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How To Set Music Practice Goals and Achieve Your Grades!

September 30th, 2020 by

Goal-focused learning is a fantastic way to motivate yourself. It’s always easier to remain positive when you’re hitting some regular targets and staying on top of your practice regime. We’re here to help you set your very best music practice goals before your graded music exam this winter.

Identify the parts of the exam that need the most attention!

It’s all too easy to play the parts you’re good at, right? We get a huge level of satisfaction when we play something through that we are proud of, and so it feels all too tempting to start every practice session with that. If this is how you (rock and) roll, then you need to set this target for your practice. Sadly, in the exam you can’t just play your favourite parts, and you’re going to need to get it all right. Set yourself a goals before you start practising: to nail that one section you’re afraid of, or smash the scale that’s been giving you nightmares. You’ll thank yourself later – we promise!

Create a practice schedule that works for you!

With all the good intentions in the world, we know how easy it is to get distracted, and how life has a habit of whisking you away! We also know that when an exam deadline is looming, it can be easy to cancel all your plans just so you can practice, practice, practice. However, you can avoid both of these scenarios by simply creating a good practice schedule. That way, you can make sure you get enough hours in, whilst still leaving you time to enjoy doing other things. Balance, people!

If you’re not sure where to start with a practice schedule, download our Six Step to Exam Success PDF today!

Regularly interact with your online resources!

This could not be more important now, especially with the world we are currently living in. Online resources are a great way to shake up your learning to keep it fresh and prevent it from becoming repetitive. Why not start using the RSL Replay program today?!

Listen to music from a similar era and style!

This one might seem less pressing when you’re preparing for an exam, but don’t forget the importance of context. To become a well-rounded musician, it is critical to understand the landscape in which your pieces were composed, played and performed, and figure out how they fit in to the wider context of the genre. Perhaps a music practice goal you could set here is to listen to one related song at the end of each session!

Complete a successful practice exam at home!

What is a list of music practice goals if you do not include a full run-through – the final showdown, if you will. It’s time for that complete performance of your exam pieces before your exam comes steaming around the corner. We like the idea of performing this in front of friends or family if you can. It’s a great way to get that performance adrenaline back, and to become familiar with a scenario where, if you make a mistake, you cannot start again! Keep going!

Here are some tips on exam preparation from a few of our senior examiners…

Reward yourself!

Yes, you’re allowed to include rewards on your goals list. What would all the hard work be for if you can’t have a little celebration afterwards?! A word of advice from us though, make sure you schedule the celebrations for AFTER your exam (and certainly not the night before it!).

The winter exam period is fast approaching, and the deadline is only a few weeks away. This leaves you with just enough time to implement these goal practices into your schedule, to ensure the result that you’ve been hoping for!

Enter for your winter exam now, before time runs out!


Artists in Focus | Emeli Sandé

September 29th, 2020 by

A Scottish success story who rose to prominence on Chipmunk’s “Diamond Rings”, and whose biggest influence is Nina Simone, Emeli Sandé’s soulful and spine-tingling songs are unmistakeable.

She’s written songs for some huge artists: Alesha Dixon, Professor Green, Devlin, Cheryl Cole and Tinie Tempah to name but a few. And this was in the early days of her career! Adele Emily Sandé had studied to become a neuroscientist, but the pull of music was too great (we’re pretty glad the music industry got her instead!).


Sandé’s success peaked at an incredible moment when the country was in true Olympic fever. Yes, 2012 was the year that Emeli landed herself one of the best possible gigs out there – the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. The opening ceremony, which was later praised as a masterpiece, saw her perform Christian hymn “Abide With Me” alongside an almost haunting performance on the theme of mortality, choreographed by Akram Khan. Sandé manages to hold her nerves despite a whole 900 million people watching worldwide. We’d certainly prefer 1 examiner…

The closing ceremony was successful in equal measure! Emeli performed in the “Rush Hour” segment of the evening, the first live part of the ceremony. She appears on top of a truck to sing one verse of her hit “Read All About It (Part III)”, which has since become her highest streamed track with over 215 million streams on Spotify alone. The truck drives her away and the rest of the 3-hour performance continues. A truly spectacular achievement for Emeli whom at the time was still a relatively new breakthrough act.

