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What does a music producer do?

Of course, all musicians and producers would have a different answer for this.  Ultimately, the word derives from "Product."  In my view, a producer of music is much like a director of film.  It is the person who has a big picture view of what is trying to be achieved and a clear idea of how to bring that about.  He or she must ascertain what the artist has in mind regarding goals, image, presentation, and style. In the same way a film director would make decisions about what angle to film from or what kind of lighting effect to use, a music producer must make hundreds of choices in a timely manner that shape the sound of the music.  These include reverb, compression, eq, panning and automation not to mention the sound of the guitar amplifiers, the choice of tempo and key, and other factors.  A producer also provides an unbiased source of feedback for the artist, helping guide the artist toward a more marketable and cohesive product. It is also up to a producer to help the artist decide where they fall in the continuum between art and commerce as this affects many decisions along the way.  Many modern producers such as myself wear many hats including playing multiple instruments, composing as well as mixing.  I have many favorite producers and all for different reasons. Brendan O'Brien is great for honest sounding rock music, with an emphasis on organic drums and raw guitar.  Mutt Lange is great for creating a larger than life sound and making every verse, pre-chorus, and chorus a major hook.  Glen Ballard is great with working with singers to craft unique music to support their vision.  And of course, even though Jimmy Page is noted as a guitarist, his true contribution to Led Zeppelin was his production and compositional ideas.  It is he who I most pattern myself after since I am a guitarist and a producer.  

What kind of equipment do you use?

I use Pro-Tools  as my primary DAW (digital audio workstation).  I also have LOGIC.  I use a Lewitt LCT 550 Microphone and a Focusrite ISA One Pre amp.  I have a full complement of Waves plug ins, and an assortment of guitars.

Why did you decide to be an independent producer?

Starting my own free lance business as a music producer was the next logical step for me.  The improvement in technology allowed me to achieve the sound I am looking for without the high overhead of working in a commercial studio 24/7.  I still use commercial studios sparingly for drum tracks or full band live tracking sessions but I prefer to cut vocals, guitars, overdubs, and mix at my office/studio in the historic Redmont area of Birmingham.  Over the years I have found my niche as someone who works closely with solo artists and singer songwriters in creating unique and marketable recordings.  In addition to my experience with digital audio workstations and mixing, I have the ability to play and write signature parts for my artists on guitar, piano, organ, bass, and percussion.  The fact that I can do all of these things greatly reduces the overall costs for the artists that work with me.  

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