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110: The Real Reason For Why You Should Do Pre-Production

What exactly are you doing when you're "demoing" or doing pre-production? 

More...

Are you capturing ideas? Working on the songs? Refining the arrangements? Recording scratch tracks?

All of that is fine and important, but the time you spend working on the songs and recording demos is actually still part of the writing process, while pre-production is a whole other step on the journey to a final record.

The songs and arrangements should be finished (or close to finished) at this point, because there's still a lot more to do and to focus on in pre-pro than just capturing scratch tracks.

So let's chat about the real reason(s) to doing pre-production, as people tend to either treat it as a part of the writing process or just as being about laying down tracks to record to.

These "real reasons" include

  • testing a recording style
  • testing tone approaches
  • experimenting with certain techniques
  • testing your band's ability
  • comparing gear

and more.

But they are all there to help you answer one single question: 

Are we truly ready to record, so that we can focus 100% on the performance when we're in the session?

Let's go!

Book A Free Feedback Call With Benedikt:


This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.


Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 110 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

[00:00:00] Malcom: oh, we hadn't been thinking about considering that. And, it could change how you go about demoing. It could change how you go about making your actual album in the end. it can change everything really. 

[00:00:28] Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I'm your host, Ty. And I'm here with my friend and co-host Macomb O flat. How are you? Meum

[00:00:37] Malcom: Hello? Hey Benny. How you doing, man? 

[00:00:39] Benedikt: I'm doing great. Thank you. Um, a little tired, but still good.

[00:00:44] Malcom: Yeah, me too. we we had daylight savings time. The, the time change over here in Canada, which you don't have in Germany, I guess, because every single time you do. is, is it a different day? 

[00:00:59] Benedikt: Yep. It [00:01:00] is. Uh, all right. Are we oh like that again? I wasn't aware. Yeah, it is a different day. I wasn't aware that you already changed.

[00:01:09] Malcom: Yeah. Yes. Yes. So this listeners, this happens this conversation between Benny and I happens every time. and what happens is time change happens and I either show up early or late, uh, at an early, I guess. Um, yeah, so I was there an hour early for our call today and we scheduled this episode that happened early because of some scheduling stuff we needed to, we both have today. And so I was just. I was way too early. I was like an hour and a half early, uh, in, in our, from our normal podcast time, 

[00:01:41] Benedikt: oh God. No, I was, I had no idea.

[00:01:44] Malcom: no, no. Okay. Well that's all right. I had lots of coffee already, so we should be good. 

[00:01:49] I just can't believe every time it happens, I don't think, oh, I gotta message Benny and make we're on the same page. Or just look up the time in Germany, on Google 

[00:01:58] Benedikt: Yeah, same. [00:02:00] It's gonna happen again soon when we switch back I 

[00:02:02] Malcom: Yep. 

[00:02:03] Benedikt: in a couple of weeks, 

[00:02:05] Malcom: these time changes are the biggest threat to the podcast. 

[00:02:08] Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Totally. Oh, damn. Yeah. So we're both tired, which is good. I just realized the intro that I always look the sentence that I always say in the beginning. I don't even think about this at this point anymore. I, I think you could just wake me up in the middle of the night and I can, I could say that sentence, like half asleep, because just so 

[00:02:27] automatic, 

[00:02:28] Malcom: That one's built in

[00:02:29] Benedikt: yeah, the question's shit worth. Just what happens after that? this is the question today. Um, So, but we still prepared something for you. And speaking about being prepared, this episode is gonna hopefully help you prepare for your next recording session. We've done some stuff on pre-pro in the past. I think there's a whole episode where we talk about why you're missing out. If you don't do pre-pro. Pre-pro stands for pre-production. And today in this episode, we're gonna dive deeper into one specific reason for why you should do [00:03:00] pre-production or record demos or whatever you wanna call the process. But before we do that, I wanna give you something else. Or I wanna tell you about something else that helps you prepare for the studio. You know, that we always talk about how important it is to have rent new strings on your instruments and tune them well. And like, you know that by now, if you're following the pocket for a while, Fresh strings , it's kind of a, it's become a trait mark in the community. I think so. Um, Anyway, we're break. Uh, we, we, we're big on that because out of tune guitars and old strings and all that, it's just something we come across all the time and it's something that doesn't have to happen. It's not necessary. There are ways around that. And one of the ways around that is of course, that we have launched that I've launched. Um, if you go to the surf recording, band.com/guitar setup. You can get access to a guitar setup masterclass with Diego Castillas. Diego was our, was our guest on the podcast in episode 47. I think he is a really awesome guitar tech, a very cool dude to hang with. And he's worked with bands like under [00:04:00] oath, Chromeo Smith smash mouth Buscocks, uh, produces like Colin Britain. Like he's done really, really cool things. He's worked with bands live and in the studio and he's helping them set that set their instruments up. Like he's. Setting intonation, setting the action, checking the neck relief, changing strings, all that. He's like the guy when it comes to that sort of stuff. And he did a complete video masterclass for the surf recording band that you can now get access to. It includes a two hour live workshop where he walks you through all the steps of like setting up a gig, hard from scratch. And then there's additionally, there's five modules where he goes through how to choose the right strings and gauges, how to. Stretch the strings properly, how to check the neck relief, how to adjust the action, how to adjust the intonation, all that. You also learn how to like even choosing the right tuner, cleaning and maintaining guitars, like all that is in that masterclass. So if you go to the surf recording, band.com/guitar setup, you can get access to that [00:05:00] right now. And it's gonna cost you're less than the cost of one professional setup. If you go to a professional for that. So. Might wanna check that out and then you'll be better prepared for your next guitar recording session.

