What is Music Production?

This segment is all about the language of music production. If you are an artist that hopes to someday create an album, this entire segment is focused on teaching YOU the artist all you need to know in order to select the right producer for you and to speak their language so that you can best convey what you need and want in your music. What is music production? Music production is basically the process of taking a song from its inception to the final product that you could send to a radio station or head of A&R at your label and upon listening, they agree that it is up to commercial standards. How it is produced defines the genre that it fits in, even the decade that it sounds like it’s from. If you’ve ever heard an unfamiliar song and then say, “oh, this sounds like something from the 80’s or the 90’s or the 50’s” how would you know what era it’s from? What would be a clue? Or if you heard a song and immediately could tell that it was a country song, even before the singer came in, how did you know? Well, the way things are mixed, the effects used on the voice, the synthesizer sounds, the instrumentation used, the guitar tones…all of these things are part of the production of the song.

I will be talking about all of these things and what they mean in more detail in future segments. Last month I laid out my observations about different types of producers and how to choose the best one for you. But first, it is important that you understand that how music is produced is one of the most important decisions you will make as an artist. Most importantly, the way your music is produced becomes part of your "brand" as an artist. So understanding what it is and how to communicate what you want in YOUR produced songs has got to be one of the most important things you do as an artist, second to honing your musical skills.

To get a great understanding of what music production is, listen to Michael Jackson’s Xscape album. The deluxe version includes songs in their originally produced state and then it also includes the same songs reproduced to sound current, using today’s best producers and cutting edge sounds. What an education on music production right here! As you listen, pay attention to the differences in one song to the next. I think the most popular song released from this album is “Love Never Felt So Good” with Justin Timberlake. There are actually three different versions of the song on this deluxe album with three different production approaches. You can hear the original stripped down production with Paul Anka at the piano. Then you there two different modernized versions of it. One produced by John McClain using a lush, full orchestra and. And then a Timbaland production that features Justin Timberlake, complete with Timbaland’s signature huge percussion sounds and modulating string riffs.

Another way to get a good sense of what music production is and can be is to listen to great covers of great songs. For instance, “I Need a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler from the 80’s completely transformed by Ella Mae Bowen a few years ago. Talk about reinterpreting a song! This new production sheds a new light on the lyrics and emotion of the song. In my opinion, it's brilliant.

The next segment of Producer Lingidy-Ling will break down music production into four simple categories, so that you, the artist can learn to easily identify what you love from your favorite songs, and how to communicate what you want in your music to a producer.