Music Industry Project Management – Process Groups

The Five Project Management Process Groups for the Music Industry
The Five Project Management Process Groups for the Music Industry

Looking to make sure your next recording project actually ends in a recording?

Want to make your next tour more successful?

Try using the concept of the Five Project Management Process Groups for your next endeavour!

The Five Process Groups are used in project management to help ensure that the project is consistent, to know when the project has met expectations, to help keep the budget in check, and makes sure you don’t spend forever on trying to finalize the details of the project.

The Five Process Groups are:

Initiating

Planning

Executing

Monitoring and Controlling

Closing

1. Initiating – make sure your project has a definite START date. This process includes the idea that you need to make sure you have everything in place, as much as possible, before you start your project.

Questions to answer:

WHY am I doing this project? To make money? To increase sales of my previous releases? To support my new release? To generate interest from a label? Identify who, what when, where, and why before you even start your project, and don’t leave these questions hanging – you may not like the answer you get after you’ve spent time and money on the project.

WHO needs to be involved with this project, and who is impacted by this project?You don’t have to identify each individual person explicitly, but know what kind of people you’ll need to complete this project before you start.

2. Planning – Start setting priorities for your project. What is absolutely necessary, and what can be left out, if needed?

What’s the end-goal of this project? Make concrete, your goals and plans for this project. Do you want a seven-song EP recorded at home, with mixing and mastering being done by other people? Do you want to spend three weeks out on a tour of the midwest, playing at least eighteen gigs in that time, and playing in front of at least 2,500 total people?

3. Executing – This is the actual work in your project. A lot of executing involves managing teams and people. No one is an island in the music industry, and you’re no different. This is where a lot of communication happens, accomplishing your project on time and under budget.

4. Monitoring and Controlling – This process happens throughout the other four processes. You monitor and control because nothing will ever go they you plan it. You planned on using a specific engineer to mix your album, but she’s busy with another project when you need her? Time to take control and change your plans. It takes you twice as long to record the first four songs than you planned? Time to take a look at what you want the outcomes of this project to be (called scope), and either look at adding more money and time to the project, or scaling back on what you want the end product to be.

Monitoring and controlling are continuous processes, controlling the risks you take, addressing on-going time and budget situations, and dealing with other changes to the plan while still making progress toward your goals.

5. Closing – Following through to the end of the project, making sure that all the bills are paid, reviewing the progress that was made with your team, and updating your records. Good project managers also make sure to include evaluations of the project’s performance, so that the NEXT project is even MORE successful.

Native Instruments’ Maschine 2.0 Says “No” to Pro Tools Previous Versions

Native Instruments announces new Maschine software. Find the PDF of the press release here:

If you notice in the release, there is no support for Maschine as an RTAS plug-in.

Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Maschine Studio Software

What does that mean? Anybody who’s using any version of Pro Tools prior to Version 10 is out of luck.

Will this have an impact on you as a music creator? If you have Pro Tools 9 or less, will you upgrade your Pro Tools rig to accommodate the new Native Instruments Maschine software?

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron
Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron

Recroding music in a tiny space has never been easier.

You know what beats out a great-sounding A/D converter? A great-sounding vocalist, musician, or song.

You know what’s beter than going into a bunch of debt buying a bunch of hardware and software for your recording? Buying the minimal amount of gear and learning how to stretch that gear ot the limits, using every single feature/knob/contol/button on the gear/software.

A small space != small creativity.

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Read more:  Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm? · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2013/09/13/thinking-about-setting-up-a-recording-studio-in-your-dorm/#ixzz2eoDHlJOD
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: A Production Analysis

Taylor Swift’s song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, written by Taylor Swift, Max Martin & Shellback, and produced by Scott Borchetta, Max Martin & Shellback, provides some interesting production ideas that aspiring (and current) producers can learn from.

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Single Cover

YouTube Official Music Video

One of the most interesting production ideas in the song is the use of changing dynamics to indicate different parts of the song. Of course songs should be dynamic, and good songs push and pull the dynamics to draw the listener in & create interest in the song.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” does this by changing the instrumentation and what the instrumentation is doing throughout the song.  There are no less than eighteen different parts to this song, broken down by instrumentation and dynamics.

