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Song Production – Picking the right instruments that will accompany the vocals

You have heard music on the radio right? So this would seem an easy thing to resolve but it sometimes isn’t. What have we done so far and explained in our previous blogs?:

– You have found musical direction for yourself as an artist,
– You sat down and wrote, co wrote or found a pool of songs to choose from
– You handpicked a potential hit song or songs from your “pool” of songs
– You have chosen a tempo (slow pace, fast pace) for the song you are going to produce and
– You have laid down a demo version of the song with an instrument and your voice

You are ready to move on to the next step: One of My producers and mentor, for several years Iker Gastaminza, would always tell me “the voice is King”, vocals are what are delivering the message in most songs, and don’t get me wrong, a guitar solo is also a voice, that is why instruments are referred to as voices many times in music, but what you do want is the voice to be clear and delivering the music clearly throughout the song and to accomplish this, it is important to select the type of sounds of the instruments that are going to push that voice forward.

A basic song has Drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, background vocals and main vocals so there it is problem solved… Wrong. There are millions of drum sounds, there are acoustic guitars, electric guitars, vintage guitars, just to know what is going to play a role in your song doesn’t mean you have everything ready, you have to know what you are going to put into it, like the ingredients in a good dish cooked by a good chef.

If I dive into each instrument I could write a whole book on how the different sounds of different instruments can affect the outcome of how a song will be perceived and enjoyed, lets set an example with the drums: which in many cases comes first:

Lets say you are looking to produce an Alicia Keys type artist and your song is a dance song but you want a more organic, natural sound to it, so that would imply you may want an electronic Kick Drum that will give it the dance upbeat, a snare drum that sounds big with probably a clap to give it the dance style, hi hats would need to sound dance and electronic but since you want a more organic sound you may want to use real cymbals while playing a dance rhythm

In guitars maybe you want an acoustic guitar filling or just electric guitar, and if so, what type of electric guitar sound, you may want the Gibson AC/DC sound or the , Telecaster sound, in the guitars you may want nylon strings in the acustic fills but maybe metal strings for the fills, etc.

On Keyboards you may want a natural grand piano, pads strings… etc

Now don’t get scared, all these things will be performed by the musician you choose to record the song for each instrument, but as a producer you do need to have clear picture of all the sounds you want supporting your vocals in your song and if you have at least a demo of how this would sound like by doing it in garage band or logic, the musician that records for you will be able to know quickly what you are looking for.

In my productions I select the instruments and use simple tracks to lay down an Idea of what I want, I also select songs that have the sound of a particular instrument that I am looking for and I have both things ready so when I meet up in the recording session with the musician that is going to record, I can tell them and deliver what I want to accomplish in the sound of a song quickly, saving time and money for you and the recording musicians.

Believe me there is nothing that musicians like less than someone who is coming to the studio to record and figure things out, that will happen to a certain degree when you are there, but when you are making music professionally time is money and you want to have all the elements of each instrument as clear as possible.-

Please leave me your comments and questions and I will be glad to answer as soon as possible.

All the best!

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