The Most Important Part of a Record

I’ve heard the debate time and time again, what is the most important part of a record? Ask the singers, and they’ll tell you the vocals. The bass players will insist that their fatty groove is what makes the CD so special. The mixer will obviously tell you the mix, and he’ll fight with the engineer who says it’s the mic placement and process of actually recording. But who’s right in all this? Could it really be the bass player?

An argument can be made for each step in the process, but my vote goes straight towards Pre Production. Think about it. What is the one common thread that strings every aspect on the record together? If you said bass, you’re pushing pretty hard, but sorry, that isn’t the answer we’re looking for. Pre pro covers every facet on a record and I’ll prove it to you.

Style: 

Before recording even begins, a producer needs to be comfortable with the genre of the band. Once the style is determined, the producer and the band can set goals for the album. Will they stick to one specific vibe, or are they looking to branch out and try to hit across multiple markets? Are they trying to achieve a polished sound, or a raw natural feel? Do they want a 5 song EP aiming for 3 singles, or do they have their sights set on a roller coaster of emotion for a full length? When everyone has a similar mindset, they can all get on the same page, which is extremely beneficial when it comes to tracking, editing, and mixing.

Structure: 

Once everyone has agreed upon a style, the decisions become more defined. If it was agreed that an album was going to be progressive rock, then there’s no need talking the band into a typical structure of Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus for every song. Sticking to the guidelines of what works within a specific genre is key. Good producers aren’t one trick ponies either, they know the value of incorporating different formats on a record. Sometimes that typical pop structure will actually work really nicely for a song on the progressive album. And on the other side of the spectrum, a progressive structure could help a poppier band to get out of their comfort zone. But I digress, borrowing ideas from different genres is another topic for another day. Mixing and matching ideas here and there is cool, but producers should never change the style of the band or the integrity of their songs.

Arrangement: 

When focusing on arrangements, pre production will hone in on individual parts of songs. If Billy’s metal band is screaming throughout the entire piece, it may become monotonous (especially if it is happening in every song.) This is not an uncommon occurrence for many inexperienced bands. When it happens, producers will suggest to Billy, the idea of removing some vocals. Removing some screams can open up the song and help it breathe, thus creating different dynamics. These different feels are ultimately what keep a listener engaged. Having these different vibes will also separate one band from another in the scene. This phenomenon doesn’t just occur with metal vocals either. Producers will listen intently when it comes to guitar, bass, and drums in all different styles of music.

So you see, pre production takes place well before tracking, but it leaves it’s impression long after. As the blueprint to the record, it will give the songs a specific direction full of guidance and clarity. The ideals established during pre pro will carry over to how the musicians will play, how the engineer will record, and how the mixer will mix – there’s no doubt about it. Without pre pro, you’re just a kid building legos without the instructions. You may piece something together that looks ok, but wouldn’t you rather have that awesome looking rocket ship on the front of the box? For more information on pre pro and tracking, please feel free to check out our free production site, like us, and subscribe. Peace and rock on.

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2 thoughts on “The Most Important Part of a Record

  1. I like the lego metaphor at the end. But the experimental artist sees it this way: Some people are content with building whats on the box, others would rather think outside it and have endless possibilities 🙂

  2. You’re definitely right about wanting to think outside the box. I love being creative, and I believe the basics of that creativity should be mapped out before hand. That way everyone knows what they’re working towards. (The left hand should know what the right hand is doing.) Things can change along the way, and having a solid foundation allows the possibilities to be, as you say… endless!

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