Two days ago, we finished our second band practice working with a music producer for the EP we’re recording. I must admit – it feels really weird to say “we’re working with a producer” for our record – feels a little too fancy, or even pretentious, for a small time band like ourselves who hardly even have a demo. The truth is we could probably record ourselves in the basement and just get over with it. And, we’ve tried that, but never felt good with our outcome. Maybe it was beyond our ability, or we’re just too much of perfectionists…. maybe a combo of both. So, we decided to step things up a bit. We’d find an experienced professional, with a recording studio setup, and we’d focus on recording 4-5 of our ‘best’ songs.
Why Hire a Producer?
So, after contacting several studios and engineers around town to get price quotes and discuss project details for recording, I wondered into a studio in downtown Seattle. I’d checked out the studio online, exchanged a few emails with the owner, and talked with multiple other engineers/studios. This place felt elusive though. It was beautiful. It felt beyond us. Among the roster of artists who’d used the studio were multiple bands I recognized, respected, and even looked up to (Arcade Fire, Pavement, Soul Asylum, Hey Marsellies… oh yeah, and Jay Z ). That’s always impressive… but I think the decision mostly hinged on finding a place/person/experience that would make us better. I wanted to enter the studio, and come out as a better band. I wanted to come out of the studio and the experience as a whole and feel like we came out with better songs than we had entered.
After checking out the studio, and speaking with the owner, it started to become clear that this place could work… and it could be an amazing experience. We discussed the details, pricing, and he then said, “I can also do some producing”.
The Difference Between Engineering & Producing
I’m a little bit of a roob when it comes to the recording process. I’ve never done it. I had my ideas of what producing was. I was familiar with Rick Rubin, and Butch Vig. But, I’d also heard the term thrown around quite a bit, in various industries. Like many titles, it’s one of those things where the main qualification for it is simply calling yourself by that title. Not a bad thing. But it can lead to serious variance in the skills/experience provided, and for setting your expectations.
So, I asked “what’s the difference with engineering vs producing?”
Essentially the answer I got was “With engineering, we’ll capture the songs as they are. With producing we’ll work on the songs to bring out the strengths and work on developing them more.”
I liked that answer. When you’re writing your own songs you never fully hear them as a listener. And sometimes you write parts for your own gratification that don’t necessarily serve the song or the listener. Sometimes you grow attached to certain parts because they’re difficult to play, so you’re proud of the work that went into them even if they distract from the listener experience of a song.
The way I see it, and from the experience so far, a producer is like a professional listener. They listen to the songs and give you feedback on the strengths to help you pronounce them. As a musician I have two primary goals with my music. 1) To express myself 2) to connect with people. And when those two things happen, it’s highly satisfying . Is it validation? Maybe. Ego? Maybe. Rewarding? Absolutely.
So far, we’ve had two practices with him to work on the songs, and I think we’ve made a good choice. It’s opened us up to new ideas we hadn’t thought of before, and small changes to the songs have livened them up and made them better. Tomorrow we go into the studio to begin recording our 5 songs, and I think I speak for the whole band when I say we couldn’t be more excited. We’re looking forward to the experience, and to sharing the finished songs with everyone. See you soon.
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