  1. Intro – The tune starts with a single acoustic guitar, digitally warped with a few notes reversed & an interesting stereo knock on the guitar’s body to catch the listener’s attention.
  2. Verse 1 – Adds a kick drum. Still simplistic instrumentation to highlight the vocals that are telling the story.
  3. Verse 1, Part 2 – Halfway through the verse, some additional sound is added to the kick. No new instrumentation, but the kick simply has a different sound. Probably by adding another sound to what was originally triggered, or maybe a change in the EQ of the kick drum.
  4. Pre-Chorus – The part with the “Oooohs”. Add a bass playing straight 1/8th notes and hi-hat rhythm, that swells into
  5. Chorus 1 – Add background vocals, a huge snare, and additional guitar parts. The bass part changes from 1/8th notes to longer notes, with lots of space in between, basically the opposite of what you heard in the verse, which slightly swells to
  6. Chorus, Part 2 – Similar to the previous verse, the chorus gets added to in the second half, with additional melodic instrumentation.  This part of the chorus also includes a two-bar change in the rhythm of the song for “You go talk to your friends..”. Back to the original rhythm when you get to “But we are never…”. Probably my favorite part of the song.
  7. Turn Around – After the chorus, there’s a short turn-around of two measures that serves to take the song back to a lower dynamic level for verse 2.
  8. Verse 2 – Starts at the level the second half of verse one started, so it’s not just a repeat of verse 1, by adding the bass (again playing 1/8th notes). This verse is only half the length of the first, so we continue on the the
  9. Pre-Chorus 2 – The “Ooooh” part again, where there’s a hi-hat again, with some addition of delay on some of the vocal tracks, along with additional background vocals, which rises to
  10. Chorus 2 – Similar to chorus 1, but adds additional lead vocal ad libs, which swells (larger than last time) to the interesting
  11. Chorus 2, Part 2 – Two-bar rhythm change, plus some additional lead vocal ab libs. See Chorus 1, Part 2 above.
  12. Turn Around 2 – Actually the pre-chorus in dynamics and instrumentation, but there’s no downturn in  intensity until it swells to the
  13. Bridge – Takes out everything but the vocals, bass, and kick to start with. The acoustic guitar riff comes in with the high frequencies rolled off & phased/filtered, and gets louder/less equalized, and less phasey, until it gets to the
  14. Fall Off – Not really a “part” of a song, but the entire instrumentation falls off so it’s just the spoken “like, ever”. To put a fine point on the concept, which reverse cymbal rises into the climax
  15. Chorus 3 – All instrumentation, additional BGVs, lead vocal ad libs. The climax of the song
  16. Chorus 3/Outro – Adds more instrumentation, but nothing heavy-handed. Adds an almost club/dance snare track leading in tot his final chorus, along with a rhythmic keyboard part.
  17. Last line in Chorus – Climax is over, intensity decreases to just kick, vocals, BGVs, bass, and guitars, which ends the song with
  18. The Very Last Line – “Getting back together”, with no instrumentation.

“Titanium” – David Guetta featuring Sia: A Production Analysis, Part I

Titanium - David Guetta and Sia
Titanium – David Guetta and Sia

Produced by David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort, and Afrojack

“Titanium” is a song written by Sia Furler, David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort, and Nick Van De Wall. Sia Furler started her career as a jazz singer, but has gained more fame as a pop and dance vocalist, releasing five albums (not including a recent “best of” album). Giorgio Tuinfort has also had success working on previous songs such as “Nothing But the Beat” and “Who’s That Chick?” with David Guetta (and Rhianna for “Who’s That Chick?”), as well as singles with Akon and Usher. Nick Van De Wall (A.K.A. Afrojack) is a Dutch DJ that has worked with the likes of Shermanology, Steve Aoki, Quintino, and The Partysquad, as well as multiple singles with Guetta. Guetta himself is an accomplished DJ and music producer, whose 2011 album release Nothing But the Beat has received many honors and awards. Guetta may be best-known for his work with The Black Eyed Peas on their 2009 hit single “I Gotta Feeling”.

