Guest Blogger: Bobby Owsinski is the author of The Music Producer’s Handbook, one of guides in his Handbook series along with The Touring Musician’s Handbook and The Studio Musician’s Handbook. Below is an excerpt from his music production blog, The Big Picture.
Almost everyone knows the main phases of an album project (preproduction, tracking, overdubs, mixing, mastering), but the fact of the matter is that there’s one more phase that actually begins the process – the meeting.
That’s where the producer meets with the artist for the first time and they both decide if they like each other, can work together, and most importantly, be creative together. Of course, there may be other meetings before this decision is finally made, but the first one is critical for both the producer and the artist.
The problem is that any times the artist or band doesn’t know exactly what to do or expect (especially one without much experience), so that leaves it up to the producer to guide things. Here are some questions to ask to determine if you’re a good fit with the artist.
What are some of your favorite records? Why?
What are your biggest influences? Why?
What recordings do you like the sound of?
What kind of sound are you looking for?
To read the rest of Bobby O’s questions, visit his blog!
The Music Producer’s Handbook (another book in Bobby Owsinski’s successful Handbook series) describes in detail the duties and responsibilities of a music producer. In his thoughtful, down-to-earth, and savvy style, Bobby O. brings his wealth of experience to bear in answering the questions faced by all budding music producers: How do I become a producer? How do I get the best out of the musicians or vocalist? How do I get a great mix? How much money can I make? Covering the entire range of producer concerns, from organizing each phase of the production to mastering the final mix, The Music Producer’s Handbook takes a sometimes intimidating and mystifying process and breaks it down to an entertaining tutorial that will fatten the toolkits of professionals as well as novices. As with all the books in the Handbook series, a third of the book is dedicated to exclusive interviews with name producers who share their techniques and stories with the reader. An accompanying DVD takes the viewer through each phase of the production process.
The voice is just as much of an instrument as any other instrument in the band. Like other instruments, it needs regular maintenance to stay in its best shape. Here are a few tricks compiled from How To Make Your Band Sound Great and The Music Producer’s Handbook to not only get the best vocal performances, but to stay away from a sore throat as well.
1) Develop a package – This could mean anything from a CD and a vinyl album, to a digital download and album with all alternative mixes, to a boxed set of CD’s or anything in-between (Trent Reznor’s Ghosts I-IV is a great example). The idea is to go beyond just the typical CD and digital offerings.
2) Sequential numbering – Numbering a physical product (for example; “#5 of 1000”) gives it the feeling of exclusivity. The product becomes a special edition and a must-have for the true fan.
3) Tie it to merchandise – Offer a physical product that contains the code for a free download of your album. Mos Def was so successful with the T-shirt release of The Ecstatic that Billboard magazine even began counting it as a music release on their charts. Other artists have sold their music via codes on such items as golf balls, bandanas and even canned food!
4) Release a “double-sided” digital single – Rhino Record’s digital releases celebrating 60 years of the 45 RPM single set a fine example for this format. For between $1.49 and $1.99, Rhino provided the original hit song, its B side (the flip side of the vinyl record) and the original artwork. You can do the same by providing two songs for price of one – an A and a B side.
5) Release on an old alternative format – We’ve seen some artists (The Decemberists Hazards of Love come to mind) release a vinyl-only physical product to great success. Cheap Trick did it on the old 8-track format from the 60’s, and some bands have even recently released on cassette tape. Releasing on a older format can be good as a publicity tool (as long as everyone else isn’t doing it) and who knows, maybe you can start a trend?
Read Bobby’s last five tips on his blog.
What has changed? Who are the new players? Why are traditional record labels, television, and radio no longer factors in an artist’s success? How do you market and distribute your music in this new world? How do you make money in this new music world? How do you develop your brand? How do you use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as marketing tools? What are the new technologies that are being introduced that will influence how we sell or market? All these questions are answered in the book. This edition also contains new low-cost high- and low-tech tips for marketing and promotion.
Whenever I listen to songs from a young songwriter there seems to be a number of common problems that pop up, so here’s a checklist that you can use before you deem your song finished. Regardless of how long you’ve been writing songs, these items can be useful, especially if you intend for your songs to be as commercial as possible.
1. Are the sections too long? Sections of a song that are too long cause the listener to rapidly loose interest.
2. Is there a clear distinction between sections? For instance, can you tell the difference between the verse and the chorus? Once again, listener interest wanes if a song goes too long without something new happening.
3. Does the song have a bridge? A bridge adds tension and release, keeping the interest high and enabling the song to build to a peak.
Read the other three songwriting problems on Bobby’s THE BIG PICTURE blog.
This book explores every aspect of playing with other musicians, including the equipment, hardware, and software used in today’s increasingly complex technological world, and the principles of sound every musician needs to know to work at the level of a professional band.
Remember that each situation is different and ultimately the sound depends upon the drums, the drummer, the song, the arrangement, and even the other players. Sometimes things are just out of your control. Also, these are not hard and fast rules, just a starting place. If you try something that’s different from what you’ll read below and it sounds good, it is good!
1. Do the drums sound great acoustically? Make sure that you start with a great acoustic drum sound with the drums well tuned and minimum of sympathetic vibrations.
2. Are the mics acoustically in phase? Make sure that tom mics and room mics are parallel to each other. Make sure that any underneath mics are at a 45° angle to the top mics.
3. Are the mics electronically in phase? Make sure that any bottom mics have the phase reversed. Make sure that all the mic cables are wired the same by doing a phase check.
4. Are the mics at the correct distance from the drum? If they’re too far away they’ll pick up too much of the other drums. If they’re too close the sound will be unbalanced with too much attack or ring.
5. Are the drum mics pointing at the center of the head? Pointing at the center of the drum will give you the best balance of attack and fullness.
Keep reading this article on Bobby O’s THE BIG PICTURE.
The Drum Recording Handbook by Bobby Owsinski and Dennis Moody
Recording acoustic drums is one of the toughest challenges faced by every audio engineer. In The Drum Recording Handbook, mega-selling pro audio author Bobby Owsinski and in-demand recording engineer Dennis Moody reveal amazing secrets to getting outstanding drum track recordings every time, from every session. Interviews include Bernie Dresel, Ricky Lawson, Brian MacLeod, and Dave Weckl.
The Audio Engineering Society conference takes place in San Francisco this year from Oct. 26 to Oct. 29. Stop by the Hal Leonard booth. Buy books, talk to authors, enter our giveaway, and more!