A few years ago, I realized that the books I’d seen on music production dealt mainly with technical stuff like setting compressors or placing microphones. None of them addressed issues like interpersonal relationships in a recording studio, care and maintenance of a producer’s skill-sets, or questions like, “why do I want to produce music in the first place?” It felt to me as if people ignore these things and take them for granted because they appear to be so basic. Initially, I wrote down some thoughts. Those thoughts eventually became “Unlocking Creativity”.

Unlocking Creativity: A Producer's Guide to Making Music and Art

Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Music & Art

Producing music is a complex process, which often requires accessing specialized abilities ranging from technical knowledge to critical listening to interpersonal skills. Navigating and understanding the creative process of music production, from conception to completion is the subject of “Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Music & Art
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Unlocking Creativity: A Producer's Guide to Making Music & Art

Here, record producer Beinhorn reveals how to deal with interpersonal issues record producers face when they work with artists one on one or in small groups. The situations and solutions are based upon the author's personal and professional experience working with a variety of different artists, such as Herbie Hancock, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soul Asylum, Hole, Soundgarden, Ozzy Osbourne, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, Social Distortion, Korn, and Mew.

Beinhorn's unique methods and perspective, applied to record producing and music making in the studio, opens the door to successful collaborative efforts. The author shows you how to find what he calls your sensory connection to the creativity process, which ultimately helps you find the intent behind your creative choices. You can read dozens of articles and books that feature a hundred different people talking about what microphones they used when they recorded Record X or how they set their stereo buss compressor, but you will never find out what prompted them to make these choices. Beinhorn's focus on collaborative effort enables record producers and artists to find solutions while working as a creative team.

This perspective is especially valuable as it is transdisciplinary and can be applied to many occupations and modes of creativity outside of record production.

Read Reverb's review of the book, and interview with author Michael Beinhorn.

Series Music Pro Guides
Paperback 296 pages
Publisher Hal Leonard Books (May 1,2015)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1480355135
ISBN-13: 978-1480355132


“Too many books contribute to the mistaken idea that recording is a technical procedure. Technology and techniques provide the tools for the actual work: helping art and artists through their complicated and delicate journey. In “Unlocking Creativity”, Michael Beinhorn draws from his extensive experience and deep wisdom to go beyond the gear, and explore in both essential and specific terms why and how to engage with musical artists and the creative process.” –Mark Rubel

“I’ve always felt that education is the key to success. Michael’s book is a gift for all of us who want to learn from one of the most successful record producers of our time… not just a play by play of what gear one uses, but a real education into the mindset, the thought process, and the psychology behind what makes music so important and how it’s created by musicians and producers alike”. –Joe Barresi

“Michael’s book is more about life- empathy, psychology, experience, kindness, altruism and emotional intelligence- than it is about making records. It is the most intelligent book that I have read on the subject. I found myself rereading paragraphs, slapping my forehead and laughing to myself about the truth that he tells. This book should be required reading for anyone who creates art.” –Ed Cherney

“If you are looking for advice on what mic to use when, move on. But if you are looking for an utterly unique and in depth exploration on how to get the best out your artist (and yourself), look no further. This book could very well change your professional life.” –Frank Filipetti

“If you’re in music, this is one of the most helpful books you’ll ever read. Plenty of books give nuts-and-bolts, but that info is cheap and plentiful. Instead, this book tackles the deeper mindset of what it really takes to be a successful creative artist. This mindset difference is everything! Don’t under-estimate its importance. I’ve met hundreds of artists who crashed-and-burned because they were in the wrong mindset, no matter what cheap facts or connections they knew. But if you have the right mindset, you can thrive no matter where you’re starting from. This book is the best guide for that I’ve ever seen.” –Derek Sivers

“I knew that Michael Beinhorn was a fierce, brilliant record producer whose body of work includes many of my favorite rock albums but I had no idea he was such a good writer. “Unlocking Creativity” is the most comprehensive, insightful book about working with artists I have ever read. I’m totally jealous.” –Danny Goldberg

“To navigate through the new music production world, Michael Beinhorn’s “Unlocking Creativity” is a must-read for all who plan to make this a career. I wish I had this book when I was cutting my teeth.” –Garth Richardson


A few of my favorite things….these aren’t just tools, toys or inanimate objects- they are also faithful servants in the creative process. They are conduits- they fill in blanks, they connect together ephemeral details to create new meanings and new vocabularies of sound. They can generate pleasure in people by transducing sonic events that occur in the physical world- reproducing, processing and transforming these events in the mysterious realm of electrical signals, so they return to us as idealized and subjective impressions of perfection. Like us, they have unique personalities, histories and quirks.

Neve 1057 Modules

Neve 1057 Modules

The 1057 was one of Rupert Neve's first generation of combination microphone preamplifier and equalizer designs. These modules incorporated germanium transistors and the legendary St. Ives input/output transformers. I first encountered this rack of 16 1057’s in 1992, at Southern Tracks Studio in Atlanta, Georgia while looking for some 1073’s. At the emphatic recommendation of the studio owner, Mike Clark, I grudgingly tried the 1057’s and never looked back. They were subsequently used to track drums on “Superunknown”, “Celebrity Skin”, “Mechanical Animals” and “Untouchables”, to name a few. According to their former owner, they came out of the first Neve console ever shipped to the United States. Whether or not that is true, this is undoubtedly the largest single set of near-consecutive 1057’s in the world and they have a special place in recording history. From 1993 to the present, I haven't heard a better microphone preamp for recording drums.
Neve 1058 Modules

Neve 1058 Modules

The 1058 was another one of Neve’s first germanium microphone preamp/equalizer designs. It has some of the same basic circuitry as the 1057 with a smaller footprint, high and low fixed frequency cut/boosts and a switchable/sweepable midrange. What makes these 4 modules unique is, they have no input transformers and the output transformers are Marinairs, which were designed for later modules like the ubiquitous 1073. This anomaly gives them a completely different sonic characteristic than the usual 1058 (which would sound closer to a 1057). Due to their gritty, dark coloration and unusual midrange presence, they are ideal for recording bass and guitar and have been used on nearly every recording I've produced, from 1993 onward. These 1058's were used exclusively in the bass and guitar signal chains on “Superunknown”.
Watkins Dominator Amp

Watkins Dominator Amp

These amplifiers are extremely rare and valuable- unless they’ve been modified and trashed to the extent that this one has. Originally owned by Jake E. Lee, I rented it from him for “Celebrity Skin” and it wound up being our primary guitar amp for the duration of the recording. It has an extraordinary, distinct tone and I’ve never heard another Dominator that sounds even close. Sonically, it's a marvelous cross between a Vox AC30 and a Marshall JMP- tight and focused, yet crunchy, aggressive with a prominent midrange honk. Under a microphone, it has the magical ability to sound many times larger than it appears- possibly because its original speakers were replaced with Marshall 30 watts. My history with this amp is star-crossed; Jake wouldn’t sell it when I first used it and when he offered it to me years later, I didn’t want it. After that, it disappeared, but, as destiny has willed, it recently came into my possession and sounds as wonderful as it did 20 years ago.

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Special Access Gallery

For 38+ years, I’ve collaborated with a variety of artists in a variety of circumstances. Over that time, I’ve inadvertently accumulated an archive of various materials which historically chronicles many of these projects. This archive includes items such as board mixes, vocal composite sheets, rehearsal recordings, lyric sheets, etc. It offers unique insight into the creative process, the recording process and how some of these projects became what they are. In the interest of sharing these insights and their historical significance, I am providing material from this archive here. This material is not being offered for sale, it is posted solely for educational purposes.

Special Access Gallery