When you hear an album that is said to have been “well-produced”, what exactly does that mean to you?  Does it mean that the sound is a large mass coming from your speakers?  Is the sound thick and full of depth?  Is there evidence that there was extensive planning for song placement and track order?  Is a particular style or sound added to encompass the entire album?  Does the album sound pure and true to natural sound or does it seem as though you are in the studio with the musicians?  Perhaps the sound is full of energy, like you are at a live performance in concert.  All of these senses, including more, are representative of the production process.

As you may know, a producer is involved with the entire project, from beginning to end. The producer starts with, as I feel, is the most over-looked step in a lot of “non-label” recordings today.  This important step is called “pre-production”.  Preparing the songs, arrangements, recording styles, studio etiquette, and more can be done in pre-production and will safe time as well as money in the studio.  Not only are the artists paying for all of the time spent preparing for these in the studio, but the entire process goes faster in the studio.  This important planning can either safe you money (less time) or you can spend more time “producing” your album.

An example of an album’s “sound” are the growing popularity of “lo fidelity” labeled albums. “Lo fidelity” (AKA: “Lo Fi”) albums have been considered by some to be of their own genre, and have been documented by those who have made it popular.  While the early recordings were made on lo fidelity equipment, once popularity set in and additional money was given to future projects, the lo fidelity sound was produced that way in larger, professional studios.  This planning process begins at the beginning with pre-production.

In the studio, the producer is a “middle-man” to the entire cast of the project.  The talent, engineers, and executives can all communicate through the producer. The producer can speak each “language” of those involved.  For example, when the talent wants a specific sound in the vocals, a producer can communicate that into technical terms for the engineers.  When an executive wants to know the timeline for the completion of the project, the producer, having often also been an engineer or a musician themselves, has the knowledge and ability to communicate the steps needed for completion.  Some producers can put their signature sound into a song.  Tracking overdubs and arrangements of the songs can take lead from the producer.  Creative environments can become quite stressful if there are conflicting ideas, but the producer can be a decision maker for the best of the entire album.  The mixing process can be done by either the producer or the engineers with the producer’s supervision.  Editing and putting arrangements together during this process can be the “special something” a song needs.

Mastering an album can also be done by the producer or engineers in the recording studio, or it is often sent out to a specialized mastering engineer.  Most producers let a skilled mastering engineer make decisions on the audio.  The mastering step is used to enhance the sound and most of the time does not alter the overall design of the album.  Most mastering engineers have a studio that is specifically designed for only mastering audio.  Highly tuned, Hi Fidelity equipment is found in the mastering studio and can cost as much as all equipment found in a full production studio combined.  One studio spends money on microphones, and the other spends money on specialized mastering outboard gear. Replication and distribution is done by a record company, distribution labels, or by the artists themselves.

Do you want a full production rock album, a warm-sounding selection of arias or something in between? Deciding if you need a producer on your project can be the first step and decision to make.