Another important aspect to consider in preproduction is the structure of the song. For vocal songs, this is often addressed when working on the lyrics. Sometimes this is enough, sometimes it isn’t. Approaching structure separately is often necessary when there is a strong instrumental component to the song. This includes vocal songs that have distinctive sounds or textures. This is where the vocal is not the only driving force or characteristic feature of the song.
In assessing the structure of the song and identifying ways it might need to be improved, it’s essential to understand concepts such as contour, proportion, development and coherence. I’ve already written about these here:
Usually artists present demos that have some good ideas, but are undeveloped. They might range from a collection of ideas (sometimes even in the same key!) vaguely arranged in a structure, to fully-realised compositions that are just a little loose around the edges.
Sometimes I need to do a lot of work with the arist to present their musical ideas in a way that flows and makes sense. In extreme cases, I need to rerecord parts just to make sense of the structure. This is often because the sections are in different keys or tonalities in a way that doesn’t make musical sense, or because individual tracks are too heavily processed (typically compression or distortion) in a way that can’t be undone or pulled back.
When it’s only a nip and a tuck required, it’s because there are sections that are too long – they spend too much time without contributing much to the story of the song. In other cases additional parts are recorded or rearranged to give the song a more defined shape (contour) and progression (development).