Official Video

Lessons to be learned from this production:

You Don’t Have To Use The Same Instrumentation Throughout the Song

Notice the very beginning of the song. There’s a guitar in the beginning. That guitar continues through the first verse. However, it stops when we get to the pre-hook at 0:46. Another instrument takes over the job, so the function of the rhythmic melodic instrument is still in play, but there’s no need to have that same guitar playing the same part throughout the song. The guitar DOES reappear in the 2nd verse, but again, only for that section. We never hear from it again.

Do NOT feel like you must have the same instrumentation included throughout the song.

A common techniques employed by producers is to set up certain instruments as identifiers of the parts of the song. Here, the guitar tells you you’re in a verse (or the intro, but that only happens once). Experiment with different instruments in different parts of the song, like you hear here. Notice that there’s a different pulsing synth sound used for the pre-hook/hook part compared to the chorus too.

Reverb Control as Special Effect

Want to make a simple instrumental part stand out in a crowd? Add reverb, but don’t add it all the time. Play around with when it’s active and not active. Take the very beginning of this song, for example. The guitar plays a fairly simple part. Eighth notes with a bit of delay (Andy Summers would be proud!). To add some interest, Guetta plays around with adding reverb on some phrases the guitar plays, but not others. Imagine that amount of reverb on the entire guitar track – it’d be all you hear by the end. What Guetta does is turn the sends from the guitar track to the reverb on & off (a good reason to set up your reverb as an auxiliary track instead of inserted on the track) and mutes/unmutes the reverb tracks well, so that the reverb builds when the sends are on. As soon as the sends are turned off, there’s no more new reverb, and when he mutes the aux track, the existing reverb gets cut too.

Keyed Compression

One of the most prevalent music production techniques used in this track is the use of side-chained (A.K.A. keyed) compression.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re very familiar with the sound. It happens in this song multiple times, on the sweep at 0:42 to 0:46, and again at 1:58 to 2:02, the synth at 1:16 to 1:32, and again at 2:32 to 2:46. Notice what happens here. As the kick hits, it causes the sweep/synth to decrease in volume.

What’s happening is called side-chain compression because a compressor (what turns down the volume) is placed on the sweep/synth, but the kick is what is actually controlling the turning down of the volume.

The kick track has been side-chained to the sweep and synth tracks, so that every time the kick hits, it turns the volume of the sweep or synth. Between kick hits, the volume of the sweep/synth is turned back up. It adds rhythmic elements to the track since the kick is rhythmic. It makes the synth track feel as if it pulses with the beat.

One of the cooler uses of this technique is to trigger this side-chain compression with a percussive track that’s not routed to the main outputs.

For an example of this, listen to 2:44 to 2:48. If you single out those two bars, notice that there’s no kick track. However, the synth is still pulsing like it was when you could hear the kick. Guetta mutes the kick track for those two bars, so you don’t hear them, but they’re still triggering the synth to turn down and up again in volume. For a fairly extensive lesson in using this technique (sometimes in more subtle ways than others), listen to Portisehead’s album Dummy.

The Extreme Sadness of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know – A Chordal Analysis

Loneliness, sadness, a touch of regret and sarcasm. All emotions wrought out by Gotye’s #1 single “Somebody That I Used to Know”.

Click here to review the song and video, if you want.

“Somebody That I Used to Know” is written in the key of D minor. I believe this particular key is used for several reasons:

D minor’s relative major

D minor is related to F major. F major is a fairly easy key for peoples’ ears to understand, with only one flat (B-flat) and its relationship to C major (being the V chord in F major) and closeness in the circle of fifths. C major is the home base for major keys, with no sharp or flat notes (all white keys on a keyboard). The idea here is accessibility for the listener. This is not absolute accessibility, however. Think o fit as taking a familiar painting, and changing the color scheme to give it a darker tone or mood. The familiarity of F major brings about positive, happy vibes, but they’re warped into a minor key, and the clouds roll in.

Use in the chord progression

The use of D minor also plays an important role in the chord progression. Most of the song is a simple i – VII progression. If i is D minor, then VII is C major. C major, the previously-noted home base for music-listeners’ ears!The you-play-this-chord-and-everything’s-okay chord!

