Why doing your own pre-production can save you thousands of dollars in the studio.
First off, what is pre production? Pre production is every single thing you can do to prepare yourself or your band before hitting the studio. Some bands have the luxury of booking out a posh studio for a year of writing before hitting the big studio to track their next big release. But for the other 99% of us, we need to put in a lot of hard work before the studio on our own time and on our own dime. I'm going to lay out 2 scenarios - one for the teenage garage band hitting the studio for the first time and one for the big-time commercial money-making veteran band. Choose whichever version fits your bands' current needs or something in between.
TEENAGE GARAGE BAND
You're thinking of booking a local studio and you want to make the best use of the time you'll book to give you the best final product. This checklist can get you as prepared as possible:
- Practice, practice, practice - this is the single most important thing you can do to make the best use of your time in the studio. If you can play it in your sleep you'll save a ton of money.
- Every member of the band should be capable of playing to a click track (metronome) with or without any other instrumentation or vocals.
- Record your practices even if it's just on your phone. Pick your best performance of each song and take detailed notes on song structure, tempos, tempo changes, time signatures, time signature changes, and any other thing you can note that will help to answer any questions before you get to the studio. Also use these tracks to practice, write solos, finish drum fills, and lyrics.
- Replace as many of your drum batter heads as possible. If you can only change one, please replace the snare head. This will have the largest impact on your final product over any other head on your kit.
- Install a brand new set of strings on every guitar and bass guitar the morning of your studio session.
- Bring food or arrange to have it delivered. Sucks to have to take a break to place your food order.
You're making a living as a band and you're ready to start writing before you head to the studio and cut your next big release. This checklist can help to get you as prepared as possible:
- Practice, practice, practice. This is the single most important point in making the best use of your time in the studio. If you can play it in your sleep you'll save a ton of money.
- If you don't own your own rehearsal space, rent one out or rent out a smaller studio for your daily writing/practice space.
- Every member of your band is most likely capable of playing to a click already.
- hire co-songwriters to assist in your album writing.
- Record your practices! Never miss a stroke of genius even if it's just a practice or writing session. Even if it's just on a phone.
- Fully track rough multitrack recordings of your songs. Submit these to your producer, rewrite, and rerecord. Use these tracks to practice, write solos, finish drum fills, and lyrics.
-Schedule guest musicians.
- Send your pre production tempo tracks and pre-production stems to your studio in advance of your arrival.
- Hire a guitar tech to setup your guitars/basses, install fresh strings, and attend your sessions to make changes and install a fresh set of strings before every song (every 3 songs for bass)
- Replace all drum heads and hire a drum tech to change and tune heads between takes/session.
- Arrange your travel plans including plane tickets, hotels, food, and assistants in advance to make you the most productive as possible.
Whether you're a new or veteran band, I'm sure you'll fit somewhere between one of these two extremes. There's no better ways to prepare for the studio than to practice and ask your studio what can be done to assure your upcoming session is a success. Your studio/engineer wants your sessions to run as smoothly as you do and the more communication before hand the better to make this the best it can be.