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Full Sail University course director shows News 6 anchors how to make a hit song

The Grammys are one of the biggest nights in music-- lots of great artists, great music-- and a big show to go along with it.

But how do artists actually get to the Grammys? What does it actually take to make a hit song?

News 6 anchors Lisa Bell, Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden wanted to find out-- so they went down Full Sail University to talk to Advanced Session Recording course director Darren Schneider.

Schneider has worked in the music industry for decades, with artists like Deep Purple, Snow Patrol and James Blunt, among others.

"I think there's four major elements that really contribute to having a hit song. The first is you have to write a hit song," said Schneider. "Sometimes that's the artist, sometimes that's not the artist. A lot of artists actually purchase songs or they may have ghostwriters, they need help writing the song or they may collaborate with somebody, so the core thing is to start with the writing of the song."

After that, Schneider said you need to be able to record the song properly.

"Capturing the moment where you feel like the song is as good as it can possibly be," said Schneider.

Then-- the studio magic happens.

"We go into what we call the mixing process. The mixing process is us taking all the elements that we have recorded, could be layers of vocals, we may have multiple takes of a vocal, drum parts, guitar parts," said Schneider. "We're going to balance all that out so when you listen to the song, everything feels like it's in the right place."

This is where Schneider said there's a lot of misconception out there regarding what can and cannot be fixed in the studio. A lot of people may believe that no matter what you sound like, engineers can make you sound like a superstar singer every time. But Schneider said that's simply not accurate.

"The fact is, you have to have talent. That's one thing I can't fake. And for all intents and purposes, you have to be really close to where you need to be for us to, let's just say, help it," said Schneider. "The technology now allows me to have something that may be just a little bit out of tune and I can fix that. What I can't do is take someone who is singing completely out of key and take that and make that a hit record. We generally try to spend the time with the artist and it may be 300 takes of a vocal line to get it right where we want it to and then we will actually on top of that go in and manipulate that."

Schneider said mixing also pertains to the mixing of all the elements of the song-- it's not just manipulating the voice.

"What does the song need? Does it need more strings? Does it need to be bigger, does it need to be smaller? Is the track too big and we're making our artist look smaller? I mean, those are the things that we can control."

So what exactly does a music producer do?

"In this industry the definition of that word has changed n the last three decades probably more than ever," said Schneider. "People now think a producer in most parts are the songwriters, and that's not always the case. Producing a record is putting the right people in the right places and sometimes that is you and sometimes it's somebody else. Here at Full Sail University, we teach all different aspects of what producing is. We teaching the recording part, we teach the production part, we teach the business part, so depending on where I need to step into the play, I have the skill set to be able to do that."

Schneider said one of the things most people don't realize is how much time really goes into making a hit song.

"I don't think people understand how obsessive over these records these artists are, the thousands of hours that go into what you just pushed play and listened to on the radio or you download," said Schneider. "I've actually spent up to 14 months working on 15 songs, over a year developing songs and trying to make them the best they can be."

Once that happens, it's up to the record label to decide which songs to promote.

"Most artists and producers scratch their heads sometimes at what the record labels do," said Schneider. "I can't even tell you how many bands have had that scenario where it wasn't the song that we thought was gonna be the single and it's the one that blows up the band, the band becomes a hit band because of that proper choice."

That's why Schneider said one of the biggest factors in making a hit song is actually the promotion.

"People can't buy a song, people can't download a song unless they know it's available, so one of the biggest things that local bands or smaller bands don't have is the promotion money and that's a big part of you having a hit song is," said Schneider. "One of the big mistakes a younger band makes is they spend all their money recording and they may have an incredible record, they may have the most amazing record in the world, but nobody knows they have it. We're in a sales business, we're selling people entertainment and if they don't know they have the entertainment, obviously that's probably a huge factor."
 


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