With todays technology people can write, record, produce, mix and press their own music all within the comforts of a laptop.
This is really great for facilitating exploration and allowing people to develop ideas quickly and on the fly, which I’m all for. A lot of this has also been brought over into recording and audio production facilities. Where recording technicians take on the role of mixing, mastering and everything in between. Which I also think is a great embracement of todays technology, and really pushes the boundaries for creativity when there is such a hybrid approach being taken between tasks during record making.
However I still see a lot of value in employing a more traditional step by step model when making a record, as it allows time to focus solely on each of the steps as you progress through to completion, especially on larger projects where you need to manage, time, costs and productivity more efficiently. (Pre-Production, Composition, Recording & Production, Editing, Mixing, Mastering)
For me their is one step that I think everyone should take upon separately before even scoring your first note when composing regardless of a hybrid or step by step approach and size of the project. This is pre-production. Pre-production is similar to setting up a master plan for a large project, a big brainstorm and plan of your goals for the music production and how to achieve them.
The following are some questions I’ve used when working one on one with artists to produce their EPs or Albums as it helps provide a solid outline for the project.
What is the objective of this production? (EP, Album, Single, Cinematic soundtrack etc)
What style of music? This is an important question as it will dictate the answer to a lot of the questions to follow.
Who will and how will it be scored or written? Written using computer scoring software(Sibelius), Written via rehearsals and collaboration within a musical group, composed by a songwriter, written in a DAW using MIDI?
What sound sources or instruments will be included on this record? An electronic record may employ the use of VSTi’s you may need to purchase, so you’d list software you’d be using or need to purchase for the record. If you’re recording live instruments, are there some parts you may need to employ session musicians to play?
Where will I record or produce the material? The answer to this is very much dictated by what style of music you’re planning to produce. If it’s electronic most likely your sound sources will be synthesized in the box or recorded from a hardware synthesizer. However for people looking to record live material picking a studio can be a tedious task. In Melbourne we’re fortunate enough to house a huge variety of recording facilities ranging in budget, size and expertise. Spend your time researching the facilities and finding out which is right for you.
How will the material be mixed? Will it be done on the fly during the recording stages due to budget? Is it something you’re going to implement into your production stage if you’re putting the record together in the box? Are you going to employ someone to work one on one with to mix the record for you?
This is another very important question to ask as it will heavily dictate your working structure when producing and recording.
How will the material be mastered and ready for publication? How will I release the record? (CD, Digital, Vinyl[Vinyl also dictates a lot of the production, mixing & mastering process], Tape) Will I send the record off to a mastering facility, and why? Will I master it myself, and why?
By answering these questions you should be able to put together a really strong timeline and budget for most music productions. I think a lot of these questions are never asks or formally documented when beginning to produce a record and often the answers get lost some way down the road. By doing some pre-production a lot of objectivity and fluency can be added to your music productions.