Pre-Production and Your Recording
you’re entering the studio for the first or fiftieth time,
embarking on a full-length album or a soundtrack one-off,
successful recordings start with some form of pre-production. It
could be as simple as a one-time conversation with the studio
manager to go over the studio’s etiquette, layout, fees, and
the specifics of how your time in the facility will play out.
But for most projects, pre-production is a much more involved
process that allows the artists and production team to define
things like which songs will be recorded, the key of each song,
and their tempos.
Like any working relationship, the producer,
engineer, and artist work best when parameters, expectations,
and roles are clearly defined. “The first part of courting a
band is the personal relationships,” says Drew Raison Raison
of Big Sky Audio in Springfield, PA, “and it’s about setting
boundaries. Some artists want a producer to help them structure,
shape, and create a final product. Some just want a stunning
recording of their material. My role as a producer is about
understanding somebody’s vision.”
Pre-production is also the time when
producer and artist will sort out arrangements, solos, lyrics,
harmonies, instrumentation – everything that plays into the
song’s sound and structure. Finally, pre-production answers
questions regarding the physical placement of people and
instruments in the room. Is the band recording live all at once?
Is every instrument going to be tracked separately? Headphones
or a PA system? Is this a three piece rock band or a 10-member
string band with a horn section? Every project has it’s unique
needs, and pre-production examines the process of the
Be prepared for your session(s)!
There are a number of things that can
adversely affect any recording session, or even bring it to a
grinding halt. Some of these are just common sense, but
you'd be surprised at what still happens on recording day!
I've arranged these by instrument:
Are your heads new, tuned, and broken in a
little? Are they properly dampened to prevent excessive
over-ring? Are they the right heads for each drum, and for
your playing style? Do your snares vibrate a lot when you
hit your toms? Are your pedals oiled so they don't squeak?
Guitars, including bass and other stringed instruments:
Are your strings brand new, stretched and
broken in a little? Is your instrument set up for action and
intonation? If not, your action may be too high to
play easily, and/or in tune. If it's too low, you will get
excessive fret buzzing. Is your output jack clean and
tight? Are your cords (including short patch cords) high
quality and in good shape? Does your processor or pedals
make a lot of noise?
Not much can go wrong here, but make sure you
have all the sounds you need ready to go, and don't forget your
power cord, pedals, and any memory cards you may use.
Make sure your singer(s) are fresh, don't have
a cold or worse, and don't try to play a gig the night
before your recording session! Bring anything that helps
your throat, like lemon, honey, tea, or other throat friendly
Even if you take care of all these things,
unforeseen things can still happen. Having your instruments
looked at by a tech. can go a long way for heading off potential
problems. By all means, have your songs selected and
well-rehearsed to make sure everyone has their parts down cold
before booking a session! Following all of this advice will
prevent you from having to make repairs or rehearsing on studio
time, which is a waste of money and avoidable. The initial
consultation or pre-production goes a long way to expose any other
recording day "surprises".
Why do bands still need professional recording studios?
The reasons are simple really, and you might
have already realized some of them. Although you can
affordably buy the greatest technology on the planet these days
for recording, there are several things you can't buy. Those
are: 1) You can't always buy the best microphones for
the right purpose, or know how to position them properly.
2) Even if you do get the right microphone in the right
position, is the way your amp or instrument set up optimized for
recording? Maybe not. Your killer "live"
setting or built-in pickup may present some significant problems
to the recording process. 3) Are all your members
isolated? Do they need to be? 4) Do you know how
to operate your recording software/hardware? How about
compression, limiting, appropriate effects and levels?
5) Do you REALLY understand what EQ is, does, and why and
when you need to use it? 6) Do you understand, and
have mastering capability? 7) Lastly, you can't buy an
experienced trained "ear".
Please email or give me a call if you have any
specific questions and to set up an appointment today!