Producing  

Posted by Tony Guerrero



I love making music. Some guys tend to specialize - for example, my friend Keith does a lot of things very well, but probably could be happy just producing CDs the rest of his life. Others just like to play...or tour...or write. I love it all. I love being in the studio, I love writing, I love touring, I love playing live - I just love making music. This blog is just a little about producing.

I'm certainly not the world's greatest producer, but I enjoy doing it and I enjoy the process. I am currently reading a book by one of the legends in the field, Phil Ramone - he's produced/recorded everyone from John Coltrane to Elton John. He points out that very few people actually know what a producer does. It can be anything from organizing the session to booking the studio to creating the arrangements to choosing the musicians to dictating the tempo of a song to telling the singer to try again - all with the intention of making the "artist" sound their absolute best.

Phil tells a story that illustrates one of my favorite aspects of producing: finding the hidden potential in songs. It turns out that, back in the 70's, everyone in Billy Joel's band, including Billy, HATED the song "Just The Way You Are" and had no intention of recording it. It was Phil who, after several power struggles and fights (instruments being thrown!) finally insisted it would be recorded and included on the album. The song ended up winning the Grammy for "Song of the Year" and has since been the most popular of Billy Joel's songs. Part of why the band hated it was the way they were playing it - they were using a cheezy latin cha-cha beat. Phil changed the beat and the instrumentation, and voila, a classic is born.

Every year, the SongSeeker project I produce involves sifting through about 150-200 submissions. Because songs can cost thousands to record well and songwriters don't often have that kind of money, some of the recordings we get are, well, awful (we encourage people to send in even the worst demos - just send it!). It is the producer's job to hear past the demo recording and imagine the hidden potential of a song. Often, in the selection process, I find myself having to convince people in the selection committee to give songs 2nd, 3rd, even 10th chances.

I've uploaded an example of taking a song from "demo" to "final" from SongSeeker 2006 just for my blog readers. CLICK HERE

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at Thursday, May 15, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

3 comments

That is cool! Potential being made reality must be satisfying for sure! You can autotune me or my songs anytime.

5/15/2008 10:10 AM

I have a really hard time seeing past the production of a song to the value of the song itself. If I were in your shoes, I probably would have rejected that song in the first 10 seconds (unfairly, I'm sure) just because of the right-panned area-mic quality of the recording.

Your version is much-improved!

As I think more about it, for me, the inverse can be true. I can be drawn to a pretty louse song just because the production is good, and loose sight of the fact that the song itself is week!

5/15/2008 11:39 AM

Hey Tony. I'll be at the conference this year. I really enjoyed it in '06. I submitted the song "Holy Reign" this year. Let me know what you think of it if you get a chance. Great blog. I enjoy being a part of the production process myself. Recording is amazing. see you soon.

5/21/2008 7:21 AM

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