This is the fourth installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank continues to discuss the role of the music producer. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
When a project is coming together, and principal tracking is basically there, a producer’s ear can really benefit the artist. At this point the artist has done their part and performed the songs the way they wrote them and the way they naturally sound performing them. What magic happens after that?
The first thing I like to do is to listen for any holes that need to be filled in the production. Ask yourself what seems to be missing? What does my ear wish to hear that it isn’t hearing? For example, let’s say in one song, during the guitar solo, if there is no rhythm guitar, then maybe there should be – OR – maybe the bass part just needs to be more busy – OR – would the band consider a background keyboard part, like a piano or B3?
I would typically offer up these kinds of suggestions and see what the band is more receptive to, and then proceed in their desired direction. The important thing is that they recognize from the production standpoint that there is a gap, and that we find the best way to fill it in a way that best represents their sound.
Another example is vocals. If the band only has one singer, then I’ll likely want to keep any added harmonies and vocal layering more in the background when it comes to the final mix because I know that when they perform live, the main melody is always going to be the focus. When listening to it on the album, these subtleties we include can just help the track come to life a bit more. After all, this is going to be a permanent recording for all to hear later, so you want it to be the best it can be for multiple listens. In some cases I have seen this inspire other band members to step up and start singing backups live, to represent those additions to the album.
On a song-by-song basis, you have to live in the moment of that song, because music is emotion. And if you’re not feeling it, then something is off. As a producer, you use your ears to help the band determine what that is, and alter the approach or course of production to get that feeling back. If all else fails, I might even suggest under-producing a track and stripping it way down to just lead vocal and guitar. I don’t like to add or change things just for the sake of changing a track, or just to “put my stamp on it.” That should only happen if there is a good reason, or a need for it. A good producer gets the artist from point A to point B – but makes his own unique stops along the way to enhance the recorded journey.
In Frank’s next installment he’ll explore the worlds or analog and digital recording – look for it next Thursday!
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com