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Cone flowers

Flowers seek sunshine

Just like a beautiful flower, strive for a place in the sun for your music.

That will mean taking care of a number of details ahead of recording.  That’s the essence of pre-production.  Plan and be prepared to record.

You’ll want to decide how fast a song should be, and what key suits the singer.  You’ll want to know whether this needs to be broadcast-quality for your release, or whether it’s a demo designed to flesh out your idea before doing a full production.

These days you can normally re-use elements from a demo in the main event, if you record that way, and if you have not changed tempo or key too dramatically for modern software to conform to your final version of the record.

The genre is typically suggested by the song as you write it, but it’s definitely true that well-written songs will work well in multiple genres.

So, there are a number of things your pre-prodcuction process should take care of.

First you need to picture your finished recording in your mind’s ear, and decide where in the marketplace it might fit.  Visualize the end product as best you can.  How long will the song structure be?  Is it suitable to be played on college radio, or national radio?  Is it aimed at adults, or are you trying to reach younger listeners?

Next, you want to find something about your recording that is different from the norm in the genre you choose.  Ideally, you would find a new hook or a new lyric approach or different sonics.  If tracks are often densely arranged in that genre, maybe the instrumentation could be much more sparse to sound like the genre but more starkly arranged, therefore different.

Being original is important to success because it makes people happy to have found you, and new fans can be made.

Following on from this, you should imagine the instrumentation in as much detail as you can and decide how you will create it yourself in your recording sessions.  If you need a piccolo trumpet, will it be a synth artificially impersonating one, or an actual human being playing a real Bach trumpet?  Either way, you will need to take steps to realize the recording of that sound.

Ideally you can play all the instruments you need yourself, but few of us are that talented and, even if we are, we may not have that many instruments on hand.  Teamwork is helpful and usually necessary.

Sony DMX R-100 digital audio console (partial view)

Sony DMX R-100 digital audio console (partial view)

It’s important to have some strategic plan for proceeding on an orderly basis.  You can’t rely on luck to produce a good recording.  Planning will give you the best chance of success in your recordings.  The more you do it, the more you will appreciate the importance of adequate planning.  Tidy desk, tidy mind, they say.  Something like that applies to pre-production.  Get a good outcome by being well-prepared.

The last thing I would say is really, really important to take care of is to ensure adequate notes are taken throughout the process.  There are legal and organizational reasons to do this, but it also means that you and your colleagues (both present and future) have a faster, easier time of things working with your music.  It also helps to ensure everyone is properly credited, properly paid or otherwise acknowledged and recompensed, and that litigation risks are minimized.

Enjoy pre-production – this is where the ideas take shape.  It’s fun!

Please do join me tomorrow for a useful pre-production checklist.  It’s very handy to have a checklist with such a complex and nuanced task as pre-production, you know!  See you tomorrow.

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dream beautiful music tonight