Pre-Producing Music Will Save You Money, Energy, and Time.

Guide tracks / click tracks
I learned these things through experience and by reading articles by generous authors who share what they know on the internet. It's my turn to pay it forward.

“In the music industry, pre-production is a process whereby a recording artist spends time creating and refining their musical ideas. The artist thus produces a song's demo recording, or rough draft, in order to pre-establish the song's creative promise. This reduces the time and money spent in expensive studios. The goal is to enter into the major recording phase of production with the basic and most promising ideas having been already established.” - Wikipedia

Sure, recording can be done as simply as coming in the studio, pressing record, then leaving, but it doesn't always work when a team (of bandmates, producers, engineers) is involved.

It is important to prepare because not everyone is as familiar with the song as the songwriter is, and let’s face it, not everyone can record a flawless performance in just one take. The point is to put everyone on the same page. Hence, time is invested on rehearsals, pre-production, and even retakes. Not just on the actual recording.

Let us zoom in on pre-production. Because it magically makes the recording day less intimidating.

You want your record to be an accurate representation of what your song is supposed to be. You want the record to have the right tempo, and to have the same satisfying feeling that you felt while jamming it. That kind of satisfaction is difficult to achieve by curing flaws in the editing phase, which lots of artists think is okay to do. Prevention is better than cure, that is why “PRE-production” exists.

Pre-production is like making a prototype for the final product. It is like drawing on paper what you want your carpenter to do.

In pre production, a draft is recorded for two main purposes - to act as guide for the drummer (or whoever will record first) because it is difficult and not fun to worry about forgetting what comes after the second chorus (or any part) while recording, and to serve as a listening material to see if anything needs to be changed before the full scale recording. It is also in pre-production that the tempo is set.

Basically, pre-production is a light recording, where mistakes are allowed as long as it is tight with the tempo, or at least not too wonky to the point of beating the purpose. It should make everyone agree that “these are the parts of the songs in order, this is how fast the tempo should be.” before you sweat it out for real.

The draft files that you have recorded will then be laid out on the file of your “real” recording to serve as guide for everyone. Some call it "click tracks" since it comes with clicks from the metronome.

Thanks to click tracks, no more forgetting of parts, and with pre-production, it is easier to know whom to point your fingers to when something sounds out of tempo. Blaming is a sport inside a studio you know.

Though completely optional, you’d be amazed by how better life becomes when you pre-produce. Established ideas make the future recording sessions faster, hence, pre production will save you money, energy that is supposed to be spent on being creative, and studio time.

Pre production will only take hours or less. For some very meticulous artists, it may take months. It can actually be just a recording on your phone in a rehearsal studio, or anywhere. I've actually done a successful pre-production where a vocalist mouths the instrumental part because some of his band mates were absent. It sounds funny of course, but it works.

Will talk about recording here. Stay tuned.

- Luis Azcona

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