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Music producing is one of the most talked about jobs in the music industry, and yet many don’t quite understand what that phrase means or what the possible career actually entails. What does a Music Producer do? What skills do they need to possess to “make it?” How can someone get started? Is it a truly creative role, or one that’s based on following orders?

This article aims to answer all of those questions and so many more in the hopes that anyone who is even a little bit curious about how to begin music producing can go into the process with the knowledge they need and open eyes (and ears).

Music Producing Basics

If you want to make music producing your career, there is a lot you’ll need to learn, but here are three general areas you can focus on:

The Basics. If you’re looking to make music, you first need to know how to… make music. This means understanding song structure, melodies, practicing writing lyrics, or even studying what other Music Producers have done before.

The Tech. Even if you want to incorporate no other instruments or sounds other than a guitar or a piano, there is still a lot of tech that goes into music producing these days. If you want to be the person doing the producing, you must learn several software programs and understand how all the pieces of a studio come together.

The Human Aspect. Almost nobody succeeds in the field of music producing all alone. You have to work with others, whether they’re musicians, people at studios, mixers, mastering engineers, or even executives at record labels. Networking and being well-liked will take you very far.

The world of music producing encompasses a range of responsibilities and knowledge, but getting started should always involve an understanding of music itself, the technology behind it, and the collaborative nature of the industry.

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Job Of A Music Producer

What do you do as a Music Producer?

Hugh McIntyre

The job of a Music Producer varies from person to person and situation to situation, but usually they are the ones that help the Musician or band translate their ideas and demos into polished, finished products. Some groups come into a studio with a nearly finished track, and the Producer helps them record it and puts the finishing touches on the tune. In other instances, the Producer creates all the music and brings it to the artist and is much more of a driving force.

Is producing music hard?

Hugh McIntyre

Yes! A Music Producer must be incredibly creative, forward-thinking, knowledgeable about the history of music and what’s happening today, familiar with studio technology and producing software, and also someone who knows how to work well with others. It is certainly not easy!

What does it mean to produce music?

Hugh McIntyre

Alongside the Singer, Musician, and/or band, a Music Producer does just what their job title suggests… They are the ones actually producing a musical product that can then be shared with the masses. Again, what the Producer needs to do in every instance can change quite a bit, but to produce music is to have a hand in finishing a tune or album and ensuring it’s ready for millions to hear the work.

A Music Producer works with a band or artist to create a polished record or album.

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Software And Equipment For Music Producing

Computer. These days, everybody produces music on a computer no matter what kind of tunes they’re helping to create. All studios are equipped with computers, but most Producers bring their own when they go to work with a band. Oftentimes, the biggest names in music production will have several laptops, as well as extra storage for holding onto many massive audio files.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Computers are necessary, but they’re almost useless without a DAW, or digital audio workstation. That’s a specific term used instead of software program, and the most common DAWs include well-known options like Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Ableton Live, which millions have used to create countless songs the world knows and loves.

Headphones. Headphones are not just helpful, they’re an absolute must. Sure, it’s fine to play music out loud in a studio, but even the best speakers don’t always pick up every little sound in a song. Blasting a track for all to hear is good some of the time, but most people listen to music in their headphones, so a Producer must do the same to ensure their experience is as good as it can possibly be.

Microphones. How is a Singer supposed to record vocals without a microphone? Whether they’re the Vocalist in a band, a Rapper, a Singer-songwriter or a pop star who is simply reading the lyrics in front of them that have been penned by someone else, they need something to speak into! Every Music Producer working on a track or album that features words of any kind needs to make sure they have a microphone, and a good one at that.

Plug-Ins. MathWorks defines plug-ins as “self-contained pieces of code that can be ‘plugged in’ to DAWs to enhance their functionality” that typically “fall into the categories of audio signal processing, analysis, or sound synthesis.” Commonly used plug-ins include equalization, dynamic range control, reverberation, delay, and perhaps most popular when it comes to music production, virtual instruments.

Everyone who wants to get into music producing needs at least the following five pieces of software and equipment: computer, microphone, headphones, plug-ins and a digital audio workstations (DAW).

Space Needed For Music Producing

For decades, the only way to properly produce music was to rent a studio and work on the music there. Thankfully for musicians, that has changed, as now Producers can do everything from create complete tunes to edit and mix songs on a laptop in their bedroom. In fact, the phrase “Bedroom Producer” has become popular in music journalism, as it describes so many up-and-coming Producers and music makers.

Talking specifically about studios, Red House Live suggests that 20 ft x 15 ft x 10 ft are respectable dimensions. Anything smaller than that simply won’t work.

