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Studio-based songwriting: music production and shaping the pop song

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:17 authored by Patrick O'Grady
In this thesis, I explore studio-based songwriting in order to identify the ways in which this practice both disrupts and reorients “traditional” ways of thinking about pop music production. In particular, I reconceptualize the role of the songwriter: why have they been historically linked with scores representing melodies, chords and lyrics? How have recording technologies changed this representation and disrupted longstanding roles in the field?Similarly, I ask broader questions that interrogate the way studio-based songwriting has influenced, and in turn been influenced by, changing attitudes towards aesthetics, taste and value within the field of music production. How have these changes impacted on the ways in which songwriters construct and represent their identities within the broader social and political field? Studio-based songwriting is the confluence of recording and songwriting practice. Although the use of recording technologies in composition originate in “art” music, the practice developed in popular music during the 1960s. I argue that the role of songwriters expanded with the advent of recording as a dominant mode of consuming music. Using a number of case studies from 1965 until the present, along with my own creative practice submitted as two CDs, I examine the practices of studio-based songwriters. I argue that these practices can be understood as a series of latent or active processes, which are determined by their audibility on the final recording. Studio-based songwriting has developed with shifts in recording studios and associated technologies, which have been understood as “democratization.” I explore how these developments have disrupted the production roles of “songwriter,” “musician,” “producer” and “engineer.” I use Bourdieu’s work on cultural production to examine tensions between the so-called democratization and ongoing negotiations on taste, aesthetics and value within the broader field.


Table of Contents

1. Literature review and methodology -- 2. “Producing” a song : considering songwriting and recording roles in pop music styles -- 3. Studio-based songwriting in songwriting processes -- 4. Latent elements in studio-based songwriting practice -- Spaces and technologies in studio-based songwriting practice -- 6. Music production roles and studio-based songwriting -- 7. Conclusions.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 180-194

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Denis Crowdy


Copyright Patrick O’Grady 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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