Her first album, Our Version Of Events, was toured from 2011 to 2013, surrounding her Olympic performances, and was a huge success. She supported the enormous Coldplay on their Mylo Xyloto tour and went on to play many shows across America and Europe. Our Version Of Events was a huge success, selling 5.4 million copies. Towards the end of her tour she played alongside some other huge artists like Ed Sheeran, Rudimental, Jessie J and Soul II Soul for a concert in tribute to Stephen Lawrence, the young black British boy who was killed in a racial attack in 1993.


Emeli has never shied away from working with organisations to help raise awareness on issues she is passionate about. In 2013 she was part of the AIDS Foundation concert hosted by Elton John. Sandé’s mother is Scottish but her father’s home origin is Zambia, so she is extremely passionate and understands the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Emeli also launched the “Community Clavinova’, which is a nationwide opportunity for organizations to receive free clavinovas who may not otherwise be able to, in partnership with Yamaha UK.

Keys Cover Girl

If you’ve picked up a copy of our Keys Debut book, you will know that Emeli is the cover star, and her song “Next to Me” is featured inside. Also from the album Our Version Of Events, the song was a huge hit, peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles chart! It also became her first song to make it into the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number 25 there. Not bad for a debut album!

To top it all off, in 2017 Sandé was awarded the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist, and an MBE. Yes, an MBE for her services to music. You might say that she’s had a pretty successful few years!

If you happened to miss it (we forgive you), you can have a listen to the album that shot Sandé to success. Enjoy!

We’ll see you again next Tuesday for another Artists in Focus! In the meantime, catch up with some of our previous blog posts: Snarky Puppy, James Brown, and Kaki King.

10 Easy Steps to a Better Teacher Registry Profile in 2020

September 16th, 2020 by

We think our Teacher Registry is great, even if we do say so ourselves. It’s easy to create a profile, and very straightforward to upload all the relevant information. Best of all, it’s a completely FREE way to advertise your teaching services to thousands of potential students across the UK.

As our Teacher Registry continues to grow, teachers face more competition to get their profile noticed. At RSL we thought it would be good to give you some handy tips to improve your profile, get noticed, and stand out to potential students in 2020!

1. Upload a good quality image that reflects your teaching business

Make sure you choose a good quality photo that reflects you and your teaching business when creating your profile. Your photo doesn’t have to be a shot of you teaching someone, or a photo from a crazy angle at a gig; a photo that clearly shows your face is suitable. Of course, you may wish to include a picture of you with your instrument – just ensure it’s good quality and clear!

2.Use testimonials

RSL doesn’t officially endorse or affiliate itself with anyone on the Teacher Registry, so it’s always good to have someone else’s opinions on your teaching publicly available for others to see. Testimonials can be only two or three sentences in length but they go a long way in giving your profile credibility to someone who is not familiar with you.

Make sure you choose a good quality photo that reflects you and your teaching business when creating your profile.

3. Only upload relevant socials…

Social media is a great tool for a musician. Visibility across several platforms can be really useful, but it can get difficult to keep them all up to date. So, when uploading your profile, only choose the ones you feel accurately reflect your teaching persona and busy schedule. Your Instagram may consist of music related posts, but if your personal Facebook profile is full of dog pics then feel free to omit it from your Teacher Registry profile to maintain professionalism!

4. …and don’t create socials just for the sake of it

Although there are social media profile fields on the sign-up form, they aren’t compulsory to sign up for the Teacher Registry. There’s no need to create accounts just to fill out the fields on our form. Your teaching business might be more suited to some platforms than others, so don’t worry if you’re not on Instagram or LinkedIn – just include the most pertinent social media accounts that you feel best represent you as a musician and teacher.

5. Choose appropriate rates

Musicians are highly trained specialists, so don’t sell yourself short when choosing how much you charge. Unlike other teacher registries and tutoring websites, we don’t charge a commission on how much you earn – you get to keep ALL of your hard-earned cash without a middle man interfering. Therefore, adjust your rates to whatever suits you and your workload. However, do bear in mind that if your fees are too steep you may deter potential students. Check out ISM’s advice here.

