Why Every Musician Should Think Like a Producer

  • Written By 
  • Jordan Holt

Every great musician isn’t just a musician. Great musicians have the ability to expand their perspective past themselves and see a bigger picture.

Great musicians are also great producers.

Whether or not you produce music, understanding how a producer thinks and acts equips you to best serve your worship team. It might even be the one thing holding you back from becoming the musician you strive to be. 

I remember having a conversation with Matt Redman a few years ago about a friend of ours who played drums on his record. As we were talking, I realized that the real reason for his talent was because he wasn’t just a great drummer, but a producer as well. He was a musician with a big-picture understanding of how his role fit in the context of the whole song. 

When working in the most demanding professional environments, such as a major label record, musicians won’t last long if they are just waiting to be told what to do by the main producer. They need to be a leader themselves.

As we examine the qualities of a good producer, we can better understand how we will grow as musicians on Sunday. We all know that we need to practice our instruments, but are we also fostering our wisdom about how the entire team creates a great performance? You should be, and I’m going to make it easier for you by dissecting the qualities of what makes a producer great.

What is a producer?

Before we dig in deep, I need to first shed light on what a producer actually does, especially since the definition has changed quite a bit over the years. 

In the traditional studio scenario, with a large budget and live instruments, a producer is the person making the creative calls and bringing life to both the artist and label’s vision for an album or song. They work with an audio engineer, who takes care of the technical duties, so they are free to conduct the orchestra so to speak. 

With the advancement of technology, people of all ages can now be the conductor and the orchestra. A full album can be created, mixed and mastered by a teenager with a standard laptop.

Many records are made somewhere between these two extremes, especially in the Christian realm. But in any scenario, a producer arguably has the most important job in music. Without them, you would only have a song – a rough napkin sketch instead of a beautiful painting.

Applying the qualities of a great producer to every worship musician

I understand that I’m talking to musicians of all levels right now and you may feel like you’re lightyears away from being at the caliber of a professional producer. That is totally A-OK. My goal here is really to help musicians expand their perspective of their role on stage sooner than later. All too many musicians are stuck in their own small world, focusing on themselves rather than the performance as a whole

The sooner you can grasp the fact that a good musician isn’t one who stares at their pedalboard and plays their parts, the better you’ll be able to develop proper goals for yourself as you grow.

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A great producer (worship musician, you, your team members) is a person who…

…has a vision

You need to know what’s best for the performance and are moving towards it. Understanding the context of your environment and band is essential. Every room and congregation has different needs. If you’re the only guitarist in your band and have a small PA, you’re going to play differently than when playing with 2 other guitarists on a massive stage.

…solves problems

Not only do you need vision, but you need to know what the stepping stones are to get there. If the energy isn’t building as it needs to, you need to know whether it’s your soft volume swells or the drummer’s lack of enthusiasm weighing things down.

…leads and contributes

Being able to contribute to conversations and help steer the ship of a service is invaluable. If you have an idea for a good transition, speak up.

…is confident and bold

The people who take risks and believe in themselves are the ones who go the farthest and serve others the best.

…wears many hats

If you have the time and resources, try learning another instrument or even how to write music. This will give you a more in-depth perspective of how everyone relates to each other.

…brings out the best in people

To me, this is the most important quality of a good producer and musician. It’s not about you – it’s about the people around you. The performance is never going to win if you’re the only one doing your job well. The whole team has to be motivated and thriving. If you understand other’s strengths and weaknesses, you can better support them through what you chose to play and encourage them in what they are doing well.

So, how do you start developing these qualities? 

In my opinion, nothing is faster than learning to write and produce songs. Even if the result isn’t great, just try. It forces you to analyze music. If you’re not there yet, learn the art of studying music. When you watch Worship Online tutorials, take note of the contexts and “why’s” behind each part.

What are some big-picture lessons about playing in a band that you have learned recently? And what practical steps can you take to grow as a musician AND producer? Let us know in the comments!

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