Hey guys! I wanted to share with you some thoughts about one of the aspects of what I do as a music producer and something that I wish I would have learned earlier in my career. I went to the University of Central Florida (GO KNIGHTS!!!) and studied music production, more specifically, Digital Music as it pertains to digital medial and film. I want you to understand that my professors were amazing and I got to experience so many facets of recording in various digital media fields. That being said, None of this…I repeat…NONE OF THIS prepared me for my first paid recording session on my own.
I need to provide a little back story seeing that I have this problem or gift of internal monologue that seems to seep into every part of my life including conversion and writing. I still had my little interface and laptop setup from college and I was looking to upgrade to an audio interface that had more channel so that I could record more things at the same time. My wife had last her teaching job and we just bought a house so the only way that I could afford to upgrade was through a payment plan. With my wife’s blessing, I upgraded to a Digi003 rack and I thought I had made it to the big leagues. At the church that we attended for a little bit, I played keys for the youth and was approached by a couple of guys form the youth. During our conversation I had mentioned that I have a studio and was looking for band to record. They said that they were writing songs and were looking to record and we hit it off from there. I thought to myself, “I’m just that good, I got this.” My wife and I so needed this because we were in crisis financial and this project could pay our mortgage.
Remember that Digi003 that i purchased, I found out that I had to update my Pro Tools software so that it could communicate with my laptop. I went right to work to get that going and something incredibly awful occurs. The update crashes my laptop as well as corrupting my audio engine! Now I have a new interface that can’t communicate with my laptop and the old interface won’t work with my laptop either and worst of all, these guys are coming to record in 3 days! Long story short, with no cash at all I applied for a BestBuy credit card (probably one of the worst things I have done financially, but foreshadowing for a later blog) and purchased an iMac and crisis averted…for now…
All in all, I was able to record the band and they were actually really happy with the recording they got and even gave me a shout at the album release show. However, there are so many things that if I wasn’t caught up in crisis mode and settling, I could have done better.
The first thing that I teach beginning engineers and producers is to get it right at the source. This is before ever hitting record and laying down a track. I believe that this is why preproduction with a client is so important and often overlooked for various reasons (BUDGET…hmmmm….). In that preproduction session, you are working out song arrangements and ironing out all the kinks so that when it is time to record, you have all the ideas out in the open and you are choosing the best direction for the song as well as for the client. When produce for a client, I take on a collaborative approach. We are a team and we are going to bounce off ideas to one another. Every producer is going to put what I call their “sonic footprint” on your song, but at the end of the day, the client’s approval should be the final word.
With the first band I ever recorded for money, we didn’t have preproduction, so I had no clue how the sounded other than what their influences were. In that situation, I’m left shooting in the dark and hoping that everything turns out ok. That’s not really the direction you want to go with creating your sound as a producer. In the preproduction stage, you are making crucial decisions that can potentially make or break a song. There has been many times where a client has demoed a song for me and I will tweak some things and sometimes I don’t. It is so important to have your client demo out their song because now you are that second ear that can make adjustments if necessary so that the songs potential can reach another level.
From that point, if you are working with, say a singer songwriter, you can decide weather or not the song needs session musicians and what kinds. You can also start figure out together what references and influences they might have (SUPER IMPORTANT). At the end of the day, as a producer, your goal is to get on the same wavelength with client as soon as possible so that when it is time to record, the only surprises are the good ones.
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