6. Include an accurate website link

As a musician, you can really benefit from having your own website. Your own personal space on the web is perfect for posting performance clips, gig dates, and appropriate contact details. In order to optimise access to your website for students, ensure that your website address is preceded by HTTPS when signing up to our Teacher Registry. Doing this makes your site secure to access and means that we can fast-track the moderation process to get you up and running in no time!

7. Use a full link to your Twitter profile

Another common mistake is that teachers who apply to us include their Twitter handle in their Twitter section. Unfortunately our website isn’t able to link directly to Twitter handles yet, so do be sure to include a full URL link to your profile to ensure there aren’t any hitches in the moderation process.

8. Use the Additional Information section

Filling out the additional info section is not compulsory when signing up, but doing so accurately and succinctly will set you apart from other teachers and give your profile a polished look. Keep it brief, but personal. Use this box as a chance to let potential students know which instruments, grades and areas of music you specialise in, as well as what your teaching methods are likely to involve.

9. Include which instruments you teach

Potential students can filter by instrument when looking through teachers, so in order to appear to as many students as possible, be sure to include the instruments you are comfortable teaching. Remember, you can also include Music Theory and Music Production as topics for you to teach, so there are plenty of avenues for you to pursue.

10. Take pride in your profile

RSL’s Teacher Registry is a great resource that puts you, quite literally, on the map. This list should help you make the most of advertising your services and put you in a great position to secure new students and spread your love of music. We can only take you so far – now it’s up to you to sign up and submit an awesome profile that shows you at your best!


Artists in Focus | James Brown

September 15th, 2020 by

Singer, songwriter, band leader, dancer, musician, producer… there really isn’t much that James Brown can’t do.

With a career that spanned over 50 years, from the mashed potato to social commentary and activism, Brown is nothing short of a legend.

I Got You (I Feel Good)

If you haven’t heard this song before, where have you been?!

Perhaps one of Brown’s most well-known tracks, this song was also the highest charting of his career too. It was originally recorded for the Out Of Sight album, but was eventually released on his live album, Live At The Apollo. Believe it or not, James was actually advised not to release Live At The Apollo because “live albums are bad sellers” … Needless to say, it became an immediate hit on its release. Have a listen below!

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” was the track that we chose to include in our Bass grade 4 syllabus, and the reasons for this should come as no surprise. The relentless bass riff that runs throughout the song acts as both a harmonic and rhythmic driver of the 12-bar blues. Throw in some funky drum patterns, syncopated rhythmic unisons and an outstanding Maceo Parker sax solo, and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece. Of course, no James Brown song would be complete without his characteristic screams and shouts too, of which there are plenty.

Brown the Performing Perfectionist

Despite his fun-loving demeanour on stage, James was known to pile on the pressure behind the scenes. He had high expectations for his band members and required extreme amounts of discipline from them. James would give out fines or even fire band members who did not adhere to his strict commands!

Brown’s explosive and lively performances were highly acclaimed, and thus his shows needed a big band to match his even bigger stage presence. His final show had an incredible 3 guitarists, 2 bassists, 2 drummers, 3 horn players and a percussionist all onstage! Of course, all his signature dance moves were on display too: leaps, splits, slides, and even the mashed potato (yes, the dance kind, not the vegetable kind!). To be in the crowd for a James Brown show was to be in for a dramatic ride!


For a long time, Brown was nervous to speak on civil rights issues in his music, for fear of losing some of his audience. However, after some pressure from other black activists to use his platform to say more on these issues, Brown really began to immerse himself in social activism too. His song “Say It Loud – I’m Black And Proud” became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

After growing up in extreme poverty himself, Brown was hugely passionate about keeping young people in school. He released a song called “Don’t Be A Drop Out”, and donated all royalties to a drop-out prevention charity. He also wrote “Killing Is Out, Schooling Is In”, the title of which speaks for itself. In 1971, James began touring Africa, and in Lagos, Nigeria, he was made “freeman of the city” for his “influence on black people all over the world”.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of James Brown’s career in this blog as his successes are hard to quantify in so few words. However, being number 7 in the Rolling Stone “100 Greatest Artists of All-Time” list goes some of the way to demonstrating this. Up there with The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, Brown belongs among some of the greatest musicians that the world has ever seen.

