Pre-production is one of the most underestimated phases in recording an album. It is the phase where the artist (or band), the musicians, the music teacher, and the producer sit down to hear the whole song in its barest form.
This is where parts are tweaked or changed altogether, and this is when people fix the transitioning of each part to create a full and well-prepared song.
Pre-production is often overlooked because of two misconceptions.
One, it wastes a lot of time and resources! This is most definitely not the case for a good number of recordings.
In fact, when you have nailed your pre-production phase, there will be a lot less time recording the songs because people already know what to do.
There is no constant stopping and changing wrong transitions, tempo, and rhythm.
Two, it limits creativity and spontaneity! While other people believe that creativity is seen when you are being spontaneous, professional music producers know this to be false. To help you understand why cooking will be used as an analogy.
In cooking, a chef is considered creative when they have turned a mediocre dish into something entirely different.
They could have added a new technique or flavor. But the thing about the chef is that he or she already knows the basics.
Before letting the chef’s imagination go wild, he or she is already equipped with the basic skills and palette that would allow him or her to create something unique but still makes sense.
So now that you know why pre-production is important, how do you go about a successful pre-production phase?
To help you out, here are a few tips that will guide you through the process of audio pre-production.
1. Play the song in its simplest form
Before you start anything else, you and your team should listen to the whole song first in its barest form. By barest form, meaning, there are no drums and added tweaks.
The singer has to sing in person only accompanied by a guitar or a piano. Definitely, avoid the frills because this is reserved for later.
This tip is helpful because it allows you to hear the song for what it is.
After hearing it once or twice, you can all share your first impressions of the song.
Knowing first impressions from several people is important because it already gives you an idea of how your listeners will react.
What will they get from it? Are certain feelings heightened? Do they understand the context of the song?
If your team feels there is a mismatch or that the song is not well-written or composed, then changes should be made.
2. Make adjustments
This is the part that takes relatively more time than the others.
When you make adjustments, you go over the song, listen to it with a pen and a piece of paper ready and jot down where the bass comes in, the beat the drum will play to, etc.
You might experience your team members already suggesting what to do for certain parts.
That’s a good thing because you will get the opinion of other people that could go well with the overall makeup of the song.
3. Work on the transitions
Don’t forget that you are making one whole song. You shouldn’t focus on certain parts of it and leave the instrumental hanging.
All transitions should be done properly and precisely so they fit the whole melody.
The transitions must also be able to glue all parts together.
In this part, you will already get a sense of how the song will come together until you finish all of it.
As instruments start to fill the empty gaps in the song, you can already conceptualize the visual of it. Don’t go to the next step until the song is complete.
4. Tempo is the key
As a team, you want to make sure that everyone is on the right track. This is important because once you start recording, every sound created will be taken and heard.
The last thing you would need is an instrument playing with the wrong tempo.
To prevent this, you should practice without any vocals. In this way, you will hear the drums and the bass. you will also hear the timing of other instruments.
This even benefits the people who play the instruments because they will not have to rely on the vocals to know how the song is played.
They will get to know the song in such a way that they will not get distracted by other people playing.
Another plus you’ll get for practicing without the vocals is that you can hear the base of the song in its raw form.
Who knows, you might have some finishing touches or big changes to make.
5. Practice and record
Congratulations on finishing arranging the song. The next thing to do is to practice it.
Don’t record in the studio until the song becomes a part of every person singing and every musician playing. The song should be second nature before you even start recording.
This is because when you finally record, you want to have it perfected. You want to execute it well as if you are already performing to an audience.
To help you, record your practices using a simple recorder. Simple recorders do not lie.
You hear everything there is to hear and when it sounds bad in a recorder, it most likely sounds bad in person. When something sounds off based on the recording, go back to making adjustments again.
Tweaking the song is an on-going process until actual recording, so just be patient and it will all fall into place soon.
6. Prepare the logistics
When you are ready for recording, you should first keep track of what you need for actual studio recording.
Hire a professional even if it is more expensive than smaller studios. If you’ve already found one, you can scout the studio first and get a feel of it so it will give you and your team a sense of familiarity.
You can also try to practice minus the sound system.
I hope these tips will help you in your producer career!
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