#15: If You’re Not Doing Pre-Production, You’re Missing Out!

Pre Production

Pre-production is critical to the success of your record. It's an essential part of preparing yourself, your songs and your setup for the actual recording process.

Only after pre-production will you really know if your arrangements work, if the songs are ready, if your music connects and has the desired emotional impact, if everyone can play their parts well and if the individual tones you're dialing in work together well.

​If you skip this part you miss out on the biggest opportunity to get your record to that pro level, the recording process will be more tedious and less fun and the final result will likely be less than ideal.

In this episode we talk about the importance of pre-production in much more detail and give you actionable advice on how to do it properly, so you get the most out of it.

More...


Software tools mentioned in this episode:

The URM Podcast episode where Eric Valentine is talking about pre-production:

The Bands and albums mentioned in the episode:

A fun story about a phone recording that was used on a Foo Fighters record:

Foo Fighters - Everlong phone recording (Starting around minute 17:00)

Related Article:


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

TSRB Podcast 015 - If you're not doing pre-production, you're missing out

[00:00:00] Benedikt: [00:00:00] Only after doing pre-pro, you really know what the song still needs and if the songs are already there and almost every time there is something you could still improve and you just don't know until you do pre-production. This is the self recording band podcast, the show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are, DIY stuff.

Let's go.

Hello and welcome. To the self recording band podcast. My name is Benedick tine, and before we get into today's episode. I want to tell you that we are on episode 15, and if you enjoy this podcast, and if you got something out of it, if you've enjoyed the episode so far, I want to let you know that I've created a 10 step guide to successful DIY recording.

It's a PDF basically, um, like a mini ebook that you can download completely for free that walks you through 10 steps from writing to arranging [00:01:00] pre-production and finally recording your songs and getting mixed ready tracks in your practice room. Uh, you can download that by going to the self recording band.com/ten step guide.

And, um, yeah. Now on to today's episode, I'm here with my cohost, mastering engineer Malcolm own flood. Hello Malcolm. How are you? 

Malcom: [00:01:22] Hello. I'm great, man. Things are good. We are, as of today, I think actually, what's the date here? The 18th of May, uh, lifting. I guess it's not the 18th of May when people are listening to this at all.

But safety, the may, well, we're recording it, so, uh, but, uh, lockdown restrictions are being laxed up a little bit, 

Benedikt: [00:01:43] um, 

Malcom: [00:01:44] in, in, on Vancouver Island in BC. And the way, it's not the same across the whole country, I don't think, but things are getting a little bit more normal. Um, you know, long way to go, but it's exciting.

That's absolutely. Gatherings of six people now? I think so. [00:02:00] Uh, you know, still like spread out, but that's awesome. It'll be nice to see some friends and stuff like that. 

Benedikt: [00:02:05] Yeah, totally. Same here. Um, I'm a little varied that we will see like a second wave, but I hope not. Um, I hope that people stay responsible and like.

Do it like get back to normal, but slowly so, but if it stays like that and the restrictions go away, it's definitely a very, very good thing. And we also feel very relieved here now being able to see our families again and friends and everything. So, yeah, totally get that. Did you already start or do you have any recording projects or whatever right now?

Did you start doing stuff like that? 

Malcom: [00:02:41] Yeah, so I, uh, I actually took on more like production and engineering stuff. Over the internet. Um, through all of this, it was kinda like, okay, things are different. I'm going to say yes to like not just mastering work and kind of make sure I'm keeping my foot in a couple different projects.

And, and I also [00:03:00] had a couple of already on the go. Um, so I've been doing more engineering than ever, uh, but, uh, doing. Better stuff over the internet. There's some, there's some pretty crazy cool plugins called, uh, or what I'm using anyways is called listened to by audio movers. Um, and it's actually, I think you've already been using that Benny, right?

Yeah. Um, but yeah, it's, it's pretty wild. I can just send like a live stream, high quality live stream of the mix, right to my client over the internet, and they can be listening in pretty close to real time. Um, and you know, with zoom I can see what they're doing and kind of, they can be recorded on their side and I can be coaching it or, or whatever kind of arrangement.

So they're making things work that way. Um, just. Yesterday. I had a client in for the first time since all of this happened, so I had somebody in the vocal booth and that was awesome. We're really doing it again. You know, it felt normal. Um, 

Benedikt: [00:03:55] let's go use, yeah, like ADI movers is insane. [00:04:00] Um, I don't know if that's, maybe that could be relevant for some of our audience as well.

If you're collaborating, um, recording, like check that out. It's, uh, the company's called audio movers and the plugin is called, listened to. And we're not sponsored anything by this with just saying that because it's a great product and, um, it's like, yeah, it's what I've found that too. Like I found it to be the best tool for that to do live streams and high quality straight from the Dar to another person's star basically, or to the browser of, of the client.

Malcom: [00:04:29] And I really appreciate them. Like they're, they're keeping their price so affordable through all of this. When, you know, they made a product that they had no idea it was going to be so relevant when quarantine happened. Um, and like, so their popularity probably just jumped through the roof and they kept the rates so darn cheap.

