“Knowing when a song is finished, when everything is perfect and it is time to stop is just something you have in your gut,” said Newmark. “People ask me all the time how to produce a song, but like the ability to be a singer or a musician, if you don’t have it inside you it can’t be taught.”
Newmark also discouraged singers from attempting to produce their own albums.
“Like a lawyer who tries to represent himself in court, it just isn’t a good idea. Not only may it not be something that is in your skill set, you lack the objectivity that is part of any creative process.”
If a composer gives birth to a song, it is the arranger who breathes life into it.
“The arranger decides the form of the song, which instruments to use and writes out the music for those instruments,” explained arranger Leib Yaacov Rigler. “Everything gets conducted in the studio, turning what was originally just a song into a beautiful piece.”
The arranger also writes an introduction for the song and possibly some bridge pieces to further complement the existing music.
“Generally, I like to take some idea that I hear in the melody and put that into the introduction, in a sense feeding off the original song,” said Rigler who noted that sometimes people ask him to write an arrangement that echoes a popular song they enjoy. “I find that I am most successful when I am given a general idea of what to do, along with free reign to work from there. I ask myself, ‘If I were a violin, what would I want to do here?’ I try to use music to reflect what is in both the lyrics and the music of the song.”
While some songs require more effort, in other cases the music just flows.
“Ultimately, it is up to Hashem what will be popular with listeners but a good song can become a great song with the right arrangement.”
Batting cleanup in the studio is the engineer, who is responsible for taking thousands of hours of music and turning it into the finished product that finally ends up in the hands and ears of listeners.
“After the singer and all the musicians are done, we start cleaning up the tracks like there is no tomorrow, removing unnecessary noise and only then can you start upgrading the actual mix,” explained engineer Ian Freitor. “Sometimes a vocalist can do a song maybe seven times through and you do a super take with the best parts of each one, cleaning each one as you go. For drums alone you can have twelve separate microphones going; you have to consider each one of those microphones on every take. It is very complicated.”
As someone who is in recording studio from the very first day of a project until the last, Freitor, who has worked on over 200 albums, has the unique opportunity to be part of the entire creative process.
“People have no idea what goes into a song,” observed Frietor. “It could take months, even years of input from the start until the end. Jewish music has started to change over the last five years as both artists and listeners continue to look for innovations, as music continues to evolve and build on what is already out there. The wheel was invented many years ago, but we still use it, incorporating it into new designs and new technology. It is the same thing with music. People need to be educated in what is going on in the world of music and how we can best use it to create new and exciting music.”
The ultimate satisfaction for anyone in the music business is hearing how his or her efforts have had a positive impact on someone’s life.
“I heard one story of an Israeli girl whose family wasn’t religious and whose father struggled to bring Yiddishkeit into their lives,” recalled Waldner. “One day when she was fifteen, she heard Shwekey’s Eishes Chayil and she asked her father to sing the song to her mother on Friday night. It was a turning point in their lives and the girl, who is now completely religious, credits this song, that I wrote, with changing her life. All this from a song whose origins came to me one day while I was walking down the steps.”