Preproduction is an interesting topic. If you’re a solo composer/producer, you might never have encountered it. If you’re a singer/songwriter about to record in a studio, you might be wondering what it is and whether you need it. If you’re a producer working with an artist, either you know this or you need to know this.
Put simply, preproduction is what happens after compositiong/songwriting and before recording. It might cover one or more of the following:
- Polishing lyrics
- Tightening the structure
- Clarifying instrumentation and creative direction (sound and feel!)
- Enhancing expressive performance
- Directing rehearsals
Essentially, this is the point at which the songwriter has written the song and taken it as fas as s/he can alone. It’s at this point that an experienced third party (a producer!) approaches the song with a fresh set of ears and provides advice and assistance to take it to the next level.
For a lot of music requiring live performances (such as bands), this is the perfect opportunity to make these kinds of improvements. Sometimes it’s possible to to things like changing the structure or a few lyrics after recording, but it’s usually difficult to make it sound natural.
For composers and producers working on electronic music (electronic performers?), this line is blurred. Often composing, performance, recording and mixing all happen in parallel – all together. For these kinds of projects, taking time out to devote to preproduction probably seems archaic and unnecessary.
However, even electronic music benefits from the advice and guidance of an experienced third party – even if that role isn’t called a ‘producer’ anymore. For the electronic music workflow, it’s usually more appropriate to bring in the third party toward the end of the mix. This is when the composer/producer has taken it as far as s/he can alone. For a traditional recording workflow, this is too late because audio recordings of live performances are not easy to change… but for the electronic music workflow (especially when using MIDI and software instruments) even drastic changes such as changing the chords or key of the song can be made after the mix is finished. While this is essentially the same ‘preproduction’ that traditional songwriters and producers know, the name itself can be misleading!
Maybe we need a new name. Any ideas?