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The 3 Key Elements of Music Production: Songs, Sounds & People

music production
Electronic music producer mixing a beat on an SSL mixing console

Today’s music industry is all about creativity and technical ability. Music producers and artists want to bring something new to the table and create something people will adore. With so many listeners today, even niche artists can attract a dedicated following online.

Producing great music isn't a mystery anymore. You need to understand how to arrange a great song, how to get great sounds, and collab with some great songwriters, musicians and audio engineers. Let’s take a closer look at the songs, sounds, and people and discover why they are the key to producing great music…

  

 

Songs 

A song is a musical composition that is typically written in verse form and usually features a lyrical story. It can be composed and sung as a solo work or performed by a singer accompanied by musical instruments. 

3 Song Elements: Rhythm, Melody and Lyrics

A song needs a strong rhythm, a good melody and well-written lyrics. These three song elements will determine whether your song is catchy or not, as well as whether it can stand out from the rest of the pack.

Rhythm: A song's rhythm is the beat or pulse of the music. Its speed is measured in beats-per-minute (bpm) or tempo. The rhythm is made up of beat divisions, which are the individual units of time that make up a bar. The more subdivisions there are, the more complex and varied the rhythm will be.

Melody: The melody is the sequence of notes that tells a story. It is usually the most memorable part of a song. A melody is what distinguishes one song from another. It's what makes you remember a song, even after hearing it just once. The melody is also responsible for conveying the mood of the song and establishing its key (or tonality) and chord progression.

Lyrics: Song lyrics are a form of poetry that tell a story. Lyrics can be memorable, catchy, and emotional. They are meant to be sung or spoken, not read. We can think of song lyrics as mini stories with characters that tell their own narratives. These narratives might be about love and heartbreak or about the struggles of life. Song lyrics often have a catchy hook phrase that will stick in your head for hours after hearing them for the first time.

 

 

4 Song Sections: Intro, Verse, Chorus & Bridge 

Songs are usually divided into song sections such as an introduction, verse, chorus, and bridge. There are also other optional sections like pre-chorus, outro and breakdown.

Intro: The song intro sets the mood for the rest of the song by giving listeners an idea of what to expect. Intros are usually short and they serve to build up suspense before listeners are taken into the main body of the song. The average pop song intro usually lasts between 7 and 15 seconds before leading into the verse. 

Verse: A song verse is a part of the song that tells a story. There are usually two or three verses in the average song. The lyrics are typically more focused on one subject and the melody is often more simple than in the chorus.

Chorus: The chorus is the part of the song that repeats and usually has a hook. The chorus is usually the most memorable part of a song and is often repeated in different ways to create an emotional response from listeners.

Bridge: The bridge of a song is a one-time change in an otherwise ordinary song structure that provides a shift in the mood or tone. It’s a change of pace, often used to provide contrast with the verse and chorus. 

 

 

Sounds

Sound is an important element of music production because it can shape the mood of a song and give it a unique identity. The sound of a song is determined by the instrumentation, the parts the instruments play, and the sound design and effects processing. 

3 Instrument Types: Live, Electronic and Virtual

There are three types of sounds that musicians can use in their songs: live, electronic and virtual instruments.

Live Instruments: 

When it comes to live instruments, there are a wide variety of instruments that can be played by musicians. Most live instruments fit within the categories of drums, strings, wind, and brass. 

Drums: The drums are percussion instrument that is played by hitting the skin with drumsticks or hands. The sound produced varies depending on the size of the drum and how tight the skin is stretched across it.

Strings: The strings are made up of many strands of metal wire that vibrate when plucked or strummed with a guitar pick, struck with a piano hammer, or another object in order to create sound.

Wind: Wind instruments produce sound when they vibrate at their natural frequency which causes air to flow through them and produce vibrations in the air around them.

Brass: Brass instruments come in many shapes like trumpets, trombones, French horns and tubas which all create different sounds because each one has its own tube length and shape as well as mouthpiece size.

 

 

Electronic Instruments: 

Synthesizers: Synthesizers are electronic instruments that emulate the sound of other instruments. They can be used to create new sounds, but they have been mostly used in music production to add depth and texture to songs by emulating traditional instrument sounds such as strings, horns, and drums.

Samplers: Samplers can play back and manipulate audio recordings. They can be used to create beats, melodies, or other musical parts. Samples are typically used in Hip Hop and Electronic music production.

Drum Machines: A drum machine contains single one-shot sample recording sof each drum in a drum kit (Kick, Snare, Hit-Hat, etc) The drums can be programmed with the step sequencer which allows for control over the rhythm and tempo of the beat being played by the machine.

