5 Things Your Recording Engineer& Music Producer wants to know before the studio!
Updated: Sep 7, 2019
It is understandable that as a band or artist when you head to the studio you want to create the best production of all time, or at least for yourself.
As subjective as music is it should also be heavily understood that your engineer might want/need all the information they can get before working on your music!
You might wonder "why is this important?" the main reason for this is that to capture the sound you want & need requires vision from not only you, but everyone involved during the production process. This includes your music producer & audio engineer.
The following points are written out of my own 10 years of experience in music production & audio engineering and what we have perceived helps in speeding things up in the process.
1. Make a demo version of the production(s) that is being worked on & send it ahead of time.
The reason for this is that if we know what it is supposed to sound like when people or the parts fit together it gives us a better understanding of what direction you want to go with your song.
It happened in the past that I thought something had to sound like a really heavy rock song, but instead had to have more a indie / jazz vibe to the music. Luckily we caught this mistake on time, by letting the artist listen back to the overall sound of the recording, but if we had not this would have been problematic during the production/mixing phase.
Other reasons why having a demo file as audio helps when working on audio is that if we know you can play to a click track / metronome. Your engineer will be able to program it beforehand, and write out the structure of the song with the correct tempos before recording.
Which brings us to our next point...
2. Write out the song structures
A common misconception that is between engineers and musicians is what part of a song is called what?
Now there are basic terminologies as in; Verse, Chorus, Bridge, intro, outro.
These will most likely give no miscommunication between artist & engineer, but!
It tends to go wrong when more uncommon names are being used as in, prelude, interlude, pre-chorus, build-up, breakdown.
These tend to slow down the process when it comes to finding the part you want to work on next or where there is a mistake in the track.
If an engineer has the chance to set this up or understand what you perceive as what part of the song structure it will speed up the workflow and in the end also save time during the recording process.
The studio costs money, so ensure that as much of it is used as efficient as possible.
3. What will be recorded?
Ensure your engineer knows what instruments are going to be recorded or worked on if any.
Between those instruments also ensure to list the ones that are most important to aim for nailing.
A session might have the whole band in, but mainly focus on just the drums, which is an often looked at option as amp sims have improved to astonishing high quality in the last decade.
Sometimes the goal is to get an as live as possible take, which would mean nothing gets double tracked, but does mean the engineer has to plan to record everyone in a live setting without any sound interference between the microphones.
What might happen if not communicated is that the studio that is being worked on is too small, lack of recording channels, a bad sound for a left out instrument and the list goes on.
4. What should it sound like?
Maybe you did follow the first step, but are aware that is not the sound you are looking for, but did create a demo for the idea of the song.
A good alternate option is to ensure you get a reference track for the song you are working on.
This can be done during any part of the project to ensure the vision and goal isnt deviated from.
For engineers this also makes sure that we have an option to research sound wise to get the best out of the music both engineer & client are working on.
For example Sound on Sound magazine writes extensive articles called "Inside the Mix" giving numerous details on how a song was produced.
Great reads on these are "Katy Perry's - Fireworks" as things like clipping seem like a major issue when recording, yet the production itself had such an unsurmountable amount of clips that got detected, it was surprising that it did not detract from the overall sound as the track itself sounds as pop as possible.
5. Talk to your engineer.
As music is subjective workflows are also heavily subjective.
We therefor recommend artists to always contact and ask questions to their engineers.
The afore mentioned points are basics, but it is never a bad idea to ask your engineer questions also.
We are all human nature and your engineer will ask you questions beforehand, sometimes it might show that something important has not come up before preparation, but by asking it might remind either the artist or engineer that it is necessary for recording.
On another note different engineers, artists & musicians work different & therefore might want different information based on the project.
Your engineer is there to not work for you be to part of the team, as a great product benefits both parties.