Producing an album can be a scary process if you don’t know what you are doing. It can also get expensive without looking at the bigger picture.
In this post, are 6 things to consider when producing your first album.
How many songs are going to put on the album
The first thing you need to determine is how many songs you want on the album. This will affect the production process as well as the final song selection. This can be decided by a number of factors.
How many songs do you plan to write before picking the final set? Will it be 15, to pick 8. 10 to pick the best 6. Or 30 – 40 songs to pick 12.
Another factor is, how long you want the album to last. 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes to an hour. You can use this to break down how many songs you will need to reach this goal. This can contribute to the overall experience for your listeners.
The final factor is how long do you plan to spend on producing the album. If your timeline is short don’t do a lot of songs. If you’re working on a longer timeline then you can do whatever you want.
What style of music are you going for?
This will determine how you promote your music, and the fans you want to target. A question to ask yourself is, what is the genre are you working with? Could it be reggae, hip-hop, pop, EDM, country music, soca, and others. This will help narrow your focus and make your writing process easier. It should also blend with your musical brand and sound.
Identifying the genre you are doing helps to narrow the focus for where you will perform live, and the types of events you will do to maximize on the promotional aspect.
You don’t want to perform at a reggae festival singing country music. Unless you blend country with reggae.
Which producer(s )do you plan to work with
Now that you know what sound you’re going for, who is the best person to help you achieve that. This is the time you where you start to look for producers to work with. Not all producers are the same. Some work with specific types of music.
The other option is working with a band. If you have a band that can play the music you want you can direct them to achieve that.
The last option is buying beats. This involves purchase premade instrumentals from producers and writing and recording your songs over them.
Where do you plan to do the recording
Do you plan to record all the songs at home? That’s if you have a home studio. This will work if you get tracks premade or buy beats and have a home studio to do all the recording.
The next option is to rent studio time and do everything there. This can get expensive really quickly if not managed properly. But you’ll get access to a variety of equipment that the studio has. That’s if its a commercial facility.
The final option is to record everything at the producer’s studio. This is great because the cost for recording will be built into the cost to produce the song. In the long run, would work out cheaper.
Who is going to mix and master the album
Do you plan to work with an external engineer to mix and master the album? Well, you will have to consider costs, depending on the engineer you want to work with. the end should result in high-quality mixes. The downside is that if the engineer is well booked, chances are it may delay your project. The producer should advise you on that.
Some producers mix and master as well. So when choosing your producer, ask if they mix as well as master.
The next part of the process is choosing a mastering engineer. They will put the final touches on your album before you release the entire project for sale. Choose carefully because this will make or break your album.
How much money you plan to spend on producing the album
How much money do you plan to spend on the entire album? At this point, costs should be worked out. All the details like studio time to do recording, mixing and mastering and also how much the musicians charge to play the backing tracks. Look at the producer’s cost as well.
Once you know all these costs, you can decide how you will approach the album production process. It will also help to make a budget, and you should stick to it, and see where you can save money.
Taking the time to plan out your album can make the process easier. It will also help you save time and money, hence creating a set that best represents you.
There is no formula to make music. But as for productivity we all need a quick way to reference ideas and jot down parts to use later down in our song arrangement. With that said creating song blocks is a sure way to do so.
Have a list of ideas
Write down a list of ideas you would want to turn into songs. This can be a great way to get stimulate the brain. If you have ideas already great you can skip to the next step.
Convert the ideas into 4 or 8 bar blocks
Why? Picture this you get an idea for a new song but have multiple concepts you want to try out. Instead of trying to pick the perfect one why not just write them all. Write concepts that can be used as a verse or chorus for that particular idea. You can mix and match them later but as long as you get your idea out in a block that can be useful. Like a four bar block that can be used as part of a verse or chorus.
How long should you spend on each block? That depends how comfortable you are with what you have. If what you have sounds good to you have you dancing in your studio forgetting everything else around. Then you know that your complete. Keep in mind that you don’t have to overcomplicate things. Get all your ideas out as quickly as possible. After that you can spend all the time in the world putting the track together.
Can this work for producers?
Yes. Start by creating a basic drum pattern to jam to get some ideas for your track. Playing to a one bar loop is kind of uninspiring. I know for me that’s kind of boring. But what if you can create an eight bar loop, complete with different drum fills to start you on your journey.
In order to move fast while creating beats is to get all your ideas out at quickly as possible. So How do you get that done? By recording in four(4) to eight(8) bar blocks.
Why? A Basic chorus is typically eight bars long. So is verse. So to get a basic sketch of what that will look like you can use this as a starting point.
So what’s so great about doing that? If you love music like I do, I want to get that next masterpiece out of my head before I lose the vibe and worse forget totally what I wanted to do.
So how do you go about getting that done? start with one section at a time. Have a basic drum track to work with. Then build around that. If you want to play a piano or guitar first to start off the session then do so. Whatever you start with is your foundation. Having a solid foundation will give you the kick you need to get started to compete the beat.
