In the modern music world, terms to describe music makers can get somewhat confusing. Sometimes, a musician can be a producer, a songwriter, a composer, and an arranger. Who does what job? Where are the lines drawn?
A composer is very similar to a modern music producer. While composers create songs for a group of musicians, producers are creating songs usually for one person or one small group. A composer often creates songs for choirs and orchestras, while a producer usually makes a beat or organizes the instrumentation for a singer or a rapper.
There are a lot of similarities between a composer and a producer. Both will know a good deal about music theory and composition in the sense of building chords, melodies, and even lyrics.
Producers often incorporate MIDI (computer-generated) instruments in their beats, while composers mainly work with live instrumentalists. Some composers use the lyrical works of poets and storytellers for their words, while others write the lyrics, making them like a songwriter.
While composing and writing music often overlap, a composer usually has more creative input into a song in comparison to a songwriter. Oftentimes, songwriters will need to work with music producers who are more familiar with instrumentation to complete the song.
Songwriters often focus on the lyrics and the melody lines for the singers and rappers while not being as heavily involved in the production and instrumentation. But, it is common for a songwriter to have skills as a music producer as well.
Many songwriters focus on one complementary instrument that works well with vocals, like the piano or a guitar, to put their composer skills to work more simply than a full producer would. There is no need for full production in some genres, like singer-songwriter, and the piano or guitar with the vocal creates a complete song.
Since they work more simply, songwriters often don't go as deep as a composer or music producer would when it comes to music theory. Many good songwriters don't know how to write or read music.
The term arranger can be extra confusing to throw into the mix. Think of an arranger as someone who remakes songs and adds their own spin on them. An arranger is someone who takes a song from a composer and creates a new version arranged differently.
Arrangers are often composers as well, taking music from other composers that inspire them and creating their own version of a song. New arrangements are often done for songs in the public domain that is available to use without copyright infringement.
While composers and producers work on the creative aspects of the music, sound engineers work on the art that is involved in the sound recording itself. Many people don't realize the greatness that lies in a professional engineer. They need to understand music theory and creative concepts to make the ideas of songwriters, producers, and composers come to life.
They also learn a whole set of skills in sound production that most creatives don't know anything beyond the basics about. Engineers tweak pitches, audio volume, EQ levels, panning, echo, reverb, and so many more elements in each vocal or instrument to make them sound perfect on a recording.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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