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ESDAWHAT IS A RECORD PRODUCER?

3. THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE MUSIC PRODUCER

Although relatively unsophisticated by today's standards, the development of the early 4 track studios in the 1960's marked the arrival of the 'name' Music Producers who were masters of both the creative and technical and organisational aspects of making recordings. One such Music Producer is Re-Pro (UK)'s President, Sir George Martin, CBE, who produced, for example, 'Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band' by the Beatles, one of the most successful albums of its time. Whilst the Beatles were without doubt outstanding songwriters and performers, the finished recordings owed much to the patience, skill and direction of a perfectionist prepared to squeeze the utmost from the songs and performances of the Beatles using the four track facilities available.

Although George Martin's role as Music Producer of the Beatles has been universally acclaimed for its technical and creative excellence (he was regularly described as the fifth Beatle), up until 1965 he only received a salary in respect of the recordings which he had produced in his capacity as an employee of EMI Records. He was, however, instrumental in redefining the role of Music Producer from that of a person who merely assembled the creative and technical talent needed for making a sound recording to a person whose own market perception, creative, organisational and technical talents are crucial to the commercial success of sound recordings.

Many modern recording studios enjoy highly sophisticated facilities and now offer multi-tracking facilities in excess of 64 tracks. Although there are now more tracks available, the principle of creating recordings in layers is essentially no different from that applicable to the early four track studios. Furthermore, for the past 15 years or so computers called 'sequencers' have provided an additional realm of multi-track recording possibilities. A sequencer is a device for recording all characteristics of a musical performance as a series of numerical (digital) codes. Each characteristic, be it the pitch, duration, strength, time and treatment of each musical note is stored as a single event. The device allows the performance, once recorded, to be modified (edited or corrected) in great detail. The process of inputting musical information into a sequencer is known as programming - a task that is often performed, directed or supervised by the producer.

Most modern studios also enjoy a huge range of signal processing facilities which can fundamentally alter the characteristics of the 'original' source sounds to be recorded and there are also digital 'sampling' facilities available which allow producers to digitally record a sample of an artist's performance and manipulate the data recorded so as to alter timing, pitch and timbre at will.

Modern mixing desks, which are used to 'mix' together the individual tracks recorded to produce the definitive stereo version of the recording reproduced on records, employ computer technology to give the producer almost total flexibility when mixing recordings.

These later developments have meant that the recording process has evolved from passive fixation into an active and dynamic creative process in its own right. Similarly the role of those charged with supervising that process - Music Producers – has evolved from one of general supervision to a hands on managerial, creative and artistic role of pivotal importance.

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