Posts Tagged ‘master’

In my 30-plus years of experience in the studio, I’ve worked with many producers.  I have also produced lots of recordings.  From all this, I evolved a concept of what makes a great producer.

For me, a producer is someone that takes the artist’s vision and gets it recorded and puts it onto the tape or the computer.  The producer enhances that recording through his wealth of knowledge of recording techniques (staying up-to-date on new technology), and experience with a wide variety of musical styles, as well as an ability to play various instruments.

A producer should be able to oversee the whole project from beginning to end including: pre-production (choosing songs, arranging, rehearsing, etc), tracking, mixing, and mastering.

He would decide if live musicians were needed or not, or if it could all be done just using keyboards, computers and  software.  If session musicians were needed, he would know how many and be able to call up different ones that could do a good job quickly, to add to the project as needed.

A good producer communicates with the artist and figures out how to accomplish the project within a person’s budget—I always keep that in mind while I’m producing.  Recording budgets can vary widely!  I will try to figure out the best way to get what an artist really wants, the product they’re looking for, within the amount of money they have to spend.

Even though I would perhaps know more than the artist or band I was producing, I’m not going to just take over and say, “Well, no, you can’t do this,” or “You can’t do that,” or “It has to be this way not that way.”  There are producers like that—they’re more like tyrants.  They take over and say, “No, it has to be this way.”

I don’t think that’s particularly the right approach in most cases.  Overall I want the client to be happy and comfortable, and feel creative and willing to express themselves.

I would say it’s extremely advantageous to have a producer who is musically trained, because they are able to get things done faster and easier.  You can get a great result with someone who is not trained—they could use their intuition or their artistic and creative instincts.  But you also run the risk of dabbling around with a lot more experimenting and having things take a lot longer.

A knowledge of various instruments, including keyboards and software is important.  And some degree of orchestration chops is a plus.  In other words, knowing what combinations of instruments with sound best for different styles is key in getting a good product.

A producer should also be someone who is well-trained in the technology of recording, and a pretty decent engineer.  Contained within that is a knowledge of what microphones to use and how to place them.  If you don’t mic a recording properly, you’re not going to get a sound into the computer that you can use.  Then, once you recorded it, there are countless ways to edit/mix including: cleaning up any unwanted noise, pitch &/or time correction, eq, compression, reverbs &/or delays, etc.

An example of someone who has all of these qualities is Quincy Jones who, among many other accomplishments, produced Michael Jackson’s biggest albums. He is highly trained musically, knows what session musicians to bring in when needed, and knows well the technology of recording.  He also keeps the artist’s vision firmly in mind the whole time and is always after a great product.  Another example that fits all of these categories is Beatles’ producer George Martin.

There are “producers” nowadays that just know how to run the equipment, and know how to use the computer programs, but don’t even know how to play the piano or guitar, or don’t know anything about music.  Some might be able to get results by putting samples together or splicing  things together—but that’s a whole different type of producer.  You wouldn’t want to get one of those guys to produce a country tune or a jazz tune or a classical piece or even a pop song.  They might do a great job in certain kind of genres like the hip-hop or trance electronica stuff, but for just about anything else they’re kind of limited, in my opinion.

It is true that a great recording does not necessarily require a state-of-the-art high end studio.  In fact, many of the recordings you hear today are done in a tiny little studio, because the technology has gotten to the point where you can do that.  But in such a situation you still need to have certain things in place—like really good software and someone who is competent and  knowledgeable about how to use it.  You will still have to have decent microphones.  And last but not least, you still need a knowledgeable producer.

Knowledge and skills along with the care factor, as outlined above, that’s what makes a producer great.

Choosing the right recording studio is an important decision in the making of an album, or even the recording of one song or a demo.

You can check out the gear (microphones, board, instruments, software, etc.) of a studio, if you know what to look for, along with the résumés of its engineers and personnel. But if you’re not experienced enough to understand all the technical ins and outs—and many aren’t—then there are some other ways you can judge whether or not a studio will be right for you.

