The Crucial Role of Music Producers

Do you really need a producer in the studio?

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They're the gurus behind the mixers, mysterious individuals who make the studio magic happen. Of course, we're talking about music producers and their crucial, yet often neglected role in the music-making process.

Hidden behind fancy buttons and tweaks, producer's contributions can be a bit hard to grasp through artist's flashy performance, especially for the casual listener. So let's take a few minutes and discuss exactly what kind of impact can a producer have.

What the producer has to do is take charge of this entire mechanism called the band and guide it through a series of recording sessions and ultimately deliver the best possible record. Some of the more prominent aspects are listed below.

Artistic Vision

The producer is essentially the head of operations throughout the entire album-making process, putting him in charge of not only the technical aspect of the material, but the vibe, feel and vision of the given artist. This is a much greater responsibility that the crowd thinks, as once those factors and directions are assigned, they create somewhat of an avalanche, affecting technical aspects, playing style, the groove and overall group psychology. Take the recent story of former Korn drummer David Silveria as an example.

In a lengthy post, Silveria attributed the drastic sound change following Korn's first three album to none-other than the new producer. As he described it, the "big-name" guy brought in a new philosophy, making the group drift far away from the old approach, for better or worse. And most fans would agree it wasn't exactly for the better. Of course, such change can also take the bands to the next level, just look at Radiohead and their work with Nigel Godrich. The fact that "OK Computer" was their first Godrich-produced album speaks for itself really. Same goes for Metallica/Bob Rock collaboration and the "Black Album."

After realizing the producer's influence in the artistic vision domain, it comes as far less of a surprise that various rock groups' mainmen are often attributed as producers. It's their story and journey, so it's only up to them to truly direct it.

Studio Tricks And Song Contribution

Of course, technical aspect shouldn't be neglected either. Producers are the masters of studio tricks and are able to elevate the track to an entire new level and basically polish the raw set of chords into a major hit tune. Whether it's that magical tone, slight chord adjustment of a nifty guitar fill, producer's contributions can even extend to such extent that it earns him a spot on the author's list, securing further long-term royalties.

But if the producer is unable to sink his teeth into the track and deliver quality contributions, the song might end up sounding bland and sketchy. We might as well note here that producer's contributions can drastically vary depending on the artist and even specific genre to a solid extent. So for example, pop artists often don't compose their songs, putting the entire task of gathering up songwriters, musicians and basically the entire process of tune-making into producer's hands. In the rock domain on the other hand, artists tend to write and arrange songs themselves, so it only comes natural that they give a great input in the production process as well. After all, it's their artistic expression we're talking about.

Group Psychology

This one comes of greater importance in the rock world. Producers serve as hosts in their studios and it's up to them to help create an environment in which the artist can deliver top performance, both in terms of instrument-playing and music-writing. No matter the musicians' age and experience, the producer always has a daunting task of balancing the perfect setup and getting that jackpot vibe on tape.

Taking on the producer assignment and group psychology of younger bands comes as particularly interesting. Young artists can often be too cocky and stubborn or too insecure and pliable, only making the producer's job more difficult, as he's constantly walking a very thin line. Sometimes, the producer is able to polish a true diamond; on other occasions, kids just need someone to tell them a thing or tow in a manner similar to the crass gentleman in the clip below.

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So we have a bit more of a musician niche topic at our hands here. Thankfully, we have plenty of musicians here on UG, so feel free to share all your studio stories. What was it like when you first hit the studio with an actual professional producer? Let us know in the comments.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Informative article. A little short for my taste, but it was very good. As for sharing studio stories, most of the time when we hit the studio at the college we were sneaking food and booze in, and almost got busted for it a couple times. Nothing too exciting though.
    If a band can't write a good song by themselves a producer won't help much!
    It's not that a producer takes bad bands and makes them good. He takes good musicians and gives them direction and all that. Obviously bad musicians will be bad musicians
    Nice Article, my buddys and me just went to the studio a couple weeks ago for out fist EP. It was the very first time we recorded something professionally. All our demos were home-recorded. We were on a little budget, with merely 600 and 6 songs to record, so it had to be done in two days, one for the instumental parts, one for the vocals and it was HELL. But in the end, we did it. And if it had not been for our Producer, we prabably had not, or at least much worse. Not only did he help us in the matter of songwriting, since our bass parts and also some guitar riffs were not that optimal, he also convinced us that in one song, we played a tiny bit too fast to do it properly. 5 bpm slower were enough to get a much better take. He heard mistakes we never heard before, despite having played the songs over and over in advance. Now we know many things we didn't before. My advice for every band trying something new and/or never having been to a studio before: Do it! Make a few demo songs, it will greatly improve the way you are writing your music.
    my experience had to be as normal as it gets im assuming, our producer helped us work out some bass parts, made some good suggestions (such as playing in the right key -_ and really guided us through the record making process. lol he choked down big ol fat cigars like crazy though
    This article really makes it sound like everything is up to producer, and not the artist. This article should apply pretty well to Idols-like artists, though. As an artist, I'd say the best possible producer would be more appropriately called "recorder", because in order for a band to be itself, it needs to sound like it wants to, and that's something that's up to the band to decide, and not the recorder. A producer/recorder is free to throw in ideas or suggestions but should not "take control" of the music, because the music is not his. A lot of what this article is about seems to be from the angle of making money and pleasing a label. Not about making great music, to which there is no formula. There are merely statistics of what has sold the most in the past.
    The word you are looking for is engineer. If your sole purpose is to go into the studio and record your songs, your way, then all you need is an engineer. Many times the terms get confused, and most small studios are run by engineers not necessarily engineers.