Music Production Analysis
Authored by Stephen Webber
Course Code: OMPRD-160
Music Production Analysis distills decades of experience from record producers (including course author Stephen Webber, as well as Phil Ramone, Kyle Lehning, Don Was and more) into a focused step-by-step approach of the essential elements of successful records. The genres may change, the message and the lyrics may change, but the actual craft of how to make a great record remains the same. This course will develop your listening skills, and teach you how producers who have 30 years of experience listen to music differently than developing producers.
The course begins with an analysis and appraisal of one of the most important facets of a production: the emotional effectiveness of the music. From there, you'll learn arrangement techniques designed to guide musicians in a way which they add value to the recording, as opposed to just playing their own parts. You'll learn the difference between producing a mix and engineering a mix, and transform the way that you approach mixing a record so your work reaches its full potential.
Music Production Analysis uses many popular music examples (including the Beatles, Miles Davis, Radiohead, Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt, Bjork, Randy Travis, Bob Marley, and many others), insights from some of the world's most successful record producers, and rare demos—gathered from the original producers, artists, and songwriters—to reveal the exact production processes which contributed to the final recorded product.
At the conclusion of this course, you'll have the skills to listen to music like a seasoned producer. You'll learn to identify the elements of effective records through in depth analysis of a number of classic records, and you'll gain the skills to bring these elements to your own productions. It's also important to note that by taking this course you will avoid much of the trial and error that comes with learning music production, and by doing so, you will save time and make better records, quicker.
While designed especially for aspiring record producers, this course will also be extremely helpful to recording artists, recording engineers, songwriters, record labels, publishers, artist managers, session players, music journalists, and music educators.
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- Analyze the essential elements of effective records
- Identify key vocal production techniques: doubling, layering, distressing, tuning, compression, echo, and reverb; and apply these skills to your own productions
- Discover musical, emotional, performance and arrangement techniques designed to make your records into something that people are going to really want to listen to
- Make your recording stand out from the tens of thousands of records released every year
Lesson 1: Conveying Emotion Through Music
- Emotion Is the Product
- Identifying Our Own Emotional Responses
- Music, Prejudice, and the Brain
- Listening Like a Producer
- Your Listening Environment
- Evaluative Emotional Listening
- Assignment 1: Evaluating Emotional Responses (Two Test Subjects)
Lesson 2: Artist’s Identity
- Understanding an Artist's Identity
- Identity: Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie
- Elements of Recording Artists' Identity
- Keeping It Real
- Identity and Repertoire
- The Beatles' Evolving Identity
- 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' 1963
- Rubber Soul, 1965
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
- White Album, 1968
- Abbey Road, 1969
- Beyoncé's Image Unfolds—From Destiny’s Child to Queen Bey
- Assignment 2: Listening for Identity (One Test Subject)
Lesson 3: Artist’s Vision and Intention
- Understanding an Artist’s Vision
- Elements of Artistic Vision
- Miles Davis' Artistic Vision
- Vision Problems
- Understanding an Artist’s Intention
- The Art of Effective Communication
- Elements of Intention
- Concerns about Intention
- Assignment 3: Listening for Intention
Lesson 4: Using Lyrics to Optimal Effect
- Significance from the Everyday
- Descriptive-Sensory Language versus Generalities and Clichés
- A Primer on 10 Essential Skills and Most Common Pitfalls of Lyric Writing
- Engage Our Senses and Minds
- Let the Chorus Be a CHORUS
- Keep Most of the Exposition in the Verse
- Save Something Important for Later
- Sing It Like You’d Say It
- Be Aware of Clichés
- Name Names and Tell the Truth
- Embrace the Role of the Storyteller
- Assignment 4: Lyrical Listening Test
Lesson 5: Melody, Song Form, and an Elegant Approach to Repetition
- Elements of Effective Melodies
- Melodic Range of the Chorus
- Prechorus and Bridge
- Analysis of 'Seven Days': Considering Prosody
- Song Form
- AABA Form
- 12-Bar Blues
- Verse-Chorus Form
- Author Analysis: 'Creep'
- Author Analysis: 'Walk This Way'