First, you’ll want to look for studios within your price range. It used to be that there weren’t very many studios around, and people would have to go to a big studio and pay a lot more money, or  go in at 2 o’clock in the morning during downtime so that they could get a rate that they could afford. That is no longer true—now there are many small studios, so finding one in your price range should not be difficult.

Next, you’ll want to know if the studio can actually produce the product you really need. The quickest route I know of in finding this out is to cut straight to the chase: actually listen to  the overall quality of the sound of their products. Does it sound good, does it sound professional? If you don’t know what to listen for—which some people don’t—you could just compare the studio’s finished recordings to professional products that are already out on the market. Do they sound as good?

If you still need a further example of a professional versus a sub-par recording, you could listen to something like a karaoke track and realize that it sounds cheesy compared to listening to something that’s put out by a major studio or a major recording company. Then go back and compare the studio’s products to major recordings out there on the market.

It is important as you are going through this step to pay attention to the genre. See if the studio has recorded in your genre, and what those recordings sound like. There are various specific elements to watch for; as an example if you’re doing a classical recording, you’re going to want a real piano, not a digital piano (no matter how good the digital pianos are today). If you are recording rock and roll, you might want specific amplifiers or other gear, or at least the capability to obtain those sounds using software. But again, listening to the products the studio has produced should tell you much of what you need to know about their capabilities within a genre.

Once you find a studio that is producing high quality recordings in the genre you are working within, it is a good idea to go and look at the studio. Are the personnel knowledgeable and professional? Is the studio well-kept? Does it actually look like a professional recording studio? Even a home studio can provide a professional, competent atmosphere.

Another point is, does the studio create a comfortable atmosphere in which you will feel creative? Do the personnel put you at ease and make you feel confident in what you are doing? The last thing you want is to go into a studio to create an artistic product and feel stifled, belittled or pressured. Such factors will affect the final recording.

These guidelines should help you in choosing a studio in which to make your recording.

(This is what I send people that want me to master their recording)

A quick summary of Mastering is:

1) putting the songs in the correct order

2) making them sound better than the mix and sound like they aren’t from different times and studios (if possible) using eq, compression, and other effects

3) getting the level of each song to be roughly the same

4) encoding the CD with whatever data is wanted to be added (song titles,  Performer/songwriter, ISRC codes, etc)

5) creating a DDP image file (recommended) or for longer CD’s, a PM-CDR for the plant to use to duplicate your CD.

What I need is:


1) song titles (exact spelling please)

2) the finished mixes in 24 bit .wav or.aif format with the peaks levels between -6 and-3 db (if possible)

(you can give them to me on CD or bring me a hard drive or give me an FTP site)

3) order of songs

4) Performer/songwriter

optional but recommended

1) Name of Record Company (if any)

2) how much space between songs (normal is 2 seconds)

3) ISRC code for each song

4) UPC/EAN Code for the whole CD (if you have one)

Definitions and resources

1)  DDP – Disc Description Protocol

CD pressing plants can handle many different formats but in practice a DDP Image File proves the most reliable form of transfer to the plant.

PM-CDR – Pre-master compact disc writeable

(I make this for you)

2)  The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording, independent of the format on which it appears (CD, audio file, etc) or the rights holders involved. Only one ISRC should be issued to a track, and an ISRC can never represent more than one unique recording.

ISRCs are widely used in digital commerce by download sites and collecting societies. An ISRC can also be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.  (link to where to go to get your codes)

3)  UPC (Universal Product Code)

EAN (originally “European Article Number”, but now renamed ”International Article Number” even though the abbreviation has been retained)  (link to get your UPC/EAN code)

OK, so I’m guilty of using a play on words (you know the song “Teach Me Tonight”)

Anyway, in this blog category  I will talk about teaching, students, etc….


For questions related to my books, please use the Q&A blog category.