[00:05:11] Malcom: Totally. I, I wanna speak to this. Diego is incredible. He he's like the kind of person I actively seek out for years without finding. And when, uh, Benny introduced us, it was like, yes, I needed this resource. He's he's so damn knowledgeable and just knows the pro standard of like every good tar recording trick out there. And uh, like I got an ever tuned last year and he was just. So helpful in helping me get that set up. Um, just even online, like, like we don't live in the same place we're you know, actually not that far away, he's just in LA I think. But, uh, it, it like just being able to get on a call with him and be like, what the hell's going on with this thing. He was like, oh, it's this, this and this. And I was like, easy done. Um, and then like going into a record, we were, you know, doing some drop tuning stuff and I was like, [00:06:00] Help me make sure my base can go this low. And he was like, get these strings. And I was like, Yes. Okay, great. That worked out awesome. He he's the best, but if you get this course, not only are you learning from that guy, you're like you're learning so that you can be equipped to, to handle these situations yourself from then on, which is pretty incredible. It's, it's nice having these skills in your own chested, like tools, you know, 

[00:06:24] Benedikt: Yes, totally agreed. It's so, so, so valuable. And also it was meant to be a bonus thing for our academy. Like the flagship recording course that we have, and Diego did this workshop there for our people. It was meant to be a one hour workshop. We went over two hours and people just loved it. And then Diego just over delivered and sent us these additional video modules, because he just wanted to show people the whole thing and he just didn't stop. And like, we don't, we didn't ask for this. He just wanted to do that. And it was so great that we said, like, we have to. Put this into a sort of, we make this available for everybody. And like people really, really got a lot of value out of it. And I had no idea that this is [00:07:00] gonna be so, so amazing, but also so popular, uh, in our community. And yeah, Diego has been a, a great resource since then. He's also in our community as answering questions there all the time, which I also think is really amazing. Like I've seen him. Make long comments in our Facebook group, uh, answering people's questions. So he's just amazing. People love him. People love his workshop and now he's back with a full course. So yeah. There's that 

[00:07:23] do it. 

[00:07:24] Malcom: I, I do wanna say I find it incredible that he just did this like, like on his own free will, without us being like, Hey, make us the scores. He was just like, I'm just gonna do it because I want to like Benny and I have both made courses and it's a lot of work. It is so much work and

[00:07:40] Benedikt: is.

[00:07:41] Malcom: and just to do it and be like, like he didn't. Yeah. He just went for it It's, it's so amazing that I kind of think that kind of shows what kind of person Diego is. And he's like an actionable person that can back up what he talks about. Um, and wasn't afraid to show it. He was like, I'll make a video. it's great. 

[00:07:59] Benedikt: [00:08:00] Exactly. Totally. All right. Let's jump into today's episode though. This was your idea, Malcolm, and I think it's great because, um, demoing and pre-production is, is an important thing to talk about, um, in and of itself. But this specific aspect of it today something that I have thought about a lot, but not in this way really, but I think it's great. We, we address it from that perspective. So can you give us a quick, um, introduction of the, the, what, why and how and stuff, what we're gonna do today?

[00:08:29] Malcom: Right. Yeah. absolutely. So, so the two words that are gonna get used a lot and are somewhat interchangeable is demos, demoing. Uh, And pre-production. And it's funny thinking about that. They're in my head, they mean different things actually, but I think to different people, these words mean different things. And that's really what this episode is about is pre-production or making demos, meaning different things to different people. Um, and there's actually many reasons to why you might want to. Do [00:09:00] some pre-production on your album before you go and actually cut the real thing. And the, the idea of this episode is that we wanna draw attention to those, those perks and, and different reasons you might decide to go do pre-production or, or demoing. To see if they might apply to you. It might give kind of unlock like, oh, we hadn't been thinking about considering that. And, and it could change how you go about demoing. It could change how you go about making your actual album in the end. It can change everything really. So funny enough, Benny and I, when we were kind of workshop this idea, we had like, we were coming from different perspectives of why people. Make demos. And for me, a lot of it was just getting the song down so they can hear it or, or making scratch tracks. Right. Um, I've definitely received a lot of demos. Quotation marks. If you're watching on YouTube, there's. The fingers, making funny ears, uh uh, is [00:10:00] like just a, a guitar and a vocal and that's their demo, but they're a full band and it's like, okay, well that's, I guess technically that's the song. Right. But, uh, it's not really accomplishing a lot. So in that case, it's just like, Hey, we made a demo and it's just a recording the song. Or it's just, this guitar is a scratch track and the band Anne's gonna play to it. That's the, the primary reason for laying this down. But the, this look at this. From a different angle. And I think the first one and probably the biggest one I wanna draw attention to is, uh, that you can treat demoing and pre-production as a, a test and experiment to determine your recording style case in point would be that I've gone into the studio with a band that wanted to record live off the floor or everything. Absolutely everything. And we went in, we set it all up. That takes a long time, by the way, setting up a full band, you, you know, baffling off amps or setting them up in different rooms, running headphones to different places, different mixes to the whole band at once. You know, it's really easy to, to blow a day on a good setup. And then [00:11:00] we click play and it was like, almost instantly. I was like, this isn't gonna work. We can't, we can't record the album like this. Like they're just not tight enough. And it's, uh, you know, maybe we need to work on the Mo the monitoring more. Maybe we just need to have more time to run it, but essentially if we'd done a pre-production run through of a live off the floor recording. We would've come to this determination much sooner. And, you know, we could have done that with like one mic on the drum, one mic on an amp, one mic on a vocal, you know, screw the backup vocals. We'll figure that out later, but like you could have done a bare minimum live off the floor, recording and, and figured out is this band able to record live, which is really hard by the way. So that like doing a test with the, how do we wanna record in mind is gonna really tell you a lot. Alternatively, if you record your demos by overdoing one instrument at a time, and it just doesn't sound like what you want, maybe you do need to be recording live, right? Maybe you're missing that. Looseness essentially is gonna come of it, but there's [00:12:00] like that looseness and gel, um, and a little bit more dynamic tempo thing happening from a live recording. Like the, this is something that just gets skipped over because people assume they're gonna do it one way or the other, but without actually doing it, you don't know if it's gonna work. Does that make sense? 