Working in blocks is a fast way to get your ideas down as quickly as possible. You don’t have to over complicate things just get your ideas down and edit them later into a complete song.
As creative people we have lots of ideas floating around. This is because we have lots of influences that we draw from on a day to day basis. We get inspired by our favourite artiste, our experiences, stuff we see on the road. We have so many ideas we often forget about it.
The good thing is creativity and ideas are not in short supply but the problem comes when finishing stuff off and getting it out to the world. Could this be a procrastination problem or just lack of time. Or worse, not knowing how to polish off our ideas and turn them into something useful.
Before we dive into the process of shaping ideas one must understand what a finish product looks like. Also the process it takes to get to that point. This can be rewarding when you spend time to go through that refining process.
Know what the end is.
Knowing the end will give you a template to work with when blending ideas together. This is having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your writing songs for your next album or creating beats, taking pictures, writing poetry or painting on a canvas. Whatever you do know what a finished product is. So that you can share with your audience .
Draw from your influences, and make a list of the best products you see out there and use that as a marker and a guide for what you are trying to achieve. This will be your guide when editing your work. For example this could be a list of songs you admire that you listen to over and over again. This could be pictures that you look at, that gives you a look that you want to achieve. This could be paintings that you love have a certain technique you’re a trying to master.
When you do this, it gives you a structure that you can borrow to arrange your ideas for testing later. It is always good to keep a running list. Austin Kleon says it’s good to steal from other people. This will ultimately help the creative process later.
Deconstruct the target and put it back together
When you have a template, or a goal that you are trying to achieve, now is time to deconstruct it and put the pieces together. What you’ll be looking for is how these people did what they did, what are the decisions that they made and how you can do the same.
I used to do this all the time trying to recreate drum patterns from some of my favourite producers when i hear tracks i loved. The Game’s Dream drum track produced by Kanye West, Come Over by Estelle and Sean Paul done by Supa Dubs not to mention trying to recreate the melody line from Lean On by Major Lazer.
All this helps in learning new techniques and different ways to do things. In my case make great beats and music. Your situation might be different but the end result is the same. Austin talks about this alot in his book Steal like an Artist.
After the deconstructing the work you’ve chosen and put it back together in some shape or form use what you have learnt about putting together a final piece or work to good use. Now is time to draw from your idea box and assemble them together.
Polish of the rough edges
With the template and the deconstruction phase you should be motivated to try stuff out. Here is a snapshot of what that looks like.
If you’re a songwriter, a chorus idea here, a line for a verse there, and random phrase that can be used for a hook or a bridge, a chord progression here, and a few random melody ideas. Put that together and you have a version of a song. This will be your starting point. Once you go over it you can now refine those random pieces and create a song that you can record and share with your fans.
If you’re a photographer you might find poses for a model for your next photoshoot to try, different angles for wedding you might test out and so on. You can test them out on your dog, or get your spouse to pose for you while you try your ideas out to refine the skill and technique.
I hope you start getting the idea. Refine the ideas into something that you can now share with your fans.
When you’re finished with these mashup of ideas you would be amazed at what the final piece looks like or sounds like. Because once you’re done refining the creative piece you now have one more project for your portfolio.
Share what you have created
Now that you have spent the time to refine your idea into a finish product don’t sit on it hoping that you can get the chance to share it. Just share it and get it out there. You have something that is very useful to someone else other than yourself and you should not be afraid of just letting the world know that you have created something. Even if its not perfect in your eyes.
The ideas for this post was inspired by Austin Kleon’s book Steal like an artist and Share your work.
I really love the message in these two books they have helped me out alot and hope the ideas will help you too.
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If you’re interested in becoming a music producer they are many roads you can take to build a career. And your journey will on depend on the type of music production you want to do. If it’s edm production laidback luke has a video on youtube that outlines the process which makes it easier to develop your skills. just to go over it here:
Start by doing edits to tracks
Then move on to making bootlegs
Then move on to doing mashups
then start making your own original tracks
First you’ll need a space to do recording, you can pay for studio time or you can build your own studio.
Next thing you need to understand what makes a good song and the basic arrangement structures for your genre. This will help you make decisions about an artist song and what it needs to take it to the next level so it can work for its indented listeners. This involves cutting or adding stuff to the song or even changing the order of lyrics etc.
Then the final bit is project management to ensure that things get done on time on budget as well as hiring the right people to do the right job.
Find and artist who has a song
Get a beat produced for the song
Work on the song so it’s good and the artist knows the lyrics by heart
Record it whether at your own studio or someone else’s
Get the song mixed and mastered
When you have the final master you essentially just produced your first song.
PS. It won’t hurt hanging around local studios to get a foot in and meet people, the key is to be helpful and bring something to the table because you never know.