Thread: 101 Question - Listening to a song

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  1. #1
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    Default 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I'm going all noob with this request because I'm a little lost for how to move forward on some fundamental knowledge gaps I have ... and well, I'm still a noob.

    In my day job, Iím an ďintegratorĒ. I'm tossed one or more teams of people who have varying skill levels and disciplines. Usually there's some problem I have to help them diagnose, or a new widget that needs to be put in place. I on the hook for developing a solution and priming the hardcore technical people with the info they need to go off and execute.
    A key to doing this is over time I've developed an ear to listen for phrases, technologies, particular people involved, things that help me quickly make sense of whatís being presented. I do have my expertise, but most times itís more about being capable of listening and understanding whatís being presented ...then being a quick study on something specific if I need to. Mixermanís books describe some producerís styles in a way that fits what I think are some of my natural abilities and Iíd like to take advantage of it if I can.

    An aspect of that is to improve my ability to help an artist/band develop a song in a producer-like role. Not aiming to become a songwriter necessary, itís more about being of some value when a songwriter is developing/polishing their song say during pre-production or if something comes unwound at recording time. Not to oversimplify or take away the artistic factors in music, but troubleshooting is troubleshooting is troubleshooting ... having a method to check your typical trouble areas, then applying some problem solving skills to it. In my case, Iím short on understanding the typical trouble areas. Defining those areas anyway.
    I recognize when I like or dislike something about a song, but I don't always recognize why. Developing a methodology of what things to listen for seems to make sense to me. I know running through a checklist seems mechanical at first, but over time would become more natural and I feel like Iíd start doing it without thinking about it. Thatís whatís worked when learning new things in the past anyway.

    I'll try and preemptively declaring some noobish things I feel I understand already. I get that I can't/won't magically become skilled overnight. Like learning anything, this will be a significant period of trial and error, work and rework. I don't have it in my mind that I'll read a book today and drop a genus idea tomorrow. I just feel like there are a lot of paths in front of me and I'm stuck trying to take my first step down any of them. I could use a nudge in a good direction from some folks that have already been down the path.

    -r
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    A hit song is easy to memorize and learn without becoming boring after a few listens. A hit production feels great to both sing with and move to.

    Where people screw up is getting lost in their left brain.
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  3. #3
    Plays in Winger cover band Born To Be Mild!
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I always identified better with songs that weren't necessarily happy, but honest. Not sad, just as if there was some kind of honest struggle I guess. The key and tempo can drastically alter the overall mood in a song, for me anyways.
  4. #4
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song


    An aspect of that is to improve my ability to help an artist/band develop a song in a producer-like role. Not aiming to become a songwriter necessary, it’s more about being of some value when a songwriter is developing/polishing their song say during pre-production or if something comes unwound at recording time. Not to oversimplify or take away the artistic factors in music, but troubleshooting is troubleshooting is troubleshooting ...
    No, it isn't. You can be an expert at, say, troubleshooting motor controls and be useless as a producer.

    having a method to check your typical trouble areas, then applying some problem solving skills to it. In my case, I’m short on understanding the typical trouble areas. Defining those areas anyway

    I recognize when I like or dislike something about a song, but I don't always recognize why. Developing a methodology of what things to listen for seems to make sense to me.
    You are looking for a shortcut where none exists. Instant experience (or instant expertise) is an oxymoron.

    You read Zen and the Art of Producing ?

    Read it again. Then listen to music you like/ love with the ear of a producer and learn what others have done and how it is effective.

    I know you're busy and you want to be an expert in 10 minutes. We all do

    I'm sure you're a great interrogator but being a producer is somewhat different and you're probably going to have to practice at it like the rest of us

    Do you think a record producer could waltz into your place of work, get a couple of pointers and do your job? Do you think being an effective record producer is vastly easier than your day job?
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