[00:12:15] Benedikt: Totally makes sense. Like, I, I feel you just, just, you just, you, sorry, you should just keep going because like you're on a roll there, like, uh, do it, uh, yeah. Makes 

[00:12:27] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean the, the other one that's really common for, for bands I've worked with is the, the desire to record live bed tracks. So like at least drums and bass together, if not one guitar maybe, or keys or something. Um, and then over dubbing, you know, Extra guitars and, and getting that like stereo doubled guitarist thing, going and doubled, and then overdoing vocals, which this, this is a really, if you're a tight band, this is like such a time saver. Um, And you can have the rest of the band set up to be workshop in the songs as you're going [00:13:00] with the intention of only keeping drums and bass, maybe kind of thing. And, and if you're tight enough to put of that off, That's fantastic. It's kind of the best of both worlds, but again, gone into those two, uh, recording situations with this intent and figured out, okay. Like the drummer and the bass player, aren't really on the same page. So this isn't gonna work. Um, we're gonna have to record the bass to the drums so that we can changes parts to sync up better with the drummer, uh, or, or play tighter or whatever. Um, and maybe a. You might think, okay, well that's no big deal. You'll just redo the base as well. Let's just keep going with the bed tracking. But if they're not tight now they're actually probably causing the other person to play less tight. Right? Like they're getting in the way of each other. So that's just something you can't learn again, without setting up and trying to record that way. You have to give it a shot first. One more thing to add that we, I should have mentioned at the beginning. And this was an important clarification that Benny pointed out before we started [00:14:00] this episode, is that all demoing a pre-production should be recorded with the total possibility and likelihood that it will be thrown away. So awesome. If you can keep it and use it in the final album, but. Assume that you're gonna have to redo it, even if you're trying not to, uh, like it's this hard line to straddle because yeah. We want you to nail it and if you get it, it's like so cool and awesome that you just got it in one, try, you're saving a bunch of time and stuff, but really that's not the, the reason we're doing that. That is the, that is the lowest and the priority list is getting a keeper, um, thing that we can use in the final album. It it's all about everything else. 

[00:14:38] Benedikt: Yeah, totally. I even go, as far as, and I had this, this, uh, conversation with a lot of people, bands that I'm mixing for, or artists that I'm coaching, where. I even separated further. And you, you sort of do the same. You said the demo and pre-pro are sort of two different things for you. So for me, it's also, the first phase is where we focus on the song and we don't even care about like any [00:15:00] technical things. We just worry about like, if the song is good enough, what's the core progression, what's the melody then how do we go from that very basic thing to something that's fully inched in a full song. And then I. We don't care about the quality of the recording at this point could be a phone recording. Um, and then once we have a song, we go to um, the actual, like, we go away from the demo process, sort of to the pre-pro process where we prepare for the actual recording. So these are two steps and then we, and then still like we have recorded the demos and then we record the pre-pro and none them. Are supposed to be keepers. So we're actually recording twice and throwing it away, which is confusing to people because they are like, well, I've started with this idea and then I edited another thing. And now I'm like, I already started kind of mixing it and now I wanna finish it. So why would I wanna start over again? And I'm a big fan of like, Having separate steps and because it's also different mindset, like you shouldn't be worried about like tweaking the cue of the compressor when you're actually focusing on is the, the, the core is like, good [00:16:00] enough, does it connect? How does it feel? You know, or when you, when you're trying to figure out what you need on your monitors, or if you need a click or not, or if you wanna play live or not, or which whom you're gonna use or technical things you need to prepare for the session. It's you probably shouldn't go back and try to rearrange the song while you're doing that. Or you shouldn't think ahead and try to pick the right whatever reverb or something, you know, this, uh, distinct, separate processes to me and you, I feel like you should go deeper in each phase and not like broad and do everything at the same time. So. Yeah, it's not about capturing something that you use on the final recording sometimes though it can't happen. So, I mean, Sometimes magic happens while you're recording demos or pre-pro and if that's the case fine, but it's not the goal and it's totally normal to record something just for demo purposes and then just for pre-pro purposes and then just throwing it away. And then you go into the actual session and that's the goal of this all. If you go into the actual session, the song is ready, you know what you wanna record and how [00:17:00] you want it to sound and who is gonna do what and what you wanna hear on your monitors and like all these things. You go into the session and all you focus on is like performance. You focus on delivering the best possible take because everything else has already been taken care of. That's the whole reason behind this. And, uh, yeah. And, um, I, I'm glad we're doing this episode today because you're right, Malcolm, that, that it's different for, for different people. Some people skip the first part and only do the technical preparation and they don't really refine the song. I other people. Work on the song a lot and maybe even record and demo it, but then they skip the technical part and then they are stuck in the session trying to figure out all these things that they should have figured out before. So, and that's why we do this episode today. Um, both of those things should be addressed before the actual session. And then when you go into the studio or in your own studio, you're prepared and you should treat your own recording session. I feel like you should treat that, uh, like you've booked an expensive external studio because what happens there is you gotta. Be prepared because otherwise it's gonna be a waste of everybody's time and money and it could even [00:18:00] happen. And I've done that in the past that the producer or engineer engineer is gonna send you home and say like, like prepare and then come back because this is just the waste, you know? So you should treat your session, um, like that, I think. And that includes all the technical things that Malcolm started to talk about in these episodes. So do you wanna record live or not? You wanna yeah, like. Hear a click, um, who, who needs to hear the click? Do you need any scratch tracks? Uh, do you like all these things? This is, um, testing the recording style. This is part of, of pre-production.