Like it's really, really cheap. And then, uh, they also have like a free trial as well for bands that are kind of wondering if they could apply this to, you know, even, uh, like communicating with your band mates, you know, uh, [00:05:00] writing stuff together. This would be a good way to go about it. 

Benedikt: [00:05:03] Sure. Absolutely. Go check that out.

You might find it valuable. Yeah. Uh, actually that wasn't planned, but that's actually pretty on topic, which is episode cause we are talking about producing and about, um, collaborating and working on songs. We're talking about pre production and we're talking about the stage of the process where. It's, you record your songs, but you're not really recording it.

Like not the final version of it. It's a step before that. And you might ask like, why do I do, why do I need something like preproduction? And we are trying to explain why, what that is and why it is so important. And, um, I found that many people go straight from the writing and arranging process to the recording stage.

And that's what I did with my bands for sure. Because I didn't know what preproduction was. And, um, yeah. So what, what's your experience there, American? When, when did you find out [00:06:00] about the value of doing pre-production? Uh, 

Malcom: [00:06:04] well, the first time that I really put it to use was making, not not the first time, but, uh, the first time my band put it to use was making our last album Tempest, which was a long time ago.

But, uh, uh, our, our producer kind of like, it was just like an insisted upon kind of thing. Right. We had to provide. Demos and, and be able to adapt and try with different ideas, just communicating months before we even went into the studio. So that was really like the biggest example of a pre-production in my, my life at that point.

Um, and it, it changed everything. Like we ended up rewriting songs from scratch and, and changing entire courses out and stuff like that. Um, even changing the key of the song and stuff like that. And if we hadn't done preproduction, none of that stuff would have happened. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:06:52] sure. It's a weird thing because you think that when you work on songs, when you write songs, arrange songs, you practice over and over again.

[00:07:00] Maybe you do individual like practice sessions on your own, or like bass player and drummer or the guitarists practice on their own or whatever. Uh, you do all of that. So you might think that the songs are ready to record and still. Like it's only after doing pre-pro that you really know what the song still needs and if the songs are already there and almost always, or basically every time there is something you could still improve and you just don't know until you do pre-production.

And I think maybe this is because of a weird thing when like the difference between hearing yourself play. And hearing what you have played when it comes back out of the speakers. I think that's a pretty big difference, and I don't know why that actually is, but it's just, you just just hear your music completely different.

Would you agree with that? 

Malcom: [00:07:53] Yeah. Listening to your music recorded gets you one step closer to what the potential audience listener would be [00:08:00] hearing. You know, you're, you're one step removed from being the musician that's actually playing it now and you can kind of listen to it. Uh, a little more objectively.

Benedikt: [00:08:09] Sure. And you were in your notes that I or we, we always want to be prepared. It's episodes. We always put down some notes and the Malcolm was pretty good at that and I'm thankful for that. In the notes for this episode, you wrote something that I'm, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it because it says they're like not having it as like searching for a needle in a haystack when you get to the studio.

So what do I mean by that? 

Malcom: [00:08:33] So, well, let's back it up. So, cause there's potentially some, some people listening that don't know what preproduction is even. Um, so pre production is when you essentially record your song before going into the studio. Uh, so you have to. Essentially try to record your song on your own.

Um, sometimes pre production is actually done with the producer, but generally it's not. And for the listeners of a DIY recording podcast is almost definitely, definitely not. Um, [00:09:00] so this is you going into the studio trying to record your song and figuring out. Uh, along the way, what does and doesn't work, who can and can't play to a metronome or who can or can't play their parts, even, um, who is playing the little transition riff into the course differently than everybody else.

You're going to find all of these things along the way. They're also going to figure out like, okay, my guitar sounds really crappy on this song. I gotta to have to figure out how to get a different tone. Um, so it's also like. Don't assume that all this is garbage that's going to be thrown away. You might even, or you might find like, wow, what I recorded sounds better than what we can get in the studio later on.

So you might end up keeping some of these tracks, but essentially it is making what will probably be a throwaway recording. But along the way, you are eliminating all of these problems that would have come up and taken up a bunch of time in the expensive studio. Um. And you're also going to end up being able to play your song to a much higher degree.

So it's like a [00:10:00] practice run of your song with the biggest benefit being what we just talked about, that you get to then listen to you like a semi proper recording of your song and hear it kind of as a listener, like as as somebody that's not playing it for the first time and, and kind of compare it and listen to it as a piece of music, not as something that you are performing.

Which is super valuable because now you can kind of like look at it as a song and say, does this hold up compared to my favorite song by artist X, Y, 

Benedikt: [00:10:33] you know, 

Malcom: [00:10:34] not having it, it's like searching for a needle in a haystack is kind of like, we were talking about analogies before this, and I liked yours. A Benny Benny said that car car manufacturers before they manufactured their car.

And, and like make this, uh, let's say the new Tesla, uh, they will make a model of it using, I have no idea what they use. Actually. [00:11:00] I'm not gonna even say what it is cause I don't know. But they make a small model of it and you can guarantee that model is cheaper and quicker to manufacture than a real car.

Right? It's going to be smaller and one person probably does the whole darn thing and it does like a prototype. Okay, let's look at this car. And see what we think. Like, will people like the look of this? Does it look like a cool car? Is it sexy? Does it, uh, like look modern enough? You know, you can kind of objectively now see this physical thing rather than, you know, before that it's probably a painting on a computer or something like that.