    IMTBO = In My Thoroughly Biased Opinion
    CMIIW = Correct Me If I'm Wrong
    Never underestimate the amount of contempt a failed musician has for those of us who are still trying.
    If the party's good enough, you can actually suck to a remarkable degree.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I have a couple thoughts. I don't think there is such a thing as being a self-taught producer. Virtually all of the successful ones I'm aware of have worked under an experienced producer prior to their own first successful productions. A producer's job is to draw a better performance out of everyone ​than they believed themselves capable of. This is being a coach or a theatrical director. It is not being a musician or a recording engineer.
    Bob's room 615 562-4346
    Georgetown Masters 615 254-3233
    Interview
    Artists are the gatekeepers of truth!- Paul Robeson
  6. #6
    Plays in Winger cover band Born To Be Mild!
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I know of only one friend of mine that has gone on to be a successful self taught producer (Juno awards under his belt/Canadian Grammy basically). It would help a shitload to work under somebody with credits, but the way things are now, good luck. I think (and this is just me) if you have a great ear for song structure and production, the only thing holding you back is your imagination...and probably a day job....and musicians day jobs.......and rent/mortgage. But other than that, its on you.
  7. #7
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    A lot of it is actually arranging.
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

    IMTBO = In My Thoroughly Biased Opinion
    CMIIW = Correct Me If I'm Wrong
    Never underestimate the amount of contempt a failed musician has for those of us who are still trying.
    If the party's good enough, you can actually suck to a remarkable degree.

    Greedle
  8. #8
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I...I don't think there is such a thing as being a self-taught producer. Virtually all of the successful ones I'm aware of have worked under an experienced producer prior to their own first successful productions.
    I tend to agree, sad to say as that is given today's realities.

    At the very least, I think you need to SEE a good producer in action through the process, to get a sense of what is really going on.
  9. #9
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I have a couple thoughts. I don't think there is such a thing as being a self-taught producer. Virtually all of the successful ones I'm aware of have worked under an experienced producer prior to their own first successful productions. A producer's job is to draw a better performance out of everyone than they believed themselves capable of. This is being a coach or a theatrical director. It is not being a musician or a recording engineer.
    I tend to agree, sad to say as that is given today's realities.

    At the very least, I think you need to SEE a good producer in action through the process, to get a sense of what is really going on.
    This makes me wonder how the past greats learned their craft. It's not that I disagree, and it is possible that from many people trying to take the role of producer in the old days only a few succeeded, but with the whole music production business being relatively new there should have been "firsts" not that long ago.
    Maybe they came from the background of "theatrical direction" or something else? I think learning this history may help people aspiring to become producers today.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  10. #10
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    This makes me wonder how the past greats learned their craft. It's not that I disagree, and it is possible that from many people trying to take the role of producer in the old days only a few succeeded, but with the whole music production business being relatively new there should have been "firsts" not that long ago.
    Maybe they came from the background of "theatrical direction" or something else? I think learning this history may help people aspiring to become producers today.
    Saw this: http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.co.uk/...#axzz4ga6vVDrF

    According to Owinski, early producers were salaried label guys who had composition and arrangement skills. If they had a background in live music then they'd have the skill set of a musical director also.
  11. #11
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    No, it isn't. You can be an expert at, say, troubleshooting motor controls and be useless as a producer.
    I hear what you're saying, but I'm going to disagree for now..at least in how I see my skill set. I get having skill in one thing doesn't infer skill in another. I do think having a skill set in understand people, motivating them, coordinating them and accomplishing tasks with them is one that does transfer here. But I'm naive for sure. I'm open to the idea of falling on my face.

    You are looking for a shortcut where none exists. Instant experience (or instant expertise) is an oxymoron.

    You read Zen and the Art of Producing ?

    Read it again. Then listen to music you like/ love with the ear of a producer and learn what others have done and how it is effective.

    I know you're busy and you want to be an expert in 10 minutes. We all do

    I'm sure you're a great interrogator but being a producer is somewhat different and you're probably going to have to practice at it like the rest of us
    I don't know if you missed or I understated it in the last bit of my post. But this is exactly what I was trying to say I'm not looking for. I'll give it a second go...
    When someone is teaching someone else how to do a task, there's typically a plan, right? A curriculum. Learn the alphabet, learn to spell CAT, learn to use CAT in a sentence. I'm not asking how to write a best selling novel, I'm asking for methods to learn the alphabet and for spelling CAT.

