can make better records by learning the right reasons to choose a record
producer, rather than many of the flawed ways of the past.
As a record producer with over a decade of experience and hundreds of
record under my belt, I have witnessed bands choose me and my fellow
producers for both smart and stupid reasons. Seeing as this is one of
the most crucial decisions in a bands career, this is some of the most
important information you can learn.
One of the biggest mistakes a band makes before they go into the studio is not figuring out how much help they need and employing someone who can give them that help. In order to figure out how you are going to insure that you make the best record you can, you need to know what to expect and what to look for in a producer/recording studio. After the jump we will start to discuss some of the crucial things to look for before you walk into the studio.
Preproduction – One of the most essential elements to making a good record is preproduction. If you walk into a studio unprepared with half-baked songs there is little chance you are going to make a record that is as good as it can be. Preproduction is where a producer will come to rehearsals and go over crucial things before you are watching the clock in the studio. Many producers will go over tempos and get click tracked tempo maps, define arrangements, check keys of songs and many other small tweaks. Others will go as far as cutting fast one take demos of your songs to listen to and make sure they can get ideas for them before you walk in the studio door.
While this process is thought of as a more slick and pop technique this is not always the case. Producer Dean Rispler often attends countless rehearsals of the very raw garage and indie bands he works with in order to get them to be able to play their songs perfectly live in a room with no headphones, click track and tons of bleed to get the best live band feel possible. Recognizing that a good producer will find a way to execute your sound properly and not just slick it out is crucial in seeing the importance of the preproduction stage. Finding someone to get involved early in your record and who understands the importance of this stage is usually one of the crucial parts of making a record the best it can be.
Hands Off – Some groups feel that all they need is to be captured playing and they can make a great record, if this is the route you choose to go it may be best to abandon the idea of a producer and search high and low until you can find a engineer/studio that can just concentrate on getting great tones. I have encountered many groups in my years producing that can be left alone and recording them is mostly about staying out of the way and letting them do their thing. If you are one of these groups it is crucial to not fall into the philosophy of, “any studio will be able to capture our magic.” If you do not need to spend the dollars on production and preproduction than your money is best spent being devoted to finding a studio and engineer with equipment to capture your group as best as it can be captured.
Songwriting Help – Some groups, whether they are young and inexperienced or older and just looking for more help, want help with their songwriting in the studio that is beyond normal producers terms of helping with tempos, harmonies and arrangements. They want that heavy hand of an experienced songwriter in order to make their record the best it can be. When a group does want this they often assume because a producer was involved with a record they liked the songwriting on they must’ve helped with it.
Shockingly this is not usually the case. If you want a heavy hand in your record’s songwriting make sure you talk to your producer about it first, if they are not the type to go this far (which many producers are not) then there is always the possibility of hiring a outside songwriter. This becomes more and more common everyday as home studios get built daily. Make sure you have a discussion with your producer beforehand about how involved you want them to be in your songwriting process so that you get what you are looking for.