Pre-Production : What Is It?

acoustic-guitar-pic I’ve set aside 1.5 hours this morning for pre-production on an original song titled “Into The Light” by songwriter Timothy Demming.

Tim ordered “The Works” level demo ($1,250.00) which is a full band demo including lead, harmony and background vocals, a 6 piece band including doubling of tracks where warranted, mastering, and radio ready mix. It comes with a limited release license for up to 10,000 copies to be sold, either via download, CD or other means.

I loved Timothy’s rough and I’m excited to get started!

What happens in pre-production? This is the time production notes are made, the songwriter’s notes are reviewed, the arrangement is created and Nashville Number Charts are written. It’s also when the singer and musicians who will be on the session are chosen.

If I hear flaws in the song’s construction, be it in the lyric or in the music, I’ll shoot out e-mail(s) to the client noting the perceived problems and possible fixes. I realize that what I see as a problem may be something the writer did intentionally and wants to keep, which is perfectly okay.

Common problems resolved at this stage are:

  • Extra bars that aren’t needed
  • An odd number of bars that need to be evened out so that portion of the song doesn’t feel “left footed.”
  • A line that is so wordy the singer won’t be able to squeeze it all in without sounding unnatural.
  • A chord choice that doesn’t fit the progression or the melody.
  • A melody that isn’t supported by the chords.
  • Tempo slightly faster or slower than ideal.
  • Weirdness. I can’t explain this exactly other than to say songwriters, left to their own devices without input or guidance, often do strange things, especially in the lyric. For example, they may write a complete song built on a concept that, unbeknownst to them, could also be taken another way they never thought of. Can you spell “sexual innuendo” and place it in parallel to a normal lyric in a sweet old ladies’ gospel song? Not the best idea to let that out in public, she needs some gentle guidance.

    Or sometimes a song is just plain weird beginning to end: “What Does Santa Give Huskies for Christmas?” comes to mind. Perhaps there are some questions we just don’t need an answer to. Gentle. Guidance.

    I don’t address things like pitch issues, tone or musical ability of the singer and players on the rough. If the songwriter making the rough version had perfect pitch, great tone, could play at session quality and do great arrangements what would they need us for? I expect those elements to be pretty raw, just send in the best rough you can muster. I’ll review your song, not how well you perform it.

    Jesus will judge you someday, it’s not my gig : )- b.e.

What’s The Difference Between A Demo Recording and a Master Recording?


As far as music quality sometimes nothing, sometimes a lot. In general a lot more time is spent on a master from pre-production through tracking, through mixing and then it’s mastered, a step not usually taken on demos.

The big difference is rights in regards to selling the project for profit, which reflects on how many $ are shelled out for the recording. The songwriter(s) fully own the rights to the melody and lyric but the right to sell the recording depends on what the songwriter(s) pays for. If the musicians on the recording are paid demo rate then the songwriters can give away all the demonstration copies (on CD or MP3 usually) they like, but they can’t legally sell it. Demos usually cost in the hundreds.

Paying for a master recording (usually costing in the thousands of $) gives you the right to sell CD copies or downloads. It’s important to be sure the singer (if you don’t sing the song yourself) understands that’s the intent.

Two fairly recent developments passed by the musicians union:

1. A limited release master, cheaper than master rate, allows you to sell up to 10,000 CDs or downloads

2. You can upgrade from demo to master by paying the difference. In the old days a demo was forever a demo. I believe this upgrade became inevitable as demo quality and complexity improved and many demos sounded nearly as good as masters.- b.e.