    Do you think a record producer could waltz into your place of work, get a couple of pointers and do your job? Do you think being an effective record producer is vastly easier than your day job?
    1. Yes... with time and guidance for sure. I do this every time I bring on a new employee. (assuming the person has the same capacity's I do ... low bar for sure) I'm far from irreplaceable. In fact the day I become irreplaceable I'm stuck in the same job the rest of my life with no opportunity to move on to other things.
    2. I hope I'm not implying the job is trivial. But I also hope you're not implying the job is unattainable. That a person cannot be show how to do it, apply effort and achieve some level of success. And remember, I'm not shooting to reach or upstage your level of success here, nobby. I'm shooting to make local Joe Schmo's first/second/third attempt at putting something on a CD for his next leg of his 3 city tour, a little better. My Grammy tux is safe to stay in the closest for now.

    -r
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I have a couple thoughts. I don't think there is such a thing as being a self-taught producer. Virtually all of the successful ones I'm aware of have worked under an experienced producer prior to their own first successful productions. A producer's job is to draw a better performance out of everyone ​than they believed themselves capable of. This is being a coach or a theatrical director. It is not being a musician or a recording engineer.
    I tend to agree, sad to say as that is given today's realities.

    At the very least, I think you need to SEE a good producer in action through the process, to get a sense of what is really going on.
    I here what you are saying and agree. Without rehashing the wonders of my youth, suffice it to say I'm in a place where I have to think in more of a home-school or online college course scenario. :/

    I'm on board with looking for and taking advantage of opportunities to be mentored, but realistically they're going to scarce. I 100% understand that and what it means in terms of my particular potential ... never the less, I'd still like to try and make what improvements I can.

    If there are things you think I could do from afar, or maybe situations where you think someone worth learning from would benefit from a "part time" underling, I'd be interested in hearing that for sure.

    Honestly, I think not being able to commit to a mentor in the traditional sense will be a deal breaker for most. I don't think there's a lot of upside for the mentor. Throw on top of that I'm starting well behind where a younger person coming out of a music program is and I'm likely more trouble than it's worth

    Setting expectations again, I've got a tough row to hoe. I understand that. Is it frustrating? Certainly. Is my potential capped, most likely to absolutely. But so far the satisfactions I've taken from it the past couple years have move me through those frustrations, so I'm inclined to keep moving forward. How best to do that is what I'm trying to build a plan for.

    As always, appreciate input.

    -r
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I...in the closest for now.

    -r
    Anyone would have to be crazy to think that social skills like that don't carry over. Of course they would help... possibly might get in the way momentarily while you adjust to a different working environment, but getting what you want out of teams is... getting what you want out of teams.
  14. #14
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    Saw this: http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.co.uk/...#axzz4ga6vVDrF

    According to Owinski, early producers were salaried label guys who had composition and arrangement skills. If they had a background in live music then they'd have the skill set of a musical director also.
    I heard many times that recording engineers were mostly "in house" back then. Makes sense that producers were too.
    And it also makes sense to take some composition/arrangement courses if being an assistant to a "real" producer is out of reach.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  15. #15
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    Taking formal classes would be great and is on the road map.

    We've got a cool arrangement with the university here, due to the government (my employer) donating the land our buildings are on to the school. In return employees get some 6 or 8 hours a semester free. I was immediately interested in doing some courses ... but CSU's music program isn't built for ad hoc attendance. I've reached out to try and learn more about what is available to me. This could be a big step for me.

    The community college has some more ad hoc style courses but they are mostly during the day. I know some of the people that teach there and when I mentioned the conflict they said they too were pushing the school to offer some things more accessible to non-traditional students. (You'd think that'd be a given for a community college)

    Hopefully seat time in a classroom will be an option soon.

    -r
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I hear what you're saying, but I'm going to disagree for now..at least in how I see my skill set. I get having skill in one thing doesn't infer skill in another. I do think having a skill set in understand people, motivating them, coordinating them and accomplishing tasks with them is one that does transfer here. But I'm naive for sure. I'm open to the idea of falling on my face.
    Of course people skills are transferrable. That's probably a third of the game right there.
    I don't know if you missed or I understated it in the last bit of my post. But this is exactly what I was trying to say I'm not looking for. I'll give it a second go...
    When someone is teaching someone else how to do a task, there's typically a plan, right?
    You've lost me already

    I thought you were talking about producing, since that's what it seems like you were describing:

    Post #1

    An aspect of that is to improve my ability to help an artist/band develop a song in a producer-like role. Not aiming to become a songwriter necessary, it’s more about being of some value when a songwriter is developing/polishing their song say during pre-production or if something comes unwound at recording time.
    You aren't teaching someone how to do a task, you are coaching them at how to do it better.

    A curriculum. Learn the alphabet, learn to spell CAT, learn to use CAT in a sentence.
    You just did! Twice in one sentence, I might add. Time to move on

    1. Yes... with time and guidance for sure. I do this every time I bring on a new employee. (assuming the person has the same capacity's I do ... low bar for sure) I'm far from irreplaceable. In fact the day I become irreplaceable I'm stuck in the same job the rest of my life with no opportunity to move on to other things.
    Generally, the day you become replaceable is the day you become unemployed. You may substitute "I'm outsourced to India" or "I'm replaced by AI" for "I'm stuck in the same job the rest of my life".
    2. I hope I'm not implying the job is trivial.
    Well...

    Not to oversimplify or take away the artistic factors in music, but troubleshooting is troubleshooting is troubleshooting ... having a method to check your typical trouble areas, then applying some problem solving skills to it.
    If that isn't oversimplifying or taking away the artistic factors in music, I don't know what is.
    But I also hope you're not implying the job is unattainable.
    Wouldn't think of it.
    That a person cannot be show how to do it, apply effort and achieve some level of success. And remember, I'm not shooting to reach or upstage your level of success here, nobby.
    My level of success?

    I'm shooting to make local Joe Schmo's first/second/third attempt at putting something on a CD for his next leg of his 3 city tour, a little better. My Grammy tux is safe to stay in the closest for now.
    You know the nuts and bolts of recording and mixing, a big plus

    You have good to excellent people skills, another big plus -- you're 2/3 of the way there

    In my case, I’m short on understanding the typical trouble areas. Defining those areas anyway.
    I recognize when I like or dislike something about a song, but I don't always recognize why. Developing a methodology of what things to listen for seems to make sense to me. I know running through a checklist seems mechanical at first, but over time would become more natural and I feel like I’d start doing it without thinking about it. That’s what’s worked when learning new things in the past anyway.
    Read Mixerman's Zen and the Art of Producing

    Chapter Two
    The Mechanics
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

    IMTBO = In My Thoroughly Biased Opinion
    CMIIW = Correct Me If I'm Wrong
    Never underestimate the amount of contempt a failed musician has for those of us who are still trying.
    If the party's good enough, you can actually suck to a remarkable degree.

    Greedle
  17. #17
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    A producer's job is to draw a better performance out of everyone ​than they believed themselves capable of.
    I totally agree with this. I also believe that a big part of the producer's job is to let the artist know when this happens. An artist left to his/her own devices will often second-guess themselves, working blindly past the point of greatness and into the realm of endless retakes, useless ornament and self-doubt. Alternatively, stop before they've attained greatness in the performances. The producer's job is, in part, letting people know when they have a record.


    otek
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: 101 Question - Listening to a song

    I have a couple thoughts. I don't think there is such a thing as being a self-taught producer. Virtually all of the successful ones I'm aware of have worked under an experienced producer prior to their own first successful productions. A producer's job is to draw a better performance out of everyone ​than they believed themselves capable of. This is being a coach or a theatrical director. It is not being a musician or a recording engineer.
    I wouldn't consider myself a 'successful producer' by any means, but one of the things that helped me as a performer early on was being taught to internalize my mistakes and weaknesses and work them into strengths.

    I was told very early on, point blank, that if I couldn't do this, that my own attitude would send me home and I could either become bitter or learn from it and thrive. If my left hand wasn't tight enough, it was MY job to go home and work on that left hand until it was good enough to put on the recording. If I couldn't, then it'd be changed or taken out entirely. It had nothing to do with the studio, really. Being in the studio didn't magically make me a better player. There was no 'trick'. It was a hard lesson to learn and an even harder lesson to teach. You have to realize you're cooking the meal, not eating it. Well, hopefully you get to eat some of it later... the studio is the kitchen, not the dining room, etc.

    I do think you have to experience it first hand. There's too much wiggle room for assumptions if you don't have that. Unfortunately everyone thinks every recording session is like the Beatles. They don't realize how fucking good the Beatles already were!
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