Thanks for joining us for another week of Artists in Focus. We love putting the spotlight on one of our favourite musicians each week, and we hope you do too! If you haven’t checked out last week’s addition, you can view that here.

Motivating your students | Guest blog

July 24th, 2020 by

In this guest blog, drummer and educator Michael Hutchinson explores the topic of motivation, and how to effectively motivate your students.

How do you keep your students motivated?

Motivating your students is one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. We take motivation as a by-product of loving what we do, but we can lose the momentum and we can fall out of love with music and our instrument and we can become demotivated which shows in our playing and our attitude. To understand how to motivate we first need to know a little about motivation itself.

What is motivation?

To understand how to motivate we first need to know a little about motivation.
According to self-determination theory (SDT), a theory devised by Edward L Deci and Richard M Ryan’s work on motivation in the 1970’s and 1980’s (Ackerman, 2020).

There are two types of motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is defined as completing an activity for inherent satisfaction and extrinsic motivation is completing an activity which you felt compelled to do (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Extrinsic motivation is interesting to understand, due to the many similarities we, as teachers use to motivate students. Ryan and Deci explained these similarities as a drive to behave in certain ways based on external sources and it results in external rewards” (Deci and Ryan, 1985). Those sources can be anything from grading systems, to gaining the respect of others (2020).

SDT also differentiates between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation, with autonomous motivation being self-directed and can come from extrinsic sources, yet with an understanding of the activity’s significance. Controlled motivation comes from external sources acted out of external rewards or fear of punishment (Ackerman, 2020).


A learner’s psychological needs

According to Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier & Ryan, every human has 3 psychological needs (1991):

• To feel competent: achieve the things you want to achieve

• The need for relatedness: develop meaningful relationships

• Autonomy: take initiatives and self-regulate

If we as instrumental teachers can satisfy these basic human needs then we can encourage motivation.

Instrument teachers can support this by:

• Helping the learners build competence through increased understanding

• Engaging the learners while attending to their socio-economic needs

• Helping the learners build upon and exercise autonomy by displaying the same behaviours.

• Asking what the students wants – guided lesson, not mastery

• Providing rationale to the lesson

• Praising effort and not achievement

• Encouraging parental support and involvement.

• Being involved yourself – turn up to exam centre and make your learners feel at ease.

• Encouraging self-initiated tasks and praise them for this.

• Feedback should be positive and support autonomy

• Giving the learner a choice on what to learn – especially for lessons you know the learner will not engage in.

• Never offer monetary or other prizes for achievement.

Tip: Teaching a drummer theory can sometimes be quite a difficult task. What I like to do is give them a choice of which note value they want to learn about, and we work on the identification of this and the different patterns you can use within that value. At this point, I take a song I know the student likes to play along with and have some fun trying to get the note value into the song. Then I move this knowledge into the RSL grade songs. At this point the student knows the value and is comfortable identifying and playing it, so will be intrinsically motivated to learn the grade song.

Rockschool Ukulele Method

As an instrumental teacher, you are pushing your students to pass an exam. You are ensuring that they get the best results possible by teaching them at the highest level, using RSL to guide them. This is standard practice across most instrument teachers within the UK, but by understanding extrinsic motivation causalities we can turn this to be intrinsic for the student. Parents or carers play an important part in motivation too. Using phrases like “if you pass this RSL grade 4 exam at merit or above I’ll buy you a new drum kit” may seem like a win-win for the student, but what if the student falls short? They will instantly feel demotivated and not good enough. Use the above list on how we can support students and we can make a start on keeping our students motivated the correct way.

The science behind motivation is thorough and there is a lot of information for teachers to help guide the learner, so I would recommend reading some of the articles presented in the bibliography to get a deeper understanding of SDT and how this can aid in understanding the needs of your learners.

