What do you thin a producer's job is?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
A producer is responsible for the finished recording in respect to the sound, and often the arrangement and mix, and will have musical and at least some audio background. So if they're doing their job, they'll make the kind of decisions that benefit the song and obviously the artist. A good producer knows how to get the most out of a particular artist, and it accounts for some of the lengthy relationships that have existed in the music business.

Many artists produce themselves, and seemingly know how to get the finished product they want, but they undoubtedly learned a lot from other experienced producers and engineers before striking out on their own.

Bermuda
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
i would add that its all relative. some people call themselves producers and others simply are producers. a producer, a real one, has an artistic input into the project regardless of if it is music film or television. their input can often be noted by its absence from one album to the next.
then there's the wannabe producers who will try to push your band around. these guys are really engineers with ideas above their station.

ive met both types a lot. the trick is knowing which is which and knowing what to do about it.
j
 
S

Spiritinthesky

Guest
I think a good producer pulls a band together and lets them do what they do best, but points them in the right direction.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Two words: George Martin.

A real producer is a jack of all trades artist. Able to put together the sounds that the tecnology can produce with a musical vision of what the talent (or supposed talent these days) can do and how it can be marketed. They will either arrange, or bring in arrangers, bring in the appropriate session players where needed, guide the talent and the engineers to a goal, and often mediate personalities to make the whole thing work. Tough job.

Outside of a few very OCD folks like the Yacht-rock crew, most times a "self-produced" album is pretty recognizable. Parts droning on though the whole song, flat or muddy instrumentation, awkward shifts in the song from one part to another, clashing instrumentation, etc. A good producer smooths these things out. Sometimes it's a small thing like putting a key modulation in to lift the song, or adding some percussion or sweetening parts just where they're needed to make it not drone on and on. Sometimes it's more major like sitting down a band member and bringing in one of the Wrecking Crew to make the part pop. Making the writer redo the bridge. Or suggesting a complete change in tempo or rhythm that makes a so so song come alive.

These days, everyone with a synth and Logix is a "producer". But there's a lot more to it.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's usually understood to be kind of an opinionated recording/mixing engineer with creative control- that's what you get when you hire someone to produce a recording. On my own projects, the producer is more broadly "the guy with final responsibility for all the things that go into creating the CD from start to finish". First in and last out, more like a movie producer.

To me, this is production:
- putting together the money to complete the project
- picking what music to record
- selecting and calling musicians
- scheduling and running rehearsals
- scheduling, running and making creative decisions at the recording, mixing, and mastering sessions
- picking cover art, copy, photos, and design
- selecting packaging and dealing with CD manufacturing
- writing checks, dealing with problems, and firing people
- having a concept of the big artistic picture, and getting it realized in the finished product

Again, you don't normally expect a hired guy to do all of that- that's for self-producers.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
To me, this is production:
- putting together the money to complete the project
- picking what music to record
- selecting and calling musicians
- scheduling and running rehearsals
- scheduling, running and making creative decisions at the recording, mixing, and mastering sessions
- picking cover art, copy, photos, and design
- selecting packaging and dealing with CD manufacturing
- writing checks, dealing with problems, and firing people
- having a concept of the big artistic picture, and getting it realized in the finished product
Those are elements of production, yes, but all of those responsibilities don't normally fall under a typical producer's job description. For example, a producer wouldn't normally be involved in funding (that's the label's or artist's responsibility.) picking songs (also the artist's choice, and in the old days, the label's A&R guy paired songwriters & material with artists,) rehearsals, cover art, layouts or manufacturing, or writing checks.

But they are indeed responsible for how the artist comes across on record, and smart artists work closely and heed the input of their producer for the best chance at successful tracks. And the right producers have made hits of songs that might have otherwise died a quick death without the right touch. People like Don Was, Phil Spector, Bendan O'Brien, Phil; Ramone, Jack Douglas, Butch Vig, Bob Ezrin, and particularly George Martin come to mind. As simple as the Beatles' songs and (in hindsight) productions were, it was Martin who guided them all the way for the most commercial presentation.

And so the producer often qualifies as a member of the group, even if they didn't actually play anything on the tracks, although many do contribute their particular musical talents to one extent or another; Butch Vig on drums, Bob Ezrin on guitar, George Martin on piano, orchestration and arranging, etc etc.