[00:18:31] Malcom: Told that. Yeah. Um, yeah, like the click, that's a great one. Often beginner bands want to record without a click and, and, and, you know, experienced bands do this occasionally too. So it's not there's there's no, it's not wrong to record without a click, but often people are trying to do it for the wrong reason. Um, so I. That, that mistake classically gets found out after a band, does it and releases it. And they're like, wow, that's pretty loose. It's like, Yeah. you didn't record to a click obviously. And [00:19:00] you're not very tight. this is the problem. Um, and yeah, it should have been found out in the, the pre-production testing period of like, let's see how it sounds when we record to a click versus not to a click. Let's a B these right sonically. There's also huge advantages. Uh, So actually, you know, back it up, back in the day before anybody had home studios, Bands would book, they would still record demos, throw away demos. They'd go into the studio and record demos and then end up going and recuting them for, for their, their final masters. Um, so you, now you don't have to book a studio to do this, which is amazing. Um, you don't have to book a studio to do either step now, which, which if you have, you know, what we're talking about in this hire podcast, um, and, and that's really cool, but you still want to kind of have that. That stage. Um, and now from a song standpoint, if you're recording with your own gear, you have to find out if your gear can actually achieve what you want. Right. So if you want this [00:20:00] larger than life I don't know. I. I can't even think , this is the daily savings time hitting me, but it like essentially you have to record your song with what you have and then if whatever doesn't sound like you want it to not, not exactly we're talking big picture, you know? Um, but like if, if you only have electronic drums and, and you want a very natural drum sound. You have to address that now and now you've done the test to see what's possible with your available drum sounds right. And, and if that doesn't fit what you're aiming for, you now know, okay, we're gonna have to cut drums in a different space. We're gonna have to rent mics and do a live drum kit or hire a, a remote studio drummer, something like that at you. You've now exhausted what you have. And know what you have to change. Maybe you're like, you know, Mike fender Strat just does not sound like ales Paul. So we're gonna have to get ales Paul and recut the guitars. All of that stuff is going to really inform how the recording [00:21:00] turns out when you do the real thing. 

[00:21:01] Benedikt: Yes. Yes, totally. And you know, the important part of this is also, you have to try and, and you have to be honest with yourself and you have to be willing to try and willing to accept the. Know that, that, that maybe what happens is not what you want it to happen. So maybe you, you think our room is gonna be fine and it's like, we we'll, we'll get it to work here. And, and we, we don't want to go somewhere else. It's just a hassle and we don't wanna do that, but maybe. You're just wanting to, to, yeah. Maybe you just wanna go the easy way and, and you wanna, you don't wanna compare and you don't wanna admit that it's actually be better to be go to a bigger room or maybe you think the guitar you have is fine and you instead of borrowing another one and trying, and really comparing you, just talk yourself into using the one. That you have because you don't. Yeah. You, you already made that decision before even comparing basically. That's what I'm trying to say. So it takes, you know, you gotta be, you gotta be honest with yourself and you gotta do the experiment and then you [00:22:00] gotta do what's right for the record, even if, if that's the uncomfortable option That includes things like we always, like there's, can't be, I can't be an episode without it, but we always talk about it. So, uh, fresh strings, it could be that you think those, the strings you have on your guitar are good and you've just changed them two weeks ago or whatever. And then you think you'll be fine. I. But maybe do the comparison. Maybe just change them once to so that you see what the difference is. And then if you're really honest, you'll notice that the new ones sound better and then you have to use them. Right. But if you don't even compare, if you don't use pre-pro to test these things, you'll be tricking yourself into thinking that that it's gonna be fine when, and you don't even know what it, what it would sound like if you did the 

[00:22:41] experiment. 

