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What Producers Do

Not many people are familiar with the role of a producer. They listen to produced albums but are not aware of the crucial role the producer plays in the process of making a truly professional, effective record.  Producers do a lot of different things and not all producers do the same things.  Basically, the key role of a producer is to provide the integrity of the project, which means they are responsible for focusing the creative vision of the project, for acting as an intermediary between the artistic and technical worlds, and for overseeing the logistics of the project.

 

Focusing the Artistic Vision

Producers are the people who decide how best to artistically and creatively represent the artist in a release. Using popular music as one example, there might be four different kinds of artist-producer relationships:  the "personality", the "singer-songwriter", the "multi-instrumentalist", and the "lyricist".  Sometimes producers are songwriters and, in these cases, the producer will select songs either from their own repertoire or, if more appropriate, from the repertoire of other writers. This used to be the norm in the music industry. Elvis (a "personality") wasn’t a songwriter – his producers were.

These days it’s more and more common for the artist to be a songwriter. Singer-songwriter type artists generally will provide the producer with little more than the song and its soul around which producers will craft a new, fully realized arrangement. A good example of this sort of thing would be a songwriter who writes songs as solo compositions on the guitar.  A producer would then craft and guide the song into a complete arrangement, maximizing the feel and artistic intent of the original composition. To that end, the producer would hire musicians who would be adept at performing the style and character of the music.

Perhaps the most important affect that producers make on the career of an artist takes place when artists have not yet thoroughly developed a mature ‘sound’ and have not yet found a core audience.  Producers provide the critical ear, experience, and objectivity that many artists lack on their own and can turn a good song or album into a great one.  The degree of producer involvement, and to what ends the production eventually becomes, is often dictated by the client’s budget.

 

An Intermediary Between the Artistic and Technical Worlds

In addition to being adept at the musical aspects of songcraft, producers also need to be knowledgeable about the technical aspects of capturing and generating the recordings that represent the song.  Whereas engineers are generally technical types – they know the gear and are directly responsible for capturing and manipulating the sound of a recording -- a producer is responsible for understanding the creative needs of the artist and the song, and how to technically achieve the desired result.  The producer needs to be able to hear the needs of the material and understand what needs to be done to achieve the result.  In some studios, the producer is also the engineer.  Such an arrangement may have the best of both worlds, especially if budgets are tight.  Either way it is imperative that the client visits the studio, meets with the producer/engineer, and feels comfortable with the people and courses of action and estimated budgets. Then once the recording commences the artist can focus on performing and the producer/engineer can focus on creating the arrangements, running the equipment, and keeping everything sounding as it should.

 

Overseeing Logistics

Recording sessions and records don’t just happen. Producers are traditionally responsible for making sure that everything that needs to happen for the project is accomplished. Generally during the negotiation process a producer will come up with an estimated cost for producing the project, which includes an itemized budget for studio time and paying session players.

Using the film industry as a comparison, music producers take on the equivalent roles of both the film’s producers and directors.  They are the project managers and point-men for everything that happens in creating the recording. 

Genesis

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My Bio, and the Genesis of Groove Tunes Studios - by Eric Tunison

I started making music in the early ‘60’s in Whittier, California, on a ¾ size nylon string guitar I borrowed from my twin sister. Strumming along to Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore was great fun for awhile, but double-picking surf music solos was way more cool, so it wasn't long before I talked my parents into buying me an electric guitar. Within six months I was playing the same three guitar chords in four different rock bands, and twin sis got her nylons back. Then one day, I was asked to play rhythm guitar with a band called the Classics, a pop group that featured some of Whittier High’s finest hopefuls, including founder Bob Birath on drums, Steve Lively on bass and keys, and Jim Hall on lead guitar.

Upon the emergence of the Beatles in the mid-‘60’s and the resulting transformation of popular music, the Classics transformed themselves into a British surf-rock band. By now I was playing lead guitar and singing lead vocals. Credit collective talent, hard work, youthful energy, and especially luck, for by 1965 the Classics were recording our own original music in a major Los Angeles recording studio. How cool was that?! We thought we were destined for stardom, but as fate would have it the songs were never published. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see how, at the tender age of 17, I caught the recording bug.

The Classics dissolved after we graduated from high school and band members moved away either to attend college or to pursue careers that actually made money.

In 1966 I studied jazz guitar, enrolled in junior college, and later began part-time teaching guitar to California teenagers. I received a tape recorder as a graduation present from my parents – a reel-to-reel 2-track deck, complete with plastic microphone and a blank reel of tape. I was in seventh heaven! The birth of Groove Tunes Studios was now a mere four decades, six relocations, and five major equipment upgrades away.

