How To Become A Music Producer
Many young people grow up idolizing famous artists and musicians, even music producers. Maybe you were or are one of the ones who took this fandom beyond just idolizing these celebrities. Maybe you did and still do wonder how to become a music producer. When considering music production as a career, some of the images that come to mind for most people are of cool cats chilling in a studio around lots of other famous artists skillfully and artfully designing the next big hit or album.
While this scenario may often be the case, most people do not see the other "behind the scenes" work that music producers do. Artists perform the music, beat makers make the beats, and music producers do everything else that comes with producing a high-quality, finished product- a professional, radio quality song or entire album. To get a better understanding of what music producers do and how to become a music producer, it's important to get a basic understanding of the music production chain.
The Music Production Chain
The process of music production can be separated into six different stages. While each of these stages have a defined set of characteristics, they are not typically static, meaning that they do not change. In fact, they are quite dynamic and fluid, meaning that a song or album can go through various stages of this process at any given time. We can think about these stages in a process, however, to help us organize the steps in our minds. Music producers can typically give feedback and have input during any stage in this process, but most are typically most interested with the arranging and recording stages.
Step 1- Songwriting
Have you ever had to write an essay or a research paper? Typically, the first step in the writing process is brainstorming, researching and outlining. Generally, it is during this step in which a writer gets and gathers the ideas for his or her piece. This is where the ideas and general outline of a piece of writing begin to take shape. This is similar to the first step in the music production chain- SONGWRITING.
SONGWRITING is the process of putting musical ideas together to form a larger structure of an organized melody, harmony, and rhythm. Some songs use lyrics, and some songs do not use lyrics. Good songs typically start with brainstorming, and the finished product has a beginning, middle, and end. Typically, good songs depend on the listeners of the song and what they expect good songs to have within them. Whether or not a song is good is completely SUBJECTIVE, meaning that determining that a song is good is highly influenced by a listener's personal feelings, tastes, and opinions. For "good" songs with lyrics, the lyrics and music typically work well together and balance one another. It is not usually good enough to have just lyrics that are strong in a poetic sense; they must usually also sound pleasant when an artist sings them as well. This is called PROSODY, the rhythm and sound used in poetry.
For many artists, the songwriting process is closely connected to the TRACKING process; some beat makers will start with a DRUM LOOP, for instance, and then build the song from there. Whether a song starts with tracking beats or with a notepad and pencil as lyrics are created, the questions artists typically ask them themselves with evaluating their work are usually similar: Is the song catchy? Do the harmony and melody stick in your head once you finish listening to the song?Does the song keep your attention as it progresses?Are different musical "ideas" introduced throughout the song to keep it interesting?
Step 2- Arranging
Usually, the second step in the writing process, whether writing an essay or research paper, is actually writing the piece, or drafting it. During this state the essay or research paper typically takes on a definite shape and overall structure with fleshed out major ideas and supporting details. This is similar to what is typically the second stage in the music production chain- ARRANGING.
In terms of music, ARRANGING is reorganizing, remaking, or restructuring a song or sound in such a way that it is different. There are several essential steps in the music production chain. from how it originated. ARRANGING a piece of existing music typically gives it more musical variety. The arrangement step in the music production chain is very important because it is usually what makes a song interesting. In its simplest form, the arrangement of a song refers to the instruments that are selected, how they are arranged, and then how the pieces of a song are arranged to create a complete, organized, structured musical piece. If you have ever heard a song that was too repetitive to be considered "good", then it had an issue with ARRANGEMENT.
Steps 3- Recording & Editing
After the drafting stage of the writing process, writers typically move into the revising and editing stages. Revising and editing can happen interchangeably, over and over again, in anyway that makes sense for the writer and his or her piece. This is similar to the next phase of the music production chain- RECORDING and EDITING, which is why these two concepts have been linked together into one overall step in the music production chain.
The term RECORDING can often refer to many different things within the process of producing music, so sometimes, the RECORDING phase can be referred to as TRACKING. During this stage, a music producer or recorder tries to capture a performance of a song. The better a song is performed as it is being recorded, the easier it will be to have a stellar finished product at the end of the song production process. It is during this stage in which a performer must be focused on performing the song in time and with the right feeling. After a song is recorded, it can be edited to give it the best sound possible. Have you ever heard of the saying, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it"? This can be applied to the EDITING stage. If a song or portion of a song has a good, strong sound, do not edit. Only edit when necessary. Never edit just for the sake of editing.
Step 4- Mixing
For many sound engineers, MIXING is the most fun part of the music production process. MIXING is definitely an art form all its own, and while it takes a large amount of time and practice to become highly skilled in MIXING, it is fun and worth jumping right in and experimenting in this stage of the process. During this stage, a mixer combines multi-track recordings into mono, stereo, or surround sound product. This part of the process is kind of like being a conductor of an orchestra for which you get to decide exactly how everything is going to sound: which instruments will be louder than others? Where will each instrument be on the studio spectrum? Which sound will be up front and which sound will be far back? Which effects will be used, and when?
A good music producer can anticipate the MIX. There is such a strong link between the arrangement stage, the recording stage, and the mixing stage that it is actually very unlikely that a producer or recording engineer to have no experience in MIXING. One of the first steps to learning how to MIX and creating a MIX is to first adjust the volume of all of your tracks to a piece so that they blend well together.
Step 5- Mastering
The final stage of the writing process is usually publishing, when a writer finalizes his or her work and makes it available for other people to read. This is similar to the final stage in the music production chain, MASTERING. Traditionally, MASTERING has been considered its own stage, the final part of the music production chain. However, some music producers, especially those working on a smaller scale, consider it the last part of the MIXING stage. When an artist records an album, he or she sometimes uses a variety of studios, producers, and sound engineers for different sounds. The result of doing is this that each song on the album will have its own sound. MASTERING is the process of making all of those songs sound coherent and part of the same album.
An Important Note
While the focus of this blog post has been on music production for singers, songwriters, performers, and others in the music industry, it is important to note that there are music producers, beat makers, and sound engineers who work in different areas of the industry. Instead of producing music for artists and their albums, some of these professionals produce music for movies, TV shows, commercials, and even video games. There are a wide variety of options available for people interested in music production and beak making as a career.
For further information, we recommend a few things. The first one is a book you can find on Amazon called "The Music Producer's Handbook" 2nd Edition by Bobby Owsinski. Within it, you'll find much more detailed information on the business of music production and how to become a music producer. This book even delves deeply into the legal side of the business which is a major aspect of the industry that you won't want to ignore.
Bobby Owsinski is a producer, engineer, and coach for those wanting to learn about how to become a music producer. He has authored over twenty books on the subject, and he also produces his own podcast on the subject. He provides a great source of information on how to become a music producer.
Don't forget to consider all of these different possibilities and to keep an open mind on your journey of discovering how to become a music producer. Certainly another option for further learning that we recommend is a virtual course taught by Ski Beatz, the hip hop legend himself, called The Dojo. Many people all over the world have attended his face to face classes, and now, he is extending his reach through an online course option.
Thanks for reading!
The School EYEZ Team