Um, so that's like one step forward for that. So maybe the drawing on the computer is what you guys play in your band space and then the model is pre-production. And then the actual car is what comes out of the final recording after production. 

Benedikt: [00:11:51] Yeah, absolutely. Totally. The funny thing is you said you could compare it, like you could not only get a picture of your, of the final [00:12:00] thing sort of, or what the final thing will look like or sound like in that case, but you said you can compare it to other recordings and how it holds up to two other things you like.

And like one of the things that come up very often in pre-productions that I do or that I did is. That you might like when the band plays together or when you play together in your gym space. Youth, you might think that the chorus really works and is really big and amazing and it's fun to play and you just think it works and then you record it and listen to it, and then you find that it's actually pretty wimpy and that it's not really, um, like the transition from the worst to the chorus or precursors to the chorus might not be as huge as you thought it was.

And then you find you'll either have to add another layer or you have to make the verse smaller maybe to make the chorus work or something like that. And. You can check if your song makes you feel like the way that your favorite recordings make you [00:13:00] feel. And it's hard to do that in the, in the, in the, in practice because like, yeah, in practice it might be enough to just step on some paddle when the chorus hits and it gets louder and you think it's a great chorus and it's not really, if you record it, maybe, and.

Yeah, so that there's already a value in there. And like I like the the needle in a haystack thing because when you start recording without doing that, you, you will notice that something's missing, but you cannot really. It's hard to say what it is then and you need to find out, but you actually want to go get through the song and get the thing done.

But then you have to search for whatever is missing and you don't like, you're running out of time. You don't know where to look for for what is missing. And if you have done the work before and to the pre-pro, you exactly know what it is, or you can have time to figure it out. And um, yeah, everything's laid out clearly when it's time to record.

So I really like that. Um, like [00:14:00] what, what problems can be identified in advance that could come up during recording, other than maybe finding that like a part doesn't work or something 

Malcom: [00:14:08] right there. There definitely can be technical things that come up. I remember way back in my, like one of my first bands I had a guitar was EMG pickups in it.

There's going to be some people listening that know what those are. For sure. They was the big metal head pickups back in the day and they take a battery and my battery was super dead and I just had no idea what I was doing. And all guitar sound to crappy, I guess, cause it sounded terrible. And you know, when we recorded it and we had the da going, really, what is, this does not sound right.

This sounds terrible. And of course that was because my battery was dead. So even even that, you know, it's, that's one problem fixed. Um, sort of like, you know, you might discover problems in your gear. Mmm. Like I mentioned, somebody might not be up to the task of playing to a metronome. That's, that's pretty common for first time recording bands.

It's like, not everybody's on the same level with a metronome and, [00:15:00] uh, they definitely have to be, um, in 99% of cases. So that's a great thing to figure out in advance before you go into a studio, um, or before you lay down the final tracks, because if they can't, it's just not gonna sound good. Like it'll be a bad performance no matter what.

So addressing that. Ahead of time, it's just going to save you tons of time and potentially money if you're paying for a studio. Um, another thing I found is just in like, projects I produced is bands sometimes choose like too high or low of a key for their vocalist. And you know, like the adrenaline's going while they're playing it live and they think it's all good, but then when they actually get into the studio, they realize that like, okay, I can't actually pull this off without it sounding pretty bad.

Um, so. Pre-production gives us this chance to be like, okay, like you can't hit the course, we gotta lower this, you know, uh, or, or whatever it may be. And that is like, if that's the case, you saved your song. [00:16:00] Um, you know, bad vocal performance means the songs are a waste of time and money. So that's just like no brainer.

If it does, just as that, it's entirely worth all of the time you spent on pre-production. Sure. One more thing that, that you pointed out, Benny was, uh, figuring out like monitoring. Um, you're going to figure out how you like to record in this process as well. Uh. Myself, like, I love recording guitars with the speakers in the studio.

Headphones don't really work for me. Um, but I have people in all the time that are the opposite of me and they're like, give me some cantons I need to crank it and have it inside my head. Just like bouncing around my skull. And they perform much better like that. You know, maybe it's cause they're used to a cloud app.

Another guitarist that I record, a band called shed monkeys. They're awesome. You should check them out. But he is in the room, in front of his app, just getting blasted, you know, and that's like impaired. I would never record them any other way. Um, so it, it [00:17:00] really, it really does depend and that's a very cool thing to figure out in advance.

So you can just go in and like get to your comfort spot quicker. 

Benedikt: [00:17:08] Absolutely. Uh, and people are so different, and you might not even know what your preferred way of doing it is unless you try that out. You, you might not know. You think you can, like, you prefer, um, like they have phones because you do that at home and that's what you used to, but then you, maybe you are right Malcolm.

And once you hear it come out of some speakers, you just perform differently and it's just excites you more or whatever. So definitely try, try out that and try. Um, figure out a general plan of how to record, um, figure out the monitoring, figure out, um, if you are doing everything live or, uh, only overdubs if you need scratch tracks, which kind of scratch tracks, like who needs to hear what, do you need the drums only or do you need like, uh, um.

