In short, I make records. That includes producing, engineering, and mixing, and sometimes includes writing or playing instruments.
What is a producer?
There are a lot of varying opinions about what a producer is or isn't. Personally, I'm a little shy when it comes to using the term because I feel like it is misused by so many these days (sometimes it feels like everyone and their dog claims to be a producer). So here's how I approach production...
As a producer, I see myself as a creative consultant, a technical wizard, an accountant, and a vibe curator - all rolled in to one. While that seems like a mouthful, let me break it down for you.
Producer is a creative role, and as such, I'm here to guide your creative process to achieve the most exciting result for the intended audience. I may offer suggestions on melody, vocal harmonies, instrumentation, arrangement, choice of instruments, guitar parts, drum fills & patterns, and more. Ultimately, I want to do what's best for the music. However, at the end of the day, it is your music. I'm here to make your record.
From a technical standpoint, I need to be able to capture the music in the most authentic way possible. Maybe we want to record three guitar amps simultaneously, while getting a DI of the guitar, and a second DI of the pedalboard. Maybe we want to record drums using only four microphones for a lo-fi sound. Maybe we want to set up microphones in the hallway to capture a natural reverb. Whatever the challenge, I need to be capable of capturing the sound - and making it sound good!
The producer also needs to act as an accountant to a certain degree. If you have a small budget, then I'm not going to take a full day to set up drums and dial in tones - that would be wasteful and stressful on the drummer. If you have a large budget, I might take some liberties - such as taking extra time on dialing in guitar tones, shooting out several microphones on your vocals, or hiring a string quartet for a song. I need to be mindful of the budget at all times, as it will dictate a lot of choices we make in the studio.
And lastly, the producer is the vibe curator. I like recording to be laid back, fun, and enjoyable for everyone. It's my job to keep the mood light and the room positive. Tensions can run high in the studio, but the best result will come when everyone is relaxed.
What is an engineer?
An engineer is the technical wizard. As an engineer, I know the ins and outs of recording - the console, the outboard gear, the microphones, the live room. If you just need someone to give you great sounding raw recordings, I can do that for you no problem.
What is mixing?
Mixing is the process of making all the recorded tracks sound level and clear. It's a little bit creative, and it's a little bit technical. It can include equalization, compression, adding delays and reverbs, adding additional effects, panning instruments amongst the stereo field, and more. I can mix "in-the-box" (using software), analog (using my mixing console and outboard gear), or hybrid (a combination of in-the-box and analog). Personally, I prefer mixing analog or hybrid, but will mix in-the-box when budget is a concern.
What is mastering? Do you do mastering?
Mastering is the final step of the recording process. The purpose of mastering is to optimize the mix to sound great on every playback system. In the case of an EP or album, mastering also serves to create a cohesive sound across all the tracks. This step can include equalization, compression, peak limiting, and more.
I sometimes do mastering - usually when it's a low budget record. I don't consider myself a mastering engineer by any stretch, but am happy to do it when an artist is working with a limited budget.
I have worked with a number of mastering engineers over the years, and I always recommend Greg Mindorff at Suite Sound Labs. Greg does an excellent job with my mixes, and I'm always pleased with the results.