Rockschool VIdeo Exams


Michael is a drummer, educator, and music psychologist from the North East of England. He runs Triple-T Drumming school of drums and has been teaching privately for 12 years.
He is currently researching drumming from a psychological point of view studying with Sheffield University, music psychology in education performance and wellbeing and his main interest is drumming and its effects on working memory.


Instagram: @tripletdrumming

Twitter: @tripletdrumming


Ackerman, C. (2020). Self-Determination Theory of Motivation: Why Intrinsic Motivation Matters. Retrieved 25 June 2020, from

Deci, Edward L., and Ryan, Richard M. (1985) Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. 1st ed. New York: Springer Science Business Media, LLC, 1985. Perspectives in Social Psychology. Web.

Edward L. Deci, Robert J. Vallerand, Luc G. Pelletier & Richard M. Ryan (1991) Motivation and Education: The Self-Determination Perspective, Educational Psychologist, 26:3-4, 325-346, DOI: 10.1080/00461520.1991.9653137

Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25:54–67

Keeping Records – Why Is It Important? | Guest Blog

March 10th, 2020 by

As a self-employed person, record keeping is an essential part of our yearly routine to make sure our business runs by the book in the eye of the taxman! To follow up our article about Claiming Expenses for Music Teachers, we are going to discuss the importance of record keeping.

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge

When you submit your tax return at the end of the financial year, you should have a collection of records to back up the claims you are putting forward. The records you keep will help determine a number of things such as your tax amount owed, the expenses that are deducted from your tax bill and your overall business profit and loss.

Records for Income

When you earn money, it is helpful to keep a record of this. Many music teachers use invoices with students as a proof of booking. This isn’t essential to your record keeping, but it is useful should you ever need to prove your income.

When tracking income for the business, an Excel spreadsheet is a good tool to utilise. You can create income records for each student for each month of the year. This allows you to filter by student name, by date, by month and more.

Having this master record of every pound that enters your business over the year is the starting point for working out everything else.

Records for Outgoings

Your business outgoings are your expenses. This is the money that you spend in order for your business to run. Knowing exactly what your income and outgoings are over the financial year allows HMRC to provide you with an accurate tax estimate.

Outgoing records are very important. If you are spending money that you plan to claim as a business expense you must have proof to back this up.

Proof of expenditure would be things like receipts or email invoices for products and services that you might have acquired for your business. For your home office expenses, you would need to be able to provide proof of your utility bills and rental costs.


Outgoing records are very important. If you are spending money that you plan to claim as a business expense you must have proof to back this up.

Don’t forget to keep a mileage log for claiming travel expense! Our guide to claiming expenses outlines the sort of things that you can claim for against your tax bill.

If you use a digital accountancy tool such as Quickbooks, you have the facility to scan in receipts and invoices so that you can keep digital copies rather than filing away loads of paper copies. This can save a lot of time when it comes to submit your accounts so that you aren’t rummaging around through a box of a thousand pieces of paper!

About the Author:

This article has been written for Rockschool on behalf of MGR Music by Leigh Fuge, a professional guitarist, tutor and journalist from Wales in the UK. He has been working in the music industry for over 10 years as a touring and studio musician with various artists, guitar tutor and writer for many high profile guitar publications. Read more of Leigh’s pieces relating to Rockschool here…

Practise with Purpose: updated for 2020

March 5th, 2020 by

Practising can often feel like a chore, especially when a concert or exam is looming. It is important to use a practice diary and vary your routine to stay positive and motivated. Give yourself regular goals, and suddenly it’s not that boring after all!

Keep us posted on how your exam preparation is going by tweeting us @RSLAwards using the hashtag #practisewithpurpose.

Practise with Purpose

Practising regularly is key to any musician’s development, regardless of where they are on their musical journey. An absolute beginner and an experienced professional will practise in very different ways, but both will need a routine that helps them to maximise their potential by attaining new skills, and then maintaining and building on them.


If this is something you think your practice sessions could profit from, then try out RSL’s practice diary to help you practise with purpose, set realistic and achievable goals, and stay motivated! Practice is not about reaching perfection – it is about being better than you were yesterday.

How Can RSL’s Practice Diary Help?

