Sound Production is the art of capturing audio and editing it to remove unwanted frequencies or flaws while still appearing natural to the human ear. Production can take place on many different scales from a large studio with millions of dollars in equipment, to a small, personal workstation in an audio engineer’s home.
A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering. Mixing and mastering is the industry’s way of saying “editing and making it sounds really awesome.” Producers also often take on a wider entrepreneurial role, with responsibility for the budget, schedules, contracts and negotiations.
A sound producer can, in some cases, be compared to a film director as the person who creatively guides or directs the process of making a record or song, much like a director would a movie or commercial. The engineer would be similar to the cameraman of the movie. The music producer’s job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music. The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist’s entire album – in which case the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate.
Once recorded, sound must be organized along a timeline, a process known as editing. It allows us to give the impression of perfect performances and create many of the sounds we hear in contemporary music. The editing tool used by producers is known as the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), a piece of software that stores and organizes all the assets of a musical project.
After editing, sounds must be combined or mixed together, so we look to the mixing board, a very intimidating but creative place if you know how to use it. A combination of hardware and software are utilized to create musical productions. Mixing boards, including volume, pan, mute, solo, busses, inserts, and sends, and microphones are the tangible hardware used for recording.
The mixing process, however, includes more tools than the mixing board provides on its own. Sound must also be processed, modified from its recorded state to fit the context of the music. Compression, equalization, and delay are effects very commonly used to give the polished and professional sound to a song or any other production.
In the end, the sound production process relies on creativity. Creativity is a product of the mind and will stay there, unexpressed, until the right tools are used in the right way to share it with the world. If you have an idea in your head, it will take numerous steps, each with an important tool, to reach your audience.