Bermuda
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Those are elements of production, yes, but all of those responsibilities don't normally fall under a typical producer's job description. For example, a producer wouldn't normally be involved in funding (that's the label's or artist's responsibility.) picking songs (also the artist's choice, and in the old days, the label's A&R guy paired songwriters & material with artists,) rehearsals, cover art, layouts or manufacturing, or writing checks.
Yes, of course- Mutt Lange is not going to show up and do all of that. My perception may be a little skewed, because as in independent artist I don't have anyone doing those things for me, so I file everything production-related under my producer's credit, you know?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
A perspective from the basement rather than the penthouse that other basement-dwellers may relate to ...

I've only worked under one real producer when recording at a studio with an engineer who not long afterwards started a long term producer/artist relationship with one of Oz' top alt rock artists. He was officially just an engineer but he had such clear musical vision that he pretty well produced it.

Some things he did to improve the track:

1. Accepted first takes for vibe and energy

2. Being one of those drummers who likes to stay put on a groove, I was riding the floor tom through all of one song. He added extra dimensions by:
- pulling the floor tom out of the mix in the early bars so, when he re-introduced it, the song lifted
- getting me to switch from the faux Afro beat to a regular backbeat on the ride in the bridges
- understanding what I was going for and giving the toms a big sound.

3. Pulling out the lead singer's part in the 2nd verse, leaving it to our backup singer's part before re-introducing the lead vocalist late in the verse.

He did one thing wrong IMO - having all of us around a mic to sing backups. They were not in tune and it would have been better to record them one at a time so the (unidentified) dodgy parts could be excluded.

He then spent 12 hours working with levels and EQ. All in all he did a better job than any engineer/producer I've recorded with (the role of engineer and producer is often muddy for semi-pros and hobbyists. We had a regular engineer/producer before that recording but, in hindsight, he was out of his depth.
 

KBadd

Silver Member
Great post! One of the great "Behind the Music" episodes on VH1 Classic was on Metallica's Black Album produced by Bob Rock. If you have not seen it......please do so. THAT is what a producer is all about!
 

Paul Quin

Pioneer Member
This is a great question and I am truly interested to see what most folks "think" the role of a producer is. There are as many different kinds of producers as there are people and probably as many opinions on what that role is and should be. Toddbishop's response was more focussed on the role of an executive producer who may or may not even be involved in the creative and musical side at all.

That role also changes depending upon the project, the artist, the genre, the level of musicianship and the abilities of the engineer. Working with Will Lee, David Garfield and John Blackwell is a very different situation than being hired to work with a rock band of less experience (no names ok!). What never changes is that the producer's best tools are his or her ability to communicate, to understand the vision of the artist (and to ensure that both producer and artist are on the same page). Every good producer, however, knows how to use his or her ears. It is all about being able to leave the space or fill the space and when to know the difference. The producer's job is part psychologist, part engineer and part creator but it is always about working with the artist to make the product the best it can be. That may involve bringing in other players or it may depend on having the patience to work with what you've got. It is about occasionally stroking egos and sometimes being the boss.

A well known guitar player told me once that the definition of a good producer is when the session is finished and the band love the product and hate the producer. I don't know if that is true but it bears thinking about.

Paul
 

iwantmemoney

Senior Member
when i'm playing drums, particularly on certain stuff that stands out, my main goal is to have people say something like, "wow, if i was a drummer, that's exactly what i would've done right there!"

in the same way, i believe that (in the most simplistic terms), a great producer's strongest asset is nothing more than being able to hear things the way that a "customer" wants to hear them.

everything he does is for the sake of creating a legitimate piece of art.

one example:
for a writer/performer to cut out part of a song that isn't working is not much different than cutting off an arm! but a confident producer can just chop it off without batting an eye- if it needs to be chopped off. because many times a top producer, again, looking from a customer's viewpoint, understands much more deeply - not the value, but the impact of what the artist is trying to say than the artist himself, and can therefore wrap it up and put a bow on it with unfailing and uncanny spidey senses.

there are so many greats! but to me, a couple of the ultimate examples in rock and roll would be brian eno's work on the 'remain in light' album by the talking heads, and his work on 'joshua tree' by U2. thinking of it, one has to wonder just how much he influenced the commercial success of those mind-boggling efforts. it's probably immeasurable...
 

Timekeep69

Senior Member
It's usually understood to be kind of an opinionated recording/mixing engineer with creative control- that's what you get when you hire someone to produce a recording. On my own projects, the producer is more broadly "the guy with final responsibility for all the things that go into creating the CD from start to finish". First in and last out, more like a movie producer.

