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Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sat, Mar 30, 2013 @04:43 PM

 

Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

(edited by Jessica Brandon)

 

Phil Ramone, legendary producer

Phil Ramone has worked with virtually every top music star including Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Paul Simon, often as a producer, occasionally as a songwriter. He recorded Marilyn Monroe’s infamous performance of “Happy Birthday” to JFK. He’s the co-founder of A&R Recording, Inc. He had a key role in the release of the first ever album, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.

A former violin prodigy and expert engineer, he worked with Dylan, Sinatra, McCartney, Bennett, Charles, Streisand, Simon, Joel and Bacharach and spent more than 50 years in the business.

Phil Ramone, the instinctive music producer whose mixing mastery for Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Paul Simon and Billy Joel helped fashion some of the most sumptuous and top-selling albums of his era, has died. He was 72. 

Ramone was married to Karen Ichiuji-Ramone (a.k.a. Karen Kamon, who had a top 100 hit in 1983 "Manhunt", featured in the hit movie and stage musical "Flashdance"), with whom he had three sons.

The 14-time Grammy winner and 33-time nominee once dubbed “The Pope of Pop” was hospitalized in late Feb. with an aortic aneurysm in New York and died Saturday morning at New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to Ramone's son Matt.

A native of South Africa who at age 10 performed as a violinist for Queen Elizabeth II, Ramone spent years working as a songwriter, engineer and acoustics expert in New York before charting a path that would make him a trusted studio partner in the eyes (and ears) of the industry’s biggest stars.

Among the albums on which he worked were Streisand’s 1967 live A Happening in Central Park; Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram (1971), sandwiched between the Beatles and Wings eras; Dylan’s aching Blood on the Tracks (1975); Simon’s pop classic Still Crazy After All These Years (1975); Joel’s critical and commercial breakthrough The Stranger (1977); Sinatra’s last-gasp Duets (1993), a model of technical wizardry; and Charles’ final album, the mega-selling Genius Loves Company (2004).

Ramone served as a songwriter in New York’s famed Brill Building music factory and worked early on with Quincy Jones, Tom Dowd, Creed Taylor, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller and Burt Bacharach & Hal David, among others. In 1959, he launched the A&R Recording studios on Seventh Avenue in New York, where Blood on the Tracks and so many other classics were recorded.

“Players are like prodigies, thoroughbreds," he added. "You have to handle them with care.”
Born on Jan. 5, 1941, Ramone at age 3 began studying the piano and violin, and he attended the Juilliard School in New York as a teenager. Although he was an accomplished performer and composer, he was attracted to the technical side of music and became a wizard working with the dials.


Ramone was nominated for 33 Grammy awards, winning 14 awards and a technical Grammy for a lifetime of innovative contributions to the recording industry:
1965 – Best Engineered Recording (non classical), for Getz/Gilberto
1970 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Promises, Promises
1976 – Album of the Year for producing Still Crazy After All These Years
1979 – Record of the Year for producing "Just the Way You Are"
1980 – Album of the Year for producing 52nd Street
1981 – Producer of the Year (non classical)
1984 – Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special, for Flashdance
1995 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Passion
2003 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, for producing "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues"
2005 – Album of the Year and Best Surround Sound Album for producing Genius Loves Company
2006 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing The Art of Romance
2007 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets: An American Classic
2012 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets II

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, producer, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Phil Ramone, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 03, 2012 @11:45 AM

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

 Singers Guide to Powerful Performances

Okay. You’ve written good songs and now it is time to record demos of them. You know that a demo doesn’t need to be perfect, but it has to be good enough to sell your songs to a publisher or be placed in film or TV by a music supervisor. The success of a song reaching the ears of the many will ride on a number of factors, including having a demo that really sells your song, a demo whose vocal is wisely calculated. Here’s how to get it there...

 

The Song That Doesn’t Sell

 

If your demo’s vocal isn’t stylistically believable, the song won’t sell itself. Good songwriting will be obscured, and possibly passed over, when a music supervisor or publisher listens to a song that has off-pitch, weak vocals or vocals that are stylistically incompatible with the music. For example, say you’ve written an R&B song and hope it will be sung by Christina Aguilera. But when you record the demo, your vocal sounds like an old-style cabaret singer with overly precise word articulation and a loose, wide vibrato. Result: The style of your song will be eclipsed and most likely passed over.

 

Who Will Sing Your Song?

 

When a publisher listens to a demo, if s/he can’t envision a certain artist singing it, chances are slim that s/he’ll pick it up and submit it to an artist for consideration. With that in mind, as you write a song or revise it after it has been written, evaluate the style of your song and match it to one or several possible artists you believe could sing it. This brings us to some important steps that many skip entirely or skimp on in their haste to demo and submit their songs.

 

Do Your Research

 

Before you write a song that you hope to have sung and recorded by specific artists, spend time listening to a cross-section of their currently released material to find out: Are there any particular keys or types of melodies they favor? How much or how little vocal range do they tend to use? Do they use mostly single syllable or multi-syllabic words? Are there any characteristic ways they use their voice, such as certain vowel sounds for their peak or climatic notes? Is their vocal bluesy, belting or whispery? Do they use much sustain? Do you hear a certain recurring manner of rhythmic phrasing or a use of embellishments?

Identify all this before you write your song or revise it, so you’ll compose music and lyrics that are stylistically consistent. You will also discover if you have the vocal skill to sing on your demo or if you should have a talented singer record it.