A mix of all the rhythm elements with the [00:18:00] bass and the rhythm guitar maybe, and you just replace those elements as you go. Or, um, do you want to record to a click or not? Because I agree that in most cases you should be able to play to click and it's better and click does not mean static tempo. That can mean tempo map, tempo changes and all that.

But in some cases, people. Who are not used to playing to click, but are good, experienced musicians. And there are people like that out there. In those cases, their natural temporal changes might be good and it might sound weird if they have to play to click. And I'm seeing that very carefully because that could also be an excuse for just not using a click.

And if you just say, well, I'm one of those people, but, um. Like it's worth figuring that out and pre-pro and comparing the results and really being honest to yourself and then just do whatever works best for that, for the recording. And, um, yeah. And also [00:19:00] another thing to find out is your room. You can learn your room and figure out the sweet spots in your room when you do pre-pro, when you set everything up for pre-pro.

There are no rules. You're not on the pressure. There's no deadline usually or not. It's not as tight of a deadline and you have time to move things around. You can grab. A drum and walk around the room with that drum. That's the trick I like to do a lot. Before I record, um, I did that a lot in my own studio even, but when I go to another studio, I always do that.

Or when I go to a jam space to record or whatever, I'll take a floor, Tom, walk around the room and hit the Tom and just listen to how the room reacts. Like there are spots in the room where you have like a full, um. Big sounding, low end, and then you have spots where the low end almost cancels completely and everything in between.

And you can find out the sweet spots in your room and figure out where the drums sound good and where the guitar amps sound good and how to set up everything. If you want to record live, you can do all of that and already kind of [00:20:00] start dialing in a sound and making sure that everything that everything like sounds good in your room.

And it's much easier to do that in preproduction and not having to do all of that when it's actually time to record, because then you might feel like you're not getting anything done because everything just takes so long and takes away from the creative process. So that's the preproduction, is that the place for, um, experimenting with that kind of stuff.

And in the end, you should still have a result, but it's not the final thing. It's just, um. Something you can analyze then and make decisions that you don't have to make any more when it comes time to actually record. 

Malcom: [00:20:40] Yes. Yeah. A lot of this can be really time consuming, like, like choosing the tempo, for example of the song, what like bands always play a little too fast.

That's the normal thing. You know? If you watch a recording of yourself playing a live show, you're like, Oh, we're twice as fast as we should be. So recording it and then listening. Is the only [00:21:00] way to really be like, okay, this is the right tempo. So you have to kind of experiment with that. And that's something that you don't need a producer, you know, you don't need to do in an expensive studio, just either.

Definitely don't do that in a studio. Save yourself that time and creative energy and just get that out of the way and pre production. And then that kind of brings me to the next point, is that a lot of this stuff can be brought forward into studio. So you're investing in it now, but it actually is paying off in the actual recording.

So like the stuff like the BPM, so the tempo. Like the key of the song and some of the tracks even will be brought forward. You know, these tracks that you record, like the scratch guitar and scratch vocal, for example, will probably be used for the actual recording session, just as scratch tracks, something to play to it.

You know, if you're doing an overdub kind of set up, the is now going to play to those that guitar and vocal that you laid down. So it's not like this is all throwaway stuff. It's all going to be useful moving forward. You might even find that you keep some of it. [00:22:00] Um, I know when, like a previous episode we've said to always record your, like, warm uptakes.

Well, you always record your scratch tracks as if you're going to keep them, you know, so like, try to get it right. And, and that definitely can 

Benedikt: [00:22:14] and does happen. Absolutely. And there are even a famous examples. I should have looked some of those up now that I'm saying it, but, um, maybe I find and put them in the show notes because there are favorite, um, like famous examples of, um, songs of productions where attract from the demo.

Pre-production made it on the final record and the producer just couldn't. Um, like get the same vibe. It's the same energy or whatever into like during the final, um, recording, uh, session. And so they ended up using whatever was on the demo. And it might even, it might not be technically perfect, but it's just something about it was just right.

And then they use it. So experiment and it's not, it doesn't have to be the final thing, but always try to [00:23:00] record it as if it was the final thing, kind of, because you never know. It might be. The best thing ever, and you cannot recreate it later. So. 

Malcom: [00:23:08] Yeah, definitely. I'm using some scratch vocal takes on a band that I'm working with right now.

Um, we were doing the vocals over the internet and he's like, you know, I really like how it wasn't a scratch track. I'm like, okay, pull it up. Oh yeah, that's it. We're gonna use that line. Like, not even the whole take, just stealing lines, you know, I'll, I'll figure out how to make them sound cohesive so.

Yeah, it definitely can definitely happen, especially with vocalists, you know? They just, it's like they're unburdened. They just think it's just a scratch track, you know? And they just like let loose. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:23:38] I've heard, I've read or heard, and I'm not sure, an interview with some producer who said that. Uh, he used an iPhone voice recording on a record because the singer was just like, I think it was on a walk or something, and he just captured an idea.

