Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Writing Room to the Studio

I had someone ask me recently, "How does a song get from the writing room to the radio?" Well, the most important step in that process is the song's transition into the studio. In my experience, only about one in every 8-10 songs written makes it from the lower-quality GarageBand version to the full-band studio version.

Here's an example of a song that made the jump from the writing room to the studio:

          "Breakthrough" (Ben Cooper/Jenn Schott) ©2010

          Exhibit A - Writing room version, immediately after finishing the song (Jenn singing):

          Exhibit B - The full-band demo recording (artist Mallory Hope singing):

In the course of three hours (the length of each "session"), a band of musicians will usually record five songs. Broken down, that's a song every 40-45 minutes, at a quality that sounds like something you could hear on the radio. The way this proficiency is accomplished is by having the songs mapped out ahead of time by the session's lead musician (here is an example of a chart written using the Nashville Number System).

When the time comes to begin recording the next song on a session, the players all congregate in the mixing room to hear the songwriters' rough recording (Exhibit A). They follow along on the charted road map, jotting notes along the way. After hearing the song only one time, the players take their places in the soundproofed tracking room and run through the tune. Then after a little banter about who should take the solo and when and where each player should come in, they play through the song for the final pass (Exhibit B). Generally the final demo version of a song is literally only the second time these players have ever attempted the song! After the band's tracking session, a demo singer or artist will come in and overdub the final vocal, and the engineer will mix the songs, sometimes even the same day.

These session players and singers are some of the most talented individuals I have ever been around. I wish I could bring everyone into the studio on days that we are recording, because it is such an amazing process to see. I believe that the most "Nashville" thing that a tourist could ever experience is not walking down Broadway through honky-tonk bars, but rather sitting in a studio while a song comes to life before their ears. And this is an experience that I hope you are all able to have someday soon.

Keep writing,



  1. this is so great, so helpful and clear. nicely done. the best blogs have content worth reading. and beautiful song

  2. Ben,
    This song is wonderful, and keep on writing!

  3. ha! i was in the studio when she tracked that song, i tracked right after her. i remembered thinking i really liked it. didn't know you wrote it!

  4. Thanks man! Did you have a song on that same session? With Jenn?

  5. Great post and BEAUTIFUL song. I'm currently uploading all my newly-written songs to Youtube in the rawest form to demonstrate how far they come from creation to studio-quality. It's an amazing transformation!

  6. Great post and BEAUTIFUL song! I'm currently uploading my newest songs to Youtube in their rawest state, to demonstrate the journey from creation to studio-quality. It's quite a transformation!

  7. Sorry, I'm not spamming you, I just thought the first comment didn't go through so I wrote another one!

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