Are there any "George Martins" these days?

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busterbloodvessel
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Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by busterbloodvessel » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:01 pm

First of all, I'd like to say what a wonderful community this is. I've been reading for years, ever since booking a session at Jackpot!, where the great Larry Crane had the misfortune of mixing my high school band's project. Sorry, Larry.

I think you guys are very wise, and I'm hoping you can help me figure out some possible career options. I'm 24, and desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life. I love music - it's all I think about, but I'm not sure how to turn it into a steady job. I've been in my fair share of bands, but the touring life isn't for me.

I'd really like to get involved in music production, just not necessarily the "technical" aspects of it. I want to make it clear that I don't feel like I'm "above" engineering or mixing - on the contrary, I have infinite respect for you guys who know which mic to use, or how a compressor works. My brain just doesn't work that way. I've tried, and it only leaves me frustrated and discouraged.

On the other hand, I could see myself being quite happy and successful assuming more of a "George Martin" role - working out three-part harmonies on the piano, arranging strings and horns, assisting with songwriting, maybe adding a keyboard or guitar part if needed. I have a pretty solid grasp of music theory, and a good ear for effective instrumentation. I love the process of layering instruments, and discovering the new sounds that are created.

I guess my dream job would be having a singer-songwriter come in and ask me to help flesh out their songs into something sonically interesting and beautiful. Then there'd be a more accomplished engineer than myself to set up the mics and all that.

I have never experienced a producer like this, so I really have no idea if it's common or not. I've only ever been able to afford a few days of studio time any time I've recorded. It's always been a very rushed affair. Get in, record, and get out. Most bands I know do the same thing. It's just too expensive to do anything else if you don't have a major label budget. Am I right in thinking that very few bands develop their songs for weeks or months at a time in the studio, or even desire something like I've described? Is this just a pipe dream? Do most producers also possess an intimate understanding of engineering?

I've rambled on too long, but I would really appreciate any opinions from anyone working in the industry.

Thanks,
Nick

thethingwiththestuff
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Re: Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by thethingwiththestuff » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:19 pm

i could see myself being quite happy married to an italian supermodel, and living on award money won in weed-smoking and blow-job-receiving competitions.

but seriously, do you have a composition degree? can you write horn and string arrangements on paper with competence? who do you know right now who you can go learn production from as an assistant? are any of your friends in bands that make any money? when was the last time they called you to write their harmonies or tune their drumset? do you live in LA, NY, or Nashville?

if you want to do that kind of work, you have to get inside that world.

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Z-Plane
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Post by Z-Plane » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:46 pm

^True enough, and if string arranging or orchestration is your thing, you should probably get familiar with a synth, sampler or program that you can use to hear these ideas. Offer to do a job on spec (they pay if they use it) for any projects or bands that you feel could benefit. Your talents may indeed be great, but the first thing I would ask is to hear something you have already finished.

busterbloodvessel
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Post by busterbloodvessel » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:54 pm

I wasn't trying to be arrogant, just asking a simple question. Sorry if it came off otherwise. I have no misconceptions about becoming rich and famous, I know that's not going to happen. I chose George Martin as an example for his familiarity, not because I hope to achieve his success.

I do have a music degree, not composition specifically though. I'm actually considering going to grad school for that. But either way, pop arrangements aren't exactly Stravinsky. I've written out plenty of sheet music and forced my friends to play it.

Again, I'm not trying to be a "big shot." I'd be perfectly happy doing this for smalltime local artists. I live in Portland, and was just curious if there's any sort of market for it.

Are you saying that this kind of thing is either "go big or go home"?

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Z-Plane
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Post by Z-Plane » Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:09 pm

busterbloodvessel wrote:Are you saying that this kind of thing is either "go big or go home"?
Not at all, if you can cultivate a local vibe of being the guy who does the cool string stuff, then you could pull in whatever work is out there. Still, if your talent lies in creating the arrangement then there might be a lot of work with folk who A) want to hear your ideas first B) actually don't mind using synth strings. I would get yourself in a position where all you have to say to a potential client is "give me the track or the session", then you program your bits in from there. If you don't know how to operate any software to achieve that then learn, its easy and cheap, and without it you are probably screwed.

thethingwiththestuff
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Post by thethingwiththestuff » Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:14 pm

i understand completely.. didn't think your post was arrogant, but perhaps a little naive. if you have a music degree, you're off to a much better start than many people i've heard express the same sentiments while remaining blissfully unaware that they aren't qualified.

i got it.. you know what its like? there's a seinfeld episode where george is trying to think of jobs he could apply for. he talks about being a sport commentator. jerry points out that those jobs usually go to people who are ex-players or journalists. see what i mean? yes, those jobs exist, and maybe you actually can succeed in that field... but not until you've really earned it.

if i was a 24 year old dude who'd never experienced financial success in music, why would i hire someone my own age who'd never achieved more than i to oversee my project and try to put his sonic stamp all over it?

