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What Exactly IS Production? - by Seraphim Hanisch

Berklee College of Music defines a Music Producer in this way: "Music producers oversee and direct recording projects for musical artists. Although their roles vary by project, producers commonly help artists choose material and adapt arrangements, coach them in the studio, select and hire side musicians, work with the recording engineer, and weigh in on decisions about mixes."

Another way to look at the role of a Producer in Classical music might be to call this person "the director's director." A music producer offers a second pair of ears, a point of view that is not the same as the conductor's, but actually often the point of view of the listener of the intended recording. The producer works with the artists, usually through the conductor, to craft, correct and refine the work being recorded, to bring it to its finest level. A good producer hears many things that the artists do not, and he or she tracks the performance from the score, guiding the process of recording to maximise the result's overall quality. 

My formation as a Producer was formed by work with Sound Mirror, and as such I seek several objectives that are often laughingly simple, but often very difficult to achieve:

1. Pitch for choral groups must be consistent and perfect. The choir must end in key with where it began, for example. This has to happen without "electronic help" as well, so we use reference pitching, usually from a well-tuned piano or similar instrument and we also pay attention to intervals to make sure parts are not sliding somewhere they shouldn't.

 

2. We strive for a balanced sound. This is partly achieved by microphone placement, but in most cases, the microphones' job is to simply capture perfection, so in many cases we sort out ensemble balance and dynamic issues that may exist, in order to get a smooth, consistently correct sound from the ensemble being recorded.

 

3. We believe in the axiom "You cannot fix it in the mix!" - if the tracked material has something wrong with it, whatever is wrong cannot be fixed later. We cannot for example, fix a second violinist playing a note too sharp on beat three of measure four when all the others are playing correctly. (while in reality, there are electronic pieces of wizardry that often can help us in such cases, these usually cause more damage to a mix, so we aim to have no such problems.)

 

Now do you see why the Producer is the Director's director? We strive to make your performance perfect, so much so that all we need to do is pick the best pieces of Perfect and put them together, mix them and polish them. If this leads you to thinking that there is going to be a great deal of "let's get it right" happening - you are correct.

 

This is what makes true beauty.  

As a producer particularly in Choral recording, I call on my experience as both a choir singer and choir master to help in any way possible for the ensemble to develop its best sound. In essence, the recording sessions are akin to a true Master Class in technique, and even the best musicians in the world learn a lot in such recording sessions... As do I.

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