Music Business

How To Produce A Music Album


How To Produce A Music Album
Or At Least Be A Co-Producer

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2022-12-13
My friend Spud Davenport made a record this year - coming to you in stores and online in late January 2023 (watch this space).

We've recorded together before and we've been unofficial consiglieri for each other on all things music since the pandemic. With him making a record and at the same studio, Big Rock Studios, where I've worked and am very comfortable, Spud had me come in to help "co-produce" the record. I jumped at the chance.

Getting a chance to spend collaborative studio time without me on the hook to pay for anything? I'm in! I love being in the studio. I would have done it even without being bribed by beer and pastrami sandwiches.

Anyway, here's what I learned in this producer session about what artists need as a producer.

Requirements For Being A Producer On An Album

If you're going to be a producer on an album project, then here are the prerequisites (as I see them):

* You need to like the music you're being asked to produce

* You need to be somewhat versed in the genre of the record being produced

* Ideally, you need to have the clout to speak freely with the artist. You're either old friends or you are a paid, respected producer.

If you meet those criteria then you should serve a solid purpose. Now you're ready for the various producer roles that I learned in real-time on Spud's record ("Songs For The Cynical", coming soon).

Producer Tip #1 - Second That Emotion

When a singer is on mic doing lyrics, it can get very mechanical, very quickly. They frequently have to sing one line 20 times in a row to "punch in" and get a lyric just right.

Producer Role: Remind the singer to actually feel the emotion they are supposed to be singing. It sounds simple, but it really, really helps.

Producer Tip #2 - Lyrics Clear To A New Ear

The singer is frequently the songwriter. They have lived with this song for weeks; or maybe even months or years. So, if they are singing "Big old jet airliner", they would never imagine that what they're singing might sound like "Bingo jet had a light on."

Producer Role: During some playback of a full vocal take, take one particular listen to it as if you've never heard the song. Can you literally understand the words? Could you transcribe it correctly? If not, then raise your hand before everybody moves on. Even if you catch it kind of late, if there's a weak "sss" sound in a word, that could be sweetened after the fact with the magic of modern studio software effects.

Producer Tip #3 - Quick Rewriting

Sometimes during vocal performances, a certain line just trips everybody up - since it might be the first time this song is actually sung out load, this is the initial discovery that the line just doesn't sing easily. Which means that the meter of the line could be wrong. It might be time to rewrite it. Or during instrument tracking, the bass note and the guitar chord might clash which is another time for everybody to address something that sounds wrong.

Producer Role: Blow your producer whistle and force everybody (the talent and the engineer) to get together and get it right, as opposed to the dreaded "good enough". Remind everyone what the intent is and conduct a quick brainstorming session. Especially on lyric rewrites, ask "What are you trying to say?" If you're a person who's cursed with the ability to come up with puns and rhymes quickly, like me, then you can be valuable here. In the case of this Spud album, there's one particular new line I provided that I'm really proud of (which I’ll keep to myself).

Producer Tip #4 - Tie-Breaker, Musical Caddy

Amongst a band, everybody is not necessarily in lock step about a chord, a note, a lyric, an effect, etc. Or even with a solo artist, the engineer and artist might have a difference of opinion about something. This is your time to be the tie-breaker, or as Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap says, be "luke warm water".

Producer Role: Don't volunteer your opinion unless it's something you feel really strongly about. This isn't your record; it belongs to the artist. The time to pipe up is when the artist isn't sure of himself or herself. Creating confidence is the important thing. A golf caddy's main role is to be a confidence-building assistant. If they are between a 7-iron and an 8-iron and choose the 7-iron, make a comment about why the 7-iron is the right club. In studio, if there is a lack of consensus, THEN share your opinion and be the tie breaker. Film directors have said something like this: sometimes your decision isn't that important; it's more important to make a strong decision.

Producer Tip #5 - Reminder To Have Fun

I have totally had this feeling in the studio. The whole record and each song start to mean a lot to me. It's a difficult undertaking that takes a lot of planning and a daunting amount of follow-through. Often, it's my money paying for the session, or a share of the session. And while doing my vocals or instrument track, it's my one chance to get things right. Anybody can tense up and not be super loose in those moments. Besides smoking pot, a producer can be your best way out of that mess.

Producer Role: You don't even have to wait for the talent to look or sound tense. Every so often, the most valuable advice you can give as a producer is to have fun. Not during a floundering, tight take and lamely suggest "hey, have fun with it" which makes everything worse. But at the end of a sandwich break, right after the mic is set up, just after switching to a new song - this is time to remind your friend the artist that this is his favorite thing to do. "I just want to remind you that doing this today is fun and awesome." Maybe 2 or 3 times a day is about the right rate.


After reading this article, you hereby have all of the requisite training to be a music producer. Seriously, if you love the music and can maximize fun and calmness while minimizing stress, then you can be a great producer.