- Assignment 5: Repetition, Melody, and Emotion
Lesson 6: Charting the Emotional Timeline
- Author Analysis: Locating a Record’s Climax
- Silence and the Space between the Notes
- Midterm Assignment: Charting the Emotional Timeline
- Elapsed Time and Song Form
- Bar Count and Arrangement Notes
- Dynamics Line, Emotion Line, and Climax Location
- Tempo, Key, and Album Info
- Assignment 6: Timeline Choices
Lesson 7: Demo to Master
- Meet Don Was
- Don Was on Producing 'Love Shack' and Being in the Trenches
- Meet Kyle Lehning
- Kyle Lehning Analysis of 'I’d Really Love to See You Tonight' and 'Love Is the Answer'
- Kyle Lehning on Randy Travis
- Don Was: Producing 'I Can’t Make You Love Me'
- Assignment 7: 'I Can’t Make You Love Me' Listening and Analysis
Lesson 8: Groove, Tempo, and the Pain/Pleasure Paradox
- The Secret and Massive Power of the Bass and the Kick Drum
- Four on the Floor
- The Coupling of Bass and Kick
- Bass and Kick Not Coupling
- Stripping Down the Groove
- The Production of 'Please the Devil'
- The Production of 'Bus to You'
- The Pain/Pleasure Paradox
- Assignment 8: Analyzing Groove and the Pain/Pleasure Paradox
Lesson 9: Arrangement and Instrumental Performance
- Historical Perspective: Writing It Down
- Arrangement by Function
- Head Charts and Electric Guitars
- Enter the Multitrack
- Brian Wilson
- The Session Player
- The Attributes of the Professional Session Player
- Point Towards the Song
- 'One Headlight'
- Digging Deeper
- Making a Really Good Chord Chart
- Attributes of an Excellent Chord Chart
- Chart Two: The Basic Chord Chart
- Chart Three: Nashville Number Chart
- Assignment 9: Listening for Arrangement and Performance
Lesson 10: Vocal Performance
- The Most Important Thing
- What Makes a Vocal Compelling?
- Singer as Actor
- Singers with Modest Natural Talents
- The Virtuoso Singer
- Vocal Production Techniques
- Vocal Comping
- Vocal Doubling
- The Multilayered Vocalist
- Vocal Tuning
- Vocal Distressing
- Echo and Reverb
- Assignment 10: Analyzing Vocal Performance
Lesson 11: Mix
- Focus on Emotion
- Discussing 'From the Head to the Heart' with Don Was
- Don Was Reflects on 'From the Head to the Heart'
- Vocabulary of Mixing: What Does 'Natural' Mean to You?
- Using Reference Mixes
- Mixing Vocabulary Terms
- Choosing Reference Monitors
- A Cognitive Concept: The Rule of Three
- The Rule of Three and 'I Am the Walrus'
- Conceiving Arrangement and Mix Together
- Choosing Winners and Losers
- Final Mix Checklist
- Assignment 11: Focus, Choices, and Mixing
Lesson 12: Final Analysis
- Pulling Together All of the Elements
- Final Assignment Overview: The Comprehensive Analysis
- The Wonderful Exceptions to ‘The Rules’
- 'The Unanswered Question'
- 'Sail Away'
- Applying Lessons Learned to Your Own Work
- The Final, Comprehensive Analysis
- Assignment 12.1: Your Listening Session and Comprehensive Analysis
- Assignment 12.2: Your Observation Session
- Assignment 12.3: Your Production/Emotional Timeline
- Some Parting Thoughts from Don Was
Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements
Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.
- No textbooks required
- Students are required to create a timeline graph and submit it in JPG format. Options include:
- One of the following studio monitoring options that can accommodate two listeners at the same time (both recommended):
- Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as an audio interface and necessary cables
- Two pairs of over-ear studio headphones, such as Philips SHP9500, Sennheiser HD-600, Sony 7506, Audio Technica ATH-M50x, etc. Either an audio interface with multiple headphone outputs or a Y adaptor will also be needed.
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course.
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
Stephen Webber is an Emmy-winning composer and professor of Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music. In three decades as a record producer, engineer, session player, music director, recording artist, DJ, and studio designer, Stephen has recorded with Ivan Neville, Meshell Ndegeocello, the Manhattan Guitar Duo, and the Turtle Island String Quartet, and performed with Bela Fleck, Mark O'Conner, Grandmixer DXT, and Emmylou Harris. A writer for Electronic Musician, Remix, and Mix Magazine, Stephen is also the author of Turntable Technique: The Art of the DJ, the first book to teach the turntable as a musical instrument. Stephen performs and presents clinics and master classes throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, and has been profiled on the Today Show, CNN, and NPR's All Things Considered, and in the New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine.
Mark Cross is an award-winning producer, composer, mixer, educator, and author with an extensive discography in both film and television that spans over two decades.
