Just this week I started working on an EP I’m producing for an artist friend of mine named Whitney Winkler. She’s ridiculously talented, and I’m very excited about the project.

Once you’ve locked in a project, what do you do next? Schedule a recording session and start tracking guitars, drums, etc.?

Slow down, turbo. You’re getting ahead of yourself.

Don’t forget about Pre-Production.

Are you familiar with pre-production? Do you do pre-production on your projects? Do you think it’s dorky? Let me tell you why I think pre-production is just as important — if not MORE important — than the recording, editing, and mixing stages of the pre-production process.

Aside from that, pre-production is fun.

So what IS pre-production?

Pre-production is simply the planning process for the album. It’s the part where you analyze the song(s) and decide on things like tempo, arrangement, and instrumentation. I cover all of this in-depth in Week 1 of the Production Club.

The whole idea behind pre-production is giving yourself a sense of direction. If you dive headlong into a recording project without every giving any serious thought into what you want the end result to sound like, you’ll likely waste a lot of time in the studio trying to figure it out. Or even worse, you’ll want to make major changes to the arrangement of a song after you’ve already recorded a lot of the parts. It’s back to the drawing board…

I don’t think anyone would disagree that having a plan is always a good idea, so I won’t harp on that anymore.

“Pre-Producers” Have More Fun

What I love about pre-production is how fun it is. The possibilities are endless. You’ve not yet committed to anything, so can make all the changes you want.

Pre-production is heart of the record. It’s where you decide what you want the song to sound like. The rest of the recording process is simply working out how to make that vision into a reality.

So, back to the EP I’m producing. Whitney actually lives in Kentucky, about an hour and a half away, so we can’t just get together to work on the music very easily. So…my wife and I had her and her husband over for dinner.

After dinner, I ran to the studio, grabbed a mic and a long mic cable, and set the mic in the middle of our living room. Whitney pulled out her guitar, sat on the floor and played through each of the songs. I recorded everything in Pro Tools.

Is the sound quality amazing? Nah. But her performance was. She’s so talented, and having her play and sing her songs in a comfortable environment like that was the perfect way to kick off the recording process.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be listening to these songs over and over, in their raw, natural form. By the time we have our first tracking session, I’ll have a notebook full of ideas for each song, and I’ll have a very specific plan for how I want to approach each song.

That’s not to say things can’t change during the recording process. I’m sure we’ll come up with things to add as we get further down the road, but having a plan and a vision will help guide our efforts.

You can never go back once you start adding all sorts of stuff to a song. Be sure to spend some time with the song in its purest form before you start adding all sorts of stuff to it. You’ll be glad you did.

What do you think? What pre-production steps do you take? Leave a comment below. I’ll need at least 10 comments before I post tomorrow’s podcast. 🙂

Note: I know that yesterday I promised a video tour of my studio…well…yesterday my iMac died, so my studio is in disarray right now. Once it’s all up and running, I promise I’ll post something.

[Photo by WorldIslandInfo.com]