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What’s The Difference Between a Producer and an Engineer

Audio engineer sitting at recording console

The titles of audio producer and audio engineer are used a lot in the music industry. When you’re just starting out in the recording industry, it can be hard to understand who’s responsible for what in the studio. And sometimes people are just too busy to answer questions.

With that in mind, here is our brief introduction to two important positions, so you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on, and maybe some ideas of which path you want to take in the business.

The Music Producer

The producer supervises or manages the entire process. He or she will help choose songs and session musicians, write or suggest changes to the arrangements, and coach singers and musicians through their parts.

The goal is to bring out the best in the artist. According to a British producer, “a record producer’s job is to realize the full potential of an artist or band.”

He continues:

“Confidence, leadership, diplomacy, and of course, creative musical talent, are all qualities which a producer must possess. A thorough knowledge and familiarity with all of the technology used in contemporary and classic recording is essential.”

Interested in Becoming an Audio Producer?

For more information about the role of the audio producer, check out the website of the Association of Music Producers. And here is an audio producer’s guide to producing a viral song, what DJ Khaled has to say about producing, this video on what top producers do in the studio.

Finally, if you’re thinking of going into audio producing, you’ll need answers to this very important question: how producers get paid.

The Audio Engineer

You may expect to see some overlap between audio producers and engineers — in fact, many producers started out as engineers and in today’s recording world they are often the same person!  But overall the engineer has the more technical role.

Preparing the Recording Session

It’s up to the audio engineer to create the best possible environment for recording. That includes making sure that the equipment is in order and setting up the microphones for the singers and the instruments. Studio time is expensive, so it’s crucial when the artists and audio producer arrive that everything is ready to go.

During the recording process, the audio engineer will tweak the sound, working with tools like EQ and compression to help the producer and the artists realize their vision for the music.

Post-Recording Session Duties for Audio Engineers

And after recording, the engineer then has to work with the audio producer to create the mix: which instruments should be louder or softer, and when? Does the song need any other effects? Are different mixes necessary for streaming or downloads ad the radio?

As you can see, there are thousands of decisions involved with recording, and the engineer needs the technical know-how to help make those decisions. That’s why a good engineer knows his or her way around the soundboard and can operate recording software like ProTools. A good engineer also understands the science of acoustics and will have a background in music.

Interested in Becoming an Audio Engineer?

For more information, check out the website of the Audio Engineering Society. And before you get into the studio, take note of the Top Six Mistakes New Engineers Make in the Studio and also How to not Completely S*ck at Audio Engineering.

Located in the heart of Minneapolis’ arts and entertainment district, the Institute of Production and Recording provides hands-on training in media, video, sound, music and live show production.  Learn more about our Audio Production programs today.