Songwriter and guitar

Producing Your Own Songs: Making the Tough Choices

I was told once by someone that there are two kinds of people near the top of any successful company: ideas people and doers. I’m not a business specialist, so I have no idea if this is really true, but it makes sense. You need people who can come up with some great ideas, and you need people who can realize those ideas and make them happen.

The implication, of course, is that you’re either one or the other.

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But in the songwriting world, you have to be both. Show me a good song and I’ll show you a collection of great musical ideas, all realized by a great songwriter, or group of songwriters.

Becoming a good songwriter is about discovering how to turn ideas into songs. So if you’re having success with your writing it’s because you came up with some really great ideas, and then were successful in getting all those ideas working together.

Once a song is finished, though, it’s possible for it to fail. How? By not realizing its fullest potential while recording it. This stage is best guided by one of the most important “doers” in the business — a professional-level producer.

Producers are the ones who can take your songs and get them recorded in a form that properly targets your audience. For every song that’s been written, there are any number of audiences to target. And how you present that song will either work or fail to impress that audience.

When You’re the Producer

If you’re starting out, you may not have the money to hire a producer, and so now you’re the doer: the producer. How do you ensure that you’re making the most of your song as you get it recorded? Ask yourself:

Can I listen objectively to my own song?

Am I completely familiar with my chosen genre and what the audience expects?

(If you’re in a band): Are we all capable of performing this song at a professional level?

Am I willing to change aspects of this song to properly target my audience?

Am I willing to take advice from others?

The best producers are able to make tough choices, and when you’re your own producer, those choices become all the more difficult because the song itself is a product of your own musical mind.

If you can’t honestly answer yes to those five questions above, you’re not ready to produce your own recording. The biggest difficulty is usually with objectivity: it’s very difficult to make tough choices with your own music, and it’s why even the greatest songwriters out there hire others to do that job.

If you can say yes to those questions, you’ll find that self-production can be satisfying and successful. Being tough on yourself without being negative means that you should be able to get the job done.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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