Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

Practical Production Analysis: Helping Students Produce Competitive Songs

Academic journal article MEIEA Journal

Practical Production Analysis: Helping Students Produce Competitive Songs

Article excerpt


When a song is produced solely using a computer, the producer often assumes the roles of both composer and producer, engaging both creative and technical skills. Developing a curriculum that can cover both creative and technical skill sets can be a daunting task. Quite often, music production students who have completed a large portion of an academic program still seem to struggle with producing work that could survive in the marketplace. While many production programs focus on mastery of skills and software, teaching students to translate and apply that knowledge in their genres of interest is sometimes overlooked in the curriculum. The goal of the production analysis method discussed in this paper is to help students apply their findings, producing a song that is commercially competitive in their respective genres.

Four Core Areas

In this method, students focus their analysis on four core areas: form, instrumentation, texture variation, and audio/production techniques. Developing genre-specific proficiencies in these areas is crucial in order to produce a song that can compete with others in similar marketplaces.


When producing in a specific genre or format, students must be aware of the appropriate musical form for that genre. Students who want to produce pop music for the radio must realize that their songs cannot be seven minutes long. Conversely, for students who want to produce progressive rock, time is not always of importance. It is essential for producers to study the form of the genre of music with which they are trying to compete. Conventional verse and chorus structures are paramount in pop music. Capturing the attention of your listener within the first ten seconds is of equal importance. These rules are clearly laid out in the music itself, but change depending on the genre and format. Studying the form of current works in students' various genres is vital if they want to be successful producers.

Some students may be able to identify the different sections of a song easily, while some might have difficulty. In pop music constructs, verses, introductions, and "outros" can usually be easily identified. However, some students struggle with identifying a pre-chorus, and as a result sometimes have trouble distinguishing where a chorus begins. If students can identify at least the first lines of a verse and main "hook" of the chorus, they can be directed to look in between those two points to see if they can identify a smaller section that sounds different. Helping students to identify differences between the "bookends" of a verse and chorus seems to help them pinpoint the pre-chorus. The same approach can be used to locate the bridge of a song, which also sometimes proves challenging for some to detect. In order to establish the bridge, students are encouraged to look for a section that sounds different than any other section, usually located in the last quarter of the song.

When studying songs that do not fit traditional formulaic molds, students are encouraged to listen for significant changes in melodies, harmonies, instrumentation, and textures and label those sections as they see fit. In some cases where simple ternary ABA form might not even apply, labeling sections alphabetically may still be appropriate. In these atypical situations, students are encouraged to find a labeling system that works for their own analysis purposes. For the purposes of the method described in this paper, determining if the student's analysis is "accurate" is not as important as how the student uses the analysis to assist in his or her own production.


Choosing the appropriate instrumentation for a song is also of great importance. Instrumentation trends are similar to fashion trends, and are genre specific. Learning how to move and evolve with current instrumentation trends is a discipline that a producer must develop if he or she wants to be successful. …

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