And that iPhone recording when he captured that idea that just came to mind was like the best thing ever, and they could not recreate it. [00:24:00] So he had to use the iPhone recording of that take and it sounded crappy, but they made it sound like an effect, like it was on purpose and used it on the record because it's just, it was the best thing.

And so even that can happen apparently. 

Malcom: [00:24:12] Wow. That's awesome. Yeah. Super awesome. 

Benedikt: [00:24:15] All right. So yeah, totally. Um. Experiment with stuff like that recorded as if you keep the performances and, um, experiment with things like key and tempo. And that's something that I, that might sound weird because you think like the song isn't a certain key.

We wrote it that way. It has a certain tempo, but sometimes going up or down a couple of BPM or. Changing the key of the song can completely get you to a different result, different result. And um, it's worth just trying that. I mean, you can, there's nothing you can lose. Like worst thing that can happen is yet, like the experimentation was, didn't lead to anything and you just go with whatever you had.

But. Sometimes increasing [00:25:00] the tempo by a couple of BPM or slowing it down a little bit can make a big difference. And as Malcolm said, most bands or many bands tend to play a little too fast anyways. And also the key, if you're a singer, can not really hit the highest notes or if it's too comfortable, that can also be a thing.

Sometimes it's good to get to the point where you're kind of on the edge and where I've said it before, I think on this podcast where the. The vocal is like on the edge of, of like breaking and but not really. And you just hear that the singer has to fight a little bit and that can be super awesome and maybe you are too much in your comfort zone and you need to go up half a step or something and then it really starts to get the energy you need and you don't need that.

You don't know that until you, you find out after doing pre-pro. So experiment with those things. 

Malcom: [00:25:49] Also take into consideration that your pre-production is potentially for a bunch of songs. So, uh, stuff like that. The tempo and key doesn't only affect that song and affects [00:26:00] the whole picture as a whole. So if you record or like the quick demos of all your songs and then realize that they're all the same tempo and key.

There's a good reason to start maybe considering changing some of them. Right. Um, so it's not just about the song, it's about your work as a collection kind of thing. 

Benedikt: [00:26:17] Oh yeah. I tend to forget about that sometimes nowadays because it's like, I still love records, but I get to mix so many singles and EPS and, but they are not really EPS.

They're just like, people release them over a period of time and like people. Are you used to playlist and single songs and stuff like that, but you're totally right. Um, especially if you're doing a record, and I encourage you to do that because it's wise from a business standpoint or whatever, but just because 

Malcom: [00:26:45] I love it.

Benedikt: [00:26:45] So I want people to make, to continue making records. Um, so, but if you're doing a record. That stuff gets even more important because then you can listen to the whole pre-pro in context. And you can also start thinking about [00:27:00] like how one song, um, like leads to the next song, how the transitions are, how the, the album as a whole works.

And, um, maybe you need to change an intro or an outro to get a better transition or whatever. And that, that stuff gets really exciting then because then you're getting this exciting piece of art, um, that comes together. And yeah, that's, that's a very cool thing to do. Do you know pre-pro also because you don't have any chance to do that, right, other than playing a live set and getting it right there, but it's, it's different.

It's different when you listen to it. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:27:34] definitely. Well, no, I was, I think we got, we got that pretty good, right? Like, yeah. And you know, is like really time consuming, stuff like that. You don't want to be writing your harmonies in the studio and that is so common. Let's get it, figure that stuff out in advance because then you'll know how to sing it by the time you get to the studio.

Benedikt: [00:27:51] Yeah. I made that mistake a couple of times actually when people asked me to help them with their harmonies, because that happens because not everybody, [00:28:00] like it's not natural to, to some people to do that sort of stuff. And I got asked a couple of times. To help with armies, and before I really knew about the importance of pre-pro and how to do it properly, I would just say, sure, let's do that.

And we would do it when we were recording. And then at some point I started doing that in the pre-pro process, and I asked the band to send me this stuff before we actually started and figure it out there. Because as you said, it's, it gets really time consuming in the studio and it's fun for a little while, but, but then you just want to go back to actually recording and it just.

Yeah, it's not, it's not a good thing to do that during recording. And I know because I speak from experience you, because I've made that mistake a couple of times. And, yeah, yeah, yeah. Same with the additional instruments or, or stuff like that. Um, 

Malcom: [00:28:50] and yeah, guitar solos. Then like, yeah, like choosing weird since you're like, Oh, I think I want to have like a choir layer back there.

It's like, well, try it. Like, you know, don't just hold onto that [00:29:00] idea until we're on the last day of studio time and you want to squeeze all this stuff and um, like hone in on what actually works and then that gives us more time to actually focus on the performance rather than just trying different tones and stuff like that.

Yeah. Um, so there's a couple cool advantages that you pointed out, Benny, in the prep that, uh, that DIY bands have. Um, like production, pre-production saves you money when you're using a big studio, but in the case of being a da DIY band, you're doing your pre-production probably in the same room that you're going to be doing your whole album in.

Maybe, maybe not for drums if you're planning to rent a room for drums or something like that. But most of it would probably be with your. Home studio setup, and that means that you're dialing in the tones in the same room. You're going to be in with the same gear that you're going to be in most good times.

