“Thou shalt not steal.”


But…sometimes stealing is the best thing you can do for a song.

Lemme back-track and explain.

When you’re working on a project for a client, especially if you’re playing the role of producer, it can become really tempting to make all the decisions yourself. Not only that, it’s easy to want to re-evaluate every decision that’s already been made.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say you’re producing a rock song for a songwriter. He comes to you with a rough recording of how he wants the song to go. He’s programmed a drum beat and came up with a cool lead part, but he leaves it to you to decide how you want to sculpt the song.

I’ll be completely honest.

This is the part where my pride gets in the way.

Even if the parts this guy came up with are great, I’ll still try to rewrite them, to make them better.

Even if the arrangement is perfect, I’ll try to change it, just to flex my creative muscles.

You get the idea.

There are plenty of times where I make creative decisions that really change the song for the better. But there are also times where I really should just “steal” the parts that someone else already wrote and incorporate them into my song.

(Just to be clear, I’m not advocating copyright infringement, etc.)

I’m simply saying don’t be so arrogant that you refuse to use a good musical idea…just because you didn’t come up with it.

This happened to me recently. I was working on a full-band project for a songwriter. I decided to come up with a “better” lead guitar part. My part was cool. His part was better.

We met to go over the song, and he asked if we could use the part he wrote.

Now, I could have been super-arrogant and moody and mean, and refused to do it. But when I tried it, it really did work better.

Was my pride hurt? Maybe a smidge, but the song sounds better, and THAT is always a good thing.

Keep that in mind on your next session.

The concept applies to mixing, too.

You may decide to mix a song with a certain “sound,” but the artist wants something very different.

You gotta be a master at EQ if you want to give them what they want.

I can help with that. Get started here:


10 Responses to “How to Be a Thief (and still sleep at night)”

  1. Xan Angelfvkk

    Isn’t it more about what the client wants? Who cares if their part is inferior, if they want it, let ’em use it. It’s their funereal. πŸ˜‰

    • Joe Gilder

      Ultimately, yes, it’s their call. But I’ve had many a client change their mind, just because I introduced something new that they hadn’t thought of.

      • Xan Angelfvkk

        Actually, I remember once I produced this pop single for this dude. He was a bit ov a nutter, but who cares, he had the $$$ to pay for the sessions. He kept getting me to do bits and pieces for him, but kept preferring his versions. In the end he asked me to do a version ov the gat solo. I refused saying “What’s the point when you’ll just prefer your version?” (Even though I would have easily kicked his sorry ass on guitar! haha)

  2. Scott Colesby

    Two quotes come to mind with this post.

    “Good artists borrow; Great artists steal” – Picasso (though it is rumored he stole the quote)

    “First you imitate, then you innovate” Miles Davis


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