Erik Hawkins

How to Become a Great Producer

Erik Hawkins

Students often ask me the loaded question, “How do I become a great music producer?” Now that’s an easy one to answer in a thirty minute chat, not. But, actually, the answer is deceptively simple. The key to becoming a great music producer is to be a finisher. That is, complete your songs, wrap your productions, put an end to the tweaking, stop being a perfectionist, just finish it.

Every time you complete a production you move one step closer to becoming a great producer. This is because every time you complete a project you have a finished work to show for your efforts. Plus, you get the added bonus of learning something new each time you wrap a song and honing your production skills in the process. There actually is a formula for getting your songs done, but it is a personal formula that only you can develop for yourself, over time, one production at a time, with study, practice, and the feedback of contemporaries.

Begin by setting manageable goals for yourself. “This month I will finish one song, it doesn’t have to be perfect but I will get it done.” Don’t let your perfectionist side stand in the way of moving quickly through the process of completing the production, from the writing, to the recording, to the production, and the mixing. If at any point in the process you find yourself stuck and taking more than a few hours on a part or a tweak, forget about it and move onto the next step. The part in question will still be there for you to tweak later, but if you don’t get the whole song down, the entire production mapped out, fretting over a single part without the whole picture in view is myopic and self-defeating.

Your first several productions probably won’t sound that great. This is to be expected, you aren’t going to produce a hit overnight. However, somewhere down the road, in five, ten, or two dozen productions your tracks will start to sizzle. You will lock into your own personal production formula and start to roll with it. This year you might only finish four not so well produced tracks, but next year, if you keep at it, I guarantee you that you’ll find yourself completing ten much better tracks. The next thing you know you’ll be producing two dozen “radio ready” tracks in a year. If you keep at it on a daily basis you will become increasingly better at what it is that you really want to do, finishing great sounding tracks.

To quote the hit songwriter, Diane Warren, “I just kept doing it. In a nutshell, I just kept doing it no matter what.” (You can read the complete interview with Diane Warren, by Michael Laskow, the president of TAXI, here,http://www.taxi.com/faq/ar/warren.html.)

Alvin & The Chipmunks

Erik Hawkins
Erik Hawkins

Erik Hawkins is a composer, producer, remixer, and author whose talents and technical expertise have leaders in the music industry calling him a "taste maker." He has worked with and remixed a variety of top artists, including Scatman Crothers, Irene Cara, Digital Underground, Conscious Daughters, Strypper, Brenda Russell, and DJ Sasha. His own progressive dance music tracks have been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, FOX, MTV, Nickelodian, and New Line Cinema. His articles and columns have been published in Remix, Mix, Electronic Musician, MC2, Keyboard, and DigiZine. He has also written several books, including The Complete Guide to Remixing (Berklee Press), and Producing Drum Beats (Berklee Press). His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won the UPCEA Best Online Course Award for 2011.