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Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music [Secure]
eBook by Phil Ramone

eBook Category: Sports/Entertainment
eBook Description: Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Billy Joel, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Karen Carpenter, Liza Minnelli, Rod Stewart, Luciano Pavarotti--not to mention Jamie Cullum, The Backstreet Boys, and Bono--have all had hits produced by Phil Ramone. One of the century's most influential and innovative music technicians, Ramone won the first of thirteen Grammy awards for Stan Getz's Getz/Gilberto in 1969 and his most recent for Tony Bennett's The Art of Romance in 2006. In his first book, he walks the reader through every step of the recording process--and along the way, he reveals intimate details about the studio sessions that gave us some of the most legendary songs of our time, including 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' by Paul Simon, Dylan's entire 'Blood on the Tracks' album, and Billy Joel's 'Just the Way You Are.'

eBook Publisher: Hyperion e-books/Hyperion e-books, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2007

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The Producer

Courtesy of Sam Emerson/Redbox

I'm not a screamer.

I've seen producers yell, badger, bully, and throw tantrums to get results, but that approach has never worked for me.

Recently, an artist with whom I was working for the first time amused me by expressing surprise at the tranquility of our inaugural session. "I was expecting all kinds of gestures and running and stamping," she said. "Yet, you direct so quietly."

As she spoke, I wondered what had shaped her image of a producer. "It's not about hysterics," I explained. "What's important is for you and I to communicate, and for me to calmly relay information and directions to the people that we're collaborating with."

During the drive home, it dawned on me that if a seasoned performer was confused about the role of the producer, then the general public probably was, too. Why don't more people understand who the record producer is, and what he or she is supposed to do? I thought.

To help explain how the producer influences what we hear, I'll answer some of the questions I'm frequently asked about record producers and their role in the recording process.

The record producer is the music world's equivalent of a film director. But, unlike a director (who is visible, and often a celebrity in his own right), the record producer toils in anonymity. We ply our craft deep into the night, behind locked doors. And with few exceptions, the fruit of our labor is seldom launched with the glitzy fanfare of a Hollywood premiere.

Just as a successful film director helps to inspire an actor and draw out an exquisite performance, the producer serves as an objective filter and helps the artist bring life to their records. As a producer, my primary goals are to create a stimulating environment, help the artist develop their ideas, and ensure that the performance is recorded and mixed properly.

There are three basic parts to making a record, and the producer is directly involved in each of them:

1. Recording—the "session" when the music is played and recorded
2. Mixing—when all of the individual sections recorded at the session (or sessions) are blended together
3. Mastering—when the final sound is tweaked and polished

But there's much more to making a record than recording, mixing, and mastering. There are dozens of things that happen behind the scenes before one note is played or sung. The artist has to write or choose the songs, and orchestrations must be written. Studio time must be scheduled, an engineer chosen, and a budget developed. A producer deals with all of these issues.

But the responsibilities don't end there.

What happens when an artist asks you to pull together a band at the last minute? Or when, in the middle of a session, the electrical system plunges the studio into darkness? Or, a creative block affects the deadline on a record the label has been hounding you for?

Someone's got to think fast and move things ahead, and those tasks fall to the producer. Because he or she is involved in nearly every aspect of a production, the producer serves as friend, cheerleader, psychologist, taskmaster, court jester, troubleshooter, secretary, traffic cop, judge, and jury rolled into one.

Through the years, the role of the producer and their relationships with artists has changed dramatically.

Forty years ago, singers and musicians who were intimately involved in the creation of their records (such as Frank Sinatra and Brian Wilson) were exceptions. Most artists would come to a session and sing whatever their record company's staff producer put in front of them. Artists & repertoire executives at the record labels crafted every facet of an artist's work, from their look to their sound.

Today, artists are extremely independent—and more involved in the production of their music than ever before. Many performers have formal musical training, and in addition to writing and orchestrating their own songs, immerse themselves in the process of recording them. More often than not, singers and musicians have small home- or computer-based studio setups that they use for rehearsing, making demos, and at times producing their own records.

So, why do even the brightest artists seek the services of a producer when they can do it all themselves? For the experience and objectivity a record producer brings to a project.

Copyright © 2007 Phil Ramone, Inc.

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