We’ve talked a lot about various topics in the time I’ve been writing this blog, everything from preamps to reverb, compressors to guitar tone, but improving as a producer isn’t all just in knowing how to use certain gear or how to imprint your sound on the artists’ work.
One of the more profound things I found to make sure clients returned time after time, is to make sure you’re indispensable from start to finish.
The key is establishing the starting point.
Let's dive in.
What is preproduction?
Simply put, it’s the plan. Sessions are can be extensive and in most cases there’s not just one song, so there's a lot to establish before hitting the record button. Where do you start? Well, I like to make sure I have a good idea of the vision of the artist - this could simply be references to bands they’re influenced by, the genre of the tracks, or deeper with the meaning behind the song to make sure you are able to keep the vibe in mind for making the right choices in microphones or instrument choice to help embellish that mood further.
Making sure you have an understanding of the composition arrangement is imperative as well. Having a good song from the get go is the best way to make sure a release is going to be successful.
You want to ensure that everything you do to that song is only going to help the listener enjoy it and hopefully make them want to turn it up, so it’s your job to help the artist in the preproduction phase to make any last minute adjustments to bring the track to life; this could be a multitude of different things - the type of guitar, the types of tones, the drum choices, the cymbal choices.
Why is this important?
Imagine you’re asking a contractor to build you a house. You negotiate the day rate and overall cost for labour. But before anything is even bought you’ll need to decide on the basic details of almost everything - are you having a bath or a shower (or both)? How many rooms? The sizes? The colour scheme? Type of floors? Flat roof or traditional? Everything from the design to the materials being used needs to be discussed.
The same applies to a band’s production, and moreover making sure you have the basics of this done prior to them paying you per day will not only enhance your ability to work fluidly, but also help you maintain the client for the next time they’re looking to create a new record.
Pre-production doesn't just apply to the choices the band makes, its also down to the choices you make on behalf of them. What sonic qualities are you looking for?
This could be mic’ing techniques, or the types of drums heads you’re using. It could be the choice of spatial effects, or compression types you use. Everything needs to have some level of thought placed into it. The more you talk to the band about the sound they are hoping to achieve, the more research and time you can spend
planning to help your workflow and speed in the engineering phase and improve your mix, and in turn, the master.
If you’ve not been doing this so far, ask yourself how could this benefit you? Reflect on previous sessions where you’ve had to stop and think ‘how am I going to achieve this?’ and then the break in workflow, and in turn, the break in motivation that potentially stems from the band taking a short break and inevitably, lead to partial procrastination from one or more members?
I know this was a “light bulb” moment for me, so I’d love to know if you haven't been doing this, then when you start, if it has as much of an impact on you as it did with me!