intro and then I hear his voice, front row center, right there, I hear him delivering the lyric with cool timing and a really nice sound, and I'm just buying it, and that's the whole experience that the listener needs to have. Keep in mind throughout this whole thing that the song is the most important thing. The production is there to serve the song and not the other way around.
Let's think about that for a second. The production serves the song. That means that everything that you do in the production is to enhance the song, is to bring that song to life. The other important thing that needs to happen is it needs to vibe with what the lyric is saying. You can't have a super sad lyric that's going with a very happy 160 bpm track. That might be weird and cool in some sort of way, but for the most part something like that is not going to work. We want these two things to form a synergy between each other.
Lastly, we want to be able to envision the production. For me, I'll listen to a demo, and be able to instantly think about ideas and things that I want to do in the song's production, but that doesn't always happen, nor did it happen at the beginning of my career. One thing that can be helpful in developing those skills is to imagine what each instrument would do. So you say, oh, I want to open with a keyboard. Well, what's that keyboard sound like? What's it playing? What happens next in the song? Does a drum come in, do strings come in? Just figure out the whole thing, take it time by time by time by time, and you'll get to have a formula for coming up with interesting ideas.
So you might not think that the song choice is critical, but please believe me it is the most important thing. You can't go backwards in the song choice. You're stuck with that song forever, so pick the right one and make it great.
- Picking the right song
- Choosing the right recording method
- Creating the demo
- Finding a tempo and ideal key
- Recording basic tracks
- Making beats
- Recording and editing vocals
- Editing the track
- Mixing and mastering the song