What skills are needed to be a music producer?
The best music producers in the business understand what it takes to make a b-side into a single that gets played over and over again on the radio or downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. That’s their job after all.
And while a producer may not be running the soundboard or putting together the drum kit, they still need to know the ins-and-outs of every square inch of the studio. Producers aren’t born with this knowledge – they pick it up on their way to making a career in the industry.
If you want to become a music producer, get ready – there’s a lot to learn.
Know the Tools
You’ll read this a lot here – most producers come from other positions within the industry. Audio engineers, composers, and even artists have moved into the role after gaining the needed experience. That begins with knowing the tools of the trade.
With the proliferation of digital audio workstations (DAWs), you need to get very familiar with a few versions, such as Pro Tools, Ableton Live and Logic Pro. Most of these are relatively inexpensive, so spend the money – and time – to understand how they work. Once you know these tools inside and out, you can begin to incorporate other tools, such as midi keyboards, mixing boards, and soundboards.
You may need to book some time in a studio just to get a feel for all of the hardware you’ll need to know. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a local engineer that will allow you to sit in on a session or two to get a feel for the tools that make the music world go round.
While you don’t need to know how to play multiple instruments, you do need to know how they sound together. Your singing voice may send dogs running for cover, but you do need to know how to set up microphones. You’ll need to know how studio speakers and monitors are positioned for optimal effect.
It can take years of work to get this experience. But you’ll be learning something else along the way, too.
Working with Others
As a producer, you have to be able to work with a wide variety of personalities on both sides of the glass. Do you have the kind of personality that can both hang back in the shadows when things are going great, as well as step up and take control of the situation when they aren’t?
As we said, music producers don’t usually get their start in the industry in that position. By the time they’ve reached that position, they’ve oftentimes spent years running cables, setting up mics, scheduling the studio, and other jobs that keep a professional recording studio moving.
So as you learn different aspects of the job and work your way up, take note of how producers deal with people. An inexperienced indie artist may need more encouragement and coaxing for you to be able to get their best, while simply creating the space and vibe for a seasoned performer just do their thing is enough. All artists from the newbies to those who are world-renowned have their own temperaments and ways of doing things, so your ability to read and gauge a situation is key.
Remember, a music producer is there to help create the best possible song using the vision of the artist, from the performance to the engineering and beyond. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean dominate every facet of the music, but it does mean working with everyone in the studio in an effort to get their best.
Outside of the Studio
In some cases, a music producer also has to secure finances for the studio time, hire backing vocals or musicians, or work with the label to make sure everything stays on budget and on deadline. The business side of the industry is just as important as the creative part.
You may want to be a music producer because of your love of music, but take note, there’s more to it than that. You don’t need to be a mathematician, but you do need to understand the financial end of the industry. If you continually spend too much – or fail to stick to a timeline – your services won’t be needed for very long.
Where to Start?
Aspiring music producers have a whole lot to learn. If you aren’t already in the business, how do you take the skills you already have – if any – and get what you need to move forward? Apply to The Recording Connection Music Producing Program and find out.
We’ll give you access to a real-world recording studio and the opportunity to work one-on-one with an industry professional as your mentor. Instead of picking up bits of information from going online or fooling around in your free time, you’ll be fully immersed in a music-making environment where you can learn how the pros do it from day one and get your questions answered in a way that makes sense. With our approach, you aren’t passively listening to someone drone on and on. You’re in the mix, you’re collaborating, learning in studio and, if you’re smart, you’re building relationships while you get your bearings and learn what producing music is all about.
Many of the most dedicated students find themselves employed at the studios they externed after finishing their training. In some cases, they’ve moved into their own studios to begin their career or have become sound engineers at various clubs or beat-makers who make a nice living selling their beats online. But they put in the work to get themselves into that position. Can you do the same? Apply today.
Recording Connection mentor Josh Monroy (pictured above) on Getting Hired by Ludacris and more!