Music producers play an important role in the overall production of a recording project. Performing a wide variety of roles, the music producer is someone who understands nearly all facets of the recording process from pre- to post-production. Unlike production in other arts, music producers are usually assigned to a job after the project has already been funded.
Music producers often work directly with songwriters to create a song or alter an existing song. This can mean both lyrically and musically. A good producer will be skilled in both. If a song needs to be changed to a different key, the producer will know how to do so and will check to make certain changes are correct if they did not make the change themselves. If the producer and songwriter determine another verse is needed in a given song, the producer will often sit down with the songwriter and work on the lyrics and any musical changes needed. If arrangements need to be inserted into a song utilizing a full orchestra, the producer will be the arranger. This means that a music producer is both a musician and a writer and can interchange freely between the 2.
Music producers also understand the engineering aspect of the recording process and can work directly with engineers to achieve certain agreed-upon sonic goals. If a songwriter cannot express in technical terms what it is he requires from an engineer during a particular session, it is the music producer's job to translate in lingo the engineer might better grasp. Music producers understand the sound board, the recording software or analog equipment used and have a good overall sense of sound dynamics.
The music producer is often the glue that holds the group together--not just the band but the recording staff as well. Recording can be both a wonderful and agonizing process. When things get tough, like when a session descends into arguing, it is the producer who is responsible for telling everyone to take a 10-minute break, to end a session, to take yet another take of that difficult song and to act as a sort of cheerleader to keep all involved, focused and motivated toward session goals.
Keeping a close eye on the overall budget of a project is yet another important aspect of being a music producer. While musicians have their noses in a score, vocalists are trying to hit a certain note and technicians are fiddling with various knobs in the booth, the budget might often be forgotten. Keeping track of this is obviously critical. Before recording begins, a specific plan is set-up so that everyone knows what songs are going to be recorded on what days. It is the producer's role to ensure sessions begin and end on time. Overtime in a studio often means paying double and so it is imperative that the producer stay focused on this item.
Mixing and Mastering
After initial recording is complete, music producers also play a significant part in mixing a group of songs and in mastering the songs. Mixing is where all the channels of music recorded, usually 1 per instrument, are combined onto just 2 channels and includes altering dynamics, levels and adding effects. Mastering is taking the final mix and transferring it to a digital storage device (called the master). Mastering fine tunes the music further through changing the space between songs and maximizing the overall sound. The music producer will be able to communicate freely in the technical terms needed to convey the artists' needs into a final product.