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Grammy Winner’s Top Ten Music Production Tips For Non-Techies

People came from near and far to attend NARIP’s “Top 10 Music Production Skills For Non-Techies” with Grammy winning producer / engineer Francis Buckley in Houston this week.  Not surprising, given his impressive credits that include Quincy Jones, The Pointer Sisters, Paula Abdul, Wilson Phillips, Alanis Morisette, Ray Charles, Bono, SWV and Gloria Estefan and many others.

2016-09-15-NARIP-Grammy-Winner-Francis-Buckley-Houston-3Photo: Buckley lays out his top ten tips.


  1. Player. A great player will always bring something special to your work.
  2. Instrument. A bonus when you hire a great player. Great sounding instruments make getting great sounding recording easier.
  3. Room. There is no way to under emphasize the importance of the environment in which you record. The room is 50% of the equation.  A lousy instrument in a great room is as bad as a great one in the wrong room. More about the room and set up later.
  4. Engineer. While the artist is the focus of the session, usually, the engineer is the focal point.  The engineer is the forward moving force in the studio.
  5. Speakers. Speakers are probably the most personal decision you will ever make when it comes to pro audio. There are some really bad sounding speakers out there that cost a lot of money so don’t let price fool you. This is where reference material comes in.
  6. Symmetry. Symmetry is balance. In the studio symmetry is ensuring that your listening position and your speakers are properly placed in the room. What do you need to do to your room?
  7. Reference material. This is probably the best tip I have. You need some kind of reference material to make judgment about the room you are in. I use Billy Jean as my reference and I use it to dictate to me how my recording will need to sound in that room in order to translate to other rooms.
  8. Things you cannot overcome. Walls, ceiling, subfloors, or lack thereof, landlords, neighbors, zoning laws and other pesky rules and regulations. You can, with the help of your reference material, get a pretty good handle on your room acoustics.
  9. Listening outside your own space. Take your mixes to other places and listen to them. Your car is probably the most accurate natural environment because you are in it a lot and are very familiar with how music sounds there.
  10. Know that you “should” never be satisfied with your work. Always seek ways to improve your recordings. Never fall into the trap of thinking you have done your best work, if you do then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy!


Photo (L-R): NARIP Houston Executive Director Dubbs Beck, Buckley,

NARIP Board Members Michael Mikulka and PJ Douglas Sands



Photo: The assembled masses with Buckley at NARIP Houston’s event.

© 2016 Francis Buckley for, all rights reserved.


Grammy Award winning Engineer / Producer Francis Buckley has been making records for over 20 years. His experience ranges from the groundbreaking punk act Black Flag’s first album “Damaged” (1980) to winning the Engineering Grammy Award in 1996 for “Q’s Jook Joint” with Quincy Jones. Francis’ contributions as engineer and mixer to such multi-platinum recordings as The Pointer Sisters’ “Breakout,” Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl,” Wilson Phillips’ “Wilson Phillips,” Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” Quincy Jones’ “Q’s Jook Joint,” and others including Ray Charles, Bono, SWV and Gloria Estefan have helped to sell over 100 million-plus records worldwide.

Francis began producing while acting as chief engineer at W.E. Studios in Redondo Beach in 1979. In 1980 he became chief engineer for Unicorn Records and worked with many acts including Black Flag. In 1981 he moved to MCA Music Publishing, beginning a 10-year stand as Director of Recording Services. It was at MCA that he met producer Glen Ballard, with whom he shared a 14-year partnership.

Now, aside from doing session work, Francis has been concentrating on the lost art of artist-development. Francis is working with singer/songwriters Noel, Tod McLeod and Michael Buckley, Lap-Pop Artist “Lo-Fi Sugar”, Soul/Rock group “The Underground Railroad” and the funkiest thing to ever come out of Mexico “Pilaseca” as well as many Film, TV and Commercial spots.