What It Takes To
Become A Music Producer

To become a music producer there are 6 basic practices you must consistently maintain until you have established a good core of paying clients. Most of these will become second nature as you live the role more fully. Producers that do not follow these basic practices, usually have hit or miss careers. They may happen across the right situation and end up with a hit record. But, if they have not developed their production skills enough the glory is usually short lived.

The 6 Basic Practices

  1. Listening to loads of music
  2. Analyzing great productions.
  3. Studying music and production
  4. Communicating and networking
  5. Keeping a fresh perspective on your productions
  6. Thinking like a consumer

Let's take a look at each one more closely

1. Listening to Loads of Music

I worked with a producer many years ago when I worked at Electric Lady Studios in New York City who was always listening to music. We were mixing an album at the time for East West records and he spent most of his time in the lounge listening to CD after CD. Every day he had a new stack of CDs. He was always following music production trends and looking for new ideas. Most of the music he listened to was a rehash of other popular recordings that were quickly tossed. When he came into the control room to judge the progress of the mix he was full of fresh ideas and perspective.

Important! This is not about copying other peoples' productions! This is about open-mindedness to production and songwriting ideas that may help you make your own work better. This concept is very important if you want to become a music producer.

I worked with a very successful producer who was also a songwriter and was trying to parlay his success and connections into a solo artist career. He played me four or five songs he wrote, recorded and mixed for submission to the record companies. Each song was an exact copy of the production style of four different artists, painstakingly and meticulously duplicated. It was striking and obvious. I was so taken aback that the only words I could muster were, "this is great, but who are you?" There was nothing in any of the productions that defined him as the artist. You can dress, act and perform like Mick Jagger, but that won't make you Mick Jagger. You must build off of the personality of the artist, not the other way around.

Sooner or later, the artist has to stand on his or her own ground and make a defining statement for who they are and what they have to say. Most artists' first album are not typically diverse in terms of production styles. You need to establish a strong, very defined personality. Once you have established that foundation, the opportunities to be more diverse will come. The more you listen to music, the more solutions you have at your disposal. Define and focus a production that is suited for that artist. The more you understand different production styles, the more ideas you will have in the studio when things don't go as planned. The closer is your goal, to becoming a music producer.

Bottom line… If you want to become a music producer, you must never be stuck for ideas when recording. When a recording session isn't going well, a fresh perspective and approach can be just the ticket to breaking up the malaise and getting something better than you anticipated.

2. Analyzing Great Productions

Out of the many CDs and songs we download, most will not usually warrant a second listen. When you do find one that is deserving of second listen, put on your production cap and start to study what makes you want to listen again. It's a twofold process, listen like a consumer, then listen like a professional. Once your gut instinct kicks in and says I like this, it's time to study what made you feel this way. To become a music producer, you must analyze the productions that excite you.

There are many ways to analyze music productions, here are just a few of the aspects worth taking note of:

1. Lyric

  • What is the song about?
  • Is it happy, or sad?
  • Is it about depression or partying on the dance floor?
  • Is the song aggressive and in your face?

    2. Song form and arrangement

  • What is the song form, how many verses or choruses?
  • Is there a breakdown or bridge?
  • Is it a fade ending?
  • What is the meter, 3/4, 4/4, 7/8?
  • What is the length of the song?
  • What instruments do you hear and where they used in the song.
  • Does your attention ever wane from the song? If so, where?
  • What do you think is the cause?

    3. Melody and chord changes

  • Unless you have perfect pitch, grab you instrument and play along.
  • Take note of any unusual chord changes.
  • Is the song in a major or minor key?
  • Listen to the melody and notice where harmony parts and background vocals are placed.
  • Notice where the melody is taken over by another instrument.

    4. Production ideas

  • Are there any interesting sound effect or edits that you like? Describe them any way that you can.
  • Do you notice any loops in the song?
  • Are there samples from other records that you recognize?
  • 5. Quality of the engineering

  • How well engineered is it?
  • Does it sound good everywhere you listen to it?
  • Notice the blending of the instruments, does anything sound too low or too loud?
  • Is the mix wet or dry?
  • Can you hear the effects at all?
  • Is it very compressed, or open and dynamic?
  • What is the general frequency balance?
  • Is it bright or rich and warm?
  • Notice where the instruments are placed in the mix.
  • What sounds are placed in the center, what is left or right?

    6. Overall vibe

  • Describe the overall feeling of the track, music and lyric.
  • Notice how you feel after listening to it.
  • Does it pump you up or put you to sleep?
  • What would you do differently?

    This is just a basic list, but each category has information that is noteworthy because it describes the music production concept for that song. If you seriously want to become a music producer full time, do these exercises every day...

    Personally, I think it is very important to write down what you hear as it will help you to remember what you've described and also keep your mind from wandering. If you do this exercise, one song per day, I guarantee you that after one month you music production skills will grow exponentially. After a short while you will start to notice that you work more efficiently in the studio. Why? Simple, you are creating maps in your head for how records are made. To become a music producer, you have to learn to think like one. If you know what sound you're going instead of guessing, you will get there much faster. Then you can spend the extra time giving it your own unique production stamp.

    Click HERE to see the rest of this article on What it Takes to Become a Music Producer.

    Establishing a Music Production Career

    Become a Music Producer Part I

    Become a Music Producer Part II

    The Music Production Process

    Return to Home From Become a Music Producer

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