All You Need To Know About Music Production You Can Learn From This Movie
Today we’ll answer the question on every musician’s mind:
What can Anna Kendrick teach you about music production?
I’m sure you were wondering the same thing, and today you’ll finally learn that the answer is:
Unsurprisingly, a LOT.
If you haven’t seen the Pitch Perfect trilogy yet, you’re missing out. I might be oversharing, but as far as trilogies go, my list goes like this:
- Pitch Perfect
- Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy
- Original Star Wars trilogy, episodes IV-VI
And if you’re a LOTR fan, I’m sorry, but I left the Elves behind in Iceland.
I’m not even embarrassed to admit how much of a fan I am. In fact, Pitch Perfect was the first movie I showed to my daughter when she was three months old. We rented out an entire movie theater to ourselves during COVID to watch it.
Pitch Perfect Production
My dubious dad moves aside; you can learn a lot about producing catchy records through the acappella awesomeness of the Pitch Perfect movies.
Pitch Perfect provides a fantastic backdrop to explore the harmony and arrangement of hit songs. Nowhere in the movies is this more apparent than in their “Riff-Off” scenes.
In these scenes, you’ll hear a few famous hit songs and their hooks in quick succession. Listening to them all “a cappella” makes it easy to identify and analyze each part of the production.
Watch all three Riff-Off scenes below:
Let’s talk about how you can break down your music into elements.
A Capella Harmony and Arrangement
Just like in a choir, music production has its “choir” of elements.
- The Bass: In a choir, it provides the foundational, low-end support. Similarly, in music production, the rhythm section, often led by the bass and drums, establishes the rhythmic foundation.
- The Tenor: Choir tenors harmonize with the sopranos, and in music production, they correspond to the harmonies that create depth and richness in a song.
- The Alto: This choir part adds a layer of complexity, and in music production, it could be likened to the supporting instruments that contribute texture to the song.
- The Soprano: This is the melody that shines through. In production, it’s the lead vocals or instrumental melody.
Exploring the Pitch Perfect Riff Offs
Pitch Perfect’s “riff off” scenes are ideal for analyzing hit songs, hooks, and their production elements. Here’s why you should give them a listen:
- A Capella Arrangement: As the cast performs well-known hits acapella, the singing simplifies the songs, allowing you to dissect their production elements. You can clearly hear the rhythmic foundation, harmonies, and melody.
- Hit Song Formula: If you want to understand what makes a hit song, studying these renditions can help you identify the magic formula that elevates a song to chart-topping status.
- Instrumental Mashup: In the final scene, instruments are added, creating a fascinating soundscape. This addition showcases how the interplay between different production elements can bring out the best in a song.
The Role of Production and Arrangement
A great mix is not just about the technicalities; it reflects the quality of production and arrangement. Pitch Perfect helps you see the bigger picture:
- Production and Arrangement: They are at the heart of a successful mix. Just as a choir’s voices must harmonize and blend seamlessly, the elements in a mix must work together.
- Frequency Spectrum: Pitch Perfect lets you hear the different frequencies more clearly. It illustrates how a mix can be tightened, with each element occupying its own space in the frequency spectrum.
- A Fresh Perspective: Analyzing these scenes will give you a new mindset when approaching your own mixes. You’ll view your music not just as a collection of tracks but as a cohesive arrangement where each part plays a vital role.
Who Invited the Green Bay Packers?
Oh, and one more thing: keep an eye out for the Green Bay Packers.
Yes, the football team.
They appear in one of these scenes, singing as an a cappella group. It’s a fun twist and a good example that in order to create interesting productions you need contrast, surprise, and pattern interruption to keep the listener engaged.
Use These Building Blocks
Listening to the riff-off scenes above it’s easy to identify each part, and if you listen to the original productions you’ll have a new-found appreciation for hearing each individual element distinctly.
Great music has specific building blocks. It’s not just about the melody. If they only sang the melody some of the songs wouldn’t work. Melodies need harmony in order to evoke a specific emotion. It’s the interplay between the notes of the melody and the chords of the harmonic structure that creates that emotion.
Adding in the rhythm brings it all together and makes it into a fully fleshed-out production.
I hope that gave you some much-needed diversion from your week, but also something to think about when you’re producing your next song.
If you need more help producing your music, check out this Music Production Checklist to follow before you record and mix your songs.