[00:22:42] I had this today. I got an, I got an email today from a mixing, um, from an artist that I'm mixing for. Who hired a bunch of really awesome musicians or, uh, for his next, um, album that I'm mixing. So he is a solo artist, but he's hiring musicians. And one of them is a bass player. And I won't mention any names here, but he's a bass player and I, I know [00:23:00] that person and he's really great. He's an amazing bass player. Really, really good. Uh, I've mixed for his band live when, back when I did live sound also. And, um, yeah, great bands. Great, great dude, great bass player. And I was really surprised to read, um, what I got, what I read today because. The artist I'm mixing, sent me an email saying that the bass player said he doesn't want to change strings because I think in my checklist it says like, please, um, use fresh strings. And like, he was like, he doesn't, he says he doesn't want to put on your strings and I don't know what to do now because he's a professional and he's really great. And I think he knows what he's doing, but you keep telling me that fresh strings are better. So what should I do? and it honestly was kind of tough for me because I thought like, well, that guy is really good and. I've heard records he's played on and it sounds good. So I'm kind of hesitant to tell him what to do sort of, but at the same time, I just know that even this guy would sound better probably with new strengths. And the reason I bring it up is the easy way to figure that out is you do pre-pro you compare it and then you'll see if [00:24:00] for that specific song or record in that context. Is it better to use new strings or the ones he is on his base. So that way we don't have to make a decision based on what we think is right. We can just hear it and then say, that sounds better. And I'm the first one to admit if his old strings sound better with the way he plays and the song and everything. And if he's right, then I'm the first one to say, let's go with the old strings. But I wanna hear it. I wanna, I wanna do that, you know, that extra step and do the comparison do proper pre-pro because I don't wanna go into a session thinking that what we did is maybe right. But I wanna know that this is the right decision and that's what pre-pro is for. So it's very easy to just do the test and then say, okay, this actually sounds better. We all have to admit it. Let's go.

[00:24:40] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. This is again. I think most people listening to this, don't think they're doing pre-production to discover problems. Right. They, they just think they're doing pre-pro to lay down the song and, and the, the, the like drawing attention to the problems that in your setup is, is so crucial. You might find that your vocals sound like an echo chamber because you've been using [00:25:00] your shower to record vocals or something. You know, it's like, oh, this is isn't working. Now we have to pivot. We have to change. Um, or maybe, you know, that that could inform Mike choice. It could inform anything. Um, and everything really. So just a, a, a benefit that's hugely helpful and shouldn't be overlooked to why you should be doing proper demoing. And pre-production. The third one on our list is a fun one. That again, totally gets overlooked. And it is that doing proper pre-production and demoing and puts your. Band mates on pretty much like on the testing grounds, it's like, can they actually perform these parts to the level we need? Um, and there's nothing more valuable than this because if your band mates can't do it, you have to find somebody that can, or you have to find a heck of an engineer. um, and, and really you, it's not, that's not the right solution. You wanna find somebody that can play it. so. Speaking from my own experience and Benny I'm sure you've had [00:26:00] this too band shows up. They haven't done any real demo in pre-production. So they just assume that everybody can shred the parts. And then the whole thing falls apart. Drummer can't play to a click track. Uh, bass player can play to a click track, but not to the drums. I dunno, uh, guitarist is just horribly out tune in anytime they play a bar chord or something, you know, like they just can't fret a bar chord in tune. Um, and going back to gear, maybe the guitars. Guitar skier is just not intonated, you know, like it, there's this, huge opportunity to find out that you've got a problem that will literally destroy your recording before you go into the the real thing. Um, and, and invest time and money or. Yeah, really? Those are the two things you're you're spending. Um, you know, it's funny when I say this stuff, I, I keep kind of like in my head, it's like before you go spend time and money in buying a recording, SP or renting a recording space to like cut an album or paying a producer or something, but it's the same thing with your own time. You're still spending everybody's time and money, um, [00:27:00] with doing it at your own. So. just. Like you want to discover these things as soon as you can. Um, and it's much better. I think you'd all agree for your band's ego. If you find out early and then tell your drummer, for example, picking on drummers today, if you, uh, then were to tell your 

[00:27:16] Benedikt: basis. So. 

[00:27:16] Malcom: No. Yeah. uh, You got to, you've got to practice to a click before we can cut this song. Like we have to, we have to fix this and let's do it now and give you some time. Whereas if it happens on the day, again, using the actual like studio session, as an example, might have to fire the drummer. You know. Or might have to, to program it or, or just do all sorts of wizardry that ends up really upsetting that drummer. I've had, I don't know if I've had, but I've heard of people quitting the band after a session because, like they didn't feel valued, but in reality, they couldn't play the part. So like, it's not the situation you want. You all want to be friends and having fun. So you have to [00:28:00] address these issues in advance. 

[00:28:02] Benedikt: Yep. 

[00:28:02] Malcom: and the only way to do that's by finding out, you know, you, you have to find out. 

