The Glass Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft The Hits
In the book, “behind the glass Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits” by music author and record producer Howard Massey, interviews thirty seven of the world’s renowned producers on their secrets of producing masterpieces. Howard Massey tries to look at the music industry in general from the time the industry was huge and mighty to recent times when the same industry has been controlled by technology. Online distribution is one aspect the music industry undertook in order to save buyers and the producer’s time in terms of purchasing music albums but the widespread piracy has taken over the music industry especially the online marketing campaign.
Massey explains why the worldwide piracy has resulted in the economic budgets incurred during the recording of an album and as a result, resulting in the closure of numerous commercial recording studios thus many musicians opting to record their music at the confines of their bedrooms or even the garage converted into a studio. This has really resulted in poor quality of music produced thus a huge decline in the quality of songs recorded in recent times. The author explains why the emergence of modern technology has influenced digital recording. The computer based Pro Tools system is one way the universe has accepted music.
Sound engineers and music producers in the past were accustomed to the use of the small and substandard tapes for recording purposes recent time music producers and engineers have advanced instruments that they use while recording. In the interviews, some producers believe in the analog recording with the belief that recording using such tapes gives a superior quality even though the cost implication are really high. The analog tapes according to most producers interviewed in the book claim that the finances and the unpredictability of such devices with respect to quality control make it a bit hard to use such devices but they give the best quality of music an artist cannot hesitate to use.
According to one of the interviews conducted by Massey, one producer goes to an extra mile by using the fiber optic cabling as a means of listening and recording music miles away from the recording company. Some of the producers and engineers interviewed are the likes of Larry Levine, Daniel Lanois, T-Bone Burnett, George Martin, Phil Ramone, Billy Joel, Hugh Padgham, Brian Wilson, Arif Mardin, Alan Parsons, Mark Ronson, and Tony Brown among others. The various producers are asked similar questions making it easy for readers distinguish their answers.
Larry was born in New York but raised in Los Angeles. He believes that creativity is the key to being the best engineer. He also says that tech only takes 15%. He equates operating machine to pushing buttons all one has to learn is the signal flow. Larry believes talent is essential though most times those lacking the gift make it bigger than those with the talent. He did not have a music background when he started his career but he was a huge music fan. His magic ingredient is sound. He says the sound is better in a room full of people as opposed to an empty studio. Good communication is also the fundamental key to a good working relationship. An engineer must have the ability to bend people towards their will according to him, an engineer should have the ability to make artists feel like their mentor’s options were best and that they support them. In addition, he insists honesty must be maintained. Larry believes that it is possible to work with producers whom you differ in personality as long as minds meet and deal with each other according to their levels. Know what you want, listen to others and willingness to accept competition, concentrate and work under minimum supervision. One should understand instrument layout by listening several times.
He loves to be part of bands especially during the first change. Gain knowledge on the music then coach the less informed players. Understand the songs and do homework so you can have good communication and legitimate answers when questions arise. Consider all peoples ideas, make up charts to speed up the process so there can be ample time for suggestions and repairs. He agrees with everything said to have avoided excess options that overrule the subject matter. Focus in curiosity and fun cooperate with an artist. Chase ideas to people’s satisfaction to avoid people from getting frustrated. Always try.
He respects the position of sounds, instruments and their microphones and the technology that makes it efficient. He prefers natural ways of catching a moment using the camera because sometimes they delay in taking pictures. He believes in letting artists decide on what they want. He finds small numbers more appropriate because one doesn’t have to repeat the instruction. His momentum is based on the thrill of idea. The source of an idea is not paramount to how you execute the idea. He generates more ideas from one idea. He works with people in a room because it generates Power.