So you're like getting to know your gear really well. You're getting to know your room really well, and you're getting to know how to achieve sounds quicker and more reliably. Um. I work at a [00:30:00] quite a few different studios, especially for drums. Uh, and as soon as I hear like a demo with a band, I'm like, okay, I want to use this drum room.

Like, so this studio to do that. And, and I know where I'm going to set up the drums and I even know which snare I'm going to grab off the shelf and rent from the studio. And what Mike, you know, like it's. It always ends up being a little bit different, but I know where to get started. And that's what's going to happen.

As you do this in your own studio, you're gonna be like, okay, well this is obviously a riff for the Les Paul into my martial or into, I'm going to grab, uh, like this synth. Like, cause I have this certain sense software on my computer that is going to have the sound I'm looking for. So you're speeding up your workflow a lot by doing your pre-pro in your studio.

And that is advantage that bands that come, for example, work with me don't really get, because they have the pre-pro. In their own studio and they're like, okay, well, like I could see us using this setup, but then they come and do a studio with me and that gear that they liked for this [00:31:00] particular idea of theirs isn't available anymore.

I mean, it could be if they bring it out, I guess, but it is different, you know? I think there's a cool advantage to be in a DIY band in that sense. 

Benedikt: [00:31:09] Absolutely. And just imagine. What an expensive production that would be if you would go do it the traditional way and go to the studio for that. And it's still the proper way.

And I just, um, I just listened to an episode of, or of another podcast that I really like. It's the URM podcast. If you're not familiar with that, you might want to check it out because they have all the great producers on there and super great, super long interviews and stuff. So go check that out. It's the unstoppable recording machine podcast.

And. In one of their, um, more recent, like episodes they had Eric Valentine on Eric Valentine is a legend. It's a, he's a, uh, super great, um, producer, engineer, mixer. Uh, and yeah, absolute legend. And he was talking about. Doing pre-pro with bands, and he would [00:32:00] have the bands in the studio for three weeks, three weeks, just doing pre-pro.

And after those three weeks, they would start the recording, or they would have a little break and analyze the pre-pro and then start the recording. So they would spend full three weeks every day of just working on the arrangement. The songs are already written at that point night before that. So they are they working on finished songs?

Just improving the arrangement improving. Um, the songs, figuring out which instruments to use, dialing tones, figuring out the room, uh, everything. And they only do that. It's not about the recording. They're just doing pre-pro for three weeks. And after they're done, he says they not only know how like the songs need to be so that they work, but they also have already dialed in almost all the tones.

And then when the actual recording session starts, they just have to capture. That, and it's a super efficient and super fun process because you don't have to think about that stuff anymore. And, um, so, and, and think about the cost and everything, if you would hire someone like Eric [00:33:00] Valentine or some any producer or studio, uh, for like three weeks of pre-pro and then recording and that makes everything and like, you can do all of that on your own and your jam space.

And that's, that's super cool that like, there's a total advantage to be able to do that in the same room just as those producers do. Um. And that that should also show you how important that actually is. Because if producers like that, um, like to spend three weeks with a band working on their songs, it, there's something to it.

Malcom: [00:33:30] Yeah, definitely. Um, that really, I think unveils how important it is. And if you're a band listening to this that likes working with, um, an external producer and go into the studios and stuff like that, which is awesome, you know, it's just like, in my mind, that's the way to go, but it's just obviously way more expensive.

Um, but pre-productions, like essential, like if you want to get your money's worth out of that producer, um, and this happens to me. Bands don't send me anything and they want to come into the studio. And I ended up with like a cell phone recording, which [00:34:00] is better than nothing. I'll take that and I can send you ideas off that.

Um. But the bands that come to me with a multi-track, and they can send it to me and I can like spend time, work chopping up the arrangement in pro tools and sending back ideas, like they're getting way more out of their money in hiring somebody like me because they're actually doing the work and providing the producer with the files they would need, uh, you know, to actually be able to do their job.

Um, so pre-production is important if you're a DIY band or if you're not a DIY band, it's just mandatory. Either way. Do it. 

Benedikt: [00:34:34] Sure. Yeah. And you have the advantage of being able to do it in the room, your actual record. So, um, yeah, like one thing we haven't touched on is the programming reference stuff, like tuning references.

Yes. Um, that's also something we, did we talk about that in an earlier episode? I already can't remember what we've been talking about, but, um, if not, um, just real quick, [00:35:00] you can program a base, for example, or, um, some, um, synth or substance or whatever. It's just something that has the chord progression of the song and that works as a tuning reference.

So. Um, you can also figure out the proper setup for your instruments. You can, um, use that during the recording process as a scratch track, as a reference track there. Um, yeah, there's a lot of cool uses for that and doing that during the recording session is also a huge time sock, so you should definitely do that before that.

And it might also help you. Um, figure out some stuff and maybe, um, maybe you, you, you program a tuning reference, a bass, for example, and then you find out that it's actually pretty cool sounding to have that sub bass program underneath the actual bass guitar or whatever. So by doing that, you might even come up with things you wouldn't have done.

