Music: The Joy of 'Glee'

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Sarah Jones



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Producer/songwriter Adam Anders heads up the Glee music team.

Producer/songwriter Adam Anders heads up the Glee music team.

Creating the songs is essentially a two-step process. Once a song is cleared, the team creates a guide demo with a “stunt double” — a singer who sounds like the cast member who will ultimately sing the song. After the arrangement is approved, castmembers are brought in to replace the vocal tracks. Anders records lead vocals separately, and has the group perform together around one mic. Anders uses a variety of mics on the castmembers: “Amber Riley [Mercedes] blows up pretty much everything she gets in front of,” he says. “She's an amazing singer and she's probably the most experienced singer in the studio coming in; she's done background work. She ends up on a [Shure] SM7, which is the only thing that can handle her power. Lea [Michele, aka Rachel] is usually on a 47; for Cory [Montheith, quarterback Finn] we usually use a 251; and then the choir stuff is usually a 251 or 47 middle;and then I use 67s on the sides.”

Anders coaxes pop performances from singers who were initially out of their comfort zone in a recording studio. “Cory had never sung in the studio in his life before “Don't Stop Believin',” he says. “The first time we recorded, he didn't know how to breathe and sing at the same time; he almost passed out. To see where he is now is like night and day; he's come so far.” Lea Michele was accustomed to performing show tunes onstage. “The challenge with her was not can she sing, it was getting her confident that she can sing these different styles,” Anders says. “Onstage, there's a different way you project and you use more vibrato; pop singing requires a lot of straight singing.” Anders says it's rewarding watching the singers rise to the occasion. “They're like, ‘I can't do this.’ Then they get in there and tough it out, and it turns out amazing.”

Glee is all about vocals — big, huge vocals. Anders likens them to the way the show characters might sound in their own minds. “These kids, they're like, ‘We sound amazing, we're huge,’ and that's what you want — big, grandiose sound.” Lots of vocals means lots of passes recorded in a big, live room. And lots of reverb. “I want the vocals to be inspiring,” he says. “People want to enjoy listening to it.”

Songs are prepared for broadcast and download simultaneously, but the mix aesthetic is the same. “There's no synching to any picture, so it's pretty much the way I would make any record,” Anders says. “We program in Logic, we do vocals in Pro Tools, we mix in Pro Tools, I do all the cut-downs in Pro Tools.” Two versions of each song are created: a full-length version for iTunes and an edited version for TV. For the show, Anders FTPs mix stems, broken out into separate backgrounds and leads, with and without effects.

Anders admits that producing a glee choir version of a great pop song “could be the cheesiest thing you've ever heard if you're not careful. So the fine line for me and Peer when we arrange these things is, how do we keep this cool, current, something that could actually work on radio, but then put the ‘jazz hands’ on it?

“I'd be lying if I said I knew it was going to work,” Anders continues. “I did feel like when you heard ‘Don't Stop Believin',’ you definitely get goose bumps, and we were like, ‘Okay, we did something right here.’ It's one of the greatest songs ever written, and we said, ‘Let's just not screw this up.’ And a lot of it starts with that: Let's stay true to the song, respect the song and add our Gleeness to it.”

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