“Producer” is such a tricky term. It creates an almost mythical feel for the person being described. When we dub ourselves a producer, we wear it like the badge of honor it is. It’s an all encompassing word – we are creators, directors, teachers. The best part is, it doesn’t take a Herculean character to possess these talents. We don’t need to pull Excalibur from it’s stone – but we do need some tools of our own. So before we head into the studio battle zone, we should really stock up our production inventory.
1) Show up for battle.
Don’t be a ghost producer. If you care about your clients, and you care about your reputation, then stay involved throughout the entire process. Create a friendly rapport with the artists you work with, and give sound advice every step of the way. You don’t want bands to talk about you and say things like “yeah, he was there for the first day and then we never saw him again.” That’s a bad producer. Bad!
2) Wield an axe.
Or some other instrument. Knowing how to play an instrument will help out immensely in the studio. Picking up a guitar and laying down a solo will not only impress your clients, but it will help with the entire recording process. Playing an instrument can come in handy in a pinch – imagine their bass player just broke his arm, or the drummer just quit the band. You’ll be a knight in shining armor.
3) Grab ‘em by the ear.
And put a worm in there. Producers who have the ability to hear and write catchy melodies are more likely to make a name for themselves. Motifing a chorus can be a real difference maker by transforming a lackluster chorus into something that really pops. (Motifing is basically taking the same melody and using different words.) Motifing can even work on songs that lack melody – just motif the rhythm.
4) Don’t cling to your pride.
There isn’t a studio big enough to house too many egos. So leave yours at the door. Some singers will hate your lyrical suggestions. Some drummers will scoff at your request to use crash cymbals in between sections. Honestly, it isn’t worth the mental stress to fight with people who are unwilling to change. If a band is open to suggestions, then propose away. If they aren’t, then don’t push too hard. One point I want to stress is not to get discouraged by bands who shoot down an idea here and there. Differences of opinion are going to happen – and that’s ok. Don’t take it personally. Wear some thick skin and you’ll be fine.
5) Fortify your structures.
Do your homework and know the style of music you’re working with. If a pop punk band wants to work with you and they’ve written 5 songs, each with a 12 part movement and no choruses, then you’ll need to start breaking things down. Add a chorus or two to some songs. Cut out some musical breakdowns that seem excessive. Basically, trim the fat. Keep the songs structured in a cohesive way so when it’s on the record it all makes sense.
6) Gear your warriors for battle.
Producers should always have a keen ear for talent. If you’ve personally scouted the band you’re working with, it means you sought them out for a reason. They have a look or a vibe that you can just feel. Don’t mess with the integrity of your artists. Guide them in a direction that works for them as individuals, and as a group. Don’t add unnecessary production to a song where it is unwarranted, and don’t try to change the overall makeup of a band. I’m not saying to compromise your morals as a producer, sometimes middle ground will need to be met. But remaining true to your artists will allow them to sound even better, and grow more naturally in the long run.
So now that you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve, make sure you start implementing them during sessions. The more you practice, the better you will become at your craft. So get out there and start rocking. Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Are there any traits you keep in your production arsenal? Leave me a comment below!