4 answers

How do I become a good music producer?

Asked Atlanta, Georgia

I've always been really into music and the production side of it. Recently, I've also been interested in not only music production for artists, but also film. I was just looking for any advice to become a good music producer. Also, tips on how to improve my music would be greatly appreciated as well. #music #creative #producer

4 answers

Howard’s Answer

Updated Arlington, Virginia


Well you've got a few really big questions here. I also know that there is a lot of confusion between a producer, an audio engineer, a songwriter, arranger...the list goes on. In music, the producer is the individual who manages the project. This means, for example, if an artist is in the studio recording songs for an album, the producer has a direct hand on the artistic direction of the album, and often is bankrolled by the record label, meaning they hold the "purse strings". Nowadays, people often attribute the title "producer" to someone who creates beats or sequences over which a rap artist will...well...rap. And that's not accurate. That would be a songwriter, an arranger, a creator of music, but not a producer in the classic sense.

Most successful producers started out as something else - one simply doesn't walk out with a degree that says "producer". A lot of them had been successful musicians (and still are), highly trained songwriters, business people from a related field. Often, they've spent a lot of time in the studio, perhaps have had some training in actual audio production. However, having a strong music background, and the ability to write and arrange are really key factors for a producer to have as they do guide an artist in those ways.

As far as your music goes - well, keep on writing and playing. I've not heard it so I couldn't comment on the quality of it, but if you're as passionate as you sound, I am certain you'll be successful. Good luck!

Michael’s Answer

Updated Compton, California

Hey Diana! I like your question because I can really relate to your potential career path. I After graduating from Berklee, I began producing Hip Hop and R&B artists. I loved it and learned a lot in the process. after a few years of that, I got a job at the Hit Factory, Criteria in Miami and continued my productions and well as mix engineering career. A short time later I was lucky enough to make a few connections in the tV and Film world where I still do most of my work today. The reason I'm telling you all of this is so you understand that I do have experience in both worlds and can advise you both ways. First off, If you want to produce songs/artists, you should start by just doing that all the time. Constant;y write and find others to produce and work with. Work on your craft constantly! You could also find a an entry level job at a major studio to get your foot in the door as I did at The Hit Factory. That's a tough road, but if you stick it out, it'll pay off. Even if you decide to do that, you STILL have to constantly work on your craft of writing/producing. That's the most important thing. In the end the money can be huge, but very hard to come by.

As far as the TV film thing goes, it's great, the work is more consistent, and you work more with yourself than other artists. You're the artist. I've been writing music for TV and movie trailers for about 10+ years and it's a great aspect of the industry to be in. As far as the money goes, you can earn as little as a few hundred dollars a track with back end royalty money to $60,000+ for one movie trailer track.

I love both sides of the industry and am currently using our success in the TV/Film world to get back into the industry side. If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up. Hope that helped!


Solomon’s Answer

Updated Los Angeles, California

if you want to know what goes on in a recording studio - Get a job in a recording studio. As you are new/ start anywhere you can. Make coffee, clean bathrooms, whatever to get yourself in the door. In this way you will see what everyone does from Producer, Artist, arranger, engineer, musicians = everybody. Eventually someone will notice you and give you a chance to do something else. It will take time. I disagree with Howard. You do not need a strong music background (yes it would be great to have it - but there are many successful producers who do not). Get into the studio and you will see for yourself where you fit in and what skills you need to develop to take you where you want to go.

Mat’s Answer

Updated Streamwood, Illinois

Hi Diana K! I have read all the other answers, and they are all very good. I almost thought they were enough, but hey, why not give another angle on it! Even though I have a degree in music, I have to reluctantly agree that it is not totally necessary for every kind of producer. BUT-I have been in many recording sessions where for instance, the producer is trying to give the drummer some direction, and is saying, "We need a cymbal crash on that part where you go 'Bum bum bum, BAM' and the drummer doesn't know exactly what he means, and they play around for 10 minutes wasting money, and more importantly, wasting the energy flow. It would have been much easier if the producer said,"We need a cymbal crash on the 'and' of four." Can't get much clearer than that.
I think learning the language of music-fluently- can certainly not hurt you. It sure has gotten me a lot of work. I am fluent in regular classical notation, jazz notation, the Nashville "number system" and whatever! When i played bass for Ray Charles, he would stop the band and say (for instance) "Bar 74, the third trumpet player missed the E-Flat." Pretty impressive for someone who had never seen the score. On the other hand, James Brown laughed at me when I sent music charts to him. He had no idea how to read or speak music. I guess when you are the celebrity, you can do what you want! (But he paid arrangers who did know that stuff)

--As far as you are concerned, I totally agree with the other answers: Get yourself a connection in a recording studio, and camp out 24 hrs a day. Soak in everything. Do it all. Learn to master the language of production, without question. Learn how to use plugins and equipment to modify the track. Delays, reverbs, compressors, etc.They are your tools. Solder cables, learn your microphones. Know your platforms: Logic, ProTools, etc. Don't use B-level platforms if you can help it. If producing is what you want to do, be a master. Masters get the work. Also, if you want to compose music, understand fully how music affects the picture. Film music is not a stand-alone song. It only works when it makes the picture and story work. You can practice your craft by composing tracks. Not just pieces, or just beginnings,or just grooves, but fully finished, polished, buttoned up music tracks. Only 15 seconds long? Fine! Just finish them as if you were getting paid to finish them. When you have over fifty of these finished tracks, you'll realize that it is becoming easier to express the idea that is in your head, or your client's head. At first you'll just be lucky to finish, but as you keep doing them, you will be able to change the mood if necessary, or modify the music in many ways. It's very common for the record label or your film director to want changes. Don't freeze! Learn how to accomodate them, and make changes that they describe in non-musical terms like,"Make that part 'much hipper,'" or "more fun," or "more evil and threatening." Lots of practice composing will give you confidence in how to do that.

Many times, you will hear someone tell you all the reasons the track isn't quite perfect before they play it for you. That is a sign of an amateur. Become a pro by seeing yourself as a pro, and doing whatever you can to deliver like a pro. Before I got jobs composing for the London Symphony Orchestra, or remixing a Destiny's Child track for a McDonalds commercial, or getting hired as a staff composer fr a TV series, I would video record movies, like James Bond or something, erase the sound, and write a new music score to that scene. Excellent practice!
Good luck to you. Wanting and talking are important, but doing, doing, and re-doing will get you where you want to go!

This shouldn't be a short ending cause it is so important, but I can't stress enough that you will also understand how to set your rates, get paid, not get cheated, get songwriting royalties, musician re-use payments, etc. If you are doing this for a living, you need to be fairly and properly paid. Pay attention to the business part when you are around a studio. Ask questions about how to do business well and properly. Fill out the paperwork! Someday it will be nice to receive royalty payments for a track you wrote 15 years before!