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more... Recording TipsAugust 2009Chuck AinlayDan HuffJohnny KMichael WagenerMidi Mafia

5 Producers You Should Listen To

The guitar riff: it identifies and defines virtually every classic song: “Johnny B. Goode,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Purple Haze,” “Wicked Game,” “All Right Now,” “Walk This Way”… anything by Van Halen, AC/DC or the Rolling Stones. The minute that intro kicks in, listeners recognize it, and if you really strike it rich, just one chord and the whole world knows that it’s been a hard day’s night. Writing the next “Layla” will serve you no purpose if it’s fingernails on a chalkboard to your audience. This month, we turn to five producers and engineers for advice, legends who have worked with almost every artist, in every genre, and collectively amassed enough platinum albums and industry awards to fill a warehouse or two.

Michael Wagener’s name is synonymous with 1980s heavy metal: Dokken, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Metallica, White Lion, Ozzy Osbourne, King’s X—his credits are endless. Wagener relocated to Nashville several years ago, where he continues producing a variety of artists, as well as holding recording workshops at his studio. Read the interview...

The Midi Mafia—producer/engineer/DJ Dirty Swift and producer/songwriter Bruce Waynne—came to national attention through their work on 50 Cent’s breakthrough hit, “21 Questions.” The duo opened Ravenite Studio in Los Angeles and now work with a broad range of artists, including Brandy, David Archuleta, Elliott Yamin, Fantasia and John Legend. Read the interview...

Dann Huff is the quintessential guitarist’s guitarist. Following his tenure in the rock band Giant, he became one of the music industry’s most in-demand session players. He eventually moved to Nashville, where he became one of Music Row’s most in-demand producers. Lonestar, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban have all recorded with Huff, and somewhere in between, so did Megadeth. Read the interview...

Chicago native Johnny K built his Groovemaster Studio from the ground up, beginning in a house and eventually growing into his new multi-level complex. Disturbed’s debut album put him on the production map. Since then, Drowning Pool, Staind, 3 Doors Down, Black Tide, Plain White T’s, Adelitas Way and numerous others have turned to his expertise. Read the interview...

Chuck Ainlay’s BackStage Studio has hosted most of Nashville’s elite and the recording world at large. His name appears on over 200 albums; Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Peter Frampton, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson and Dire Straits are just a few. When Mark Knopfler makes a record, Ainlay is the man he relies on in the studio. Enough said. Read the interview...

These five producers now share some strategies that can take you from simply playing guitar to becoming a guitarist—hopefully one that people will want to listen to.