You’re an artist that is looking to take it to the next level by bringing someone from the outside into your recording/production process. Congrats! Perhaps you’ve already found that person or are still looking for the right fit. Regardless, it is my hope that each of these questions that we’re about to address will provide insight as to how you want this whole rodeo to go down. This experience is really what you make of it.
1. What is a music producer?
The world of music has many pieces on the board. Each piece has its own specialty and ability, that if played right, can play a vital role in your musical experience. A producer is just one of those many pieces. They are a master illusionist, there to advise you and your band on how to show the world your art as exactly as you wish it to be heard. They are meant to see everything from a high-altitude perspective to help you, as the artist, navigate each obstacle along the production process. They are the ones that oversee everything from the pre-production to post-production stages. Before you even step foot in the studio, they have already consulted your band on every minute detail from composition and arrangement to tone choices and what time of day is best for you to perform your best. It is your choice as the artist to decide how involved you wish this outside person to be in your process.
2. What roles do producers play in the production process?
Ultimately, a producer’s role can be defined by their involvement in any of the 3 stages of production; Pre-production, Production, and Post-Production. You want each stage to be as intentional as you can make it. No stone left unturned! When meeting with clients and friends, I like for all topics of conversation during these 3 stages to be put in 2 categories.
- What parts and pieces have already been tried and tested before that don’t require a re-inventive attitude?
- Which parts and pieces can be manipulated/altered to make your sound as creative/original/authentic as you wish them to be?
Okay, so now we know which baskets to throw our intention into, let’s see how they fit in each stage.
Pre-production: where all aspects of intention for your art are addressed and accommodated before you ever step into the studio. Questions to ask but not limited to: Why are you making this Album? Who do you want to listen to your art? Who are similar artists that want to be in the ranks with? Does the bpm for this song need to be adjusted to reach the level of groove that you were going for? Is the length of the song the amount that you want it to be? Are you hitting your chorus fast enough? This section would be stronger if there was more space in it, which instruments/ parts of the arrangement need to be stripped to get there?
The list goes on! Again, making sure that you and everyone involved is aware and aligned on the purpose on every piece of your art is imperative to getting the result that you wish to get out of the whole process. Your producer can then communicate all of these wants and needs to the recording engineer/studio so that everything is as ready as it can be for your actual recording date.
Production: Where the performance of each piece to your art is captured through recording. Everything should go as planned, but sometimes curveballs are thrown. That’s where the producer steps in, to help you maneuver the unexpected. For instance, perhaps your acoustic guitar isn’t coming through the way you had originally thought it would. Maybe the mics need to be exchanged with another, or their angle needs to change, or maybe you need to play a completely different guitar. The point is that you want your raw recording of your performance to be as close to the way you want to hear it on the record as possible. Your producer is there to help make suggestions to get you close to what that performance sounds like.
Post-production: Where raw-recordings are refined through mixing and mastering. Mixing is applying any adjustments to individual tracks in a song (bass, keys, snare drum etc.) so that the whole song is a cohesive masterpiece. Mastering is making final changes to the entire song as a whole. Much like baking a cake, mixing is literally mixing all of your ingredients together and mastering is putting that cake in the oven. Often times mixing and mastering work in conjunction with one another. You can have all the added effects, fade ins and outs, EQing that make your mix sound great, but don’t allow for the powers of mastering to take any beneficial effect. Your producer is there with your mixing and mastering engineers to make sure that your mission of intent in the initial stages of production carries over to the final product.
- Why should you have a producer?
The whole production process, as described above, is a massive undertaking. It’s so easy to become narrow-focused and not be able to step back and see the big picture of what you’re attempting to accomplish. Your producer is simply there to keep you on track and help you, as the artist, remain true to your vision. It’s up to you and your collaborators to decide if that task is something you wish to take on or to delegate to someone that you trust.