 

Prep Your Vocals

 

If you plan to sing on your demo, doing this simple exercise before you record will help you to improve your sound. Sing the melody of your song without lyrics, phrase by phrase, using a simple vowel sound such as “Ah,”  “Ee” or “Eh.” Don’t connect the notes with an “h.” Instead, keep your vowel pronunciation consistent as you slowly and smoothly sing each phrase.

Doing this has several benefits. 1) By removing the lyrics, you’ll focus on the musical flow of the melody and this will bring to attention any possible musical edits you deem stylistically necessary. 2) Your voice is the vowel sounds (not the consonants of words). This exercise can help to improve your tone and pitch accuracy, because it requires you to work the sound of your voice only. 3) Singing the melody with a single vowel exercises your vocal muscles so you can sing more easily. Once you’ve done this (over and over) to your satisfaction, sing the song with lyrics and notice any improvements. At this point you can begin to stylize your voice to suit the intended artist or song placement.

 

Learn from Singers

 

If you’ve decided to sing on your demo, but your vocal style doesn’t complement the genre of the song, practice with recordings of singers who sing in that genre. Record yourself so you can compare your rendition to those other singers and make adjustments as needed.

 

Studio Recording Tips

 

There are two important studio factors that either enhance or diminish your recorded vocals. Take the time to get the right headphone mix. You should hear yourself well and not feel “crowded” by the volume of other instruments. If needed, try the “one ear off” technique; Leave the headphone off one ear to hear your voice acoustically in the room.

The type of mic chosen and the mic’s placement should match rather than alter your voice and it should capture your best sound. When using your home studio to record, the standard microphone input on your computer is usually inadequate to make good quality vocal recordings. Use a separate audio interface with a preamp or, for the more budget-conscious, use a USB studio condenser microphone.

 

Remain Objective

 

While it may be difficult to remain objective, the whole project will fail if you do not evaluate your recording with a professional detachment that can discern stylistic consistency, perform-ance believability and accuracy of pitch and rhythmic phrasing. If the first two in-gredients are there, the pitch and rhythm can be fixed by punches or corrected in the recording software.

 songwriting

Vocals Still Sound Bad?

 

If you have followed all these suggestions and the vocals still don’t sound as good as they need to, it is time to acknowledge that you may not be the right singer for this recording. Your skill is songwriting and you want the quality of your art to be evident to others, so find an appropriate singer to record your demo.

There are some talented singers out there who will jump at the chance to get studio experience, an endorsement or even possibly a demo recording of their own. You can find singers through contacting voice coaches in your area, online musician referral services or bulletin boards, by referral from recording studios, other musicians you may know and through Music Connection’s musician’s online social network: AMP (http://musicconnection.com/amp).

You can offer to pay a singer or possibly draw up an agreement allowing them to use the recording as a demo to showcase their voice as long as they don’t sell or record the song as their own. Your song should already be copyright protected prior to going into the studio.

[Reprinted with permission by Music Connection magazine]

Jeannie Deva is recognized as one of the nation’s top celebrity voice and performance coaches. As a recording studio vocal specialist, she has been endorsed by producers and engineers of Aerosmith, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. Her newest book publication is Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances. See http://JeannieDeva.com. 

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, demo, Elton John, Studio Recording Tips, Jeannie Deva, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones

Top 10 Most Influential Songwriters Alive

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 24, 2010 @09:55 PM

 

By Ira Greenfield

A few weeks ago, I sent out a tweet to ask who you think is the best songwriter alive. We received many messages on who they think is the best. This is a list I have compiled:

Bob Dylan

 

1. Bob Dylan
With inconic songs such as "Blowing In The Wind", "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Times Are A Changing", Dylan social messages ranked high above other songwriters today.


2. Paul McCartney
Paul is the most successful songwriter in the world, according to the Guiness Books of world records. With his stints in the greatest rock group in the world "The Beatles", later with "The Wings" and went on to a solo career. With his late co-writer Lennon,they are considered one of the greatest songwriting collaboration in history.


3. Elton John
He has written numerous hit songs with Bernie Taupin, their iconic songs "Your Song", "Candle In The Wind", "Rocketman". Not a day goes by that you do not hear any of these songs in a cover band in a hotel bar.


4. Neil Young
Neil has been in lengendary bands such as "Buffalo Springfield", "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" and later on a solo career.


5. Bruce Springsteen
With rock anthems such as "Born To Run", "Born In The USA", "Glory Days", need I say more?


6. Diane Warren
Just about every artist has cut a song written by Diane Warren. She was the first songwriter in the history of Billboard magazine to have seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time. Warren owns her own publishing company, Realsongs, which gives her control over her songs. Her number 1 hits include "Because You Loved Me", "Un-Break My Heart", "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". She still remains the most in demand songwriter in the music industry today.


7. Desmond Child
Desmond has written iconic number 1 hits such as "Livin' on a Prayer", "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' La Vida Loca". His diverse list of artists such as Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin, Cher, Aerosmith and Clay Aiken, Desmond is running close to Dianne Warren.


8. Paul Simon
From his days with Garfunkel, his solo career, his stint with South Africian music, Paul has written songs that mean something.


9. Brian Wilson
Brian was the primary songwriter in The Beach Boys, also functioning as the band's main producer, composer, and arranger. In 1988, Wilson and his band-mates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which refers to him as "One of the few undisputed geniuses in popular music".


10. Leonard Cohen
Leonard Norman Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. In 2010, Cohen received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Lou Reed described Cohen as belonging to the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters."

 

For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Bob Dylan, Diane Warren, Paul Simon, Desmond Child, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Top 10 best songwriters, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, Leonard Cohen