What Are Producers and What Do They Do In Music?

Updated: Dec 14, 2019


In music, a producer is a person who helps create the vision for what the music will sound like when it is recorded in the studio.

Producers have a variety of skill sets that are expected of them, and each has his or her own style, just as in business, there are different styles of management.

Some producers like to take a hands on approach with the music and play instruments or sing on the recording as well as directing the other musicians and singers.

And some producers leave many of the decisions about what to play and where up to trusted musicians.

Most producers fall somewhere in between.

The producer’s work starts well before the recording session begins with pre-production.

This is when the producer gets an idea of what the client wants – either the artist or the record company in most cases.

In understanding the project, the producer can make decisions about what instrumentation to use on the record, what key to record the song in, and what tempo the song needs to be.

The producer and his assistants will then schedule the time needed in the recording studio, and will book the musicians that will be needed to perform.

Most of the time, the musicians come to the studio and record as a group, and then later one or two solo musicians come in separately to overdub various stacking parts.

The singer then comes in to put the vocals on the recording, and the producer is usually there to oversee the vocal production work, including any harmony parts.

Finally after all the sounds are recorded that will be used, the producer and engineer work together to get a mix of all the instruments and vocals together.

Examples of varying styles of producers can be seen in Phil Spector, who innovated what is known as the wall of sound by stacking layer upon layer of instruments on to the recording tracks, to Steve Albini whose scathing hard rock style can be heard on Nirvana’s In Utero and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me.

Daniel Lanois can frequently be heard playing guitar on his produced tracks, and then there is the up and coming Dave Cobb whose work is starting to get wider recognition for its distinctive quality.

Producers have to be able to find great songs for their artists, and know how to arrange the structure and instrumentation of the songs to bring out the most poignant qualities that resonate with the audience.

Most great producers feel like their primary duty is to put great talent together with great songs, and then to make themselves invisible. But this is not always the case, as we mentioned.

If you’re considering a career as a producer, try an exercise that is used by Clive Davis to test the merit of his incoming A&R staff.

Find a song that made it onto the charts that can be arranged and produced in a different style to become as big or a bigger hit than the original recording.

With a little research you will see the successful results of many of these experiments over the years.

Maybe with practice, you can produce the next hit on your favorite artist.

Do you need a producer for an upcoming recording project?

Email us for some recommendations.

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