Ah Producers. They can be amazing creatures who bring your songs to life OR they can be evil beings from hell who destroy your grand artistic vision for your single faster than you can say “drum machine”.
I’ve had the fortune… and misfortune of working with both.
The thing is however, I will most likely never record another track without one.
Because your Producer can make (or break) your track and turn it from an acoustic sweet nothing, into something fresh and altogether next level.
The best way to explain how to work with these volatile creatures is with audio.
Below is a song I wrote called ‘Closer To Me’ with a friend called Minky G. We busted this out in one songwriting co-write session (BOOM!) and then I got to work creating a shitty demo of it for later.
The Shitty Demo:
Just a side note…. don’t judge me on my crap production skills ok….
So as you can hear from this track, the song was complete but there is no way this track is ready for release onto an unsuspecting public.
This is where a Producer comes in.
If you’re planning on ever recording your newly created masterpiece, you have a few options at this stage. You can:
- Try to create the track and all the components alone (Wtf!)
- You can hire musicians and a studio, write out all the tracks, rehearse the band and get them to bring your track to life (good luck!)
- OR, you can hire a Producer.
A word of the wise….
If you are venturing into the electronic realm, do yourself a favour and go down the Producer route. It will save you time, money and headaches if you do.
That’s what Minky and I decided to do for our track.
So, here are a couple of things to think about when working with your Producer
STEP ONE: HIRE THE RIGHT PERSON!
Each Producer works within a range of genres. Some are more versatile than others but generally they will have their musical strengths and weaknesses. You don’t want to hire a rock Producer for a smooth jazz track for example.
Choosing the right Producer from the get-go can have a massive effect on how your track sounds. I’ve personally worked with quite a few Producers and Minky and I um-ed and ah-ed about who to hire to work on our song and we finally decided on the fabulous Michael Carpenter from Love Hz Studios.
Michael and I have worked on tracks together before and he’s not only SUPER talented, but also really lovely so I knew the whole process would go smoothly.
I sent Michael the track and here’s his first draft (note: I was really sick when I sent him the rough vocal guide so again, no judging… not that you would anyway 🙂
Here’s Michael’s first draft
Straight away you can hear the massive difference compared to my ‘Shitty Demo’. Michael and his genius skills has brought the track to life!
Minky and my choice of Producer has been what’s ended with these results so far. We had initially tried out the track with another guy and it sounded TOTALLY different. Much more mellow – which wasn’t what we wanted. So having Michael on board was already resulting in positive results.
But there’s still work to be done… and this is where it gets tricky.
We felt it needed some changes here and there and it was missing bits and pieces like a sax solo, vocal harmonies and there were some sections where the beats sat that we wanted to also change.
So between me and Michael and Minky and Michael and Me and Minky, we had a complex triangle of emails, phone calls and comms going all over the place and it wasn’t long before we ended up with a second draft that Minky and I just weren’t happy with.
(No, I’m not going to post it, sorry!!) 😉
but here’s your second step to working with Producers:
STEP TWO: DECIDE ON A PREFERRED COMMUNICATION METHOD BEFORE YOU START!
If there are more than two of you working on a track, CC the other person/s into the email. That way everyone can see what’s been said and there’s no confusion.
If you prefer phone or Skype, make sure you follow it up with something WRITTEN so you are all on the same page. (Things do get lost in translation)
STEP THREE: GET YOUR TIMING RIGHT
During the recording phase, make sure you are in constant communication with your Producer and other band members on a timely basis because Producers often carve out a time slot to do your track and if you take a week or longer to get back to them with changes, you’re GUARANTEED to piss them off.
Also, make sure to chat to your Producer about how they like to work before you start.
For example: Some Producers will let you make a change here and a change there, others expect to send you a first draft, you make changes, they do a second draft and then the track is pretty much done – which means you’ve gotta get your shit together on that first draft or you’ll be left with a track you don’t like OR a bill for more time.
Finding this stuff out before hand is imperative to a successful track AND future working relationship with that Producer.
In a nutshell, Producers are awesome. They are super talented, highly creative beings who deserve the respect for locking themselves away in their studio caves for days on end working on other people’s music.
But if you follow the steps above, you’ll end up with something truly magical.
So how is my new track ‘Closer To Me’ going? Here’s the THIRD draft – We’ve got pretty much everything in there now and the next step is to take stuff out because its a bit ‘full’. Then the vocal tracks will get mixed, reverbed etc.. and then mastered.
I’ll have to remember to post the finished track when its done so you can have a listen – it will be over on nicolamilan.com anyway if you keep an eye on it.
Happy recording and remember, LOVE THY PRODUCER!!!