Nowadays, people tend to throw around titles, and positions like no one’s business. They may have good intentions, but might be something TOTALLY different than what they say they are. The internet age has opened the doors to software and hardware that was unavailable for most people, and has made the studio experience readily available. Also, with sites like Mixcloud, Soundcloud and YouTube, sharing your creations has become so simple anyone can do it with a smartphone. I’ve been a “Modern Producer” for the past ten years, and working with other producers and different recording situations has taught me a lot. So in this edition I want to share what I think a “Modern Producer” really is, and how they help with the creative process. I’ll admit this post is geared more towards mid level to “Signed” musicians, but I will try to get into the DIY or “Underground” Producers as well. So with that, lets get into a Producer’s role when working with artists in the current age.
1. Works as the “Middle Man” between the Creative and the Technical
Sometimes when you are working with an artist that is new to the recording process or new to working in a studio (DIY or professional) it can be hard to get everyone on the same page. It is the Producer’s job to make sure everything goes as it should, and that everyone is doing what they should. This means being a translator of sorts.
The Producer needs to be familiar with the songwriting process while in the studio. They need to be able to take the abstract ideas about how the song should sound or “feel”, and explain it to the engineer in a way that the idea works. They basically take words like, “Fatter” or “Wider” and translate them into, “More EQ on the Bass”, or “Add Reverb to the vocals”. They take the creative ideas, and translates them into the technical jargon that the studio staff can understand.
2. Knows how to get the most from the studio staff, the artist, and the tools
Like I mentioned previously, the internet age has opened doors to everyone with a wifi connection. With this in mind, it is the Producer’s job to know the latest and greatest techniques, gear, trends and studio “tricks” to make the songwriting or studio session go smooth. You don’t want to work with someone that never upgraded to a digital work station, or is still using mixing techniques from the pre-stereo age would you?
This is even more important when working in your personal studio, or DIY studio. When you are working in your home studio, or with friends in a “Closet” studio, knowing the latest tips and tricks could speed up the session exponentially. So it’s up to the Producer to know how to get everyone working as a well tuned and efficient song writing machine!
3. Brings out the best in everyone…especially you
The studio sessions, and songwriting sessions could be totally nerve racking! Especially for a new artist, or an artist that has never really worked with others before. Even worse, you could have studio staff that are totally phoning it in, and are just there to push buttons. This is where, you guessed it, the Producer steps in. The Producer should introduce everyone to each other, and make everyone feel like a team. They should make the artist feel at ease and make sure they are able to give their best performance. They should also snap any studio staff into shape if they start to lose focus on the session.
Here, the Producer is a motivational source. They help the artist and staff in a way that is fun, and makes the experience a good one. If you have a Producer that is like a drill sergeant and makes the session a horror show, take a step back. Your Producer is not your boss, and should treat everyone equally.
4. Focuses on the overall plan
Writing a song in your living room is one thing. Recording a song for distribution is another thing. As an Artist, you write and preform the songs, and as an Engineer or studio staff you make sure you get the best sound and recordings possible. The Producer must have the overall picture laid out in their head. From the small details of the writing and recording process, to the final mix and tracking out process. The Producer may also look over the mixing of instrumental, vocal only, and live versions of the song. The post production portion of songwriting has many steps, and needs someone to manage it all.
If you have other people on your track, the Producer has the release forms ready. Want to have your song placed in movies, or remixed by a famous DJ? The Producer makes sure to have high quality versions of your song ready for film, or other musicians and Producers. The Producer should even know how to prep your song for posting to the web and websites.
If you are a new artist and are still unsure about things in the studio sessions or when working with other artists, try and connect with a good producer. They will help you more than you think, and usually end up understanding you as an artists and can help with your final vision.
Now I know there are some of you out there that have different ideas on what a “Producer” is. That’s okay! This is only one part of a WAY bigger process, and deserves a deeper look. So keep an eye out for more posts like this, and more info on Producers when it comes to Beat Making, and even “One Man Bands” or Producers that do everything (and when I say everything…I mean it!).
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