Virtual Instruments: 

Software Synthesizers: Soft synths can emulate the sounds of various types of electronic synthesizers, including analog, wavetable and FM. 

Software Samplers: A software sample is a digital version of a sampler used for the playback and manipulation of samples and recordings.

Sampled Instruments: A collection of all possible notes that an instrument can produce including a selection of dynamic velocities for a realistic replica of a specific live instrument.

 

 

Musical Parts

A musical part is the rhythm melody or harmony that is played by one musician in each section of a song. This includes vocal parts and rapping. The part usually changes for each section of the song like the verse, chorus or bridge. Musicians sometimes have many different parts to play during one song and they have to be able to perform them all. This can be a challenge, especially if the song is fast-paced or has a lot of different sections.

The parts need to flow effortlessly from the beginning of the song until the end and fit together with the other parts. The musician playing the part is responsible for understanding basic music theory and carrying the melody or harmony for their section. In a band setting, each musician typically has their own unique part to play.

Sound Design

The sound design process is used to give the music its unique soundscape. This process can involve a variety of techniques, such as manipulating the sonic characteristics of the recorded audio, or adding new sounds altogether. The goal is to create a sound that is pleasing to the ear and enhances the emotional impact of the music.

Using sound design, you can achieve many different effects with your instruments. For example, by layering the sounds of a filtered and reversed voice or bird chirping in the background of a track, you can give it a unique aesthetic that makes it stand out from similar songs on the radio or in your library.

 

 

People 

People are the most important element in music production. They need to be knowledgeable, skilled and have a passion for music. A song is first conceived by an artist or songwriter. Then there’s the singer, the musicians and the audio engineers who help bring out their vision. It pays off to have a strong team that knows how to cooperate with one another for a smooth workflow and a good product overall.

4 groups of people necessary for the production of a song are songwriters, musicians, vocalists, and audio engineers.

Songwriters: A songwriter is a person who writes lyrics or music for songs, typically for a popular music genre such as rock or country. Songwriters create the essence of the rhythm, melody and lyrics for a song. They write lyrics, compose melodies and create sounds but to bring these ideas to life more people are needed.

Musicians: Musicians are the people who plays musical parts on instruments that make up the musical composition of a song. These can be electronic musicians or traditional musicians that play live instruments.

Vocalists: Singers and rappers are the voice of the song and tell the story with their lyrics. The most memorable melodies and hooks are often created with a voice.

Audio Engineers: Recording engineers are responsible for the quality of sound in recordings. Mix engineers are responsible for the balance of the instruments and vocals in the mix. Mastering engineers create the final sound that listeners hear. Audio engineers understand how to use DAW software like Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, or FL Studio.

 

 

Conclusion: To excel in today’s competitive music industry you need all three elements working in harmony: Sounds, People & Songs. The key to producing quality music lies in personalization, which means learning how to actively manage your skill set rather than mimic others’ work styles or rely heavily on automation software. 

 

FAQs

How Can I Produce Better Sounding Songs?

There are many different variables that affect the sound of a song, but the important things to learn are the fundamentals of music production. Spend time learning a DAW, music theory, sound theory, songwriting or beatmaking, the music production process, and procedures like recording, editing and mixing. One thing that musicians struggle with when trying to produce great-sounding tracks is over-complicating their tracks. Keep your recording chain and instrumentation simple and then practice balancing audio levels and making finer adjustments with EQ, dynamics and automation. 

 

 

How Can I Get Started in Music Production?

If you want to get started in music production, you need to focus on a few key areas. First of all, you need to have great taste in music. The second thing is that you need to have a decent understanding of musicianship. You should be able to play at least one of the instruments that are used in music production (piano, bass, drums, guitars, etc.). In addition, you should be able to play one of the different genres of music that are produced today (pop, rock, electronic, R&B). The third thing is that you need to have an efficient workflow. This means that you should be able to create high-quality recordings quickly and with minimal mistakes. You will need to choose a DAW that fits your genre and workflow and master it by using it often.

What is a DAW?

A Digital Audio Workstation or DAW is a software application that allows you to record, edit and mix the digital audio tracks that make up a song or beat. A DAW helps you make your music sound the way you want it to sound. What a DAW can do for you: -Record your audio using an audio interface -Edit and mix your audio using plugins and virtual instruments -Export high-resolution WAV or mp3 files for distribution and sale.

 

Futch - Music Production Coach, Ableton Certified Trainer

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