I moved north to Seattle in 1968 to study engineering at the University of Washington. During my studies I purchased a sound-on-sound tape deck, which enabled me to record and bounce up to four tracks, one track at a time. Having now doubled my track count, but no longer having my band mates handy, I taught myself how to play bass guitar, piano, and drums. Before long I became a master at the art of sound-on-sound recording, and I proceeded to fill reels and reels of self-produced songs in between my studies.

I graduated from college with my engineering degree in 1971, fully employed now, and ripe for some major equipment upgrades. Multi-track tape recorders were becoming the norm in professional studios in the ‘70’s. I invested in a 4-track, and soon thereafter an 8-track multi-track tape recorder, complete with mixing board, outboard processors, and some nice mics. It was at this point that I started recording other people on a professional basis.

In the early-‘80’s in Tacoma, Washington, I was appointed Music Director for a musical-comedy improv group called The Twilight Zone Players. In that capacity I wrote musical arrangements of song parodies and played and recorded all the instruments for the troupe’s entire creative output. One of their most popular songs Puyallup Vally Boys (a parody on California Girls) received radio airplay. During my years in the Pacific Northwest I operated private analog recording studios in Tacoma and Federal Way, Washington. Digital recording technology was still in its infancy in the early ‘80’s so I elected to pass on that format for the time being, opting to stay with the tried-and-true analog format. Concurrently, I was utilizing my education, managing engineering projects for large corporations, and making some serious coin.

I became interested in the physics of sound and the esoteric (and expensive!) gear that reproduced sound accurately. The outcome of my audiophilia was a rapidly declining bank balance. More relevant to this story, my goal soon became not just to record a good number of tracks, but to also record tracks that sounded good.

I moved to Georgia in 1991. While living in temporary quarters I designed and built my new studio in Alpharetta. I worked closely with my builder to ensure my studio design details were properly implemented, including room dimensions, sound isolation, and wiring. Also, to ensure short commutes to work, I had my home built on top of the studio.

By 1994, having already invested more in my studio than what it would cost to send five children to college, I decided it was finally okay to get married. To this day I am happily wed to my wife, Kate.

In 2004 I was by now convinced that digital recording technology sounded as good as, if not better than, analog tape. With its great, clean sound and far superior editing and mixing flexibility, computer-based digital recording systems had surpassed the capabilities of analog recording studios in efficiency and in quality. I was now ready for my most significant upgrade to date, to Pro Tools. The current recording gear at Groove Tunes Studios utilizes the recording industry standard, 192- track, Pro Tools HD Accel 3 digital recording system. 192 tracks and great sound! Score!

Groove Tunes has been the recording venue of choice for many Pop, Rock, Americana, Country, Christian, Children, Jazz, Alternative, Classical, Fusion, Folk, Latin, Post-Punk, Heavy Metal, Soft Soul, R&B, and other musical genres.  I appreciate just about all types of musical expression, although I do refer rap artists elsewhere.  I work with clients of all ages, musical backgrounds, and levels of expertise.  My favorite type of clients are those who show up on time and pay in advance.  Seriously, whatever the type of project, I love working with my customers, helping make their performances sound great, and sending them home with smiles on their faces.

If you made it all the way to the end of this blog, congratulations, and thank you!

- Eric

Groove Tunes Studios

Helping Hands

Giving More Than The Music

I had the pleasure a few years ago to produce an album with Italy's top rock/pop group, MOMO Family. Fede, Daniel, and Marco came to Atlanta from Florence, Italy in the Fall of 2007 and spent the next two months at Groove Tunes Studios recording 14 songs of amazing music. One of the songs on their CD "Tomorrow" was conceived out of love for their fellow man and, in particular, for the children of the world. Taking their message a step further, MOMO released a video for the World Food Program (WFP), a branch of the United Nations.

Terri Brumit is a mother of twin sons who are currently stationed in Afghanistan along with their father. All three are in the Special Forces. Terri asked me to produce an album of original songs she had written. All the songs are dedicated to troops who are risking their lives overseas so that we can live our lives peacefully at home. Going the extra mile, Terri recently flew to Washington DC to personally hand out copies of her latest single, "Still a Warrior", to injured soldiers at Walter Reed and Bethesda Hospitals. Check out her very special song here.

 

Groove Tunes has 49 5-star reviews on Kudzu.com as of October 2017, as well as the most positive reviews of any single-location studio every year since 2005.  Our #1 purpose is to help our client musicians sound their very best and to make sure their studio experiences are second to none.

Hours by appointment only: Weekdays 10 - 9, Weekends 12 - 6

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