Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

Two Ways To Produce Music That Give You Totally Different Results

The way you approach a music production session can drastically change the end result of the song.

Depending on what kind of sound you want, you can approach it with one of two mindsets.

You can produce a track like a songwriter. Or you can produce a track like a producer.

Let me talk about what each of those approaches looks like…

How To Produce Music Like a Songwriter

When you’re recording a song you wrote, you may find yourself producing it like a songwriter by default.

You are the writer of the song, after all, so it makes sense.

What does it mean to produce like a songwriter?

This is when you record things centered around the instrument on which you wrote the song. That instrument becomes the centerpiece of the production.

Typically, this is what producing like a songwriter looks like:

  1. Record the song front to back on your main instrument
  2. Record the vocals
  3. Start layering in other instruments to support the main instrument

This is one way to produce a song, and it’s the go-to method for most songwriters.

And it’s a fine way to produce music. As a songwriter who produces my own stuff, I often find myself building songs this way.

But there is another method you should try if you’re a songwriter…

How To Produce Music Like a Producer

When I produce music for other songwriters, I notice I have a completely different mindset.

I’m not automatically starting with the instrument they wrote the song on. I’m thinking about the mood the songwriter wants the song to have. I’m thinking about the theme of the lyrics.

And I realized this approach gives me much different results.

For example, I’m currently producing an EP of songs I wrote, and I tried to approach it like a producer rather than a songwriter. And instead of my typical acoustic guitar-based tracks,  I’ve ended up with lo-fi-influenced, synth-heavy, beat-style acoustic pop.

And I never would’ve ended up there producing music like a songwriter.

So if you want to give this a try, here are the big steps of producing music like a producer:

  • Zoom out and think big picture — how do you (or whoever the songwriter is) want this track to make you feel?
  • Think about the lyrical themes and try to connect the mood of the music to the words
  • Make the main instrument of the production something totally different than the instrument the song was written on
  • Use 1-2 reference tracks during production

This method is more open-ended and can lead to many options, so you may have to make some hard production choices.

If you’re not yet familiar with the term “kill your darlings,” then you will be after using this method.

Which Production Method Should You Use?

Ultimately, choose whichever one of these methods fits the song.

That’s easy to say, I know. So if you’re not sure, you may have to start producing the song both ways and see which one feels better.

The basic rule of thumb is, if you usually produce songs like a songwriter, try producing like a producer. And vice versa.

Both approaches can give you great results, albeit very different results. So use whichever one best serves the mood of the song.

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Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, Tx. He also made The Home Producer Starter Pack for beginner producers.

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