Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers. And in this video, I want to share with you a music production tip that I think will help you make music that inspires others. Help you make music that inspires that emotional connection when people listen to the music that you make.
So at its core, music is really just another form of communication. It’s no different from you picking up the phone and calling a friend, or writing a Facebook post or a letter. It’s just another way of sharing your thoughts and ideas with other people.
Now communication in any form always works best when it’s clear and consistent. Those are the two things that communication needs in order to be effective, because when we can do that the result is that the music communicates effectively the message that we’re trying to share within the song. And so when we listen to that piece of music as a listener, we feel something emotionally. We feel inspired. We connect with that underlying thing that the artist, the songwriter, the producer was trying to communicate through the actual song itself.
Now music communicates effectively when every aspect of the process is in alignment with whatever that message is. Meaning the song itself, the recording, the production, the mixing, the mastering all works in harmony to communicate that same message, that same underlying theme that is trying to be communicated through this song. And there’s this kind of consistency that happens throughout the entire process itself. And when that’s the case, when every aspect of the music making process works together in order to communicate the same message, that’s when we have clarity, and that’s when we have consistency. And again, those two things are really the keys to making music that communicates effectively.
So how do we do this as music makers? Well I want to give you an example. So let’s say I’ve written a song that is angry. It’s about a breakup, and I’m angry at the person who broke up with me. So the underlying emotion of the song, the underlying message, the thing that I’m trying to communicate is this feeling of anger, this upset, this hurt feeling that I have.
So first of all in the songwriting process, I’m going to try to do everything I can to communicate that through the lyrics, right? And through the chord changes. So maybe I’ll use minor chords for example instead of major chords, because minor chords tend to be darker, and tend to give us more of that angst than a major chord, which is going to be more upbeat and happy. So I’m working to communicate that emotion through the songwriting process.
Now when it comes to the recording and production process, the question then becomes okay, we know that we’re trying to communicate this anger, this upset feeling. How do we do that through recording and production? Well there are lots of tools that we have, right? So we can choose certain instruments and certain sounds that give us that feeling of anger, of upset. So maybe distorted electric guitars are what we choose. Or maybe we opt for distortion on the vocals when we record. We record with a mic that’s kind of crunchy and distorted. So we’re working again to communicate this same feeling in the recording and the production process.
Now this is where a lot of people stop. They think that this is where it ends. But the truth is it actually continues through the mixing process itself. And part of becoming a better mixer is actually starting to think about the decisions you make in a more emotional context.
So for example, compression is one of those tools that we can use to actually add urgency and aggression to a song, to a performance. So if we’re adding a certain style of compression on a vocal, we might use for example a fast release time, because a fast release time on the compressor is going to bring up a lot of those low-level details on the voice, the tail ends of the breaths and those kind of softer moments in the voice. And when those come up, it actually makes the vocals sound like they’re a bit more aggressive. And so again, if we’re trying to communicate this same feeling of aggression, of hurt, of anger, then we’re making decisions in the mixing process that are in alignment, right?
Same thing in mastering, right? So maybe we’re trying to make a record that sounds a bit more aggressive. So we know that we might want a little bit more upper midrange in that record, because that upper midrange area is actually going to make the record sound like it hurts a little bit. It’s going to sound more piercing to the ears. And so we’ve created this single thread of emotion that runs through the entire record itself.
And if we do this effectively, the result is that when we listen to that piece of music, the record communicates effectively. It’s in alignment. And so there’s a feeling of emotion that we get as a listener, because every part of the record is working together to communicate that one single emotion that we define right at the beginning of the process. And that’s when as listeners we feel inspired when we listen to a record, because it communicates effectively.
So the opposite of this, of what I call emotional harmony – when all these things are communicating, are working towards this one single message and communicating effectively – the opposite of that is emotional disharmony. And this is when certain parts of the record are telling us different things, and when there’s some sense of competition. There’s two competing ideas that are both communicating two different things in the record. And you think that this would not happen very commonly, but it actually happens all the time.
So for example, let’s say a mixer is working on a ballad and the song is very soft and there’s a gentle quality to it. Maybe the emotion is love. And the mixer approaches it with lots of compression and adds some distortion to things, and so the record sounds really sonically impressive – it sounds really big, and it hits really hard – but the emotion that’s communicated through that decision is much harder-hitting. It’s much more aggressive than the underlying message of the song itself. And so what happens is when we listen to that record, the record is telling us two different things. We have the song that’s giving us one emotion, and then the mix that’s approached completely differently, and so there’s a different emotion. And when this happens we don’t have consistency, going back to those two principles of communication. And when we don’t have consistency, when different parts of the record are telling us different things, that’s when the record fails to communicate. It fails to connect with the listener emotionally, and it fails to inspire.
So what’s the takeaway here? I want you to start thinking about every decision you make within the music making process in the context of emotion. And I want you to in the beginning of the process when you’re writing a song, I want you to really think about what is the emotion that I’m trying to communicate here, and then keep that in your mind. You maybe want to write it down and start thinking about every move you make in the music-making process as a means to support and anchor that emotion that you defined up front.
And when you can do this, when you can start thinking about each decision you make as supporting that underlying message, the records that you make are going to communicate much more effectively. And if you really want to inspire others, if you want people to listen to your music and feel something emotionally, this is the key to do it.
Now if you found this helpful and you want to dive deeper, I put together a free 7-day music making challenge that will provide you with seven different exercises to help you put this idea of emotional harmony into practice. So follow these exercises, and you’ll actually improve as a music maker. It’s one of the best ways that you can level up your skills. If you want to download this, again it’s completely free, just click the link above or in the description below and you’ll get instant access right now.
Now before you go, I want you to leave a comment below this video and let me know – what’s an example of a song that you think nails this idea of emotional harmony. I’d love to hear your reply. And what’s cool about this is if we get some comments going in the section below, there will be lots of examples down there of songs that do this really well. So you can go check out the comments section down below and listen to lots of examples of songs that communicate effectively. So I’d love to hear your reply. Take a moment and leave your answer in the comments section below.
Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more music production videos like these right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.
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