UG News editor since early 2013. King Crimson fan. I handle the news around here.
Posted on Aug 23, 2013 12:08 pm
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.
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.
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.
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.