Have you ever wondered what a full music production encompasses? Whether it be a single song, EP or full album, the following points highlight the key components and common workflow:
The early stage of song conception can be both vague, highly focussed and intentional, or a combination of random musings or scribbles. It could be a brief note on your smartphone or an audio snippet you recorded whilst walking the dog. It could be a melody that popped into your head in the middle of the night and lyrics haphazardly written on a table napkin. Ultimately, this is the brainstorm stage and it’s always recommended to never lose those valuable snippets, because they can form the basis of your next masterpiece.
VISUALISE AND MATERIALISE
This is where the fundamentals of the song or melody are brought to life. It could be a few chords strummed on the guitar, a combination of singular synthesizer notes or acapella improvisation. This is where you begin to get a feel for what the song is going to ‘materialise’ into and sound like. This can also be where further inspiration strikes!
Once you have the core components (i.e. you may have an intro and a chorus) it’s now time to start formalising the structure of the song. It’s at this time you might consider the genre and start piecing together an arrangement that not only feels right, but works in context. Depending on how much material you have, it’s important to get a rough version down as quick as possible. The most prolific artists move quickly and tend not to overthink this stage, so that you can get to the next important step.
REHEARSAL & DEMO
You may find that these two elements can work alongside one another. If you are part of a band or group and have some basic recording equipment at your disposal (this might simply be a laptop, interface and one or two microphones) you could demo your song during the rehearsal phase. It’s amazing how certain aspects of a song can be glaringly obvious once you play it a few times and then listen back as objectively as possible. You may find the verses are bland, the chorus lacks dynamics or those two guitar solos you decided to add in don’t necessarily work! You can also stumble across unusual imperfections that become the signature part of the song (so elusive are these nuggets of gold that often attempts to replicate somehow appear contrived!).
So, you’ve now decided the song is going to be an official recording. By now, you have booked a studio or perhaps even hired a producer. Or perhaps you’re co-ordinating and recording the entire project yourself in your makeshift home studio. Pre-production is an important part of the overall planning process and can often make or break a successful recording session (or at the very least, prevent delays and make the session run smoothly). This step involves organising the finer details of the recording and often includes selection of equipment such as correct microphones, pre-amps, effects processors, instruments, amplifiers etc. It can also include coordinating and booking session musicians as required.
RECORDING & EDITING
The moment of truth! The work up to this point has likely been significant and it’s now time to hit the record button. Depending on your approach (and budget) it’s recommended to take your time and get this most critical stage as close to perfect as possible. Work to capture the best take, both in performance and sonically. The next two steps will yield far greater results if great care is taken at this stage.
It’s no secret that a mix can make or break the success of your track. Engaging the services of a professional mixing engineer can often transform your recording into something special. Often the objectivity and additional creative choices (and equipment) can bring multiple new dimensions to your song. In short, mixing involves carefully balancing each individual instrument/recorded track and implementing corrective EQ/compression and other various effects to bring the track to life.
This is the final stage where the final polish is added to the completed mix. Similar tools and processes are used and it’s also the stage where the audio is prepared appropriately for all listening formats and playback systems. Often at this stage, artwork/graphics and marketing material are also finalised (not necessarily by the mastering house of course).
RELEASE, DISTRIBUTE AND PROMOTE!
Devise a plan well in advance to launch your music. You may choose to book a launch gig if you are regularly playing live. Choose an appropriate distributor, there are a number of online options and it’s recommended to research the one that fits you best. Promote your release on social media, build a buzz in advance and give yourself the best shot at success!
If you’re an experienced songwriter and studio veteran, I’m sure you will appreciate that the above points only scratch the surface of the entire production process. If you’re a newbie, I hope this gives you a framework that assists in your own progress and workflow when crafting your productions. It’s always important to remember that everything is always a work in progress and the end product is realised the moment you decide your project is complete! There are no rules and creativity should always win.
Until next time,