This practice diary helps you keep track of your daily practice and monitor your own progress. Master a technique, nail a performance piece, and prepare for your next Rockschool exam.

On each page you’ll find space to make notes on your weekly practice routine to ensure that your sessions are as productive as possible, and that you are well prepared for the different sections of the Rockschool exams. Throughout the diary there are tips from some of the teachers on our RSL Teacher Registry – use these to inspire and motivate you along the way. You can find hundreds of Rockschool teachers on our Teacher Registry HERE.

Stay in Tune

We have included some blank sheet music as well as individual boxes for warm ups, supporting tests, and performance pieces that will allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, ultimately leading to more efficient and rewarding practice.

Happy practising!




Music Production A-Z

February 20th, 2020 by

In this week’s Music Production blog we’re getting nerdy. From Audio Interface to XLR, look no further for your A-Z of Music Production terms. Whether you’re preparing for an exam or are simply keen to learn some new terms, look no further!

A – Audio Interface

The computer peripheral which enables the user to input and output audio from a computer, converting the analogue sound into digital when recording and the digital back into audio when played back.

B – Bandwidth

The range of audio frequencies which directly influence the fidelity of a sound.

C – Chorusing

A nifty tool that makes a single sound appear to sound like an entire ensemble. The signal is duplicated and delayed slightly, with a subtle variation of pitch. These time and pitch differences are controlled by a low frequency oscillator (LFO) to provide a subtle variation to the sound.


DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation; this is what you’ll use for recording audio, editing audio, and all sorts of exciting functions.

Find out more about our Level 3 Music Production course in this video.

E – Event Editor

A DAW editor window which enables the editing of individual MIDI events using text.

F – Fader

The component on a mixing desk which adjusts the channel level. Faders are also emulated in DAWs.

G – Garageband

Available on iPhones, iPads, and other Apple products, Garageband is an entry level DAW (other DAWs are available…).

H – High Shelf

A type of equalisation which allows the engineer to remove all frequencies below a defined frequency, allowing the higher frequencies to pass.

I – Isolation

Limiting the amount of sound which can pass from one space to another. For example, sound isolation would be recommended to prevent road noise from outside entering a recording studio so that the noise isn’t recorded.

J – Jack Connector

A male connector commonly used in patch bays, line level equipment, and guitar connections.


Kilobits per second.

L – Logic Pro

Another DAW originally created by a company called C-Lab. It’s now owned by Apple.

M – Mini Jack

Not Jack Connector’s younger brother, but a jack connector with a diameter of 3.5mm and most commonly used by consumer headphones.

music production

Music Production can open DAWs for you.

N – Normalisation

The process of increasing the overall volume of a track.

O – Operating System

The software installed on a computer which controls its most basic functions. This is the graphic user interface that the user interacts with.

P – Producer

This is the person who typically leads the music recording project. Think Quincy Jones, Mark Ronson, Missy Elliott.


You can read about some of the most influential producers of the 21st century HERE.

Q – Quantise

Quantising is used to artificially fix parts of the track, correct errors, and add swing. This may detract from the organic sound of the recording and add a sense of artificiality to the recording.

R – Recording Studio

A room or complex of rooms which is used to record sound.

S – Surround Sound

An audio format which uses more than two speakers, arranged around the listener to provide a more realistic environment.

T – Transport

The controls of a DAW which enable the user to play, stop, pause, fast forward, rewind, and record.

music production coursework edition book covers

RSL’s Music Production exams are available from grades 1 through to 8.

U – Unison

When two or more instruments play the same an identical line of music simultaneously.

V – Voltage Controlled Oscillator

An oscillator (sound generator) whose pitch can be controlled via voltage variation.

W – Woofer

A speaker which is designed to producer lower frequencies.

We spoke to producer, Danton Supple, to hear his thoughts on the merits of studying music production.

X – XLR Connector

A balanced connection, used in most professional level equipment. The standard connection for microphones. Also referred to as a cannon connector.

Y – YouTube

The biggest social network in the world. An online video streaming service provided by Google where you can find all sorts of new music.

Z – Zedd

Zedd is a Russian-German DJ who neatly completes our A-Z. He’s worked with Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez, and primarily produces electro house music.



