What are the Essential Ingredients of Great Music Production?

Audio Production Club

How do you take your great idea for a song and create an awesome music production out of it?

I mean, from a few simple chords to a full-blown production, that’s kind of hard to wrap your head around isn’t it?

I’ve often wondered how great artists and producers have taken a basic but memorable melody and translated it into a classic hit song.

Seems like the steps are endless right?

Music Production from A – Z

I like to break a song down into a few chunks to analyze what makes it so good.

It’s easier to think about each part individually.

It also makes my brain hurt a little less.

Song Structure

If you have a great hook, or a verse and a chorus it’s time to think about what the overall song structure will be.

Let’s look at it in terms of ABCs, where A is a verse, B is a chorus and C is a middle part or a bridge.

The most basic is the ABABB structure, where you have the verses broken up by a catchy chorus that doubles at the end. It’s really simple, and can work well if you have great lyrics and an infectious melody.

Another classic is the ABABCBB, where you lengthen the chorus at the end by breaking it up by a bridge. The simple trick of breaking the end up with a bridge gives the song variety and lengthens the hook(chorus) of the song.

If you have a catchy chorus that sticks in people’s head then you want to repeat and repeat and repeat. There’s nothing wrong with it, and a catchy melody will never get old.

Unless it’s over-played on the radio and you can’t go anywhere without hearing the song. Then you might get tired of it.

But on the flip side, imagine how successful that songwriter must feel, when you can’t go anywhere without hearing your song?

Whatever your structure is, make sure it’s not an endless maze of different parts.

Unless you’re Tool, then you can do whatever you want.

Arrangement

Arrangement is a little different than song structure. Although it’s sometimes used to mean the same thing, I like to think of arrangement as the ingredients of the song structure.

Figuring out the arrangement is basically figuring out what kind of instrumentation you want in your song.

Different instrumentation can take a song to completely new places. A song can be a soft acoustic pop song or a heavy rock song by just changing out the instrumentation.

For example, Ingrid Michaelson’s “Parachute” has two different versions: the original rock/pop version and the folky version. It’s the same song, but the arrangement and instrumentation is different.

Sometimes, a sparse arrangement is the right way to go, as Joe Gilder rightly points out in his post, Less is More.

A Paint by Numbers Approach

Now that you’ve wrapped your head around the song structure and figured out the right instrumentation you can start building your song.

Start by building around the simple chords and melody. A great way to start is to record the drum beat and work from there.

Whatever your approach is, keep a few things in mind.

Contrast – Keep your production interesting with contrasting elements. The call and response approach is effective for creating a contrast between a vocal and an instrument. You can also try the time-tested approach of quiet verses contrasted by loud choruses.

Foundation – Every song needs a strong foundation. You can have the greatest guitar sounds in the world, but if your drums and bass suck then your song will suck.

Rhythm and Riffs – Working from your foundation, instrumental riffs on top create the harmonic structure for the song. Whether these are simple guitar chords, heavy rock riffs or syncopated piano stabs, a great riff section creates the structure for the most important thing of all…

Melody – A strong melody is really the key to everything. If the melody fails to impress, the song fails. Pure and simple. The first melody you come up with in a song doesn’t have to be the final one. If you’re confident with your song then you can work on the melody to make it more memorable, or change the chord structure underneath to make it more interesting.

A great melody can wrap everything up nicely. It makes the song memorable, you can create contrast with backing vocals and you can add rhythmical elements with it as well. Spend the most time making your melody magical and everything else will fall into place.

Do you Need Help with Your Music Production?

I know producing a song is difficult, and you can’t learn every aspect of it by reading blog posts. Sometimes you need a step by step guide that helps you through the entire process, from idea to mastered song.

If you need that kind of help, please check out Joe Gilder’s Production Club 2.0. 

  • It’s 19 weeks of training.
  • Joe walks you through each aspect of the production process, from pre-production to mastering. And everything in between.
  • Whether you like learning via video, text or webinars, it’s all included and designed to help you through the entire process.
  • You watch how he finishes a song from pre-production to finished, mastered record.
  • All the classic material from the first Production Club is included in this one.

Act Now, Start Finishing Your Songs

If you’ve ever needed an excuse to complete all those half-finished songs on your hard drive, this is the time.

Joe is offering a 90-day money back guarantee so that if you’re not happy you’ll get your money back, no questions asked.

Click here to check out Production Club 2.0

Remember, the only way out is through. If you need help with your songs then the Production Club is the perfect way to get through it.

Image by: kitby