May 7, 2009
One of the biggest misunderstandings of the music industry is the difference between a producer and a beat maker. People automatically assume that if they start tapping on a drum machine or playing some keys that they're considered a producer. That is incorrect. I feel like a lot of self-proclaimed "Producers" are not producers at all. They are either beatmakers or musicians. I've worked with all three and so I
am well equipped to write this blog.
A beat maker simply makes beats. One might say well isn't that producing??? No, it is not. If I never played basketball a day in my life and I pick up a ball and start to shoot, can I call myself a basketball player or am I learning how to play basketball? I feel like a beat maker is in the process of learning how to produce. Making a beat and then telling someone to rap or sing on it, is not producing at all. And that's what a lot of aspiring producers are doing now. They make tracks and get people to rap or sing on them with no instructions or direction. That's not producing. That's making a beat and giving it to someone to do what they want on it. There is nothing wrong with being a beat maker because there are some good ones out there. The only problem is that a beat maker is only as good as the material that is layed on his/her tracks. So if you make a good beat and Lil' Spank spits some GARBAGE over the track, then you're considered garbage because you called yourself a "PRODUCER."
So what is a PRODUCER then? A producer's job is to create, shape and mold a piece of music into their vision for the artist's album. A producer also might control the recording sessions, coach and guide the musicians, and mix the records. His job is to oversee the record and make sure he agrees with every component of the song. A producer is responsible for the song as a whole, not just the beat. He picks and chooses who is going to write, rap, or sing on his track. He picks and chooses the musicians he will get to play certain instruments live. He has a vision for every track that he makes. He is able to bring out the best and only expect the best material on his track. He understands that if the material is not good then he is held responsible. If Tyler Perry allows his actors and actresses to deliver terrible acting performances and the movie gets bad ratings, he gets the blame for it because he is usually the producer of the movie, as well as the director, actor, and writer. So it's no different with a music producer, if the song is no good, then YOU are to blame.
Then there are the musicians who THINK they are producers. A musician is simply someone who is good at playing a certain instrument or two. Producers that don't necessarily play instruments hire musicians to play specific notes and sounds to build a track. Most musicians learned how to play at a young age by playing in a band or in a church. But just because you know how to play an instrument, it does NOT make you a producer.
As I stated previously, I've worked with beat makers, producers, and musicians. Most talented beat makers usually go under the tutelage of a good producer until they learn how to produce records. A beat makers regimen is firing up his drum machine and playing with sounds until he feels like he made a good beat and so on and so forth. A producer has a clear understanding of what he is going to create. He might go through old samples, or get a musician to play certain keys, bass, or guitar. They know what type of vibe they are about to create and they understand their strong points and hire people to do what they are not so great at doing. The musicians I've worked with are similar to beat makers. If they are a piano player, their drum kits and patterns are usually horrible. So the difference between a producer and a beat maker is the producer is able to take what the beat maker or musician creates and make it a whole lot better because they have a clearer vision.
My top 3 producers are Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and Jermaine Dupri. None is better than the other to me because they all do what they do differently. In my opinion, Dr. Dre is the best hip hop producer, Timbaland is the best R&B/Pop producer, and Jermaine Dupri is the best all around Producer/Writer.
FYI: Some of my favorite producers are Kanye West, No ID, Swizz Beats, The Neptunes, Diddy, DJ Toomp, DJ Premier, Marley Marl and a host of other old school and up and comings.