[00:28:06] Benedikt: Absolutely. Totally. You have to. Yeah, you have to find out. You have to try. Um, so quick recap is like, uh, the recording style is point is number one that we had here. Like, do you wanna record live or not? Um, Testing tone approaches is number two. Like um, which gear you wanna use? Does the gear have give you the result you're looking for? If not, uh, what's need what needs to be done to achieve it. And then testing your band's ability, um, which includes people being able to play their parts or being able to play a click to click. Uh, and that can just mean you don't have to fire people. You can just like practice more and like, Come up with a different schedule and be like, okay, we can, we need to simplify these songs or we need to practice more. We need to rearrange things. You know, that there's always a solution usually. And, uh, yeah, it's all about doing these tests before, when there's no pressure and not a stressful like studio [00:29:00] situation. And even though you're recording yourself, you might think like that's, that's not a stressful situation, but it can still be, it's still, as you said, Malcolm, a waste of everybody's time. And also the most important thing to me is you wanna be able to focus on the performance on the task at hand, which is deliver the best possible take. And that's why you should be, uh, addressing all, all the other stuff before the session. So, yeah. What else can we say about this? Like what I I'm interested in. One thing that I wanted to ask you when it comes to testing tone approaches. So yeah, te uh, trying out different gear or seeing if the gear you have will do the job is one thing, but also, do you, do, do you go as far as like trying different mic positions or micing techniques, or like more specific recording techniques during pre-pro or do you do all of that in the actual recording session? Or like the day before or something like that?

[00:29:50] Malcom: Yeah. I mean, I'm, I'm kind of split down the middle on that? It certainly couldn't hurt. I'm, I think I'm more prone to the idea of using dependable [00:30:00] baseline strategies. Um, so for example, just like being, like, if I record a di and use like a great, like neural, DSB a SIM the guitar, tone's gonna be pretty solid, we're gonna have a good demo and, and, and it's gonna on great. Um, as long as that solution gets you in the ballpark of what you're aiming for, you know, so if. You need a 51 50 sounding guitar tone, which is quite a sound, um, and whatever plugin you have, doesn't have that. That's not a good idea. I think you then need to, you know, you need to find a 51 50 or something that sounds like it. Right? So always within the ballpark, but not necessarily the thing. But if there was some people kind of do geek go to on this and they're like, I need my drums to be, uh, in like what's that, uh, led Zeppelin setup called, 

[00:30:47] Benedikt: Bonham? No, no. Bonham is drummer.

[00:30:49] Malcom: the. Yeah. Yeah. The Glen Johns. Yeah, the Glen Johns micing technique. And it's like, okay, that sounds cool. It doesn't sound like the modern [00:31:00] rock album that I'm here. You guys sound like Nickelback when you write your song. So that seems odd that you want that, but let's try it. And then you'll discover that maybe it's not right. That happens all the time. People get an idea and. And the, the easiest way to convince some otherwise is to show them 

[00:31:16] Benedikt: Yeah, 

[00:31:16] Malcom: um, if, and if you can, right. Um, and, and, you know, maybe they're totally right. I I'm such a, a snarky guy sometimes, but they, they could be totally. right.

[00:31:25] Benedikt: Yeah, same here. Same.

[00:31:27] Malcom: uh, I don't know why my Monday attitudes, like no, you're wrong. there's no reason to say that. Um, 

[00:31:33] Benedikt: yeah. There is 

[00:31:34] a theme 

[00:31:34] Malcom: Jones is awesome. It's totally awesome. 

[00:31:36] Benedikt: Yeah, but there is, there is, uh, some, some, I mean, I think we, we spotted patterns there over the years where people try just they, and I mean, it's not their fault in a way, like they just don't know. And you know, so they, they see something online in a video or they hear something on a podcast might be ours and they hear something, or somebody tells them about something or they read that they're or favorites, artists or engineer did something. And then they wanna [00:32:00] try that themselves because they. It's interesting to them. It's something new it's maybe somebody used it that they admire and they, they can't see why that wouldn't work in their situation. And I mean, they're not, musicians are not professional producers or engineers, so how could they know? And then that, that idea sort of, they have that in their minds and they think it's, it's great for every situation or for their record. And until. You try it and compare it with another method. You, there's no way you can, you can tell. Right. So, um, I think that's just a, a thing that, that keeps happening. So sometimes they are right. Sometimes it is a really great idea, even though it's unconventional, but oftentimes it's just something you read. And, and I did that in the past as well. Like you read something, you had really excited about it. You think that's the game changer. That's gonna change the way you record being sound forever, and then you try it and then. You wonder why things don't sound better. and then you, you know, and you keep coming back to, to the same things for certain situations, that's just a process that's totally normal, but important is that you always compare and experiment and try and then decide and do an honest, like [00:33:00] the, the ideal situation would be a blind test even where you don't know what the options are. And then just pick the one that works better. 

[00:33:08] Malcom: Yeah. 

[00:33:09] Yeah. And, and, you know, the, it's funny thinking about this, the opposite could be argued to what I said, where I I'm like play it safe, you know, for guitars use a di and an apps. You're gonna get something really solid that's, uh, usable and, and like editable and salvageable. And, and I think probably has the biggest chance to getting used in the final product. Again, that's not our priority. But. On the flip side, what a great opportunity to experiment and throw the kitchen sink at it and be like, what happens if I run my bass into a guitar app with a splitter, what happens? Right. And, and then you find like these little magic tricks, you know and you know, most, most of the time, those things will not work, but. Every once in a while they do. And that has happened where a band has come in and been like, this is the sound like, like, let me just trust me. I'm gonna set it [00:34:00] up like this and, and you're gonna record it. Like, it already sounds like it on the demo, in this case. But, but we're just gonna play it better. And I know how to get there already. It's a cocked wall into this fuzz pedal with my tone, roll off. And it's like, dang, that sounds exactly like what you said it would. Perfect. And you know, that experimenting that pre-production led us there. So, it, it's kind of, it goes both ways. Yeah. there's no right or wrong answer. It depends what you're trying to get. Are you trying to find like tone hunts ahead of the, the actual session or are you trying to get the song down and, and figure out musical ability and, and structure and stuff like that? I think, I guess it really depends on the specific circumstances of who's who's doing the pre-production. 

