5 things to prepare before you work with a producer
Updated: Mar 7, 2021
You’ve been working on this for so long! You’ve done your research, contacted a million music producers, listened through their portfolios and finally made your choice.
Working with your ideal producer can entirely change the sound and quality of your music. Being prepared for the process is crucial for the success of your project. Do some work to figure out what your expectations for the process and the end product are.
Here are five things you should prepare before you start working with your producer.
1) Know your 5Ws
The 5W technique is something you’ve probably heard of before. Ask yourself questions beginning with Who, What, Where, When and Why to improve your understanding of what you’re looking for.
Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask yourself.
-Who is your music for? Who are the people you’re trying to reach? Are they young adults or are they more mature? What are their values? What do they enjoy?
-What is your goal for this song? Are you trying to make a statement with your music? Do you want to inspire people? Are you trying to make people dance?
-Where do you envision the song being played? Can you imagine it bursting speakers in a club? Or would it be more suited for a chill cafe or a fancy restaurant? Could it be used in an exciting scene in a movie? What purpose does it serve in that context?
-When do you need it done? Do you have a target for when you want to launch it? Has it got a summery vibe? Is it a Christmas song that only makes sense releasing in December?
-Why are you working on this particular song? Why is it important to you? Why didn’t you pick another one of the songs that you wrote?
Discuss these questions with your producer to help them understand what your expectations are.
You have poured your heart into your lyrics and melodies. The song is very personal and dear to you. Don't be afraid of feedback!
Take a step back and look at it from an objective point of view. Does it have a structure that works and flows well? Does it have a hook that gets stuck in your head after you listen to it? Time to look at the lyrics now. Do they tell a story? Do they paint a picture in the head of your listeners?
No producer on earth can make a fantastic record out of a poorly written song. Whilst they can help you improve and tweak some things, the songwriting is your responsibility! If you’re not confident in your songwriting work, consider working with a professional songwriter. Once the production process starts, there shouldn't be any major changes to the song. Ascertain that you’re 100% happy with your songwriting work before you start working on the production.
3) Record a Demo
There are no excuses for not preparing a demo in this day and age. Home recording setups are so cheap! Even your phone is a good enough way to create a recording that shows-off your song.
Use a free app like GarageBand if you’ve got an iPhone or a Mac. Alternatively, Bandlab is a DAW that works on your browser.
Figure out what tempo works best for your song (an app like Tap that Tempo can help you find it easily) and what key works best for your voice. Grab whatever instrument you’re writing on and press record. Record to a click and track your instrument and vocals separately.
Your demo will give the producer a wealth of information about your song. First of all, it allows your producer to listen to your song and your performance. Your producer will now have a quick acapella to work with, the song’s bpm and the song’s key and an understanding of the song's structure and flow of energy.
4) Reference Tracks
Create a playlist with a few tracks that match the style that you would like to go for. Most of the tracks you add should be a complete representation of what you are aiming for. For example, if you are looking for a high-energy disco-pop song with a funky bass-line, you should add "Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa, since it captures the feeling completely.
However, feel free to add some tracks that include specific elements that you would like to incorporate within your arrangement. Do you want your song to start with the sound of a car starting up like in "Driver's Licence" by Olivia Rodrigo? Add it in!
When delivering this list to your producer try to be as specific as possible in your communication. Specify which particular elements within the songs you would like to incorporate.
A good list of reference tracks is the best way to show your producer what you are looking for. They will give your producer a goal post to aim at whilst working on your track.
You’ve created your backing track and you’re finally going to record your vocals. Once again, if your performance skills aren’t up to standard, no producer on earth can make you sound great. Yes, there is space for some pitch and timing correction, but there’s no way in which a producer can inject expression and confidence into your performance.
Get to know your song like the back of your hand. Practice it until your performance is as flawless as it can be. If you feel that you need a bit more confidence, consider hiring a vocal coach to help you prepare. On the eve of recording, avoid drinking or smoking and get plenty of rest. You want to be in top shape on the day.
So there you go! Do your homework and make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be to work with your producer. Getting these things done will make the process a hundred times smoother, faster and more enjoyable for you and your producer. Most importantly, doing your homework will make it so much easier for your producer to give you what you’re looking for!