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June, 2014

Producing Music

by Webmaster

I met with co-writer Al "Doc" Mehl A "Doc" Mehl: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets and the producer of my last and next CD, Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Ernie Martinez Ernie Martinez: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets. We worked through arrangements for the two co-written songs and then went out to lunch and chatted about songwriting, the music business, arranging and recording.

I wound up telling a story about my early days of songwriting and making song demos. I'd write lyrics and get a melody in my head, then go to see Peter Schwimmer Peter Schwimmer: Bands, Singers, Songwriters / Composers, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Cowboy Poets. The first time listening to my tune, he learned it. The second time through, he played chords behind my vocal and made suggestions, not just about the music, but about the lyrics. The third time through, he had an arrangement, and we'd go to his studio. He'd lay down a rhythm guitar track and coach me through a vocal. Then I went home.

When he was done with the song, he'd call and I'd come over to listen. He decided what instruments to put where, and recorded everything. We'd re-do my vocal, if (mostly when) necessary.

It was a magic experience. I come in with the barest outline of a song and leave with a full-fledged recording.

Peter moved to Oregon. When I left I asked him who could do all that for me. He told me to find Ernie and work with him.

And I didn't have to find Ernie. He found me. I was playing a bass guitar, as quietly as I could, on the fringes of a bluegrass jam, and Ernie came out of the center, where he'd been playing incredible breaks, to find me and help me learn the chords on those songs I didn't get right away.

Ernie works magic on songs. He can play all the instruments, and frequently does, and he helps with the music, the lyrics, the arrangements, the production of the song.

Both Ernie and Peter are brilliant musicians.

But the story I told at that meeting shows a difference between them.

I took a song to Peter and came back for the final product. He'd put in two lead guitar tracks and twined them around each other through the entire song. He was thrilled with the work he'd done, and proudly played the recording for me. It was a full-fledged production, with a number of instruments and my vocal, well mixed.

I listened and assured him his guitar work was brilliant. Then I asked to hear it again. And again. After listening three times, I said, "Peter, what you've done is fabulous. Take one lead track off."

As you can imagine, Peter was shocked and asked, "Why?"

I said, "Because I listened to it three times and didn't listen to the lyrics once. The song is about the lyrics."

There are people for whom the song is entirely about the groove, the chord changes, and the melody. I have friends who are musicians who don't listen to the lyrics unless they like the sound of the song and have heard it several times. I know some very talented musicians who love to jam, and for them, the singer is only teaching them the melody, and the words are meaningless. And, in some genres, that's true. Songs have become hits when the lyrics are totally intelligible or in a language that many people don't understand.

The history of music starts with instrumental music, percussion, simple string instruments, vocals of vowel sounds, chanting. Then troubadours came along. They were story tellers who discovered they could remember their tales if they wrote in rhyme, and set them to music.

But for songwriters, for lyric writers, the song is about the lyrics. Without lyrics, the song is an instrumental piece, an orchestral piece, a groove. When the lyrics are added, it becomes a song, and people can sing along and remember it. The lyrics have a hook, which (hopefully) is the title, so people can ask to hear it again. And again.

And, as songwriters, isn't that what we want? To write songs that people remember and want to sing and hear over and over?

And, Ernie knows that, and helps make that happen.

I still miss Peter and miss working with him. I'll always be grateful that he left me in such capable hands.

Thanks for visiting!

We played there and rocked! We were great! Not as great as we would have been if we'd had our regular drummer. And bass player. But we still rocked!

And they didn't call us back for another gig. Why?

I guess I forgot to get them the promo material and info they wanted ahead of time. Hey, I was busy working and rehearsing and playing other gigs.

Well, yeah, not too many of our fans were there, but it was a long way for our fans to go. The club is supposed to have their regulars there. They'll become our fans.

OK. So the folks who were there didn't get into our music. They just haven't come on board yet. They will, if we play there enough.

Alright. They told us to turn down the volume. Three times. But that's the way we play. The management is just a bunch of old fogeys who don't like music.

Oh, right. There was a lot of hassle with the date. We had it booked then had to change it because we got a better gig. But it only happened twice.

So we were late. It was no big deal. We have day jobs and had to load up and race down there and traffic was really bad and we got lost once. You see, it really wasn't our fault we were late.

Do you believe they wouldn't feed us? Or give us more than 1 drink per set? Do they think we can live on air? It takes energy to perform like we do. And we came there straight from work, so how do they expect us to play on an empty stomach. It wouldn't have cost them anything to feed us.

And they expected us to keep our breaks to 15 minutes. How can we go out and buy food and eat it in only 15 minutes?

And back to the regulars. They expected us to take requests. We don't do requests. We have set lists. We like to do our originals, not those old songs that everyone's heard forever.

So we spent our breaks in the green room. No point in going out and talking to those losers. Plus we had to teach the bass player the chords for some of our songs.

We set out a tip jar and mentioned it between every song, but we didn't get tips. So we told the manager that we needed to get more money than we agreed to because there were no tips. And, I wasn't yelling. I just project my voice really well.

We kinda left a mess on the stage and in the green room when they wouldn't cough up more money. We're not going to play for peanuts then clean the place for them. It's okay. They've got people there who get paid to clean up.

I just don't understand why they didn't call us back for another gig. We rocked!

Any questions?

Thanks for visiting!

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