Most Influential Music Producers of the 21st Century

February 6th, 2020 by

Performers often get all the credit for their hits, but in a lot of cases they work with incredibly talented producers who strive for perfection and push the artist’s music to the next level. This week we’re thinking about some of the most influential producers of the 21st century and the effect they’ve had on music.

Rick Rubin

Rick made his name towards the end of the twentieth century after he founded Def Jam records while still at high school. He went on to work with some of the music industry’s biggest names, and was named “the most important producer of the past 20 years” by MTV in 2007. Though some of his most well-recognised work took place before the turn of the millennium, he was twice recognised as Producer of the Year at the Grammys, in 2007 and 2009, for his work that encourages a stripped-back style that contributes to heightening the emotional power of his work.

Rick has worked with some of the biggest names in pop, including Adele.

Missy Elliott

The first female rapper in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a highly successful artist in her own right, Missy Elliott’s work as a producer may go under the radar. All the same, it is important to recognise her as one of the key figures in launching many major stars’ careers. Her own work as a recording artist caught the eye of Thom Yorke and Damon Albarn due to her genre-bending, avant-garde approach. Her production career spans almost 30 years, during which she has collaborated with Eminem, Janet Jackson, and even Michelle Obama, cementing her position as one of the most influential musicians of this century.

Mark Ronson

Cover star of our Grade 6 book, Mark Ronson started out as a DJ while studying at NYU and quickly became one of the most sought after producers in the industry. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business: Bruno Mars, Lily Allen, and Lady Gaga to name a few. His ability to create a classic sound filled with horns that still feels fresh to a modern audience is unparalleled, as evidenced by the enduring success of his work on Amy Winehouse’s album, ‘Back to Black’, and the smash hit ‘Uptown Funk’ which saw him and Bruno Mars break record after record (if you’ll pardon the pun…).


Last year Timbaland released his Masterclass series where he imparted his knowledge about production in a series of online tutorials. He certainly kept himself busy in the 2010s by working on some of the leading singles from Justin Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience’ as well as Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’. However it was the mid-00s when he was at his peak – this was a time when the charts were seemingly filled with Timbaland-produced tunes. His own album, ‘Shock Value’ spawned several hits, perhaps most notably the track ‘Apologize’, which featured OneRepublic, transforming them into global stars.


Citing Daft Punk and Eric Prydz as influences, Avicii’s untimely death in 2018 closed the curtain on what had been a meteoric rise to the top for the Swedish producer. The song that launched his career into the mainstream, ‘Levels’, fused EDM and country music in a way that has been replicated by many artists since. This tune achieved Top 10 status in many European countries on its release, and topped the charts in Hungary, Norway, and his native Sweden.

David Guetta

David Guetta’s early days (and nights!) in music were spent DJing at nightclubs. He grew up in Paris and discovered house music in the late ‘80s, so his rise to being recognised as one of the biggest producers around was a gradual process. He received recognition from his peers, but really exploded onto the international scene in 2009 with two of the biggest songs of the decade. First was ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas. This became the most downloaded song of all time and topped the charts in 17 countries. The same summer saw the release of Guetta’s own track ‘When Love Takes Over’, featuring Kelly Rowland. His status was secured as one of the most sought after producers in pop.

Linda Perry

Linda Perry started from humble beginnings as a songwriter juggling multiple jobs when she moved to San Francisco in 1986. Fast forward to 2020 and she has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was nominated for the ‘Producer of the Year: Non-Classical’ Grammy award in 2019. P!nk released her second album, ‘Missundaztood’, in 2001, and it was Perry’s work on production and songwriting on this album that saw her stock soar. She went on to write ‘Beautiful’ for Christina Aguilera, and work with Alicia Keys on ‘Superwoman’, so there was no way we could ignore her when making this list!

Kanye West

Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubting Kanye West’s credentials as a producer. Hugely successful as a performer and writer in his own right, his production credits include the likes of Drake, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, while he also worked with Alicia Keys and Ludacris in the early ’00s. In his own music he has more recently opted for a more stripped back approach, but this does not mean he has lost the meticulous, studious edge that made Kanye, Kanye.