JULY 21, 2004 - Late post: 8/29/04





What Is A Producer?

The music producer is to a record (CD) what a director would be to a film.  The producer directs the entire operation of recording and readying the song(s) for release.  The producer is responsible to get the performances recorded and the technical work done on the release, within the deadline and within the budget. The job is both creative and technical.  For an overview of the job, see Cornbread's tip on the subject, The Role Of The Producer.

The primary areas that a producer has to supervise operations can include:

1. The Song:  The song needs to be something that would have broad public appeal when marketed in the style of the artist.
2. Talent Performance:  The musicianship, the arrangement and the lead vocal performance must be of the highest quality.
3. Recording:  The recording has to be done competently and be of the best quality.
4. Mixing & Mastering: The blending of the instrument sounds needs to be expertly done so that the performances are enhanced and the final product has a competitive sound.
5. Test Marketing & Promotion:  The release must be marketed and promoted through traditional, Internet and specialty sales outlets, and the producer can be called upon to supervise or help direct initial marketing and promotions of the release.

Supervision At A Minimum

The trick of being a producer is to have the final result, the final production, in "one's head" as work starts and progresses on the production.  The producer is the "keeper of the vision" and works to make sure that everything is moving towards getting that final product that is envisioned.  At a minimum the producer must direct others to complete the tasks, so an overview knowledge of all the essential production steps must be present in the person who is the producer.

To accomplish the best production, the producer chooses the tune to be produced and demands rewrites if improvement in the tune is needed.  The producer will get the talent (like the vocalist) to be in key and have the delivery of the tune with the proper emotion or style; the producer keeps the talent recording or rerecording until the best performance is obtained.  Similarly, the producer will determine how many tracks are to be used to record the various instruments and the tone that is captured in the recording.  Finally the producer makes sure that the final blend of instruments and overall product quality is the best that can be obtained.  The producer actually hires the "crew," and determines where the recording will be done.

Co-Working With The Talent And Crew

Many times producers will have better success if they can "show" the talent or crew what is needed rather than just explaining what is to be done.  Everybody understands better if there is a "demonstration" rather than just an "explanation."  If the lyrics (or words in a rap song) need changes, suggested wording can get the writer to make the best modifications.  If the producer feels that a couple of changes in notes or a change in vocal inflection would help, it is communicated best by the producer actually singing the part for the vocalist.  If the tone of the instrument could be improved, the producer can communicate this to the engineer by dialing in equalization changes - then the engineer can "fine tune" the parameters to something that works the best.  The same type of thing could be accomplished by the producer getting a rough blend of the instruments before the engineer sits down to mix.

To actualy "co-work" with the talent or crew, the producer needs hands-on skills, requiring a hands-on education rather than just an "overview."  The theory knowledge and the "hands on training" also needs to be combined with additional practice to get good (as it would be with any developed ability).

Doing All The Work

The most effective producer is the one who can personally perform the production functions.  Many producers these days plan from the start to function as the recording and mixing engineer throughout the production.  Its very common for the producer to provide some of the project's tunes for the artist, and sometimes all of the tunes.

This absolute level of involvement will, of course, require professional skills in all of the areas that will be assumed by the producer.  These skills come with complete training and a lot of experience. 

Getting The Skills Developed

For the "part 2" tip, I will explain how the Recording Institute Of Detroit though web and campus training can help you prepare to be a producer; and, if you train elsewhere, exactly what training is needed.

Where To Train

Where you get the training and experience to be a professional producer is a highly personal decision and there is no one way or even just one right way for you.  If you're really a professional producer you will be learning a lot from every project you do and learning & training will be a continuous endeavor throughout your career.  I am in the business of teaching (as well as doing) production and I learn something new from every student that I train.  Once you stop learning and get the idea that you "know it all," its time to retire - if you choose not to, you will soon cease to be an effective producer and working with continuously fading skills can be very painful.

The question you need to answer is "where should I train initially" and again the answer is highly personal.  I've worked long and hard to make the Recording Institute Of Detroit the "best school" for learning recording and production.  I could never say that it is the "best" school for you, only that you will learn a lot and most-likely love it.  I can say you will get more effective training for each dollar than you would at any school, but costs are only part of the picture.  If you talk to me about starting training at RID, I will recommend another school if I think that school is better for you without hesitation.  At RID, we maintain a 95% "highly satisfied" result with students - try surveying the students of the most expensive recording arts school and prepare to get shocked on how low the "satisfied" rating percentage is.

How To Train

If you want to become a professional producer quickly, it is essential that you have both "hands-on" practice and theory study.  The best training is going back and forth between the theory and the hands-on, taking small bites of each.

If the most-respected producer took you "under the wing" and fully mentored you, you still would need more.  In this situation you should be observing and helping the producer work, but after the sessions of the day you need to burn a candle over textbooks to absorb the theory behind the actions that you saw and participated in. I hope you don't need a lot of sleep or a lot of recreation, because you won't have much time for these endeavors while you effectively train.

You could "trial and error" your way into any field.  Trying things out until you have something that works for you takes a lot of time and probably results in a somewhat narrow view of the field.  You can usually develop one way to do things, where a professional could use a variety of approaches.  People in this situation will sometimes seek advice from friends who are not usually any more knowledgeable then them; I call it the "blind leading the blind" approach, but even unqualified help can help a little but.  If you use the "do it until you do it right" approach plan on it taking you longer to become professional. Additionally, do yourself a favor and study theory continuously while you practice and experiment.

