I have been writing and arranging music since I was 15 and experimented with both over production and low production techniques but what constitutes over production and low production?
One of the most popular beliefs amongst most people who listen to music without a little production knowledge is that low production is a sign of professionalism whilst high production is a sign that the work you are listening to was mastered by professional musicians who have the greater talent than their lowly produced counterparts.
It is easy to understand why such a conclusion is reached, its like Keith Floyd against Antony Worrall Thompson. Two entirely different approaches to food and presenting it to the public yet both great cooks but one makes it look like an art form whilst the other makes it look like it is made with more luck than judgment.
I would hold the late Keith Floyd as my personal preference in terms of watching on TV and probably would prefer to be fed by him because the overall experience is much more absorbing and earthy.
The same goes for music yet some of the most difficult music to create is the simplest sounding. I have been involved in huge productions both live and in the studio and it's much harder to put your ideas into a small production that relies on feeling and musicianship as opposed to larger productions where you paint various textures over a basic track.
This is something that was known long ago by one of the great masters of classical composition,Â Ralph Vaughan Williams. His ability to move between the large orchestra and small orchestra in such pieces as The Lark Ascending and Fantasia Based On A Theme By Thomas Tallis is living testimony to his mastery of the orchestra and arrangement which is production.
One of the problems with over production in recent times is the way it's been used in mass produced factory music releases for the most commercial areas of the music industry. Used most commonly by the likes of Girl Bands and Boy bands.
This form of production is formulaic and predictable with the semi tone rise towards the end crescendo just like you get in the X-factor songs. I am sure you're familiar with the moment, it usually is the bit when the audience cheer and gives the illusion that the singer has raised his vocal range by a full octave.
There is of course one master in modern day production who has turned production into an art form and that is Trevor Horn. He is responsible for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the latest Robbie Williams new album. You may also remember him as Buggles with the classic Video Killed The Radio Star.
His approach to production is immaculate and there is no room for error in his work. The kitchen sink is thrown in with Trevor Horn and the rest of the house crammed in for good measure but it never sounds messy, just a glorious journey with different movements is his signature.
One of my favorite Trevor Horn productions is with Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells 2 and is a good example of the finesse of Mr Horn.
As for masters of what could be described as low production I shall name a few who have toyed with it over the years with great effect.
There is Tom Waits who would release a song recorded on a small tape memo tape recorder. Or there is Syd Barrett who was one of the first modern recording artists to strip all production value. as on his album The Madcap Laughs.
Captain Beefheart gave the impression of low production values but his sound was carefully crafted into creating the rawest sound imaginable and finally Nirvana's Album In Utero which was stripped of high production value and broken down to its bare components.
But to some it up I shall quote the great Tom Waits "I like my music with the pulp and seeds left in".