MoreSpaceEcho
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Re: Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:07 pm

thethingwiththestuff wrote:i could see myself being quite happy married to an italian supermodel, and living on award money won in weed-smoking and blow-job-receiving competitions.
if i was the signature-having type, that would be it.

anyway, i think what z-plane is saying is right on, before you worry about anything else you gotta have some kind of demo reel to show people what you can do.

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Re: Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by chris harris » Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:56 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
thethingwiththestuff wrote:i could see myself being quite happy married to an italian supermodel, and living on award money won in weed-smoking and blow-job-receiving competitions.
if i was the signature-having type, that would be it.
Totally agreed. Post of the year!

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Post by donny » Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:10 pm

maybe your best best would be to be a "right hand man" to a talented singer-songwriter and play in a band with him. lots of those types need someone to bounce ideas off of and support them.
http://www.trounrecords.com

your life is beautiful / a seed becomes a tree / a mountain into a sky / this life is meant to be

busterbloodvessel
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Post by busterbloodvessel » Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:57 pm

Most of my stuff is on my old PowerBook, which doesn't have a power adaptor right now. But I have a few things from the last couple weeks which might give an idea of what I'm into.

1. "Livin at Home" - A friend of mine wrote this song on his guitar. Just four barre chords and his voice. He asked me if I could try to spice it up somehow, add some "smoky jazzy shit." Not really my forte, but I recorded this quick demo to see if it was the vibe he was looking for. Please excuse my drumming.

2. "Edward" - In case you didn't know, Edward is a sparkly vampire. I recorded this for my niece, after she asked me to learn Twilight's theme music. In the movie it's just a piano solo, so I added some little things.

3. "Clarinet duet" - Another friend of mine had this song in 5/4 and F dorian. He wanted a horn interlude, or solo, or something. I suggested adding half a beat to this section, for a subtly slower groove. (11/16, if you're into pseudo-time signatures.) All I had access to was an old clarinet, so I taught myself how to play what I had written. I had to do the topmost voice on guitar, since I'm not good enough to play the clarinet's upper register.

4. "Mac and Cheese" - Fooling around with my new charango. There's also guitar, a glockenspiel, egg shakers and a casio keyboard.

5. A three part harmony that I think would sound pretty nice if someone besides me was singing it. Some Mellotron fun with the same chord progression.

That's pretty much all I have right now. I have a lot of fun working on other people's songs or writing instrumentals. Occasionally getting paid to do these things would be a dream come true.

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Post by wenley » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:13 pm

+1 to what donny said.

As a singer/songwriter and bandleader it is a wonderful thing to have a right hand man who you can bounce stuff off. It's great too if that person is interested in arranging and engineering. In so many cases two heads are better than one, and if you don't mind helping someone with a little less technical facility realize their vision, it could be very rewarding I'm sure, whether you wind up George Martin or not. Maybe Jon Brion would be someone to look at as a model for what you're aiming for too?

MoreSpaceEcho
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:21 pm

ok i don't think you're going to make it as a singer but the rest of your stuff was cool. that first one was really nice (except for the weird fast-forward distortion thing that came in halfway through. the hell is that?).

so you obviously can play, join a band and get out there. get yourself into some recording sessions. if you can quickly come up with interesting parts and you're cool to deal with, it won't go unnoticed, and word will get around. other people will ask you to play on their records. and you build on that.

busterbloodvessel
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Post by busterbloodvessel » Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:49 pm

Ha, yeah believe me, I don't harbor any delusions about my singing ability. This is a big reason I'd like to work with other people. I recorded all these tunes with my laptop 's built-in microphone (told ya I'm not an engineer) and that awful noise you hear on a couple of them is my computer's fan turning on. It has ruined many a good take, let me tell you. But for quick demos like this I usually let it slide.

That's good advice a few of you have about joining a band and getting myself out there. I knew a pretty big network of musicians back in my college town, but now that I've moved back to Portland, I feel like I need to start all over again. I've been using Craigslist to connect with new people, but most of the time it just all falls apart. Oh well, just gotta keep looking.

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Re: Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by thethingwiththestuff » Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:01 am

subatomic pieces wrote:
MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
thethingwiththestuff wrote:i could see myself being quite happy married to an italian supermodel, and living on award money won in weed-smoking and blow-job-receiving competitions.
if i was the signature-having type, that would be it.
Totally agreed. Post of the year!
thank you, thank you... i was pretty proud of that one.

so yeah man.... everyone else got to the gist of what i was trying to say. go make a name for yourself by playing instruments really well, having good ideas and knowing when to present them, and getting along with everyone, and supporting them.

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Re: Are there any "George Martins" these days?

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:50 am

thethingwiththestuff wrote: i was pretty proud of that one.
i'm still laughing a day later.

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