Um, yeah. Otherwise, so, 

Malcom: [00:35:57] yeah. Yeah. I told them I, [00:36:00] that's not something I do enough, but it is a great idea. Um, just having. This virtual instrument that's definitely in tune because a lot of bands go wrong there on the DIY front where they just can't seem to get their bases or guitars into them. So having this, uh, kind of virtual instrument that is definitely in tune that they're playing to that, it'll sound obviously really weird if your guitar, it doesn't sound good with that, that virtual instrument.

So that kind of will help you stay on track there. You'll probably naturally play a little more in tune just because of that. Um, and, and like Benny said, it can actually sound really cool sometimes, so you might end up keeping that stuff. 

Benedikt: [00:36:34] Yeah, sure. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:36:36] For vocalists as well, having like a, a dead solid tuning reference for them to sing to is great as well.

Benedikt: [00:36:41] Oh yeah. That's so important. Sometimes it can be actually pretty confusing. And I had this experience myself as a, as a singer of my band where when you have a demo, and Nick, because it's a demo, like the tuning is not. As perfect and you try to sing to it and uh, no matter what you [00:37:00] do, it always sounds off.

And the reason is that like maybe the base is a little flat and the guitar is a little sharp maybe. And no matter how you're seeing to it, it will always sound weird and you start to question yourself. And if you would have just like one solid reference there, you would at least know that it, like if it's your problem or if it's someone else, you know?

Malcom: [00:37:21] Yes. Yeah. I definitely don't envy vocalists. You have a hard job, guys and girls. Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Benedikt: [00:37:29] So, yeah. Before we wrap this up, there is one more crucial thing that came to mind while we were talking about all this. And that is if you've done the homework properly and if you've done the pre-pro and you arrange the songs properly and you worked on the arrangement, you worked on the setup and you did the pre-pro, and then you listen back to what you did.

You actually figure out how like what your band is sounding like and what it's all, what it is all about, [00:38:00] what the vibe is and everything, and that helps so much communicating to a mix engineer or to any person like that comes after that and takes over the project because. I think communicating or figuring out what your band is, is really about, and what the, what you want to create and what, what you sound like and what's unique about your band.

It's, it's so crucial because ultimately we were making art, right? The right, we are, um, capturing art. We are capturing music and we want to do something unique and we want, uh, an authentic representation of us as people, as a band, as everything. And. I think you only are able to put that into words and, and you're only able to communicate that to another person if you heard it yourself.

And if you, as objectively as you can be figured that out. And so after doing pre-pro, you hit play. You'll listen. And then you'll be like, you're probably like, Oh, [00:39:00] we are actually, um. Uh, I don't know, like a rock band. That sounds pretty huge. Or we, we thought we sound huge and we thought this is like a radio rock, but actually this sounds much more raw and like, um, has more intimate kind of energy.

And maybe we shouldn't go for those huge drums. We should go for a tighter like club, uh, show atmosphere or whatever. And. Yeah. You just, that's just so important and there's no way of figuring that out without listening to you on a recording on that preproduction, and then you can communicate all of that to the mix engineer.

Uh, I think that's, that's pretty, pretty valuable there because when I get stuff to mix the Mo, one of the most important things to me is to understand the vision of the band. And sure, the recording itself is great as well, but. The band clearly communicating what they want and having analyzed [00:40:00] themselves and really knowing what they're all about and what their art is and what is important to them and how it should make people feel.

That just makes my job so much easier. And I found that the people who have figured out that like the most or the best are the ones that did proper pre-pro and just know what this band and this project is about. 

Malcom: [00:40:18] Yeah, that is, that's really the big picture stuff, you know, is. Like, it's not really the tech, the technical stuff is great that comes out of free pro, but the like stuff that really affects the art and the ability of the band members is the best benefit.

And that's going to kind of like go beyond just the song you're recording. It's going to actually help you play live. It's gonna help you become better writers. Um, you know, it's just going to help you be more prepared for the next studio experience as well. It's kind of stuff that moves you along. To more and more professional of a musician and recording artist.

Um, there was one last thing I wanted to bring up. Yeah. And that's kind of like the different ways of recording pre-production. [00:41:00] We won't get too into it cause it would take forever. But, um, I think depending on how complex your music is and those type of music. Um, there's kind of different ways to go about it, but in general, I actually believe that you should do kind of two steps of pre production.

And the first would be like a live jam room recording, preferably multi-track. I know that Ben and I have talked about our love for the Berenger ex air mixers. What's your, just like multi-track, uh, consoles that you can just record right off of. Um, and you can just track the band life, you know, throw a metronome in the drummer's ears and, and track the entire band live.

You end up with a multi-track recording right into your computer and you can now listen to the song, uh, or punch in stuff, cut stuff up, whatever you need to do. And it's really quick. You know, you all play it at the same time. Maybe with my band, we did that, but we would record the vocal after and then I would add some lead stuff and send it to our producer.

Um, but that is like, you know, you can cut pre-pro demos [00:42:00] of all the songs in a single jam. No problem. Right. Um, like, so really quick, not as accurate, not gonna sound as high quality potentially, but really quick. And then the next step I think would be. After, cause what you're gonna get from that is instant feedback and you can start making quick decisions and be like, okay, well let's just play it again and we'll do something completely different as a band.