This sets up a severe dichotomy. D minor, sad. C major, happy. Back & forth, back & forth. The fact that the tempo is close to 120 BPM (129, I believe), makes it feel like a clock, ticking away the seconds until your life is over because your girlfriend dumped you last week.

With C major as such a starting point for your music ear, to make C major the place you to from D minor, is unsettling, at best. Oh, the misery!

The chorus is not much more complicated, i – VII – VI – VII. Wanna hear some other songs that employ a i – VII – VI – VII progression?

Dream On – Aerosmith

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion

And, probably the most well-known i – VII – VI – VII progression (for the ENTIRE SONG):

All Along the Watchtower – Bob Dylan

Yeah, I’m referencing Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, & Gotye in a single article. Listen & compare !

Your brain is pre-programmed to associate the music of “Somebody That I Used to Know” with sadness, break-ups, losing that special someone, general and specific melancholy, etc.

Bob Moog’s birthday!

Happy birthday, Dr. Moog! We’ll always be thankful for your inventions, unless they’re used in ways we don’t approve of 😉

We Are Young – fun. Compositional Analysis Part 2

Something we always talk about in my production classes is where the climax of the song is, how we get to the climax, and what happens after the climax. Some songs hit you like a Mack truck from beat one. “We Are Young” does not. One of the things that are so great about this song is the buildup. The song starts out with – say what?? – toms playing the same single-bar pattern over & over?? Imagine a scale from one to ten, with one being the least climactic thing you could do in a song and 10 being over-the-top meters-in-the-red guitars-to-eleven in-your-face production. The beginning of “We Are Young” starts at what, 1.5, maybe?

The introduction of the vocals is followed by the most simplistic piano performance possible – two-measure chords. The song builds with a more complicated drum pattern by using the snare and more piano.

The interesting thing with the piano is that, while the drums are playing a VERY straight 4|4 time, the piano is playing triplet patterns. These are all things that a first-year music student can do the middle of their first year playing, but there’s already a tension being set up in the music, between the eighth-note percussion and triplet piano. All that tension’s got to go somewhere…

Almost a minute into the song, and all we hear is drums, piano, and vocals. And to make it worse, the pre-chorus is in a much slower tempo. This is about the time people go mad wanting SOMETHING to HAPPEN!!!

Well, at 0:48 in the track, it does. The chorus relieves all the previously built-up tension in a wonderful way. It’s almost the song actually STARTS at the chorus. Drums, bass, piano and a whole bunch of vocals, but we’re not at the climax yet.

All instrumentation follows a strict eighth-note feel from here on out. And if you haven’t consciously heard the snare drum, your subconscious sure has. The snare drum drives the song from here until the outro. The snare drum is HUGE. Monstorous.

This is a production technique that serves the purpose of making the song something you can lock on to and keep the beat with. Your subconscious picks up on this and you find yourself waving your arms in the air like you’re the love child of Travis Barker & John Bonham. The snare plays such a large part of the song from here on out, the end of the snare sound contributes to the rhythm too. The snare is way more than just a snare for the remainder of the song.

Even more interestingly, the snare (as a percussion instrument) is in almost complete contrast to the bass synth in the chorus. The snare is hard, with sharp edges, the bass is soft & fuzzy. Contrast builds a song.

The many vocals in the chorus also contrast to the first verse. Another subconscious element of this song is that when one person sings, you listen. When many people sing, you sing along too. The vocals in the last line of the chorus “than the sun” from 1:25 to about 1:30 beg the listener to scream along with them. And they do. Background vocals tell listeners what to sing along with, and people remember what they sing along with.
However, we’re not finished yet. Through the second verse and chorus, we’re still reaching the climax of the entire song. The climax of the song happens at 2:32, when Janelle Monáe’s vocal comes in. Not only is the listener singing along with the chorus (and screaming out the last line like it’s their lifeline), but the bridge invited the listener participation with an entire chorus of “na na na na” vocals to sing along with! You can even go falsetto and sing in the same register the children that make up this chorus sing.

The climax happens at the middle of the song, and then proceeds to decline back to the original intensity.

The song ends very similar to how it starts, with a simple piano and vocal.