I just joined NMP and spent much of the day exploring the site. I am awestruck by the wealth of talent, experience and wisdom I have encountered thus far. On one hand, it makes me feel completely unworthy to even associate with professionals of your caliber, to have this opportunity to learn and grow simply because I ponied-up for a NMP membership. It's like buying a general admission ticket to a Braves game and suddenly finding yourself being seated in the dugout.
On the other hand, it gives me great hope that, through this incredible resource, I will be able to cultivate my own abilities and possibly realize some of my musical ambitions. In any case, I know your time is limited and valuable, so I'll get to the point of this post. You've probably heard this a million times before, but please be patient.
I need help. I have "composed" and "arranged" a song that integrates bluegrass, Celtic and country pop/rock elements. I have a crystal-clear vision of the song. Every single musical detail is complete - every melody and harmony, every key change, every fill and improvisation, every nuance of the vocal and instrumental performances. I hear it like it's a finished track playing on the radio.
The problem is, I don’t have the musical or technical chops to notate or record even the basic idea of this somewhat complex piece. I don't play keys. I know virtually no music theory. My computer doesn't have the horsepower or the software to handle even rudimentary music production. And although I have some background in media production, I know I know just enough to be dangerous. Therefore, the song remains locked in my head. I have no way to get it out. And it's driving me nuts.
My thought is to find a professional producer or arranger to help me get this song out of my head and into “the box,” using a DAW or notation software. We would then create a decent MP3 mix that would be handed off to a demo house for full production. Notating the song first seems like a good idea as it should yield pro-quality charts and make the demo process more efficient. That's just my instinct.
Can you recommend the best way to proceed? Also, I have no relevant contacts in the Nashville music industry. How do I find the right professional for this project? And finally, what should I budget for these services? The finished song should sound "radio-ready."
Thanks very much for any assistance you can provide.
First of all, welcome to NMP, and I appreciate the humble and honest post you've made here. One of the biggest mistakes I think many folks make in pursuit of a career in music is to isolate themselves and attempt to create their music without the assistance of other professionals, especially when surrounded by so many amazing talents, as you've mentioned. Heck, if you're in Music City, why not take advantage of the diverse talent around you.
From what you've described, it sounds like you need a combination of pre-production programming and live players. Much of what you're describing could be programmed via virtual instruments first, to build the foundation of the work, and then supplemented by additional instruments, depending on how you want your sound to develop. Some of the elements of what you want are challenging to recreate with natural instruments easily, or with anything other than a huge budget. Other instruments, such as the bluegrass instruments, are very difficult to recreate with virtual instruments. So those folks are pretty plentiful and there are some extremely talented musicians around who can fill that space here.
Perhaps a good course of action would be to spend some time chatting with a few various producers in the area that are capable of spanning these various styles. Give a listen to those who seem to have a grasp of the various styles of music you're wanting to capture. That may be a challenge, given the range you're talking about, though Celtic and Bluegrass are closely related in their roots at least, bluegrass being the evolutionary result. Find someone who can also technically work with you through the process. Lastly, consider the budget you want to work with, and the ability of the producer to work within the time constraints and budget you want to work with.
If you want a "radio-ready" result, you'll also have to discuss some contractual matters. Sometimes there's a balance between collaboration and budget also. That can be a point for discussion with a producer. Especially if you are willing to share ownership of the various layers of copyright with the producer potentially. Each producer will feel differently about this issue, as will each artist. All is negotiable.
Thanks very much for your detailed and helpful response. Per your suggestion, I'm doing a lot of research on NMP. It's time-consuming, but well worth the effort. Each profile is a revelation.
I'd like to provide some additional information about the song that may help us home-in on an ideal solution. However, that has to wait until after the Steeler game. :-) Thanks again.
I know Nashville is the home of the Titans and Country Music, but the Pittsburgh Steelers Rock. OK, back to work. A few things:
1) The term "radio-ready" may have been misleading. Yes, that's what I'd like the finished demo to sound like. However, this song is not intended for radio - at least, not initially.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to contribute to the development of a feature film screenplay. This wonderful, creative experience eventually inspired me to "compose" this song. Its lyrics, music and genera (nope, I won't stop teasing you about that) have been crafted in response to certain conditions, characters and events in the screenplay. The film's climactic scene is a live performance at a national Country Music song competition. This song has been composed specifically for that scene.
