One of the more fascinating transformations happening in music today is how insanely easy it’s become for anyone with a laptop and microphone to create, record, and release music. A big impact of this trend we’re beginning to see is the widespread blurring of lines between songwriter and producer. Cheap DIY recording gear and easy access to digitally driven sound effects and synthesized instruments are putting production power into the hands of millions of musicians who wouldn’t have had it in the past. Here’s three ways songwriters are taking on music production roles:
Affordable and powerful music software now makes it easy to blend composition and production roles
Today, a computer, small MIDI keyboard, and the right music software program grants musicians access to thousands of digital instruments, soundscapes, and sound effects like delays, compressors, EQs, reverbs, and distortions. For the most part, musicians used to hand off their music to be produced by someone else after recording in studios. But today, laptops sitting on desks in bedrooms, basements, and dorm rooms are giving musicians the power to compose, record, and produce music on their own terms. Artists producing their own work isn’t anything new, but it’s happening more and more thanks to cheap and powerful DIY recording technology and software programs.
Self-produced music fits the bedroom pop narrative
The world likes the idea of a musician being creatively resourceful, uninhibited, and independent. Through recent music technology advancements, bands and solo artists are taking on the bedroom pop persona by weaving music production into their job titles more and more. This persona is built on the idea that musicians now have the resources and tools to take creative ownership of a musical idea from a demo recorded on a smartphone to a fully produced and mastered song. However, what makes for engaging press release fodder doesn’t always translate to solid music, and lots of artists still get a lot of benefit from having outside production help.
DAWs give musicians the power to produce music as they compose
More artists are taking advantage of the virtually limitless amount of stock digital instruments that are built-in to their DAWs. Instruments like synths, drum sets, and orchestral brass, string and woodwind options are not only customizable, but can also be easily manipulated through effects like reverb and delay. Rather than writing music without these effects and letting someone else add them in later, artists are adopting a produce-as-they-go approach in their songwriting.
There’s no wrong or right way to create music. Many artists see a massive creative benefit in using technology that lets them easily produce their own work, but others take a completely different perspective that firmly places their songwriting duties in one camp and production roles in another. Experimentation, whether in the form of taking on production yourself for the first time or seeing how things turn out by letting someone other than you take a crack at producing your music, will give you the best chance at breathing new energy and life into your work.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.