T-Bone commences his interview by explaining his teenage years in Texas and how he kick started his career as a trainer. The project did not work pushing him to open a small studio where he recorded local bands. After moving to Los Angeles, he joined Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour as a guitarist. He then started a band by name ALPHA for a while then launched his solo carrier where his demands as a producer of songs rose. He produced for Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Counting Crows, Gillian Welch and the Wallflowers. He also produced soundtracks for The Big Lebowski, Cold Mountain and the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. He is humble and soft spoken. He never stops listening. He believes in editors to guide and create a rhyme. He believes being the best requires a lot of work because people are looking upon you unlike the bad guy who is always learning. He assumes everything is a drum. It creates meaning as long as the right place is hit. He also explains his liking of the bass quitter because its boom is less specific. It is easy to add a third bass and blend with the electric bass. Film light shouldn’t be too obvious because it disrupts the person from following the storyline. For singers, do not attract attention to their singing
Hugh Padgham associates digital with harshness. He limits himself to 48 tracks because he finds it difficult to exceed these limits with analogue console. When asked how he realizes a recording is complete for mixing, he simply states instinct is the guiding factor. He uses the technique of less is more even though in most times less requires more effort.
He believes a song is embarrassing when it is put on record and is out of tune. In case of a guitarist, embarrassment arises when they place too much emphasis on the chord shape or string bend they forget to attach emotions. He discloses he never knows how to tell an artist their piece of work is not to the standards. He rather leaves them realize on their own arguing that his role is to make a piece for them and the record is the artists not his. He confesses to go behind the performing artist’s back and change parts he thought were embarrassing.
Phil Ramone is an American producer and sound engineer born in South Africa. Ramone explains how his musical career began until the point of being a highly renowned music producer. His role in the music industry is simply amazing such that he is one of the few producers who pioneered technological developments in the music industry, including the compact disk, and the high definition recording and surround system.
Over the years, Ramone has enabled the music world to be more advanced through his inventions. The digital world of music can be mixed with the analog to come up with quality sound tracks and all is done within the shortest time available. Fiber optics system is one method he incorporates while recording his tracks from anywhere around the region. Ramone claims that analogue tapes offer a high end transient and compression as compared to the modern digital tapes. He incorporates the analogue tapes while recording because one gets a high possibility of getting things done using such methods.
As a producer, Ramone incorporates the artist’s tastes and preferences then collaborate with the musician to come up with the required sound track. He has gone an extra mile to encompass orchestra in his sound engineering. While recording for Elton John, he incorporated two Sony 3348 digital 48-tracks and a Euphonix R1 desk together with an orchestral choir in its large number of performers plus an extra additional music band. This in actual sense is hard and not easy to manage but Ramone out of sheer prowess and experience managed to pull it through.
The second time Ramone incorporated orchestra to his successful work of art is during the Radio City Music Concert where he in partnership with Frank Filipetti surprised many and recorded another Elton John album using the 114 Audio- Technica microphones, which includes around sixty ATM35, twenty one AE5100 and the twenty AT4050. These instruments were mainly to back up the orchestral players but the instruments used to back up the vocalists included thirteen AE5400.
Mark Ronson is a music producer, musician and a disc jockey. He was born in the United Kingdom in 1975. At a tender age, Ronson had a high affinity for music because the father was a part time band manager and out of his passion for pop music in the late twenty first century when they moved to America from Britain.
Being a learner in the music industry, he acquired fame in the discotheques he performed. He learnt a lot of the diverse American pop culture and genre selection, which includes hip hop, funk and the European rock music. Ronson incorporated these sub genres in his musical sets thereby drawing a large number of musical fans. He became one of the few respected disc jockeys in America. His marriage of these genres that blend sensitively with the recent sounds and the artist’s preferences made him work with several artists including Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilera.
He is an instrumentalist who uses more than one musical instrument. He is very proficient with guitars with the electric guitar being one such instrument he has worked with and drums in his set piece. The musicians he has worked with include Mary J. Blidge and Robbie Williams. Ronson is a major fan of doing thing backwards in terms of music. He believes in the classic producer- arranger scenario. He looks for a musical version he has never heard before for example mixing two different musical genres together to encompass something unique and in a totally different approach.
Most of the sound engineering in his musical career is done by himself apart from the musical recording he did for Amy Winehouse. In his project with Amy, he incorporated a band and every plug-in trick available in the music world so as to make it sound old school. Mark Ronson is truly an icon to emulate in the musical industry apart from being a sound engineer with weird ideas, he has managed to advocate the musical integrity and produce a worthwhile musical performance for his clients.
Arif Mardin is one of the most important music producers during this era of the 20th century. His work is highly appreciated all over the world due to its high quality and taste. He was born in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated from Istanbul University and studied at the London school of economics. He portrays an element of uniqueness due to his ability of being versatile in terms of style. Over the past 36 years he has worked with different renowned music producers all over the word. Initially, Arif never wanted to become a musician but this was short-lived in 1967 when he met with jazz great Dizzie Gillespie who proved to strike his career fate and changed his perception about the music industry. Within two years, Arif managed to get a scholarship to join the Berklee college of Music in Boston and upon graduation taught for a couple of years. His rise to becoming a renowned music producer commenced when he joined the Atlantic Records as Nesuhi Ertegun’s assistant and in later years rose to fame by becoming the studio manager and later the higher-ranking studio Vice President.
While at Atlantic studios, Mardin undertook lessons regarding sound engineering and being a music producer. Among the famous producers who taught him the art of sound engineering include Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd among others. Arif’s main ambition at first was to become a big shot in being a band arranger but this was not to be because of his role in co-producing with Dowd for the Rascals in 1965. He showed great success and diverseness for producing music including Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel for You’ and Bette Midler’s ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’.
Apart from the Atlantic record company, he continues to enjoy the wide assortment of being an independent music producer for outside musicians. His sound engineering incorporates a mixture of classic pop and recordings of jazz music. His greatest achievement happens to be the collaboration done together with Aretha Franklin. He has recorded quality music for Barbra Streisand among other famous musicians.
Arif’s first project made him acquire several achievements. He won a Grammy by producing the greatest first time hit song for Norah Jones, a first time, a talented singer and songwriter who also played the piano. He made his second recording a major hit because of the impact he wanted to leave behind in the musical industry. He incorporated a mixture of jazz music and classical pop to ensure his recording was a success and sold millions of copies. His major dream was to work with renowned artists with creative minds and brilliance to convey the instantly recognizable presence in the industry.
Before his demise, Arif Mardin was an individual whose love for music went beyond people’s expectations his work of art is worth listening to and this made him acquire more than sixty platinum awards with numerous Grammy awards under his name. His name falls in the Recording Academy’s Hall of fame.
Tony brown is arguably the best country music producer and innovator of his time. He was born in 1946 in North Carolina and his musical influence emerged as a result of the family’s association with gospel music where he played a role in playing the piano for the parent’s gospel group. During his lifetime, he has been an active band member for several musical groups. He was a pianist for Elvis Presley and was one of the founding members of the Southern Gospel group. His work with Presley was simply astounding but he later ventured into part time music performance and later becoming a music producer.
Brown made a huge contribution towards the country music. His tastes for country radio were not a success therefore making him work hard towards the country music production. His revamped mix of country music came about because of the assistance given in differentiating jazz music, folk music and rock music and how best to incorporate the sub genres. His big success came when he produced ‘Diamonds and Dirt’, a song by Rodney Crowell during the late twentieth century. The successive years saw Tony Brown attain several awards for his musical contributions.
Tony Brown is a confident musician and sound engineer. When he ventures into the studio, his confidence and the instincts he has towards the musicians enabled him achieve the desirable results. He has the ability to leave a lasting impression to his artists. He has that soft touch, which he adds to his ability thus offering a wide success to the success of him and his musicians. His reputation as a producer who respects and appreciates his artists has earned him a good name in the musical industry especially the country music arena. To many, he acts as both a cautious and imaginative force to reckon with, who is a good sound moderator in creating music that is pleasant to the ears.
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