Whether the song ever makes it to radio is not a primary concern at this time. For the record, I think it has great radio potential, but it really doesn't really matter what I think. The main objective is to produce a great demo, create a perfect pitch and find a way to get the film's director and producers to listen.
2) Since the song is meant to portray a live performance in the film, I'm not sure if the demo should incorporate virtual instruments, even for cost-saving purposes. Will they be able to impart the energy and "human" qualities inherent in a live performance? Is the sensation of actually "being there" necessary for a demo?
The song's Celtic influence is communicated though the use of a bohran, hammered dulcimer and incidental vocal articulations. The rest of the instrumentation would include drum kit, electric bass, electric lead and rhythm guitars, flat-picked acoustic lead guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, fiddle, banjo, dobro and mandolin. If we were to use virtual instruments, which of these parts could they perform convincingly?
3) I know there is only a slim chance that this song will be accepted by the film's producers. Why? First and foremost, I've heard that two of Nashville's heaviest heavyweight songwriters have been attached to the project. Secondarily, as a complete unknown I cannot bring any additional musical or commercial credibility to the marketing and merchandising tables. Perhaps I'm just naive or just plain stupid, but I believe in this song strongly enough to proceed, nevertheless.
However, it's obvious that I need to have a Plan B firmly in place. For this song to have any viability for publishing and/or Country Music radio, I imagine I would need to rewrite the lyrics since they are specific to the screenplay. Would I also need to revise the arrangement for a more mainstream Country sound? If so, should this sound be the basis for the film demo just to save time and money?
4) Am I over-thinking this whole thing way too much?
Looking forward to your comments. Thanks again.
Wow, there's a lot to reply to here. I think you're not over thinking this. It's good to plan ahead. I may be able to respond in more detail later, and I have some specific thoughts, but I lack the time at the moment to respond in detail. However, I don't want to neglect to respond entirely, and forget to respond as a result. So, with that being the case, I'd say it's best for us to do this off-line. Sometimes, it's best to get a real conversation going, and let me find out what the real need is, so we can determine the best course of action to tackle that need.
What I see is a conflict of needs here. I hear a language that speaks budget of "Master" but also a description of "demo." those are two different realms all together. Two different sets of budgets. Two different approaches. Two different approaches to tackle the project. Even two different sets of legal parameters. Even the filings with the unions are different. Entirely!
As far as the use of virtual instruments are concerned, many major motion pictures use music that include the use of virtual instruments, so that's not out of the ordinary. So perhaps this is just a matter of my understanding better what your desired production value is there. It really depends on what you want to sonically accomplish. You can produce any particular sonic result you wish, if you have the budget to support the desired result! That's always the case, though, isn't it?
Candidly, as far as I can tell, the genera you are describing fits right up my alley. I'd be glad to entertain a discussion in person, if you wish.
I see what you mean. Thanks for putting things in perspective. As I mentioned in my original post, the song exists fully produced in my head. This is an idealized, "master" version that is probably exaggerating my expectations of what a practical "demo" version can or should be. I need to calm down and somehow manage those expectations, especially with respect to pre-production and production budget considerations.
As you suggest, let's see if we can put our skeds together and find the time for some face-to-face reality therapy - a little brainstorming, problem-solving and cost/benefit analysis over coffee. My buy. I'll shoot you a text. Thanks again and again.
Well we will talk it out. The most essential part of pre-production is the planning. We can outline the desired outcome, and work backwards into what you need to do in order to get to that desired outcome. That'll show us what budget you need, the time involved, the players you'll need, and all the other elements that'll need to be put together in order to bring the song to life. There's no question that bringing what's in one's head to life through two speakers is an enormous undertaking, especially when it involves a level of complexity that is beyond typical elements. And this is something I enjoy doing. A lot. It's contagious, though, I must warn you.