Production Tips: What’s The Best Way To Produce A Track?

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Production is a weird animal. There are lots of ways to do it, and no real “right” or “wrong” way to make the magic happen. So how do you know if you’re doing it the best way possible? I’ve been producing records for 10 years now, but still feel like I’m learning every day. Nonetheless, I wanted to begin to share some of the things I’ve learned and hopefully help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Figure Out The Song First

Everyone’s different, you’ll need to accept that. Some artists will come in with a killer song that you’ve got jack-squat to change and when that happens – consider yourself to be lucky. It won’t happen often, at least on the indie level. Unless you’re working with bands, most individual artists will have half-finished ideas that need to be completed. Do this first. Help them figure out when the song needs to do, what needs to change or be added or – send them home to do it first if you’re not a songwriter. Hell, don’t even schedule the session if you’re not a songwriter and adept enough at helping artists hone the song. It’s totally ok if you’re not – there are plenty of producers who don’t write but are wizards at ProTools, making sounds, beats, engineering, etc. But get the song nailed down first. Don’t even create a click track unless that song is done, and ready to be produced. You will find yourself in a world of uncomfortable situations and will potentially tick off a lot of clients if the song isn’t done. You will mess things up if the song is not done first. Finish the song first. Period.

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Session Player Spotlight: Daran DeShazo

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As a record producer, you are only as good as the musicians you surround yourself with. A great producer only keeps the best musicians he or she can find around to ensure you’ve always got magical performances to sift through. Being a record producer is not unlike being a coach – you may be making the calls, but the players are the ones actually making the plays.

I’m a guitar player, so I’m very picky (gah, pun not intended). And while I’m good enough to play plenty of styles and genres, I still realize my limitations, and I recognize that there are loads of players that are out there that can completely annihilate me on the fretboard, and I’m always happy to have them on the session. Besides, although I play guitar on many of my records (especially acoustic) it’s always better when you’re producing to be behind the glass rather than in the booth. You can’t really be objective as you need to be when you’re the one performing *and* producing. It’s akin to being both director and actor in your own film. You can go back and play the tape and see how you did – but it’s never the same as watching someone else do what they do best.

I first heard of Daran through my guitar teacher (Brad Barnes: great guy, phenomenal teacher) when I moved back to Dallas in 2000. Daran was a classmate of his at UNT, and Brad talked about him almost every lesson. He referenced his tone, his attitude, his technique: it went on and on. I heard so much about Daran that when I finally got the chance to meet him at a live show, I was nervous as hell. Like, sweaty palm nervous.
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Review: “Got To Have It” by Larry Gee

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Larry Gee is a Dallas-based soul and funk artist who puts on a tremendous live show and who has been carefully crafting new tunes for his new record. “Got To Have It” is his new single, produced by the also ever-talented Beau Bedford.

The song opens with a classic and hypnotic sounding bass and drum, groove. Nice, smooth, and addictive. I love his dry vocals up until 0:35 – that was a great call. The female background vocals by The Affections are by far the catchiest part of the song, and I love them. Throughout the song Larry’s high melodies give me a Prince vibe, and it’s very effective. He’s got a strong falsetto, and it sounds great in this song.
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Robot Arms Depot – also known RAWWWWK!!!

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Check it out! New music from one of my favorite Dallas bands, Robot Arms Depot!! R.A.D. is a duo – which is crazy given how much noise they make – but also very cool. Jack sings and plays guitar, and Zack beats the shit out of some drums. They do all of their music with intensely detailed backing tracks, so their sound is still very, very full. When I met up with them to talk about recording, they played me their set (in it’s *entirety*, since all the songs are carefully crafted to seamlessly go together) and I was blown away! SO. MUCH . ROCK. I do a lot of pop, dance, country, and singer/songwriter projects so it was a real treat to work with them on their music. We did three songs together, and it was a pleasure to work with them. We worked on recording the songs backwards (backing tracks first, then went into a big room studio to do the drums and guitars and it worked perfectly! Also, it made it easier for them to give their best performances, as they could perform like they do live, with all of the newly composed backing tracks ready to go for them. They both gave great energy, and did some fantastic work. I helped pick out the three songs we recorded, and loved the process of working with them. So go check out the songs NOW on my SoundCloud, and better yet – go support some great artists, and BUY their work!! It’s only $3 for music that you can enjoy a lifetime. So DO IT NOW! 🙂

– J

Josh Goode is a Dallas music producer specializing in pop, dance, country, and singer/songwriter projects. Music is his passion, and tex mex is his muse.

Drowning (Cover) by Sarah Sellers

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Everybody hurts. At least that’s what R.E.M. said, right?

Sarah Sellers is one of my favorite artists to work with. She’s highly passionate, immensely talented, and is a fiercely soulful vocalist and performer. So basically she’s your ideal artist to be in the studio with. She’s a total pro in front of the mic, and whether she is singing live or in the studio she always gives it everything she has, until there’s absolutely nothing left but blood and tears on the floor. She and I have played a ton of shows together, and we’ve produced a handful of YouTube videos together as well, some of which you can check out here on her channel. I consider myself very lucky to call her a friend and to work with her as much as I have in the past.

Sarah was going through an immensely rough time personally (you can read her blog about it here), and wanted to do a new YouTube cover. The song “Drowning” by Banks was her pick, and she told me about it a few weeks before we did the cover. If I haven’t heard it before, I typically don’t listen to songs before I do a cover arrangement as I always want to approach it with fresh ears, and give my best inspiration to the recording process. I knew it was a sad song, and that was about it.

She came in that day in fairly decent sprits (not necessarily with the weight of the world on her back) and I listened to the song. It’s pretty easy chord-wise, just a gentle flow back and forth between G, A, and Bm. So, I said “Let’s just get the vocal down, and then we can fill in the track from there.” I took a few minutes to play the chords on a Rhodes patch from Kontakt in Pro Tools, set up the mic and was ready to go.

She took a deep breath, and began to sing. Words cannot describe how magical this moment was, although I’m going to give it a try. Every word was dripping with emotion, and every phrase was perfect. Her entire mood changed for the song. She felt every single ounce of it, and after the first take – I had tears welling up in my eyes, and major goose bumps on both arms. We both did, really. She killed it. It was transcendent. It was one of my favorite moments I’ve ever had, musically. Amazing!! She even messed up a phrase in the second chorus, and we let it stay. Who cares? It was perfect.

I was so inspired I quickly began to produce the track around her stellar vocal, and I think I did the whole thing in about 2 hours, maybe less. I added some light doubled guitar in the second verse, and used Coldplay’s Midnight as a reference on the arrangement, trying very hard to NOT bring rhythm in until it was absolutely necessary. There’s a 4 on the floor bass drum pattern that happens for about 4 bars – and that’s it. All of the guitar tracks are first takes, both electric and acoustic – no edits. I swear this track wrote itself. We completed it all without overthinking, and I think it’s one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever done. I even mixed it – which I never do!

Anyways, give it a listen and enjoy Sarah’s gorgeous performance. This is how it should be: all the emotion happened in a brief moment. It was captured on tape, then left alone. There’s no tuning, little (if any) editing, and the arrangement that shines because of it, I think. Just music, brah. Pure, real music.

 – J

Josh Goode is a Dallas, TX based record producer specializing in pop, dance, country, and singer/songwriter projects. Music is his passion, and tex mex is his muse.