[00:34:40] Benedikt: Yeah. I think when it comes to these tone decisions, my approach is to the like very drastic, um, dis decisions, I, or like things that are gonna make a huge difference and are gonna. Be time consuming to try. I, I do those things during pre-pro just because there's no pressure and because I wanna get the recording session done, right. I wanna, [00:35:00] I wanna record the song. So when I'm, when I get to actually record the song, I will make sure that we actually record the song. And if so, if I do these big decisions that are time consuming and it require a lot of experimentation, if I do those in the actual set, we might not even finish the thing and that's not what I want. So I do these before. In pre-pro, but I still do some, some things in, in the recording session. So that might, so for example, I might shoot out five different kick drum mics during pre-pro until I know, or I might come up with a plan and I already think, I know what's gonna work. So, so that I know going into the session, what the kick drum sound that we're going for, what that actually sounds like. And, and, uh, I, I have sort of a way. That I can get this. And I'm, that might include like putting out a couple of mics, but in the session, I might still change the exact position. I might still re refine that, or I might use a different angle or I might add a second mic if I, if I feel like, Hmm, it's not the complete thing that I want. So things like that, or I might change, you know? Yeah. Things like that. So I, I, I [00:36:00] know going in the sound is that I wanna achieve, and I have a plan for that, that I know works, but I might tweak it a little bit in the session if I feel like. That day, I don't know, something needs to, to be added or it's not, not quite there yet, or so I don't do the whole engineering thing during pre-pro. I think that's also a waste of time, but I, the, the big decisions I make those beforehand it's similar to, I think of it as like, I just wanna make sure that the session is gonna happen and that we we're able to finish it. It's similar to when I, when I think of running the sports analogy there, when I do a long distance run, I can experiment with nutrition and stuff like that during training. And I have a lot of time and no pressure. And if I feel sick because I tried something new. Then it's not the end of the world. It's just a practice day, you know, but I absolutely don't wanna experiment with my nutrition on race day because that might mean I don't finish the race. Uh, if things go wrong. So, you know, I might, I might decide to take a little take in a little more, a little less. That's not the end of the world, but I don't decide the general approach on race [00:37:00] day. I do that before and then I can go into the race 

[00:37:02] Malcom: milk. We're gonna try chocolate milk for the race day here. Just a liter chocolate milk. 

[00:37:08] Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. That's the, that's the way . Yeah, exactly. So, um, Similar to that. I just wanna make sure we finish the race or we finish the, the session. We get things done. We can tweak it a little bit. And there's always room for like spontaneous, creative things and, and stuff. But the big decisions I wanna sort of make those before at least wanna know what we're trying to do. Basically. I don't wanna start from scratch. I don't wanna decide on the day if I'm gonna is room mics or not, or if I'm gonna put them, you know, like, You know, there's always room for experimentation, but I think that's, that's how you can, how I would approach it. And, and it's a little different, even in your situation as a self recording band. I always think of it from my producer's perspective, but if, as a self recording band, that's so easy and cool do, because you are likely doing pre-pro in the same room in the same spot that you're doing the actual session in. So if the room is right and you decided that that is the way to go, [00:38:00] then you can go pretty far during pre-pro without the pressure and you can experiment and then you can just. You can do that in what would you come up, um, with, in, in pre you can do that in the recording session. So you don't have to recreate that at a different studio, but. Yeah, you, you can do pretty much all the prep work and then really only focus on the performance, which is a big advantage, because if you do that in separate rooms, if you do pre-pro your own in your jam space, and then you go to a studio to record, um, not, not all of the things that you came up with in your experimenting are, might be applicable in that other room or with their gear or whatever, but it, you, you have that same situation. It's, it's the luxury that the luxury that big bands have when they rent a studio for. Weeks or months to do writing pre-pro and the recording in the same building, you know, you have that in your jam space.

[00:38:48] Malcom: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. It, it's a huge advantage and totally, yeah. These every little trick you learn is totally recreated down, down the road. Cause you're not going [00:39:00] anywhere. You don't, it's all living where you are. So that's, that's totally awesome. Yeah, I, I think this is maybe switching off our topic a little too much, but I'm gonna say it anyways. Cause I feel like it really is a good mindset hack to have for if you wanna be experimenting and, and Benny and I both being professional audio guys for years. If you want to be good at your job, you learn the fundamentals and you get really good at them, but you get really bored if that's all you do. And, and luckily though, that is the best way to experiment is like, get your fun fundamentals down. And then also in addition, have these weird experiments going running at the same time. You know, I'm not gonna risk throwing, uh, like that, that base example of throwing something out to a guitar amp and splitting it in the Octa pedal or something crazy like that. I'm not gonna bet all of my, like my whole base sound on that weird experiment that we're trying, which is probably gonna sound pH and terrible and not like Royal blood, everybody that thinks that's gonna on the blood. Uh, [00:40:00] What I'm gonna do is have that and experiment and try and get something really cool. Ah, hell yeah. But there's also gonna be that di there's also gonna be that traditional base capture with the drum kit. I'm not gonna just throw away my overheads because there happens to be symbols in some weird mono room on the, like in a different room in the building, you know, like it just. You have to still make sure all of the, the check marks are ticked and then experiment. And if that experiment pays off really cool, but if it doesn't, it's no, sweat, you can just delete the track or hide it or whatever. But getting those fundamentals down then experimenting. Totally, totally essential. I think same goes for vocals.

