There is a very subtle dividing line between keyboard players and programmers.
Let's say that a keyboard player specialises in tinkling the keys and may tweak
the odd sound here and there if he feels inclined, whereas a programmer is hired
for his collection of instruments, sounds and samples, and is expect to be able
to produce exactly the right sound for the occasion, and maybe do a bit of playing
on the side.
As a budding producer, perhaps you have a MIDI setup and are capable of programming
yourself, as many established producers are. But you will be aware that programming
takes a lot of mental energy and patience.
Hiring a programmer to do something that perhaps you could have expended valuable
energy on yourself will allow you to concentrate fully on the music, which is
exactly what a producer needs to do.
The programmer will also have a fantastic memory for sounds, and when you need
a string sound that is just so, the programmer will be able to call up a few
patches and demonstrate them to you so that you can choose the best.
Equipment-wise, what should you expect a programmer to bring to the session?
Having seen top programmers in action, I can say that you should be expecting
three or four keyboards, a couple of racks full of modules, a powerful computer
equipped with a pair of large monitors running an audio sequencer and Digidesign
Pro Tools, and all the interfaces disks, cables, backup devices etc that are
necessary to make it all work.
The time spent setting up such a system is considerable, as is the time spent
after each day's work logging all the sounds and making sure that they can be
recalled the next day, or at any later time, if necessary.
It is quite common for a producer to regard a programmer as a kind of producer's
assistant. The producer will give the programmer an idea of what he wants, then
go away for an hour or two and leave the programmer alone with the equipment
to see what he can come up with.
This is where you really need to be working with people who understand your
requirements and who you can trust to come up with something that is likely
to suit your taste.