You know, it's the only way with the live setup is the only way you can make decisions that affects everybody at the same time. Where if you're doing overdub and you get to guitars and you're like, well, we should have done a different drum group. It's really hard to go back. Yeah, so do that first band preproduction production session and workshop the songs for a week like that, and then swap gears into the overdub setup where like, okay, now the parts are laid out for sure.

We're loving this. Now let's actually start getting things down tight. So you get drums, then you start, you know, well, the next, the next episode is going to be on the order of recording things. So we'll have those debates very shortly, but, uh, but, you know, deal with things one by one that time and then start getting creative with tones and stuff like that, you [00:43:00] know?

So I would really recommend breaking it into kind of two chunks. Like that one, that pre-production session that's more focused on songs as a whole and the bands like meshing kind of stuff. And then the next half is the more. Uh, methodical, broken up the technique, and that's where you're going to get creative with stuff like Sonics and tones and, and, uh, technical performance.

Benedikt: [00:43:22] Sure. That's absolutely true. I totally agree with that. And I would actually say do as many rounds of pre-pro as you need until the songs were finished. So it could be even more than those two or three rounds. That's the totally, I'm so glad you mentioned that because I forgot about it. Um, actually after the first round of pre-pro, you should.

Uh, analyze it, do what you like, implement the things you found out. Then maybe switch gears and do the overdubs and then analyze that again. And if the songs are not there already, you might have to do another round of pre-pro just until the songs are at a point where you say, okay, now they're working.

Now that is exactly what we want. [00:44:00] And now we record. Um, right now, for example, I'm working with a band I, I'm mixing about to mix a record for them. They started doing pre-pro in fall 2019 and they. Did around a pre-pro, sent it to me, ask me for input on vocal harmonies and stuff like that, and just an overall feedback of how I think the songs and the transitions work and everything.

And I sent that feedback back to them and got back to them with ideas for vocals. Then they did another round of preproduction implementing some of the things that I said, not everything because it's just ideas, right? But some of them they implemented and really liked, and then they sent me the second round of pre-pro and then.

I got back to them with another feedback and then they finalize the songs and that was what they ended up recording. So yeah, totally break it down in different steps from like pure demo stage to the final pre-pro, which should almost be the record, just not sounding as pristine maybe, but it should almost be like [00:45:00] the final thing.

Malcom: [00:45:01] Yeah. Yeah. I like going back to Eric Valentine's method there. I would imagine that the band is set up live for, for those most of those three weeks kind of thing, because I think that's the way to focus on things. If you can just start, you really shouldn't go into overdub mode until the song is finalized as like a band, you know?

So start with that like live setup where you can move really quick, make decisions as a group and get feedback happening really, really quick. And then move on to the overdub once everybody's confirmed and hopefully, uh, and outside of year has also confirmed that things are kick ass. 

Benedikt: [00:45:37] Sure. One caveat though that I want to add here, because with all those rounds of pre-pro and all the things you can do, especially as a DIY band.

There is something I heard some people refer to it as demo ideas, um, which is like, uh, when people get so attached to their demos that they can't let go of that any, any longer when it comes to mixing or getting [00:46:00] other people involved in the project and that that can also be a thing. So be careful too.

Get the pre-production to the point where it's almost the finished record, but also always they open and try to stay a little or as much as, as, as objective as you can. And that's the scenario. And be open for input and ideas because if you're working with a mix engineer and. That person has not gone through this extensive process of demoing and all these iterations of pre-pro in it and stuff, and they come up with fresh ideas and want to add that to, um, to the whole thing.

You might be so attached to whatever you did that you're not allowing any. Like new creative input. And that can be dangerous. So because it can get to a point where the mixer is asking like, why, why did you even hire me? I mean, you, you've already done it and you're not wanting me to change anything. So you could have to just have done it yourself.

And so that can be really dangerous, um, to [00:47:00] keep the balance here. So work on the songs, work on, on that. But when you actually record them, and especially when you send it off to mixing or work with other people. If it makes the whole thing better, be open for changes and um, yeah, don't forget that along the way because you can get really attached to that if you're doing pre-pro for a long time.

Malcom: [00:47:22] Definitely. Yeah. I'm so glad you said that. Demo. This is a terrible thing that we're all capable of falling, falling forward. Even like, you know, like I said, that we used scratch tracks and like the keeper of performance is sometimes, sometimes it's hard to give up those scratch tracks as you get used to them.

Um, and that's definitely not always a good thing. Uh, so yeah. Treat, treat your love of your demos with suspicion. 

Benedikt: [00:47:46] Yeah, exactly. Alright. Um, anything else you can think of when I come to add to this? Because I think that, I think, 

Malcom: [00:47:53] I think that's great. Um, if you don't think you should do pre-production, I felt listening to this.

You're crazy. Yeah, [00:48:00] absolutely. Yeah. Just 

Benedikt: [00:48:02] do it. Do it properly. And your next record will definitely benefit from that. Yeah. All right. Um, that's it for today's episode, I guess. Uh, next step, we're moving on with the actual recording, um, process and order of things when you record. So the next step after pre-pro, everything is ready to go.

And then. Um, you need to figure out what to do first and why, and we'll cover that in episode 16. 

Malcom: [00:48:34] Hold on. .

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