To me, this is production:
- putting together the money to complete the project
- picking what music to record
- selecting and calling musicians
- scheduling and running rehearsals
- scheduling, running and making creative decisions at the recording, mixing, and mastering sessions
- picking cover art, copy, photos, and design
- selecting packaging and dealing with CD manufacturing
- writing checks, dealing with problems, and firing people
- having a concept of the big artistic picture, and getting it realized in the finished product

Again, you don't normally expect a hired guy to do all of that- that's for self-producers.
I think you're confusing producers like Bob Rock who help bands record hit albums and producers like Lou Pearlman and Malcom Mclaren who create bands like N'SYNC and The Sex Pistols.
 

Brundlefly

Senior Member
At minimum, doughnuts and phone calls. At maximum, an objective ear, high level vision and devil's advocacy. Where your's falls between those extremes has everything to do with whom you've hired. Anyone who wishes to transcend those boundaries (in either direction) is potentially problematic.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
A lot of a producer's role will depend on the maturity, experience, and knowledge of the artist/band themselves. Very few acts recording for the first, second, or even tenth time know how to sound the way they hear in their heads. They may also be attached to sounds, techniques, song structures, or other habits in their playing and songwriting that an experienced producer can work with to make the final product work far better.

When the artist/band grows in those three areas, you often see more self-production, but it bears similarity to the printed arts where an editor's job can become that of an impartial devil's advocate, ax-swinger, and performance-enhancing personality. It takes a wise person to seek another's guidance, and a secure one to entrust another person with their personal artistic vision.

I love it when more established acts go into the studio with a new producer who shakes up their status quo and coaxes new levels of performance and excellence from them. A good example was Rush with Nick Raskulinecz on their last record. It was, artistically and sonically, a vast improvement from Vapor Trails (hard not to be a sonic improvement, but anyways...) I loved how, despite being a self-proclaimed Rush fan, he wasn't shy at all about telling them how he thought something was weak sauce, could be improved, oh come on, give me something fiercer. The end result ended up being something the band and the public at large were calling "a return to form" a la Hemispheres.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
I've worked with dozens of producers, and studied many more. In all of that, the one thing I can say for sure is that there is no one definition of a "producer." It varies greatly. George Martin was mentioned before, and he's a great example of an amazing producer...who many artists would thrive with, and many would hate. He played on albums, arranged the strings without much input from the rest of the band, added effects well after the boys had left for the night, and even came up with ideas like stringing together the second side of Abbey Road. The Beatles would not have been the Beatles without him.

Some producers basically write the songs for/with the artist (Mark Batson). Others only really help polish final ideas (Steve Lillywhite). Sometimes they push the artist so hard, they create great work, and other times they push so hard the artist can't handle it (again, Steve Lillywhite).

I've worked with producers who barely said a word to me other than "good take," or "again." I've also worked with producers who basically analyze every hit in a song and tell me how to change every hit they don't like.

The best way I can think of to truly put describe EVERY producer in one category is that they are the BEST pair of ears in the room. They just know what "works," whether that means in light of what is popular, what the artist wants, or what the song needs (or a combination of all three), and can help the artist get the song to that point by using varying degrees of influence and control.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I enjoyed that post, Mr C ... "they are the BEST pair of ears in the room" not only rings true but has really clarified production for me.


mrchattr said:
I've worked with producers who barely said a word to me other than "good take," or "again." I've also worked with producers who basically analyze every hit in a song and tell me how to change every hit they don't like.
What style do you prefer?

Being hobbyist / ex-wannabe I like it when things are relaxed but the person producing is sharp enough to pick up on a few small but crucial changes needed that make a world of difference. I certainly couldn't cope with a micro-managing Steely Dan type producer ... I'd be out in the street with a bootprint on my butt in seconds :)
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
I enjoyed that post, Mr C ... "they are the BEST pair of ears in the room" not only rings true but has really clarified production for me.




What style do you prefer?

Being hobbyist / ex-wannabe I like it when things are relaxed but the person producing is sharp enough to pick up on a few small but crucial changes needed that make a world of difference. I certainly couldn't cope with a micro-managing Steely Dan type producer ... I'd be out in the street with a bootprint on my butt in seconds :)
I honestly don't know what I prefer. I have worked with all kinds of producers, and as long as they are nice and personable, I have enjoyed it all. If they are jerks, then it sucks.
 

jayblazeff

Senior Member
The producers main job is to come out of the control room and say "we're gonna need more cowbell"!!




SOMEBODY had to say it!
 
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