Producers are Often Tasked with The Challenge of Sculpting Masterpieces Out of Minimal Talent. It’s Just the Truth.
Often, Clients Approach You with Visions of Grandeur and Projects of Epic Proportions, but What they Actually Bring to The Table in Terms of Creativity, Skill and Experience Usually Pales in Comparison. The Contention is Amplified When the Blessed Souls Possess The Monies to Pay. In Cash. You Definitely Want to Pay The Bills, But Your Name & Rep are On The Line If You Don’t Provide Them the Record They Already Hear in Their Heads.
Sure, there is a Plethora of Technology that will Smash a Vocal into the Right Notes and Nudge the Drums into a Perfect Time Signature, but No Amount of Convolution Reverb, Compression or Wacky, Bounced Delay is Going to Compensate for a Lackluster Performance.
And it’s ALWAYS Going to Be YOUR Fault when You Playback the Take. Many Singers have Only Heard their Vocals in the Shower, Car or Garage with the Rest of their Band through Loud, Over Equalized PA Systems that Have Not Told Them the Truth. So When Your U-87 Unmercifully Reveals the Flaws and Cankers in their Nasally Throat, Prepare For War!
Many a Producer Friends I Know Cram Psychiatry on the Side, Ready to Soothe the Savages, but a Few of Us have Learned a Five Principles to Employ Prior to Pressing Record.
1. Find the Gold in the Dirt
Believe Me, It’s in There and Not So Hard to Locate, if You Know Where to Look. The Way a Word is Enunciated or a String is Unscrupulously Plucked or the Way the Drummer Smacks Her Hi-Hat Every Fifth Beat Can be Transformed into Some Interesting Accents.
2. Strip It Down
Help Your Artist Dial Down the Notions of a 72 Piece Orchestra Until They’ve Tapped into the Techniques that Make their Tunes Tick. Spend Three Days Alone with the Main Instrumentalist / Vocalist Recording & Re-Recording Their Arrangements so You Can:
a) Allow Them to Get Used to Focusing on Their Own Playing & Parts and to
b) Begin Building the Song Around Their Foundation.
3. Refuse to Baby Them
Holding a Guitarist’s hand through a Take is One Thing. Nursing them is Quite Another.
Don’t Take Attitude or Temper Tantrums Lightly. There is No Amount of Money You Can Pay Me to Eat Someone’s Crap.
Their Deposit, Minus Time Spent is Always at the Ready to Return. The Producer has been Hired to Lead the Process and Often Lives It Well After the Session is Finished. If You are in a Business where You are Recording Two or More Different Clients / Bands in One Day, You Don’t Need One Prima Dona’s Debilitated Dysfunction to leak into Your Next Session.
Worse is when You return to Mix, you’ll often find that the Messy Mood was Recorded and Can’t be Edited Out… My Ace Engineer & Friend Jerry Thompson Once Encountered a Beautiful Songbird who Sang Exquisitely, Destined to be a Future Star, but Displayed such Snotty, Condescending Behavior, We Promised God and Each Other We’d Never Work with Her Again and Haven’t.
4. Pull Out All The Stops
It’s Highly Probable that This Session Reveals that the Challenge is Focused as Much on You As it is On Your Client. This is the Zone where You, Yourself Must Stand and Deliver. How Creative Are You? Are You Able to Massage that Subpar Bass line into a Grooving Pocket or Nudge those Nervous Sax Noodles into Ferocious Roars!
You Have The Power, Mr. & Mrs. Producer, of Patience, Persuasion & Perseverance. Remember, You’re Always Beginning with a Blank Canvas. Your Unique, Steadfast Ability to Build upon the Blocks Given You is the Real Magic that Turns Songs into Standards.
5. Always Tell The Truth
Sometimes, The Musicians, Singers or the Song Just Does Not Cut It and there is Nothing You Can Do. Recognize It and Bow Out on the Front End. If Asked, Provide Your Expertise with Grace & Truth as to Why The Project Won’t Work. Unless You Like Making Enemies, Don’t Recommend Them to the Producer Across Town. Give Them a Timeline in which They May Be Able to Return and Try Again and Then Shake Hands and Walk Away. They Will Grow to Respect You For Your Honesty and in many cases will become Better at their Craft If Only to Prove You Wrong, which is Still a Very Good Thing!
I Was Not Listening to Any Music as I Composed This Blog. I Wish to Dedicate It to The Memory of My Dear First Cousin, Lori Jean White, who Passed Away Peacefully Last Night…Sleep on Sis!