Is it necessary to be a performing musician to be a music producer?

I have some years experience playong guitar and keyboard. I just know how to play Gymnopédie nº 1 by Satie. On these two instruments I don't have really good practice and execution.

I'm trying to improve just my music knowledge and get a really strong music theory background and mixing technique.

To learn how to play an instrument like a pro, I have to spend a lot of time and do too much practice. I want to focus my time on the knowledge.

Can I be a good producer doing things like that or do I also have to be a pro instrumentalist?

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    No. But it definitely helps. – Todd Wilcox Sep 9 at 13:36
  • What kind of music do you want to produce? – topo Reinstate Monica Sep 9 at 14:33
  • @topoReinstateMonica I really want to be an eclectic producer, able to produce several style of music. I started to produce electronic music and some hip hop/R&B beats. Now I'm trying to open my mind, listening several style, from classical music to ragtime. I feel more musical now, and that's make me think about the side of beeing a performing musician. – Jordan Zaghi Sep 9 at 15:15
  • I think we're getting into a translation problem. When I say "producer", this is more along the lines of product manager for the recording, while you're talking more about being a person who writes or plays musical compositions. Is that really what you mean by that term? – Dave Jacoby Sep 9 at 22:23

I find them quite opposite. Most of what happen in a live performance is not captured inside a studio room (that's why many bands like Kiss wanted to release a Live album instead of a studio one).

Recording VS Performing Focus on sound VS focus on stage Creation VS Maintenance

In here where I live people often differ Stage Musicians and Studio Musicians. Some musicians are great at studio and aweful on stage, others vice versa.

But both sides can benefit from each other. Gigs are experience for which songs work better for audience and how (if a song is good on a show or driving a car to a work day). For example Dave Grohl wrote Enough Space thinking of the crowd jumping and crashing the floor.

The job of a producer is translate ideas in sounds. The job of a performer is giving the best experience for his/her audience. The opposites attract each other.

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  • I really want to be an great music producer, so I studying a lot of music, like styles, theory and so on. But I feel a bit strange with the idea of ​​be an theoretical musician and don't really know how to play an instrument like a pro, you know? – Jordan Zaghi Sep 9 at 15:22
  • Few orchestral composers can play all instruments in an orchestra. They know how to voice each instrument & how a player will make it sound "right". Production is very similar. – Tetsujin Sep 10 at 15:29

I producer's job is not to play but to help structure music that is sell-able to mass audiences. The fact is that with NO musical background it would be hard to convince people that you know good music or how to structure music. On the other hand there are many great musicians, real virtuosos, who have no idea how to structure a song or what sound "good", they just play well. My point is that sometimes people are gifted with a good ear, or have their finger on the pulse of musical trends because the listen to a lot of music. That is what makes a good producer. You still need to have an idea about music but you don't really need to be a musician to have good musical taste.

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I've always considered the musicianship of producing to be…

"You don't need to be able to play a part yourself, so long as you know exactly how it is that playing it just right differs from playing it averagely."

You need to have a feel for it.

Technically, to be a producer you don't need to be a player at all, or even a sound engineer, but if you're not your decisions may not be as good as if you were.
You need to be able to recognise the difference between the arrangement being wrong & the mix being wrong.
You need to recognise when something is right or wrong & intuitively know what needs to be done to fix it… or indeed when to abandon the idea & move on to something else.
You need the 'genius' idea that takes someone else's session & brings it up from average to great.

What you don't want to be is the guy who just records exactly what the band brings in through the front door. That's not production, that's engineering.

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Absolutely not. Although there's an argument to be made that production is its own kind of musicianship...

Most famous producers aren't performing professional musicians, and that's partly because the mindset is so different. As a pro musician, you worry about technique and executing the music live. As a pro producer, you're not worried about technique and execution, you're worrying about getting a great sound. You wouldn't be worried about nailing the rhythms down perfectly so much as you would be worried about keeping the mix from being muddy.

With zero musical knowledge, being a producer would be difficult. A basic level of musicianship can be a strong tool, since the end result is still music, but by no means do you need to be a Carnegie Hall pianist to put some keys in your EDM track.

I definitely think continuing to practice the instruments you play will be helpful to you, but you probably don't need to concern yourself with being a pro-level instrumentalist. In fact, it's quite common for instruments to be programmed into produced music, where the producer would write the part and the computer would execute it in the song. A knowledge of instruments is helpful for writing those parts, but not strictly necessary.

Composers usually don't play every instrument that they write for at the professional level, and in fact often can write parts for instruments they have never played, simply because they know the sound of that instrument so well. The same is true of producers; if you know the sound of what you want well and have it internalized, you can produce good music.

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