Who will you work with? Welcome to Pre-Production!
Preparing To Record Your New Album!
Before recording your album you want to be as well prepared as possible so that the final result turns out to be even more amazing than you imagined it would. Good planning is all about being organized and taking the time and making the effort to do the groundwork. Here are some tips to keep in mind for when you are in the pre-production stage of making your new record.
Immerse Your New Songs in Live Performance
Alright, so you wrote a new group of songs that you want to use to record an album. I highly recommend that you go out and perform these songs live many times over in front of people before you try and commit them to an album recording. After giving birth to songs with pen, paper and instrument, you should get to know them on stage in the real world with an objective audience. No matter what kind of music you perform, live performance will change you and your songs for the better. Good situations in which to iron out the kinks of your new songs are for example, at an open stage night, out busking, or playing for friends.
Demos are Essential
After performing your songs live and allowing them to mature, make demos. When recording your demos try to imagine what it will be like to record your songs in a high quality studio and perform accordingly. Demos serve as practical stripped down examples of your songs to share with your producer, audio engineer, other musicians who will perform on your album, and anyone who will be involved in helping bring your album to life. You should use the demos to discuss arrangements, recording processes, microphone placements, overall sound color and all your production strategies. Also, use the demos for yourself to rehearse recording your overdubs to. Demos are the road map you use to take your album in the direction you want it to go.
Work with Others
No matter what kind of album you want to record, I find it is helpful to have other people involved. Working with others means allowing other people’s perspectives and talents the opportunity to influence your vision of your work and this can make it all more creative. But it doesn’t mean you have to agree with others, it simply means trying to hear your songs and music from someone else’s point of view. Usually other musicians will hear things differently than you do, this can be helpful or not, depending on your ability to be receptive and to not take anything too personally. It’s a good idea to hash it out with the other people you might want to work with in the pre-production stage before you are in the studio recording. Disagreements between musicians in the studio waste time, money and energy.
Live or Click?
After playing your new songs live and making demos you probably have gotten to know your new songs a lot better and you may even know which songs you want to be on your album. It’s time to decide which approach to take when recording. Will you record it live or to a click track? Because I play singer-songwriter music I most always will record live, either solo or with a band and not to a click track because I want the song to sound ‘alive’ with all of its cracks, warbles, and imperfections. But that is just how I personally like music to sound. Sometimes, if a song has a complicated rhythmical structure or a tempo that evolves or changes throughout the song, then I would opt to use a click track in order to keep the song sounding tight. I often find a click track to be distracting unless it is applied in a subtle way and with a click that actually sounds like a percussive instrument and not just an annoying click or beep. It is a matter of skill and preference when choosing to record live or to a click but either way you will most likely perform well because of all the time you took getting to know your songs in pre-production. If you can’t figure out whether to record a song live or to a click, try making a demo using both methods and see which one sounds and feels more natural to you.
Studio and Budget
Now that all your songs are ready, you know who you want to work with for this particular album and you have a well-organized strategy for how to get the sound you want, it’s time to choose a studio and develop your budget. At this point it will be quite different for everyone depending on what kind of music they are making and what they can invest into getting a high quality sound. Investment and budget does not necessarily only refer to just money, it can also be an exchange of skills or a barter of time and work. For instance, I once recorded with my band for one hour in REM’s studio in Athens, Georgia in exchange for helping move an old couch out of the studio and a new one in.
You can always make a crowd-funding campaign to finance your album production but you don’t want to come up short when it comes time to pay. When making your studio budget in pre-production, don’t forget to list all that you can think of into your budget such as the cost of meals, drinks, gasoline for your car, guitar strings, a professional piano tuner, new cables, drumsticks, amplifier tubes, analog tape, an external hard-drive, reference CD’s etc. Try to get each detail into your budget no matter how trivial it may seem. If you do have the opportunity to be able to choose a professional studio and pay for recording time, first ask to hear other albums that have been made in the studios you are considering and imagine that sound color on your songs before making a decision. If you record at home with your friends you can always send your recordings to a professional studio and they can boost the overall quality and volume of your sound. No matter which path you take to make an album, it really should be a fun and creative time for everyone involved, the more prepared you are the easier it will be to making the album you want.