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Entry #2 "Navigting the World of Production"

Many artists are in the dark when it comes to certain aspects of making a record. What is mastering? Why do I need a producer? Recording drums in my bedroom will work, right? Let's take a step-by-step look at the processes of making a killer record.

So you've been writing and practicing your songs. You've got them down pat and your friends love them. You're off to a great start! Now you're looking to make an album to astonish your fans and garner even more attention. It's time to find a producer.

Some people think the guy/gal who records you is the producer. Sometimes that might be true, but just because they set up the mics and recorded the songs doesn't mean he/she is the producer. The definition of a "producer" has evolved over the years. It used to be someone who managed the budget and found the right people to make the album. The current responsibilities of a producer are much more musically inclusive. Along with managing the album budget, a producer works with your songs to make them even better. A musically experienced, objective ear is vital to the success of your songs. Accentuating the best parts of your songs, adding interesting instruments, sounds, and parts you may have never thought of are all tasks a good producer will undertake. Look at them as a temporary, extra member of the band.

So how do you pick a producer? Well, start with people who have produced albums you like. You might not have the luxury of working with the hottest producer in the industry so check into the people who have worked on your friends' albums that you really dig. Ask bands that are similar to yours who they worked with and how they liked it. Sometimes producers will even approach you wanting to work on your music. That's pretty cool (and flattering, right?)! Remember, the producer is going to become a new member of the band, even if for just a couple weeks, so you have to respect and trust them.

Like everyone, producers don't have the ability to work for free and will have varying rates; some might require one up front lump sum, and most will also ask for a small percentage of royalties on the back end. Make sure all parties are clear on all financial arrangements. A written contract is standard procedure here.

So now you need a recording engineer. Some producers (such as myself) are also recording and/or mixing engineers. Some producers might have recommendations on engineers they like to work with. And sometimes you might need to find an engineer to take care of the technical aspect of recording your album. Again, find a recording engineer whose work you like. Ask other bands, etc.

The recording engineer and producer will then be able to help you decide where to record your album. The environment in which to record your music greatly depends on your musical style, aesthetics, budget, and even room vibe. Maybe your bedroom is a great fit for the sound of your music. Maybe a barn in the mountains is what you need. Or the fancy studio downtown. Work with, and trust, your engineer and producer to find the right place for you. Sometimes multiple locations will even be the best bet.

Now to the performing of the instruments. Maybe you've got all that covered. Or maybe you'll need session musicians to record some parts. Your producer and engineer will likely know many pro players who can give solid performances in the least amount of time. I like to hire musicians who charge a flat rate per song. That way you're not paying for someone to learn the song. And usually the flat rate players are experienced enough that they'll come in and bang out a great performance in only a few takes.

Okay, enough typing for now, we'll continue this in Part 2, so stay tuned!

Blog Entries:

Recording Tips

Artist Development: The Series

Entry #1: Seriously?

Entry #2: Production Pt.1

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