Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/arranging/producing


Dear Bill Pere,

Thank you very much for your time and availability on a fantastic site such as this! I'm really happy to have found it.

I am a reasonably good songwriter, singer and guitarist and have started recording demos having been lucky enough to find an excellent producer/engineer team that charges affordable rates. Generally the process is: I record guitar, vocals and some riffs and they do the rest of the arrangement, mixing and mastering. Two songs have come back and sound absolutely amazing.

I've tried producing demo's several times on my own and have generally not been able to produce the same level of arrangement. I am probably the strongest guitarist of the three of us and am amply creative. Yet unlike them, however, I find that I struggle to see the big picture when it comes to production. I've heard somewhere that there are a set of base rules to follow - like the kick drum is always accompanied by a bass note for example.

Do you have any pointers for production/arrangement techniques that will help focus me when layering my recordings and adding riffs?

Thank you,


Your question, in various forms, is not an uncommon one.  
The most important thing to understand is that it usually "takes a village to raise a song", even for a DIY-Indie artist/band.  There are many specific roles that have to be fulfilled to get a song from the writer's mind to a competitive-quality, fully produced, radio-ready recording that is ready for sale.  Each of these roles requires a different skills, different perspectives,  different equipment, etc.

Just because a person is good at one role, it does not mean they will be equally as good in another role.  A great songwriter is not necessary a great performer; A great performer is not necessarily a great producer;  A great recording engineer is not necessarily a great mixing engineer; A great musician is not necessarily a great arranger;  A great mixing engineer is not necessarily a great mastering engineer.

The key to overall success comes from knowing what roles you are good at, and where you might need some expertise from someone else.  This does not mean that you can't learn a new set of skills -- we always want to be learning new things.  But it does mean that there are some areas in the upbringing of a song that one may never be as adept at as someone else who is a more natural fit for that particular task.   When you see the full set of roles that it takes to fully bring a song from inception to maturity, you'll see that no single person can do all of that themselves and do everything WELL.  (see the references below)

What you are describing in your question are specifically the skills of arranging and production (two different things, though usually occurring in tandem).

These are specific skills which, like lyric writing or guitar-playing, are a combination of natural ability, formal instruction, and practice.  

While there are guidelines for making great arrangements of songs, they are just guidelines, and like songwriting, every creative person uses these "rules" as guides and then strategically bends them and alters them when it is right for the particular project.   

What will help you are four things:

1)  The book "The Technique of Orchestration" by Kent Wheeler Kennan (this is the musical part of arrangement/production, but it does not address the technical/electronic/Midi tricks, which is an entirely different realm)

2)  Training your ear by taking songs/arrangements that you like, and listening to them many times through, but each time focusing on one specific thing -- the bass line, the kick drum, the strings, the backing vocals, the dynamics, etc.   Deconstructing the overall sound, you begin to hear how the elements work together to create a particular whole, and you can imitate that in your own work.

3)  Read  the extensive discussion of roles in the life of a song and the different skills involved in  "Songcrafters' Coloring Book".   This will help you a lot -- go to:

4) Be fully aware of the fact that you can do all of the above and still never be as good as someone who is naturally adept and well-trained at the creative and technical aspects of arranging, just as they may never be as good as you at creativity and craft of songwriting or guitar playing.

Good luck in all your projects, and always keep writing!

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Bill Pere


Can answer questions on : Technical aspects of lyric and music compostion; How to give and receive objective critique; Arranging and production; Concrete vs abstract imagery; Use of metaphor; Rhyme techniques; Song Structure; Collaboration; Songwriter Associations; Promotion; Guitar technique; Music Business;


Grammy-Award-winning songwriter; President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association and Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Author of "Songcrafters' Coloring Book:The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting." Named Independent Artist of the Year,by the 2003 national Independent Music Conference; 30 years as a professional singer-songwriter; 16 original CD's released;
Have had songs placed on other artists' CD's. Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year.
20 years as Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble. Have attended more than 200 presentations by top industry professionals and have critiqued thousands of songs. Have written and produced dozens of stage plays and hundreds of concert events; Have coached hundreds of aspiring songwriters, and collaborated with several award winning writers. Have written commissioned songs as an Official Connecticut State Troubadour. Music Director of youth choirs and music camps.

Connecticut Songwriters Association (President); LUNCH Ensemble (Local United Network to Combat Hunger -- Exec, Director); CMEA (Connecticut Music Educators Association); Folk Alliance; Association For Psychological Type; Songsalive; WE R Indie; Creative Songwriting Academy;

Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Succesful Songwriting Songwriters Market (2001, 2002); Connecticut Songsmith; Contemporary Songwriter Magazine; Songwriters Musepaper;
Songcrafter's Coloring Book;   Strategies for Teaching Guitar;

Masters Degree Molecular Biology; Certified MBTI Practitioner (Myers Briggs Type Indicator); Connecticut Secondary Public School Teaching Certificate; Author: "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting"

Awards and Honors
2012 Grammy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Independent Artist of the Year, (2003 national Indie Conference); Official Connecticut State Troubadour, appointed by CT Commission on the Arts, 1995 ; 1982 and 1992 CT Songwriter of the Year; 2000 Award for 20 years of Outstanding Service to Songwriters;
2002 CSA Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education through Music; Numerous awards for outstanding community outreach through music; 1997 Citation from Connecticut Legislature for exemplary dedication to community outreach through music. 1995 Renaissance Award for multiple music achievements in a single year.   Invited Presenter and Mentor at various Music Conventions

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