What is Pre-production?

Pre-production might be the best ‘bang for buck’ service that producers offer, yet it’s sometimes the most overlooked. The goal of prepro is to prepare as much as possible for the recording process, aiming to get the best possible results in line with the artist’s vision.

It is incredibly helpful to have creative and technical input on your music from your producer so that suggestions can be made, and issues ironed out prior to recording. Prepro is in no way meant to be a critique of your music, rather taking a good thing and making it better! There is no substitute for objectivity, so the ears and experience of your producer is a fantastic way to help bring out the full potential of a recording artist.

It’s important to get everyone (especially all band members!) on the same page by asking the all important question: What are you trying to achieve with this recording? The answer to this will help to frame every other decision you make throughout the whole process.

The extent of prepro varies hugely. It can include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Discussing instrumentation and planning the recording session accordingly. I may have some ideas for extra layers/parts, or suggestions of how we may tweak your current instrumentation for the improvement of the end result (ie. moving a piano part up an octave to make room for a vocal or guitar part);
  • Making suggestions about the song structure to help keep the song dynamic and interesting throughout;
  • Creating demo guide tracks for most instruments, so that we have a really clear idea of the full picture from day 1 of recording;
  • Making suggestions about lyrics, refining where possible (such an important aspect of your songs – let’s get it perfect!!);
  • Giving advice to musicians specific to the recording process, so they have time to practice in advance. For example, advising drummers to raise their cymbals if they hit the cymbals disproportionately hard over the drums, or advising guitarists to have their guitar set up for heavier strings if they are using tunings which gives tuning instability.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to prepro. Each artist and song requires a tailored version of the above, so if any of this doesn’t sound like it suits you or your music, then don’t worry, as it doesn’t need to be included. Remembering the primary goal is to help get the best results in line with your requirements, so at no point will an artist be overruled or shut down creatively.

Are you an artist recording yourself at home, looking to have your tracks professionally mixed? Then all the more reason to do prepro for your project! In this case, a prepro session is especially useful as a producer can advise on recording techniques specific to you, your equipment and your limitations. Their advice on arrangement can also give the ‘producers touch’ that you’d otherwise lack by recording at home.

It is possible to spend hours fixating over whether or not there is 1db too much 5khz in your snare drum, or if the perfect 4th or 5th sound better in the 8th note vocal run you’re recording. Those hours, when put into bigger priorities (such as making sure you have a good song!) are infinitely more valuable than when put into minutia. My mother has never said ‘Jake, I love the transient of your kick drum!’, but she’s definitely said ‘That chorus sucks’. Take that for what it’s worth!

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