Record producer

Last updated
Record producer
Engineer at audio console at Danish Broadcasting Corporation.png
A recording session in Denmark
Occupation
NamesRecord producer, music producer
Occupation type
Profession
Activity sectors
Music industry
Description
Competencies Instrumental skills, keyboard knowledge, songwriting, arranging, vocal coaching
Fields of
employment
Recording studios
Related jobs
Music executive, recording engineer, executive producer, film producer, A&R

A record producer or music producer oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer's music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album. [1] A producer has many, varying roles during the recording process. [2] They may gather musical ideas for the project, collaborate with the artists to select cover tunes or original songs by the artist/group, work with artists and help them to improve their songs, lyrics or arrangements.

Contents

A producer may also:

The producer typically supervises the entire process from preproduction, through to the sound recording and mixing stages, and, in some cases, all the way to the audio mastering stage. The producer may perform these roles themselves, or help select the engineer, and provide suggestions to the engineer. The producer may also pay session musicians and engineers and ensure that the entire project is completed within the record label's budget.

Function

A record producer or music producer has a very broad role in overseeing and managing the recording and production of a band or performer's music. A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, composing the music for the project, selecting songs or session musicians, proposing changes to the song arrangements, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through audio mixing and, in some cases, to the audio mastering stage. Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, contracts, and negotiations.

For Grammy qualification The Recording Academy definition of a producer is: [4]

The person who has overall creative and technical control of the entire recording project, and the individual recording sessions that are part of that project. He or she is present in the recording studio or at the location recording and works directly with the artist and engineer. The producer makes creative and aesthetic decisions that realize both the artist's and label's goals in the creation of musical content. Other duties include, but are not limited to; keeping budgets and schedules, adhering to deadlines, hiring musicians, singers, studios and engineers, overseeing other staffing needs and editing (Classical projects).

The producer role was occasionally divided among up to three different individuals in the 2010s: executive producer , vocal producer and music producer. An executive producer oversees project finances, a vocal producer (also known as a vocal arranger) oversees the vocal production, and a music producer directs and oversees the creative process of the production and recording of a song to its final mixing stage.

The music producer often wears many hats as a competent arranger, composer, programmer, musician or songwriter who can bring fresh ideas to a project. As well as making any songwriting and arrangement adjustments, the producer often selects and/or collaborates with the mixing engineer, who takes the raw recorded tracks and edits and modifies them with hardware and software tools to create a stereo or surround sound "mix" of all the individual voices sounds and instruments, which is in turn given further adjustment by a mastering engineer for the various distribution media. The producer also oversees the recording engineer who concentrates on the technical aspects of recording.

Noted producer Phil Ek described his role as "the person who creatively guides or directs the process of making a record", like a director would a movie. Indeed, in Bollywood music, the designation is actually music director. The music producer's job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music. The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist's entire album – in which case the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate.

History

At the beginning of the record industry, the producer role was technically limited to record, in one shot, artists performing live. [5] The immediate predecessors to record producers were the artists and repertoire executives of the late 1920s and 1930s who oversaw the "pop" product and often led session orchestras. That was the case of Ben Selvin at Columbia Records, Nathaniel Shilkret at Victor Records and Bob Haring at Brunswick Records. By the end of the 1930s, the first professional recording studios not owned by the major companies were established, essentially separating the roles of artists and repertoire (A&R) man and producer, although it wouldn't be until the late 1940s when the term "producer" became widely used in the industry.

The role of producers changed progressively over the 1950s and 1960s due to technology. The development of multitrack recording caused a major change in the recording process. Before multitracking, all the elements of a song (lead vocals, backup vocals, rhythm section instrument accompaniment, solos and orchestral parts) had to be performed simultaneously. All of these singers and musicians had to be assembled in a large studio where the performance was recorded. With multitrack recording, the "bed tracks" (rhythm section accompaniment parts such as the bassline, drums, and rhythm guitar could be recorded first, and then the vocals and solos could be added later, using as many "takes" (or attempts) as necessary. It was no longer necessary to get all the players in the studio at the same time. A pop band could record their backing tracks one week, and then a horn section could be brought in a week later to add horn shots and punches, and then a string section could be brought in a week after that.

Multitrack recording had another profound effect on music production: it enabled producers and audio engineers to create new sounds that would be impossible in a live performance style ordering. Examples include the psychedelic rock sound effects of the 1960s, e.g. playing back the sound of recorded instruments backward changing the tape to produce unique sound effects. During the same period, the instruments of popular music began to shift from the acoustic instruments of traditional music (piano, upright bass, acoustic guitar, strings, brass and wind instruments) to electric piano, electronic organ, synthesizer, electric bass and electric guitar. These new instruments were electric or electronic, and thus they used instrument amplifiers and speaker enclosures (speaker cabinets) to create sound.

Electric and electronic instruments and amplifiers enabled performers and producers to change the tone and sound of instruments to produce unique electric sounds that would be impossible to achieve with acoustic instruments and live performers, such as having a singer do her own backup vocals or having a guitarist play 15 layers of backing parts to her own solo. [6]

New technologies like multitracking changed the goal of recording: A producer could blend together multiple takes and edit together different sections to create the desired sound. For example, in jazz fusion Bandleader-composer Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew , the producer cut and edited sections together from extensive improvisation sessions.

Phil Spector producing Modern Folk Quartet, 1966 MFQ with Phil Spector.jpg
Phil Spector producing Modern Folk Quartet, 1966

Producers like Phil Spector and George Martin were soon creating recordings that were, in practical terms, almost impossible to realize in live performance. Producers became creative figures in the studio. Other examples includes Joe Meek, Teo Macero, Brian Wilson, and Biddu. [7]

Brian Wilson at a mixing board in Brother Studios, 1976 Brian Wilson 1976 crop.jpg
Brian Wilson at a mixing board in Brother Studios, 1976

Another related phenomenon in the 1960s was the emergence of the performer-producer. As pop acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Kinks gained expertise in studio recording techniques, many of these groups eventually took over as (frequently uncredited) producers of their own work. Many recordings by acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who are officially credited to their various producers at the time, but a number of these performers have since asserted that many of their recordings in this period were, either wholly self-produced (e.g. The Rolling Stones' Decca recordings) or collaborations between the group and their recording engineer (e.g. The Small Faces' Immediate recordings, which were made with Olympic Studios engineer Glyn Johns). [nb 1]

The Beach Boys are probably the best example of the trend of artists becoming producers – within two years of the band's commercial breakthrough, group leader Brian Wilson had taken over from his father Murry, and he was the sole producer of all their recordings between 1963 and 1967. Alongside The Beatles and Martin, Wilson also pioneered many production innovations – by 1964 he had developed Spector's techniques to a new level of sophistication, using multiple studios and multiple "takes" of instrumental and vocal components to capture the best possible combinations of sound and performance, and then using tape editing extensively to assemble a perfect composite performance from these elements.

At the end of the 20th century, digital recording and producing tools and widespread availability of relatively affordable computers with music software made music producing more accessible.

American women and record producing

According to a 2018 study covering by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, "The ratio of male to female producers across 300 popular songs is 49 to 1." [8]

In 2019, The Recording Academy's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion announced the "Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative." This initiative asks musicians, record labels, studios and others to consider at least two women for each producer or engineer position. Major artists, producers and organizations have signed on including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Quincy Jones, Pearl Jam, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Pink, Cardi B, Maroon 5 and over 200 others. [9]

In 2019, record producer Linda Perry was nominated for a Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. She was the first woman in over 15 years to be nominated for the award. When asked about the disparity between male and female record producer by Billboard, she attributed it to many women not being interested in record production. [10]

Previous Grammy nominees for Producer of the Year include Lauren Christy (2004), Sheryl Crow, Lauryn Hill and Janet Jackson. None have won the award. [11]

In the classical music field, Judith Sherman has won Grammy for Producer of the Year, Classical, five times and has been nominated twelve times. Anthony Tommasini, a music critic for The New York Times is quoted as stating, "In the struggling field of classical recording, it's the producers who take the real risks and make things happen." [12]

Wilma Cozart Fine produced hundreds of recordings for Mercury Records.

Producer Wendy Page describes being a record producer, "The difficulties are usually very short-lived. Once people realize that you can do your job, sexism tends to lower its ugly head. I tend to create a happy studio 'family' where everyone is glad to be there, especially the artist. Good communication and diplomacy usually sort any little problems out." [13]

The path to record producing for many female singer-songwriters is through self-producing their own albums. Major artists who are "record producers" (on their own albums) include Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Toni Braxton, Lady Gaga, Pink, Adele, Lauryn Hill, Björk, FKA Twigs and Missy Elliott.

Notable women record producers (who produce other artists)

Equipment and technology

Mixing console Audio mixer faders.jpg
Mixing console

There are numerous technologies utilized by record producers. In modern-day recordings, recording and mixing tasks are commonly centralized within computers using digital audio workstations such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton, Cubase, Reason and FL Studio, which all are often used with third party virtual studio technology plugins. [14] Logic Pro and Pro Tools are considered the industry standard DAWs. [15] [16] However, there is also the main mixer, outboard effects gear, MIDI controllers, and the recording device itself.

While most music production is done using sophisticated software, some musicians and producers prefer the sound of older analog technology. Professor Albin Zak claims that the increased automation of both newer processes and newer instruments reduces the level of control and manipulation available to musicians and producers. [17]

Studio application

Production has changed drastically over the years with advancing technology. While the producer's role has changed, their duties continue to require a broad knowledge of the recording process. [18]

Tracking is the act of recording audio to a DAW (digital audio workstation) or in some cases to tape. Even though digital technologies have widely supplanted the use of tape in studios, the older term "track" is still used in the 2010s. Tracking audio is primarily the role of the audio engineer. Producers work side by side with the artists while they play or sing their part and coach them on how to perform it and how to get the best technical accuracy (e.g., intonation). In some cases, the producer will even sing a backup vocal or play an instrument.

Many artists are also beginning to produce and write their own music. [19]

See also

Notes

  1. Similarly, although The Beatles' productions were credited to George Martin throughout their recording career, many sources now attest that Lennon and McCartney in particular had an increasing influence on the production process as the group's career progressed, and especially after the band retired from touring in 1966. In an extreme example of this, Martin actually went on a two-week vacation as The Beatles were recording The White Album ; production of several completed tracks on the album were credited to The Beatles on internal paperwork at Abbey Road Studios, although the released LP gave sole production credit to Martin.

Related Research Articles

Geoff Emerick English recording engineer

Geoffrey E. Emerick was an English sound engineer who worked with the Beatles on their albums Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Abbey Road (1969). Beatles producer George Martin credited him with bringing "a new kind of mind to the recordings, always suggesting sonic ideas, different kinds of reverb, what we could do with the voices".

Audio mixing Process by which multiple input sources or sounds are combined into one or more output channels

Audio mixing is the process by which multiple sounds are combined into one or more channels. In the process, a source's volume level, frequency content, dynamics, and panoramic position are manipulated or enhanced. This practical, aesthetic, or otherwise creative treatment is done in order to produce a finished version that is appealing to listeners.

Recording studio facility for sound recording

A recording studio is a specialized facility for sound recording, mixing, and audio production of instrumental or vocal musical performances, spoken words, and other sounds. They range in size from a small in-home project studio large enough to record a single singer-guitarist, to a large building with space for a full orchestra of 100 or more musicians. Ideally both the recording and monitoring spaces are specially designed by an acoustician or audio engineer to achieve optimum acoustic properties.

Multitrack recording process of mixing individual sound sources to a single recording

Multitrack recording (MTR)—also known as multitracking or tracking—is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking became possible in the mid-1950s when the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same reel-to-reel tape was developed. A "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on the tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized.

Eddie Kramer South African audio engineer and producer

Edwin H. Kramer is a South African-English recording producer and engineer. He has collaborated with several artists now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including the Beatles, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, and Carlos Santana.

Automatic double-tracking or artificial double-tracking (ADT) is an analogue recording technique designed to enhance the sound of voices or instruments during the mixing process. It uses tape delay to create a delayed copy of an audio signal which is then combined with the original. The effect is intended to simulate the sound of the natural doubling of voices or instruments achieved by double tracking. The technique was originally developed in 1966 by engineers at Abbey Road Studios in London at the request of The Beatles.

Overdubbing is a technique used in audio recording where a passage has been pre-recorded, and then during replay, another part is recorded to go along with the original. The overdub process can be repeated multiple times. This technique is often used with singers, as well as with instruments, or ensembles/orchestras. Overdubbing is typically done for the purpose of adding richness and complexity to the original recording. For example, if there is only one or two artists involved in the recording process, overdubbing can give the effect of sounding like many performers.

Ken Scott British record producer and engineer

Ken Scott is a British record producer and engineer known for being one of the five main engineers for the Beatles, as well as engineering Elton John, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, the Jeff Beck Group and many more. As a producer, Scott is noted for his work with David Bowie, Supertramp, Devo, Kansas, the Tubes, Ronnie Montrose, Level 42, among others.

Pitch correction Technique for calibrating the pitch of an audio recording to match musical notes

Pitch correction is an electronic effects unit or audio software that changes the intonation of an audio signal so that all pitches will be notes from the equally tempered system. Pitch correction devices do this without affecting other aspects of its sound. Pitch correction first detects the pitch of an audio signal, then calculates the desired change and modifies the audio signal accordingly. The widest use of pitch corrector devices is in Western popular music on vocal lines.

History of sound recording Wikimedia history article

The history of sound recording - which has progressed in waves, driven by the invention and commercial introduction of new technologies — can be roughly divided into four main periods:

Alan Parsons English audio engineer, musician, and record producer

Alan Parsons is an English audio engineer, songwriter, musician, and record producer, the son of the Parsons Code developer Denys Parsons. He was involved with the production of several significant albums, including the Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be, and the eponymous debut album by Ambrosia, as well as Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. Parsons's own group, The Alan Parsons Project, as well as his subsequent solo recordings, have also been commercially successful. He has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, with his first win occurring in 2019 for Best Immersive Audio Album, Eye in the Sky.

Recording practices of the Beatles

The studio practices of the Beatles evolved during the 1960s, and in some cases, influenced the way popular music was recorded. Some of the effects they employed were sampling, artificial double tracking (ADT) and the elaborate use of multitrack recording machines. They also used classical instruments on their recordings and guitar feedback. The group's attitude toward the recording process was summed up by Paul McCartney: "We would say, 'Try it. Just try it for us. If it sounds crappy, OK, we'll lose it. But it might just sound good.' We were always pushing ahead: Louder, further, longer, more, different."

History of multitrack recording

Multitrack recording of sound is the process in which sound and other electro-acoustic signals are captured on a recording medium such as magnetic tape, which is divided into two or more audio tracks that run parallel with each other. Because they are carried on the same medium, the tracks stay in perfect synchronisation, while allowing multiple sound sources to be recorded asynchronously. The first system for creating stereophonic sound was demonstrated by Clément Ader in Paris in 1881. The pallophotophone, invented by Charles A. Hoxie and first demonstrated in 1922, recorded optically on 35 mm film, and some versions used a format of as many as twelve tracks in parallel on each strip. The tracks were recorded one at a time in separate passes and were not intended for later mixdown or stereophony; as with later half-track and quarter-track monophonic tape recording, the multiple tracks simply multiplied the maximum recording time possible, greatly reducing cost and bulk. British EMI engineer Alan Blumlein patented systems for recording stereophonic sound and surround sound on disc and film in 1933. The history of modern multitrack audio recording using magnetic tape began in 1943 with the invention of stereo tape recording, which divided the recording head into two tracks.

Overproduction is the excessive use of audio effects, layering, or digital manipulation in music production.

Lonnie Park is a musician, composer, producer, and author.

Audio engineer Engineers involved in the recording, reproduction or reinforcement of sound

An audio engineer helps to produce a recording or a live performance, balancing and adjusting sound sources using equalization and audio effects, mixing, reproduction, and reinforcement of sound. Audio engineers work on the "...technical aspect of recording—the placing of microphones, pre-amp knobs, the setting of levels. The physical recording of any project is done by an engineer ... the nuts and bolts." It's a creative hobby and profession where musical instruments and technology are used to produce sound for film, radio, television, music, and video games. Audio engineers also set up, sound check and do live sound mixing using a mixing console and a sound reinforcement system for music concerts, theatre, sports games and corporate events.

Clif Norrell is a Grammy-nominated American record producer, recording engineer, music mixer, and musician. He has worked with many prominent artists including Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Jeff Buckley, No Doubt, Rush, Faith No More, Shania Twain, Mick Jagger, Dave Grohl, Sting, Paul McCartney, Gavin Degraw, Joss Stone, Selena Gomez and The Police.

Recording studio as an instrument Praxis of musical recordings

In music production, the recording studio is often treated as a musical instrument when it plays a significant role in the composition of music. Sometimes called "playing the studio", the approach is typically embodied by artists or producers who place less emphasis on simply capturing live performances in studio and instead favor the creative use of studio technology in completing finished works. Techniques include the incorporation of non-musical sounds, overdubbing, tape edits, sound synthesis, audio signal processing, and combining segmented performances (takes) into a unified whole.

Bedroom production independent music production done in the setting of a home studio

A bedroom producer is a musician who creates, performs, and records their music independently using a home studio, either as a profession or as a hobby. Typically bedroom producers use accessible digital technology that costs less than the equipment in a professional studio, such as MIDI controller-based instruments and virtual studio technology, to create music for release to the world. While a traditional record producer oversees and guides the recording process, often working alongside multiple people such as studio musicians, singers, engineers, mixers, songwriters, arrangers, and orchestrators, a bedroom producer does everything independently: creating the ideas, recording them and processing them for release. Bedroom producers are often self-taught, learning sound design, mixing and music theory by reading music production blogs and watching tutorials on the internet. As bedroom producers depend on the accessibility of music technology, bedroom production has been made easier with advances in home computing power and digital audio workstations (DAW).

Paul Santo Music industry professional

Paul Santo is an American Musician, Songwriter, Record Producer and Sound Recording Engineer, best known in the music industry for his work in the recording studio collaborating with "multi-platinum" recording artists like: Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, Kid Rock, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Ringo Starr and Ozzy Osbourne.

References

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  3. Weissman, Richard: Understanding the Music Business "." (2016) Retrieved 9 June. 2017.
  4. Burgess, Richard James (2014). The History of Music Production. Oxford University Press. p. 13. ISBN   9780199357178.
  5. Yuval Gerstein The role of the music producer - A short historical overview
  6. "Game Changer Beats Trap Beats and Type Beats Home Page - Game Changer Beats". Game Changer Beats. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  7. Kot, Greg (2016-03-10). "What does a record producer do?". BBC. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  8. "Inclusion in the Recording Studio? Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Artists, Songwriters & Producers Across 600 Popular Songs from 2012‐2017" (PDF). January 2018.
  9. "Female Producers & Engineers Initiative Announced". GRAMMY.com. 2019-02-01. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  10. Newman, Melinda. "Where Are All the Female Music Producers?". Billboard. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  11. Leight, Elias; Leight, Elias (2018-12-07). "Linda Perry's Grammy Nomination 'Is a Win for all Women Producers and Engineers'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
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  19. Casetti, Chris. "Triple Threats: 13 Female Singers Who Write And Produce Their Own Work". VH1 News. Retrieved 20 September 2018.

Further reading