Different recording arts schools have different amounts of theory and hands-on emphasis and use different methods of teaching the theory and the "hands-on."  Different students will have different amounts of hobby experience before enrolling in a school as well as having different or even non-existent home recording setups that can be used during training. Thus, the right school is the school that gives you the best balance of "hands-on" and "theory" training, and is affordable, considering your personal situation.

RID Campus Training

The RID campus program is designed to teach the student, without any prior knowledge or experience, how to record and produce music.  For that student, it has the proper balance of theory study and hands-on experience designed into the program if a student does all of the lab time available.  Students learn theory through lectures and between-class study.  Students get hands-on through class demonstrations and projects. They "top-off" their hands-on experience with extensive individual project lab-time.  Additional hands-on can be obtained with on-premises internships and assistant instructor programs.

But at the RID campus almost all of the lab time is not required.  This is because we have many students with extensive home recording setups and a lot of hobbling experience under their belt.  We even have professional engineers take our programs because of our excellent theory training.  Students needing us only for the theory training are not made to do a bunch of lab-time to get a certificate.

RID Online Recording Theory

At RID we have had 30 years of experience teaching theory to students.  We have had over 1000 students that have learned theory through self-paced study programs on-campus, prior to 1995.  We know our stuff in this area more than any other recording arts school, I'm sure.  We I "got into" the web in the mid-90's, I saw a way that this self-paced theory learning could be exported from the campus to the globe. The results were so good that now RID students use our interactive disc/web study as the primary method of between-class study.

Students who will not (or cannot) attend classes at RID can still study the theory portions of most of our programs by simply purchasing an inexpensive online subscription ($119 for 12 months).  They can obtain the "hands-on" experience though home recording set-up, even though this may take longer without the instructor supervision one would get in a class. Another use of the online theory study would be study by students who are attending other schools who want a more complete theory knowledge base.  An age-old training technique is: "If you really want to know a subject, study several texts on that subject." To make the training even more valuable, we have forums at www.recordingwebsite.com that allow you to ask questions of a RID instructor.

RID Online Production Training

When I started designing the online training program for production, i realized that the necessary "overview" training can be done much like the the online recording theory, so we developed the "RID Production School" study module that online subscribers can study. We wanted, however to teach more than just theory. We have found two areas that we could teach "hands-on" over the web that are critical to production training, "Production Quality Evaluation" and "Mastering."  These subject areas are often unknown to home producers that haven't had formal schooling in the subject.

Production Evaluation
The RID Campus "Basic Production School Course" includes 6 scheduled assignments on the web where the instructor will grade and correct your work.  Also included is the "overview study" that is done through the online Production School study module.  This is the first RID course that is entirely online. It makes sure that our Music Producer Program graduates can 1) have the overview knowledge base, 2) Understand an can use production evaluation techniques and  3) Can use web resources for music production.
     Online paid subscribers are invited to join with the campus students in this learning process but, until now, could not get a campus course completion certificate (only a theory completion certificate for the overview study module).

The subject of mastering is being added to the campus Production School course.  Students will study the theory behind mastering with special attention to setting parameters for signal processing used in mastering.  The complete theory and hands-on assignments will be complete for the January, 2005 semester.  I have begun posting theory lessons in mastering and will be beta-testing hands-on assignments for the fall 2004 semester, beginning September 13, 2004. 
     The course lessons will be designed using Sony's Sound Forge™ program but students will be able to use any stereo editing/mastering/DAW program that allows waveform editing and signal processing of equalization & compression. There are many such programs out that start at about $100.  Students also need broadband internet access (although it would be possible to use a dial up connection).

Joining The Online Course:

Students who beta-test this fall will get credit towards a full campus course certificate, if they are officially enrolled for the course.  These students will be able to complete added assignments after January so that they won't miss using the fully-developed lessons.  For right now, we will accept beta students who upgrade or who have an 3 year (or higher) online subscription, have a Audio Specialist theory certificate (or higher) and who register with RID by mail. We have a limit of 12 campus students and have 7 registered for the September start date as of this posting date.  All of what you will need to participate as a campus student is:



1. Previous campus enrollment or theory certificate in one of the following online study modules: a) Audio Specialist, b) Pro Audio Specialist, c) RID Production School.
2. At least 18 years of age or between 16-17 with parental consent.
3. Registered member of www.recordingwebsite.com (free).

Needed Equipment

1. Computer of 500 MHz or more, Win 98 or better, 256 MB Memory or better, 10 MB or more hard drive space.
2. Internet connection - Broadband (DSL/Cable) highly recommended.
3. Stereo editing/mastering/DAW program capable of waveform editing and signal processing of equalization & compression.
4. A program or other method of converting PCM.wav files to .mp3 files.

Registration Procedure

1. Purchase ($199) or upgrade ($99) to a 3 year Alexander Magazine online study subscription.  Please note that this is non-refundable and does not guarantee you acceptance in the class,
2. Complete any prerequisite study for a theory certificate.
3. Complete a campus registration form and mail it to RID along with a $59 enrollment fee (refundable if there are no seats left in the class - not refundable after attending any of the online class sessions). Please note that the campus registration form requires all of the following data per State Of Michigan regulations: Full Name, address, age, sex, social security number (USA Students), race/ethnic information. It also contains the signature line for parental permission. Contact the school office by phone (800-683-1743) or through the "ask bob" customer service link to receive a registration form.
4. Wait for campus acceptance (the registration form will be returned to you with a confirmation signature).

Get access to informative references and training modules like this with a Paid RID online training packageOnly $119 for 12 months of access to a wealth of information and certified training, including Pro Audio Specialist Study and RID Production School Training  





Copyright 2004 By Robert Dennis