Pre Production 101

What’s preproduction? Don’t we just go in the studio a rock out? Alas this is a mistake that a lot of bands and musicians make.  I’ve had hip hop guys come in and attempt to write lyrics to a beat while its playing in the studio, I’ve had guitar players writing solos in the studio.  The major problem with this is, TIME, billable time.  Of course there is also boring or annoying fellow band members as well.  Pre production, is basically what it sounds like, its arranging, practicing, re-writing and perfecting your music prior to recording it.  There are a lot of ways to go about this, and I’m going to do my best to outline them and point out why pre production is a smart handy thing that all musicians should do before they come into the studio. 

First and foremost, even though you may believe that your favorite artist just walked into the booth and spit the best verse ever or laid down a face melting solo off the cuff, that is not normally the case, (if ever), and that my friends is pre-production.  Obviously some artists are able to do the above, but more often than not there are nuggets already pre-planned or written prior to getting in front of the mic. 

arranging, practicing, re-writing and perfecting your music

Step 1 – Arranging – Once you have your song written all the parts pretty much figured out, its time to start arranging.  The best suggestion that I can think of is to record your best version of the song (whether you record it on a cellphone, mp3 recorder, boom box or your laptop it doesn’t really matter) the point is to get your song on a format that you can listen to.  Next step, take a break from it! Seriously it sounds crazy, but if you’ve been working on a tune for awhile, eventually you start to not notice things, (subtle off time parts, sections that are too long, off key vocals etc).  Get your demo out to friends, industry buddies, anyone who can give you an opinion.  Reference your song to other people’s music, (what does there tune have that yours doesn’t? or vice versa).   Figure out a good tempo to play the song at.  Sometimes the “groove” or “pocket” is a little quicker or slower.   Its imperative to get the right timing on the song.  If you need help go back to your reference figure out what tempo that song is at, try playing your song at that tempo?  Does it feel better? No?  Move on, bump it up, slow it down.  Whatever you do write down the tempo that works! Because eventually your going to try and record it and you want to have the “best representation of that song” that you can. 


Step 2 – Practicing – Man! I wrote this song, why do I need to practice it? One of the most important things that I tell people before they come into the studio is to practice.  And why you ask?  Because the parts that are a little bit difficult at home are going to be extremely difficult once the pressure is on and your recording them, not to mention the timing of the song might be quicker or slower.  Practice , practice, practice inside and out. Its going to make the song that much better! Record your practices for future reference.  

Step 3 – Re-writing – Now here comes the hard part, once you’ve demoed the song, worked out the kinks, recorded it, practiced it and had feedback from friends, its time to look at the song again.  Is it working? are there parts that need to be ironed out still? Do you need a guitar solo? Do you really need the clapping breakdown with the jug-band solo? Does the song need a new part? Does it need a part deleted or extended?  Do you need different instruments? Once again go back and compare to references of music that you love.  Get more opinions, try out different things and basically iron it out.  Now repeat step 1 & 2.

Step 4 – Perfecting – Practice the new finished version of the song, make notes about tempo, time signatures, type out a lyric sheet and make copies, write down the chords.  Sometimes bands like to road test their material before recording, this is a great idea!  Book a gig play some of your new songs, check out the audience reaction. Rinse and repeat if need be.  Always remember John Lennon & Paul McCartney wrote upwards of 200 songs before they have a few that were worthwhile to record for their first record.  Thinking your first effort is the best is not a good idea.  Great songwriters & bands work on material everyday.  Some writers I know try to write one song a day, regardless of whether its good or bad they do this to keep the creative juices flowing.  

Step 5 – Go and record it and release it to the world.  

How is your song coming? Do you need a professional opinion? email me at 

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