Music Producers no longer need to rely on renting out expensive studios; with easy accessibility to equipment and software, they can often create from the comfort of their home.

Stages Of Music Producing

Songwriting. No one should be thinking about recording a thing until a song is written from top to bottom. Songwriting isn’t just the lyrics that go into a tune, but also the melodies, rhythms, cadence, and so much more. Sometimes the Music Producer assists with this from the beginning, helping the band or Singer create a composition from scratch. In other instances, they are hands-off, simply helping out on the music, or perhaps just the recording.

Sound Recording. Sound recording is a stage that involves just what it seems: recording the sound. This might be a guitar, a drum, a piano, or vocals, or perhaps all of the above. They are sometimes recorded separately, though there are just as many instances of people tracking an acoustic guitar at the same time someone sings along, as an example.

Sound Design. Sound design can only come after the sounds that will make up a song have been recorded. Be they vocals or instruments, or even computer-generated pieces, the Music Producer can then use their plug-ins and the effects in their DAW of choice to alter them in any way they see fit. In this step, the Music Producers are literally designing the sound of a song – hence the name.

Music Mixing. Music mixing is when the Music Producer takes all the different tracks they’ve recorded – for example, the vocals, the piano, and the guitar – and mixes them together. They use a DAW (in today’s world) to ensure that not only are all those pieces there, but that they fit just right, and that each part comes in at the exact right time.

Music Mastering. According to Izotope, a company that creates software for Music Producers as well as mixing and mastering engineers, music mastering is “the final stage of audio production – the process of putting the finishing touches on a song by enhancing the overall sound, creating consistency across the album, and preparing it for distribution.”

Creating a song comes with many steps, none of which can be skipped, and all of which require time to do well. From writing the track to recording all the different sounds that make up a single (vocals, special effects, guitar, tambourine, etc.) to finally mixing and mastering the entire production, every release needs attention and love.

Skills Needed For Music Producing

Education. Before you can do anything, you need to learn how to do it! Duh! Education here doesn’t necessarily mean going to a typical four-year college, though that’s certainly an excellent option for those who have the means. Many of the top Music Producers in the world never studied their craft in a classroom. Instead, they taught themselves. This is a potential option for you as well, though signing up for some classes is definitely worth considering.

Networking. When it comes to working in the music industry in any capacity, networking is key. A Music Producer needs to connect with everyone they may interact with professionally, including musicians, bands, Songwriters, Singers, Mixers, Mastering Engineers, other Producers, Managers, A&R executives and those who work at record labels, to name just some of the most important people to stay in contact with. These are the people who will suggest you to artists and help you find work.

Collaborative Nature. Some artists need the Producer to be completely in charge, while others want them to largely take a backseat, letting them control the artistic vision. A great Music Producer can do both, depending on what’s needed and who they’re working with. They have to step into every session with big ideas, but they also need to be willing to not only hear everyone out, but seriously consider what they have to say and perhaps change their thoughts and feelings in a moment.

Becoming a successful Music Producer isn’t just about being talented. As is the case with almost any job, it requires extensive learning (which never stops), the ability to be liked and remembered, constant networking, and they must work well with others and be collaborative at all times.

Steps To Music Producing When You’re Starting Out

When you’re just starting out in the creative field of music producing, there’s no exact right place to start, but here are some suggestions that should help you begin this exciting journey:

  • Listen to tons of music.
  • Think critically about why these songs work so well.
  • Dissect melodies, lyrics, rhythms and more to recognize patterns.
  • Learn an instrument, either like a guitar or piano or the various computer programs out there.
  • Choose at least one DAW and play around with it until you fully understand it.
  • Begin working on music, either your own or with others.
  • Release some art into the world so you have a body of work.
  • Network with anyone and everyone in the music industry so you can continue working, perhaps even making money from your art.
  • Look for internships or opportunities to work with other, more established Producers or studios.
  • Continue learning, as there is always more to understand, and no one’s craft is ever perfect.

Anyone who wants to become a Music Producer needs to first listen and study. Then they have to learn to write songs, play music (either with traditional instruments or computer programs), master DAWs, understand important studio equipment, and network and work hard to build a reputation.

In Conclusion

Music producing is incredibly fun and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of hard work, very demanding, and a very tough field to break into. And it’s even tougher to make a living in it. Anyone who wants to compete in today’s music production industry needs to understand all the latest computer programs, software, and plug-ins, but that’s not enough. They also have to adapt who they are as people, becoming collaborative, patient, and more open to coming up with creative ideas and solutions than at any other point in their life. It’s one of the best jobs in the music industry… if you can make it!

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