The Producers

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz



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Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a demo from a Latin rock artist in Mexico. He was in talks with producers all over the world via e-mail. I was so moved by his music, his knowledge and sensibility of The Beatles and classic '60s pop. I did my best to convey to him how original and talented I thought he was, even though my Spanish was poor at best. With my ideas and my approach spelled out to him, this 20-something [Chetes] from Monterrey, Mexico, took a leap of faith, got on a plane and flew to Nashville to record. During the recording process, we were able to communicate musically, if not linguistically. This artist was self-taught. He would change keys in the middle of a song and didn't even know what chords he was playing half the time. Our process was not logical or verbal, but creatively we were without a doubt in sync. This project went on to be a huge commercial success for him. Communication, feel and listening were the key.


The credits of legendary producer Phil Ramone include recordings by Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Carly Simon, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart and Ray Charles, to name a few. A book that delves into his experiences in the studio, Making Records (Hyperion Books), was released in 2007.


It's not news that when we had a 45s business — when singles were the king — you did try to make a 45 sound as hot as it could on radio. People used to go into mastering rooms and sit there anxiously, hoping that it wouldn't pop the stylus out of the groove. The whole generation of music in the last 10 to 15 years is to the wall — heavy limiting, heavy compression. The purist is going to say, “Well, where is the dynamic range and why is it being screwed with?” The argument comes out: “Well, we have to deal with radio so we want to make sure our record is louder.” But it still comes down to the song. Where do you put the vocals? How much kick drum and bass will you use? It's unlimited in the digital world. Is Alicia Keys' record going to be as loud as John Legend's record when she's doing a ballad?

I'm hoping that Blu-ray has a huge success so that we can talk about surround. I understand wearing ear buds [when you are] running and ignoring some of the outside noises. But if I can capture you for five to 10 minutes in an environment — whether it's in your office or your cubicle where you work or at your home — and [the music sounds] sensational, uncompressed, really good, you will hear what we hear in the studio.”

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