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« The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation | Main | If Your Music Career Was Like a Food Cart »
Wednesday
Feb152012

Three Steps on How to Become a Record Producer

A common misconception of a record producer is someone who has the money to finance expensive recording projects. While some producers are really the one that finances the project, this is only the tip of an iceberg in knowing the detailed job of the record producer. If you like to become a producer, the three steps outlined below is a big help. Let’s get started.

Step1.) Become a music expert of a specific genre

Producers are classified according to their expert genre. You decide which genre you like to become an expert with. For example, if you are already a rock musician and plan to handle a producer role; then you would most likely select rock music since you have extensive background how rock recordings should sound and how it should be performed or recorded.

Or if you are not an artist; then select your most favourite genre. For example, you have a lot of country recordings in your playlists and you always listen to country music. You can easily become a country music producer because of your background in that genre.

As an expert, you should be able to examine how professional recordings in your genre would sound. You should be able to know which musical instruments are commonly used, the effects level on their instruments (e.g. you know that distortion effect level in country music is not the same as used in punk , alternative or even metal genre); the vocal styles, drum sound, etc.

Step2.) Know what sounds good to your ears and transform ordinary song to become “hits”.

A producer is someone that when presented with a very rough demo or even a cassette recording of the song (from the songwriter); can think of the best ways how to transform that song to become a marketable hit. The producer should have the “vision” of how this ordinary song would sound like when professionally recorded. In the producer’s head, there is already a plan on how the song would be arranged, what type of instrumentations is required, how the guitar solo would be done, how the vocals should be performed, etc.

You should think of this in advance, before going to the recording studio. Thus the second requirement is that you have the talent to determine the hit song potential of a certain song. This is very important so that you won’t be wasting time producing songs that really don’t sell. Producers are hired because of this expertise. Some singer/songwriters or recording labels are seeking help from producers to help them think what could be the best songs to be included in the album project.

Producers would then review the demo songs presented by the artist and then advice a strategy on how those songs would be recorded and produced. As a producer, you would examine the song in detail. And even suggest rewriting the songs if you find some weak portions on them. In many cases, some producers can even co-write with the main songwriter and get song writing credits out of this collaboration.

Step3.) Knows how to assemble and handle a music production team

A producer is not alone in the production of a hit single or an album project. As a producer, you should know the vital team members in the project and act as an overall project manager. You oversee the performance of your team and you push them to give out their best performances. Below are the most important team members of a producer:

a.) The songwriter or music publisher- producer communicates with the songwriter often for new projects and for song writing collaboration. The objective is to make the song as commercially feasible as possible for release.

b.) The artist - the producer needs to coach and communicate the artist and motivate them to perform at their best in the recording studio.

c.) Recording engineers - sometimes the recording producer is not an expert technical engineer inside the recording studio. And you are not required to have this expertise. It is why producers sought help with an expert recording engineer to help you record the tracks for the project.

For example say a producer is looking for a specific drum sound to be attained during the recording of drums; the producer should then contact a recording engineer and ask to record those drums in the studio to produce the desired sound.

Or if a producer is looking for a specific sound to get out of the acoustic guitar; the recording engineer can suggest a number of ways on how to record the guitar to get that desired sound. The producer should always have the last words whether to accept or reject the take in the studio.

d.) Mixing engineer- after all recordings are made in the studio, the tracks would now be mixed. Again a producer did not need to have these skills; instead a mixing engineer would be hired. The producer has the ideas what the mix should sound like. The mixing engineer would then transform this idea to actual mixing settings to sculpt to the desired sound.

e.) Mastering engineer- A mix is not yet ready for professional release. A producer wants the mix to be professionally mastered so that it would compete with the released songs in the market which are both loud and big.

How to Get started? First, find an artist that you want to produce. Help the artist create some professionally sounding records by having the artist songs recorded in the studio. Research who will be the engineers that would like to become part of the project. And then start executing the project based on the above steps.

About the Author:

Emerson Maningo is a record producer and music publisher of independent music specializing in country and rock music. He is also writes tips and tutorials on music production/music publishing published in his blog: Audio Recording.

Reader Comments (8)

ridiculous article... u can not just become one... u have to be born w a natural talent... there is no formula to be a record producer..

February 15 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

Wow! So all it takes to become a country music "expert" is to have some country songs in iTunes??? You make it sound so easy!

I agree with the anonymous comment in that a "formula" won't guarantee success as a record producer. I believe in order to be successful, you have to have an "ear" for music, and most of the time, that "ear" cannot be taught. You either have "it" or you don't. Also, the best candidates for record producers are those that have a passion for MUSIC, in general. Yes, they could have a favorite genre...but just because they have some country songs in an iPod does mean that's where they are guaranteed to become a pro.

There are some good points in the article. But the duties of a MANAGER might be a better fit.

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterEdgar Allen Floe®

I think I got the author's idea. Sometimes being a producer is about gathering the right people to each step. In this case an executive producer. It may sound simplist to professionals but it is very clarifying to beginners.

February 15 | Unregistered Commenterone more producer

I think this author is assuming the person is talented enough to do the job. "Do you have the talent?" would be a whole other article in itself.

You had me at "Cassette Recording". (step 2)

I don't necessarily think that you have to born with the natural talent to become great at producing music; much like anything else music production can be studied, practiced, and perfected.

Learning how to play the piano, learning how to mix, learning how to compose are some of the main aspects of music production that should be focused upon. Master these three aspects, and anyone can be well on their way to a successful music production career.

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Does anyone have any tips or know of any resources to finding a suitable producer?

I'm about to start an independant recording project and therefore don't have an A&R person to recommend a producer. How do I find the right producer to help us turn our songs into hits?

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

this sounds a lot like Steve Martin's advice on how to become a millionaire:

"First, get a million dollars... "

May 5 | Unregistered Commenterjegenes

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