As an engineer and mixer, Mark has worked on numerous projects, including the Grammy -winning Shelby Lynne album I Am Shelby Lynne, Randy Newman's Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning soundtrack for the Disney-Pixar film Cars, the Meet the Parents original film score and soundtracks, and hundreds of episodes of the NBC prime time series ER. Mark’s additional film credits include Alien: Resurrection, Seabiscuit, and Beavis and Butthead Do America.
As a composer, Mark has created over a thousand registered tracks for use in hundreds of films and television shows worldwide. He was the lead composer for the NBC prime time series Last Comic Standing and has contributed additional music for American Idol, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the CBS Evening News, HBO’s Getting On, and Comedy Central’s Key and Peele. Mark has created musical themes for Nickelodeon's Wow Wow Wubbzy, the Seinfeld Season 8 DVD, as well as producing and performing with Grammy winner John Legend on HBO's: Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Mark holds a Master of Fine Arts in Music Education from Boston University as well as a dual Bachelor of Music in Music Production & Engineering and Music Education from Berklee College of Music. He currently teaches Music Technology and Composition for Visual Media at Berklee College of Music, California State University Northridge, and Los Angeles College of Music. Mark authored the book Audio Post Production for Film and Television, published by Hal Leonard and Berklee Press. Read Less
Clay Cook has made his living through many avenues in the music industry. An accomplished songwriter & multi-instrumentalist, he has recorded & toured with John Mayer, Sugarland, The Marshall Tucker Band, & Shawn Mullins. In 2009 he became a member of the 3-time Grammy winning Zac Brown Band but he still finds time to tour his brand of acoustic singer-songwriter music.
Marty Walsh is an assistant professor in the Ensemble and Music Production departments at Berklee College of Music. A veteran of the LA studio music scene, he has worked as a guitarist with some of the biggest names in the business.
The early 1980s found him on the hits "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "She Works Hard For The Money" by Donna Summer, and "Heartlight" by Neil Diamond, to name a few. He also recorded with John Denver, Eddie Money, Kenny Rogers, Sheena Easton, and Julio Iglesias, among others.
In 1985, Walsh played guitar on the Supertramp album Brother Where You Bound and then toured with the band in 1985-86 and again in 1988 after playing on their 1988 release Free As A Bird.
Continuing to do recording sessions into the 1990s, he performed on three of Leann Rimes' albums, including I Need You, whose title track set the record of weeks (54) in the top 40.
Most recently, he can be heard on the Freddie Jackson single "Until The End Of Time," which reached the no. 1 spot on Billboard's R&B charts and stayed on the charts for 26 weeks. In 2014, Marty released an instrumental album, The Total Plan, on Weberworks Records. Read Less
Matthew Ellard is an Associate Professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department at Berklee College of Music. Over the course of his 25-year career in the music industry as an independent record producer, engineer and mixer based in London, Los Angeles, Boston, he has produced, engineered, and/or mixed well over 250 albums. This includes many world famous and popular artists at world-class studios, where the level of expectation and performance is extremely high. He brings that experience and those standards to Berklee. He has extensive experience with not only guitar driven rock, indie rock, metal, punk, hardcore, and power pop bands, but also with programmed and sequenced, beat based pop, hip hop, remixes and dance music. In addition, he utilizes both “old school” analogue recording and the latest digital recording techniques and formats, bringing a depth of technical and creative knowledge in both the analog and digital realms and a wide breadth of professional music industry experience to the instruction of music production and engineering.
Sean Slade is an associate professor in the Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) Department at Berklee College of Music. After graduating from Yale University in 1978, he moved to Boston, playing guitar and saxophone in various beat combos before co-founding Fort Apache Studios in 1985.
Slade has produced, engineered, and mixed records for Radiohead, Hole, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Warren Zevon, Lou Reed, Joe Jackson, the Dresden Dolls, and many more artists. When not teaching at Berklee, he can be found recording music at Quarry Recorders, his studio in rural Maine. Read Less
John Broaddus is an instructor in the Music Technology minor program at Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain where he teaches Recording Skills for the Musician, Critical Listening and Production Analysis. He holds an undergraduate degree in Music Theory from Drury College, a Recording Arts specialized degree from Full Sail and a Master’s in Music Production, Technology and Innovation from Berklee. As a teacher, technologist and music producer, John brings an infectious enthusiasm to his classes and is driven to see his students succeed as musicians, producers and engineers. He has produced a number of projects in his personal studio beginning in 1998 and has worked in digital media for Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles where clients included Disney, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, BBC, Apple, Amazon, Google, Playstation Network and Microsoft to name a few.
When taken for credit, Music Production Analysis can be applied towards the completion of these related programs: