The last article I wrote focused on the transition to producer-hood. After writing it, I received a ton of responses from musicians who couldn’t quite see the difference between the two. So today, I’m planning on clearing up some of the confusion.
Someone Who Plays an Instrument
When I talk about musicians, I’m talking about anyone who plays an instrument. Think back to when you first started honing your skills. When you were learning to play scales on a guitar, what was your main focus? I know when I first started the only thing I could think is “Am I even holding this thing the right way?” Then, as I got more comfortable my focus shifted. I started to pay attention to how hard I was pressing the strings. They needed to be held down all the way, or else I’d get fret buzz. Once I got my technique down for holding the frets and picking correctly, I could pick up the speed of the scales and really start grooving. The point is, the more I practiced, the more I could open my mind and see a bigger picture.
Becoming a Musician
When you’re playing alone, your focus is on yourself. So as you make the transition into playing with a band, now you start learning to play with 3 or 4 other guys. You learn to adapt, and you learn that you are not the main focus. You all need to contribute together in order to create something that blends well together. If the drummer wants to play a solo in the middle of every single verse, the only person who’s going to want him around is himself. So he’s stuck as a merely “a drummer”. Every other instrumentalist (including soloists) who can visualise a bigger idea is more of a “musician”.
Using your Musician Skills to Produce
Having an open mind allows you to progress smoothly into producing. It isn’t easy, because as a producer you must give up a ton of control. Some musicians are not comfortable giving up that control, and that’s completely fine. Different strokes for different folks. I prefer guiding others and helping them adapt their skills. (I think it’s the teacher instinct in me.) Using your skills as a musician who can see things from a broader perspective can help others in amazing ways.
Play to the Strengths of Others
One of my favorite things about producing is the talent of the artists I work with. I’m not a drummer. I don’t have an amazing voice. I can’t shred like Slash. But I’m a A+ player when it comes to the basics. So if I’m working with an artist who has an amazing voice, and I hear a beautiful melody in my head, you can rest assured I’m going to share that melody with her. Before she even sings it I’ll have full confidence that she’s going to absolutely kill it. When we have confidence in ourselves and our abilities, and we combine our tenacity with the pure talent of others, the possibilities are awesome.
Think of it like making a movie. The producer is the visionary, the actors are the talent, the crew get the job done, and the writers make it all possible. Find your skills and run with them. Find your passion and follow it. I love producing. I love helping others. And it still allows me to be a creative musician. I’m going to build off this idea in my next series (which will go into exactly what producers are listening for before they even start recording each instrument), so please be on the look out. And as always, thanks for reading. Peace and rock on.