6 Important Roles in the Recording Studio

Writing a song, and then playing it, are only two parts of the entire process that goes into recording a piece of music. Once you get into the recording studio, you’ll see that the endeavor takes a few more people in a few more roles than you might have thought. And if you intend to record your own music, you’ll most likely have to take on a few of these roles all by yourself. But all these people think differently, and working together, they can create something new and wondrous.

But who are they, and what is it they do?

The Artist

That’s you! Before anything else can be done, the music needs to be written. Writing the music, is of course, only the first part of the responsibilities of the artist. As the artist, you’re the writer, maybe the singer, and probably the musician. If you’re recording your own music, you’ll likely fill all three of these roles.

The Musicians

Once the music is written, you’ll need to decide whether you want to play all the musical parts yourself, or if it would be worth it to bring in outside or studio musicians to play the parts you’ve written. These could easily be friends, or even professionals, it depends on what you want, and what your connections are like. You can also think in terms of whether you want to collaborate with these other musicians during the songwriting phase of the project.

Of course, as with pretty much everything in life, each of these approaches has its own pros and cons, and can be dependent on what your particular goals are for yourself and your music. Deciding to open yourself up to working with other musicians or writers can be either exciting or intimidating, or both! You know yourself best, so really think about it before you make your choice. If you like to be in complete control, then it’s probably wise to let yourself be the only creative source in the studio. On the other hand, sometimes a little input from someone outside your usual circle can inspire you in ways you never would have found all on your own.

The Recording Engineer

At first glance, the role of the recording engineer might seem rather simple to someone who doesn’t understand just what goes into it. In a nutshell, the recording engineer’s job is to capture and record the music being played by the musicians. But of course, there is a lot more to it than just that. A good engineer will be responsible for all the recording devices in the studio, regardless of whether they are analog or digital. And as we move deeper into the 21st century, computer knowledge is becoming more and more essential.

The engineer will decide where the microphone will be set up in the recording booth, as well as make sure that everything in the booth is set up for a comfortable playing session for all the musicians. As part of this role, they will also set up all the recording levels, pre-amp settings, compressors, EQs, and all the other technical settings. Everything they do is in service of their main goal: recording the best possible take they can every time.

While the recording engineer’s job seems pretty technical, there is a little room for creativity even here. A skilled and creative engineer can listen to what his artist, or musicians, or producers want the music to sound like, and can help reach that goal by choosing the best microphone setup or placement, or a specific compressor setting.

The Assistant Engineer

You probably won’t run into too many assistant engineers if you’re doing your recording at home or privately, but many commercial recording studios will have someone in this role. Basically, as the title suggests, this person is simply the recording engineer’s assistant, and they usually take care of the more mundane set up and jobs during the recording session.

You can actually think of this position as a sort of apprenticeship to the recording engineer. The assistant is actually learning the ropes from the engineer in the hope that they can one day be in charge of their own recording sessions.

The Producer

The main role of a music producer is to help with the creative process. This means working with both the artist and the musicians during the recording session to try to capture the very best take. They also often help with arrangements of tracks and instrumentation of songs.

Think about it in these terms: artists, like all creative people, can get too emotionally attached to certain parts or things in their songs. This over-attachment can lead them to make decisions for the music that aren’t necessarily in their, or their music’s, best interest, in an artistic or commercial sense. A music producer can offer an outside, expert opinion that can help the artist reach their goals. For this reason, the relationship between the artist and the producer is probably the most important in the recording studio. You need to trust that your producer knows what they are talking about, and has your music’s best interest at heart.

Sometime, in certain situations, the roles of the producer and the engineer can overlap or become blurred, thanks to the fact that each role has a part to play in the other’s responsibilities. In fact, some engineers double as producers.

The Studio Manager

The final role is a much more administrative one. In the music industry, a studio manager makes sure that their recording studio is well organized in terms of bookings, equipment, and administrative duties. This role is much more on the business side of things, and works to keep you, the client, satisfied, while also trying to attract new artists and musicians to their recording studio.

A Few Parting Thoughts

If you record your own music at home, you’ll need to take up a few of these roles at once, and at different times. Each of these areas comes with its own specific knowledge, expertise, and goals. But if you have the chance to do it yourself, you provide yourself with the amazing opportunity to learn something new, and develop some pretty impressive skills!