Expand/Collapse The Recording Artist

Explore lesson plans and video to accompany the PBS series, Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music.

TeachRock has partnered with PBS, Higher Ground and Show of Force to create these lesson plans for the eight-part Soundbreaking series. These lessons are tailored for students in social studies, language arts, geography, science, and general music classes. Each lesson includes clips from the Soundbreaking series, archival photography, period advertising and journalism, and activities for students to experience the music-making firsthand.

The TeachRock project is an online educational resource from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. See, where these materials and more are available free-of-charge to students and teachers everywhere.

  • Sam Phillips: Producing the Sounds of Integration and Urbanization | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips

    Use this lesson plan, based on the PBS series Soundbreaking, to explore the role of the producer in the recording studio and how a producer not only guides the recording process, but can also affect the wider cultural context. This lesson investigates what a producer does, why an artist might benefit from a producer’s services, and how producer Sam Phillips’ approach created an opening for African-American music to “crossover” into mainstream American popular music.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Turning Songs into Records: The Many Roles of Producers in Popular Music | Lesson Plan | Soundbreaking

    Martin Engineers Control Room

    Students learn about the role of a producer, using Phil Spector and George Martin, both of whom created defining sounds of the 1960s, as examples, in this lesson plan, based on the PBS series Soundbreaking. This lesson also explores the collaboration of the producer and singer-songwriters, specifically Joni Mitchell’s decision to “self-produce” in the early 1970s.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • What Does a Producer Do? | Soundbreaking

    Discover the importance role a producer plays in turning a song into a record with this clip from Soundbreaking. Producers Don Was, George Martin, Daniel Lanois, and Quincy Jones describe how producers must balance their intimate relationship with artists when giving directions, requiring a great amount of diplomacy. A great song can get lost in a bad recorded production, and producers have a crucial role in preventing that from happening.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Phil Spector and the Wall of Sound | Soundbreaking

    Musicians discuss the innovative recording processes of producer Phil Spector, including his method now known as "The Wall of Sound," in this clip from Soundbreaking.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Singer-Songwriters and Self-Production | Soundbreaking

    Learn why some singer-songwriters choose to produce their own records with this clip from Soundbreaking. Producer Peter Asher describes singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's vision of her own songs, and how it would be nearly impossible for someone else to produce her. Mitchell, herself, admits to this, suggesting that working with a potentially overbearing producer might quell her love of music.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Early Beatles and George Martin | Soundbreaking

    Producers Nigel Goodrich, Tony Visconti and Rick Rubin describe the special relationship between George Martin and The Beatles in this clip from Soundbreaking. Martin took the songs and performances of the intuitively musical Beatles and turn them into great records. He was unique in that he served as almost a fifth band member, placing himself in the band by adding his own arrangements and aural innovations to The Beatles records. As Goodrich says, Martin "took over their sonic picture," and thereby inspired many future generations of record producers.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Yesterday | Soundbreaking

    See the story of how Paul McCartney and John Lennon's song "Yesterday" was made into a record by George Martin with this clip from Soundbreaking. Martin heard the song's simplicity and decided not to add big, electronic sounds to it, but instead to include a string quartet. McCartney initially opposed the idea, because he thought of classical music as too distanced from who he was as a musician. But Martin convinced him and arranged parts for a quartet. McCartney loved it.

    Grades: 9-12