Over the years, much ink has been spilt trying to define the role of a music producer. Having been involved in the music industry for more years than I care to remember, rather than try to offer yet another answer to this question I am going to try and define what it means for me.
Essentially I see myself as a project manager working within the music industry. Typically a producers role will vary according to the job in hand which is why I am going to talk about the different roles I take on as producer in a number of separate posts rather than trying to cram everything in one place.
Producer as Song Writer
The most common definition of a producer is someone who sees a song from its original conception through to publication. Following this example, I often find my role as a producer taking the form of a musical adviser. I often work with song writers to help them turn the ideas in their heads into something which can be performed, recorded and ultimately published. For me this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job – helping other artists.
Many songwriters will approach me either with a song in their head or perhaps with some words and a few chords scribbled down on a piece of paper. From this my job is to help them craft this into a song which meets their original vision but also conforms to musical structure and will work as a song. At this stage the song is usually put together as a very basic piano harmonisation to accompany the soloist before any decisions about instrumentation are discussed. All of this takes place amid a great deal of consultation with the song writer to ensure it is still very much their vision which is produced.
Developing the Song
Once the structure of the song has been produced and agreed on, my next task is to prepare an orchestration for the backing track. There are two ways this can be done. Either the backing track will be produced using sample libraries of instruments or if budget allows a score will be produced for a studio recording with an orchestra.
This is the stage where I use my experience to try and put together something which will enable the song to do well when published. Even where the final song is to be recorded with a live or “real” orchestra I will usually mock something up using sample libraries so the artist and songwriter can hear how the song will sound. Once the orchestration and harmony is agreed on my next job is to set up a recording session which I will discuss in a later post.
Producing other music
As a music producer I have worked on many musical genres and a wide range of projects. This has ranged from teaching materials for the treble recorder through to full orchestral arrangements of choral works for use on the television. My wide ranging experience across a variety of media enables me to help more musicians realise their ambitions.