[00:40:39] Benedikt: Yeah.

[00:40:40] Malcom: All right. Now, are we off top quick enough that we should wrap this episode up?

[00:40:44] Benedikt: no, I'm think I'm thinking about I'm processing all these things. Uh, as I said before, I had a, a coaching call before this, before recording this episode. And then before that I was, uh, we were just preparing. Another, another amazing resource for you all? Um, [00:41:00] a mixing course that, uh, that's I think we can say that that we'll be out soon or maybe it is already out by the time you hear this episode. But, so there was a lot to, to process and, and a lot of talking and teaching today. So it takes me a while to follow all the things to say, but I'm, I'm totally with you. And, uh, yeah. I think we should wrap it, wrap it up because we, I think we got the main point across.

[00:41:22] Malcom: Yeah. totally. I, I don't know if anybody's noticed my voice cracking up on this episode, but it's because of making that course, that Benny just mentioned. I was talking so much for so many hours straight that my, my voice still hasn't recovered from it. 

[00:41:36] Benedikt: Yep. Um, true. True. I feel that. Okay, so. You know what, let us know how you approach this typically, because we're always interested in hearing what you do as a self recording band, because everybody's approach is different and maybe you need a completely different process or approach in order to be creative, or I don't know, maybe you come up with something that works for your band. Uh, let us know about that. If you go to the self recording [00:42:00] band.com/community, you can join our community on Facebook and, uh, There will be a discussion thread for this episode as always, or most of the time, sometimes I forget, but usually there will be one. And then, or if not, you can just create your own. And then let's discuss this because I always love to hear new approaches and I'm very open for different ways. If that is. What something that works for you. That's just our perspective from having worked with a lot of bands and from how you typically do it in the studio. And also from being in our own bands where we do did this. But again, sometimes I hear new things, new approaches from people that I, where I'm like, Hmm, interesting. That could work. So let us know, share that, go to the surf recording band.com/community. And tell us about your demoing and pre-pro process. And. Also, let us know if you have any questions about the technical part, because this episode should, is really about like, not the writing and arranging, but the technical part of it, like the preparing for the session. So if you have any questions on that specific questions, things you're struggling with, host [00:43:00] it in the community there, and somebody will jump in and help you. If not, we'll do it, or maybe we'll answer it on an episode anyway, let's, let's talk there. Let's discuss.

[00:43:10] Malcom: Yeah. Okay. You maybe think of one more thing we have to mention. 

[00:43:14] Benedikt: I knew it. I had a feeling, I had a 

[00:43:16] feeling 

[00:43:16] that. 

[00:43:16] Malcom: were free, but, uh, One more reason that you should be thinking about doing pre-production and demoing that you might not be considering is to find how you like to demo and do pre-production once you find the, like the process that clicks for your band, it's like you've discovered magic in a, like fire in a bottle or whatever that. saying is, and I can't remember on a I have no idea it's saying is right now it's magic in A. bottle, light lightning in a bottle. That's it. I still, why is it lightning in a bottle though? Why would you want that? Um, but 

[00:43:51] Benedikt: That

[00:43:51] Malcom: anyways, uh, it really is like, I remember with my band band of RAs, we went and did PPRO at a studio in our case. I have [00:44:00] the luxury of having access to studios. Um, and you know, we all had our own own headphones set up. We couldn't all record everything multi-track and demo in real time, be like, oh, let's try building into the course. Just play it, you know, we're just rolling. And then we just left with like this, the song updated multi-track to a click. All the time, like it was so awesome. So easy for us to immediately hear what we needed to hear in real time feedback that for us, that was like the ultimate pre-production method for other people. It's like a one person with their laptop and virtual instruments and like a di you know, and they just can create pretty much an entire album with that. And it it's totally dependent on you and your team and how you communicate best and what gives you the best results? So, so don't rule out that advantage of doing pre-production and, and that being a reason why you should experiment with pre-production too. You maybe just haven't found your like winning solution yet you're winning a mixture of, of processes that really lands you on what you need to create, like [00:45:00] magical music. 

[00:45:01] Benedikt: Yep. What was it? The flash and the pan? No, I 

[00:45:06] Malcom: Uh, flash in the pan, a magic in a bottle. 

[00:45:10] Benedikt: yeah. I, I totally agree. I agree. Uh, I think that that's value in just discovering that, like that process. Totally, totally 

[00:45:18] Malcom: awesome. Okay. Let's, let's wrap this up. I know we were meant to be done, uh, earlier, but, uh, 

[00:45:24] Benedikt: No, that that's totally cool. Yep. No, that's totally cool. So Thomas will hopefully make this a little shorter anyways. for you guys, but I think this is an important episode and I think there will be maybe there will be more on that, on that topic, not on the technical, but the other aspect of pre-pro because pre preparation is so, so, so important. right. a good one. Thank you so much for listen and, uh, talk to you next week. 

[00:45:47] Malcom: Thanks. Bye.


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