Many new indie artists are very confused when it comes to giving credits, even if only by a mention on social media, to the people that have contributed to the creation of their record. That happens because of a lack of experience and unfamiliarity with the music industry titles and roles. Accordingly, in this article, we are bringing you the top 10 titles and their respective attributes in creating a song. From sound engineer to music producer, and back vocalist, just who is what and what do they do? Read on to find out.
This is the main lead singer. It is preferable you use the word singer instead of artist as the term artist generally gets attributed to painters and visual talents per general. If, however, you are keen on using the word artist, do put music in front of it. So you, the person who’s the main act, the one whose voice is predominantly heard on the song, is the Singer, or Music Artist. All singers are music artists but not all music artists are singers. Some are rappers! At Blue Rhymez for example, we use Singer for all genre credits and Artist for Rap acts as singer technically does not apply in such cases. Our articles are tailored though to clearly help the algorithm understand we mean music artist at all times but when you, the new name on the market are trying to promote yourself, you need to be more specific and avoid using artist without music in the front. Memory hack: Singer = Main Artist.
9. Lyricist (Songwriter)
99% of indie artists write their own lyrics so you’d automatically be the main Songwriter. There’s a very old debate on the terminology of it but you are free to use Songwriter and Lyricist interchangeably if you specifically intend that you wrote the lyrics and arranged them on the music. If you wrote a song or just a part of it, be it the entire lyrics or hook, you are a Songwriter. All lyricists are songwriters. But not all songwriters are lyricists. A composer and a lyricist are both songwriters. But if you wrote the lyrics and you laid the melodic line for them, you’re past being just a lyricist, you’re a songwriter. At Blue Rhymez we prefer going with Songwriter in most cases as independent artists heavily pen and compose their own records. Bonus quick association: Lyricist = Text Writer.
8. Back Vocalist (Supporting Vocalist)
Not to be confused with a 2nd songwriter or 2nd main artist. The Supporting Vocalist or Back Vocalist is there exclusively with the purpose of enhancing the sonic quality of your record. Their job could range from hums and ahs, to singing entire hook sections in the background accompanying your main vocal, and/or to hitting high notes on the bridge section. If that back vocalist did anything more than just support your voice, he/she becomes a songwriter in many cases. Most indie artists don’t have supporting vocalists as their budget doesn’t allow for one. The few exceptions we’ve witnessed was when the back vocalist was a family member in which case you’d have to credit them if you’re getting reviewed on our platform for example. Easy memo: Back Vocalist = Helping Voice.
7. Recording Engineer
Usually the term applies exclusively to the person that hit that REC button and was in the recording booth with you helping you lay those beautiful tracks BEFORE any post-production touch ups. A professional recording engineer will go as far as testing out your voice first, then adjust the parameters of the amplifier, microphone, and software session settings as to capture your vocal range and particularities without any bumps, distortion, or interferences. The recording engineer also stacks the tracks and repeated tracks in proper order to be sent off to the mixing engineer. The recording settings for a Rap artist are very different than for an R&B singer for example. In the indie sphere, if you were the one to record yourself, YOU are the recording engineer. Memorization hack: Recording Engineer = Recording Responsible.
6. Vocal Engineer
The individual who was in charge of specifically adjusting, editing, and perfecting your vocal tracks for the final song version. The vocal engineer is the person who usually goes through the pitch adjustment settings, breath correction, volume normalization, and is heavily concentrated on vocal editing softwares like Melodyne. Some artists are lucky to work with a Music Producer who also fullfills about 5 other titles and does vocal editing as well. If on the other hand, you are the one who did all the voice editing yourself, you guessed it, you’re your own vocal engineer. In the upper class of the music industry, big mainstream songs usually get sent to specific vocal engineers whose only job is literally making your voice sound flawless. This is practiced to save time for everyone. If the same person has to do it all, they need to take frequent breaks from editing the song as to avoid acoustic burnout thus it takes longer to put the final product out. But if there’s a different person for each role, the song can get done in as little as 3 days and that is how the A-listers manage to put out entire albums in under a month. Mental note: Vocal Engineer = Voice Editor.
5. Mixing Engineer
After you recorded your song and had it organized, it is usually sent to the mixing engineer. This is the person that curates every single instrument and vocals so that they harmoniously blend together and don’t sound too distant or too merged or too overlapping. Each instrument has its own space on your song and the mixing engineer makes sure that the components of your song stand out but also complement each other. The mixing engineer employs almost all editing options there are such as equalization, delay, reverb, compression, saturation, distortion, harmonic generation, stereo imaging, for each track INDIVIDUALLY. The easiest way to comprehend what the mixing engineer does is to memorize the association: Mixing Engineer = Space Editor.
4. Mastering Engineer
This is the person who takes the mix from number 5 and finalizes the song for distribution on all devices and mediums available. The mastering engineer is in charge of making sure your song sounds phenomenal wherever played in the world and on whatever it is being played. Your record has to sound great both on Spotify and in the studio. Both on radio and on YouTube. In the car and in the club. On a Vinyl and in a digital format. The mastering engineer is largely and mainly responsible for the volume of your song sounding equal on anything that is able to reproduce music in the world. The easiest way to memorize this one: Mastering Engineer = Volume Editor.
3. Sound Engineer (Audio Engineer)
A Sound Engineer is the term used for the individual who usually does more than just mixing or mastering. The sound engineer could go from recording you, to mixing your song, and mastering your final product, or even have some additional input in the creative process when it comes to the vocal layout or instrumental. As long as he/she doesn’t write actual lyrics or change the melody, they’re still a sound engineer. If their creative input becomes larger than altering the existing melodic line or vocal arrangement, they become a Songwriter. The big majority of indie artists work with sound engineers who do all 3 jobs of the recording engineer, mixing engineer, and mastering engineer. Those who have a bigger budget prefer to work with 3 separate talents instead of one sound engineer. Hack memo: Sound Engineer = Jack Of All Trades.
2. Instrumentalist (Instrumentist)
If you’re fortunate enough to be part of a band or to be able to hire real people to play specific, assigned tracks for your recording process, you’re working with instrumentists. The Instrumentist or Instrumentalist (semantics), is the individual who is hired to play his instrument of mastery in the recording studio. Some instrumentists, of course, play more than one instrument but notoriously they earn their living based on their reputation to play one instrument better than the others. Many instrumentalists go through academic education and work with elite names in the music business. Some are self-taught and build a clientele through word of mouth. Some are a combination of both. Memory hack: Instrumentist = One Instrument Professional.
1. Music Producer (Beat Maker)
In 99% of the genres, the term Music Producer is preferred but in Rap for example, since a lot of sampling is used to create new songs, artists prefer the term Beat Maker because the individual rather augmented an existing loop, motif, theme, and didn’t create it from scratch. Their role essentially is the same: the guy/gal who made the music for your song. Music Producers who are also Sound Engineers are like unicorns. Almost nonexistent. Typically the music producer composes the melodic track only be it through computer-generated synths or real instruments. Fun note: if the music producer played an organic piano to write your melody but that piano track was NOT the one used in the final song, he does NOT cross over to being an instrumentist. He remains the music producer and whoever played the final piano sequence is the instrumentist. If, on the other hand, your music producer created the music but ALSO laid the final track for the acoustic guitar for example, then he’s both the music producer and the guitar player of that record. Easy memo: Music Producer = Melody Writer.
Now that you know who’s what, make sure you always give due credit to the talented and dedicated people who are helping you put out the best version of your product. It truly takes a village to break a new artist and that village is that much easier to build when you’re acknowledging it.
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