What is a Music Producer?
All of us who have come in contact with the music creation process have heard the term "music producer." But what does it really mean to be a producer? What does a producer do? And how do we know we’ve picked the right producer to work with?
To begin with, back in the day, producers didn’t really exist in the music business. Recordings used to be made capturing all the musicians playing at the same time, over and over until they got the song right. They would agree, by themselves or through their musical director, on all the important aspects of the song. Along came the 60s and 70s in music, and technology made it easier and more affordable for record labels to have more than just a few tries at recording their albums. It became clear that an extra pair of ears was needed to help create music and record it to its best quality for posterity. Someone who would have the ability to listen to the song, suggest necessary changes to improve and make it more appealing for the listeners, and coordinate the project from beginning to end. This person became known as the producer.
The producer’s role in the recording process today is Critical. In modern day studio recordings, instruments are generally recorded separately, sometimes even in different parts of the world and even on different days and platforms (PCs, Macs, etc.). So a producer acts as sort of a project leader, deciding the necessary tools for the project, as well as the right musicians and engineers to work with. Producers also have to choose what studio or studios to record, edit, mix and master their projects in. These days, technology has made it possible for whole albums to be accomplished with considerably lower budgets. When this is the case, producers most times accomplish most of the project with their own skillful hands and at their personal studio, only hiring a few other professionals to help them take the music to the next level.
As producer, you get a chance to listen to the tracks over and over as if you were putting together the small pieces of the bigger puzzle called music. When recording, a producer can choose to re-record and/or edit the music as many times as he or she feels necessary to obtain the best possible results. Special attention must be given to the vocal tracking. I like recording reference vocals several times from the beginning of the project because I believe that it gives the artist a chance to listen back and critique themselves, thus working on their performance before attempting to record the final vocals. Nearly all artists get some extra help from different software tools that help them with tuning, timing and other problems derived from vocal tracking. Nevertheless, I try to get vocal performances as best as I can.
So now that we know more about what a producer does, how do artists know how to pick the right producer to work with? Well, as with any other relationship in life, you can really know if things are going to work out until you try, but at least a few of the following pointers should help artists find who’s best for their project.