Music production is an exciting industry to work in. If you have any thoughts of becoming a music producer then you probably already know something of what is needed but here is some background information on music production and the basics for anyone who has an interest but not any information about music production.
What does a music producer do?
The process of recording and producing a song is music production. This is overseen by a music producer. Their job is to make sure the track that is being recorded comes out the best it can. The job will entail listening to recordings, making or suggesting changes and edits to the track. They may bring in other professionals to assist with the process.
A producer for a top 40 band would have a group of music professionals around him to assist with arrangements, song writing, mixing and mastering. If you were what is known as a ‘bedroom producer’ you would find yourself having to do all of these things. Many bands began with very limited access to equipment and professional help. In a studio there is likely to be professional music equipment and instruments from suppliers like SoundHalo.
Careers in music production
Being a music producer is a rewarding job and if you are musically minded and want to work in a creative environment then this may be for you. There is a certain amount of training needed but this isn’t always formal training. You may also need to look at different areas of music production to find your niche. Music production is not just about working with the latest hip hop artist or boyband it could be that you are producing for video games, TV adverts or recording live bands.
So what are the actual basics of music production?
Songwriting is the process of connecting musical ideas into something that sounds melodious, harmonic and rhythmic. It should have a beginning, middle and an end and be musically coherent. You are looking at making something where the lyrics and music work together to form something creative and pleasing to the listener. It is not good enough to write clever lyrics; they must be arranged for your required musical style and fit that rhythm and harmonic structure.
This refers to which instruments are played on a track and where and how often. You may have a great chorus and verse but repeating them over and over will not result in an interesting song. The arrangement is there to make the song more interesting. It allows the sections of the song to be moved along it’s timeline to take the song to a different level. Songs should have moments where they build up to a chorus and other parts where they slow down depending on the style of music and you can control this when arranging the sections. Arranging allows you to introduce an instrument for a subtle effect or perhaps to drop the beat to bring impact. Instruments can be used to almost endless results during the arrangement.
So you have your song written and arranged and now it needs recording. This is also called tracking. The process of tracking is where you record all the instruments that you have used in your song. These are normally recorded one track at a time. You may have heard of multi track recording; as you record each new track you can hear all the previous recorded tracks too. This is what multi-track recording means.
This should be left until after all the recording is done. It can be used to fix some problems but ideally you want the recording to sound natural and if the song sounds great already then don’t edit it. You use the editing process to improve pitches or sync sections that are slightly out of time. Don’t over do the editing or the song can sound chopped up and glued together..
Mixing is a complex area that many people decide to focus on solely as it can take years to master and be truly great at it. It is the process where you get to combine all the instruments recorded into a stereo 2 track mix. You get to decide which instruments will sound loudest and if they sound far back or out front. You can add effects where you think appropriate. Mixing allows a world of possibilities and can be a very exciting part of the music production process. This is why some people become mixers and stay away from the other areas of music production.
Individual songs can be recorded in different studios and with different producers and sound engineers. When you want to put these individual songs into one collection or album this can become a problem. It can be clear this is a group of very separate entities. A mastering engineer’s job is to take these individual songs and make them sound like one coherent compilation. They can correct any small deficiencies that the mixing engineer may have missed and they will increase the levels of all the tracks so they all sound even. After they have been put through the same mastering equipment they will sound like they come from the same album.
Music production is simply about making music. If you are interested in any or all forms of music production then search the internet for more resources. Learn more about the processes and practice. By making music at home you will learn more about the different processes and everything will become easier. Many famous music producers started out with no formal training at all and rose to have great careers, think Dr Dre. In the UK many famous producers started out as sound engineers.
If you are serious about a career and want some formal training then you could look into courses at a music school. There are many places offering music production courses online now. They provide projects and support materials and you have the added benefit of fitting the course around your own daily life.