As a music producer there are two main formalities that need to happen when considering a new music production, the initial brief and good session planning. This is essential in ensuring maximum efficiency and productivity can occur to achieve the artists, producers and engineers desired outcome. It is also common for follow up briefs and conversations to take place in the interim straightening out any worries or concerns about the production. The importance of careful session planning should not be underestimated and carefully executed.
The difference between a brief and a session plan is the brief is the initial sit down with the potential client and a scope of works is to be discussed and written down. The session plan is all about implementing the brief and getting an in depth overview down on paper, that way everyone involved knows what, when, where and how the session is going to unfold and time wasting issues are less of a problem.
Discussions during the brief should be about strategies, plans and getting a general feel for the project. This is the time to ask questions and determine whether the project is “suitable”for everyone involved, some examples of ideal questions might be:
What is the artists desired outcome? what type of sound are they going for? what is the purpose for the recording? is it going to be released on cd or digitally?
How many songs are you looking to record? Maybe they want an EP or an album?
What Genre? style of tracks? Do you have any demos of songs I can listen to? is there a live show or rehearsal on where I can come and listen (This will help come when it comes to session planning).
Have you had much experience in studios before? If so what worked ? what didn’t work?
List of the number of people expected and the types of instruments played. Do you have any of your own microphones you wish to use? what model of amps, drums, guitars, strings, brass and percussion are you bringing to the session?
What is your preferred playing style? Do you prefer to track live? Play to a click? Have eye contact with each other? Do they feel comfortable recording in a room by themselves?
The all important/awkward part of business.. Do they have a budget? your costs for the work.. (estimate only at this point or simply let them know once you have a session plan).
For a production to be given the chance of being successful it all starts from the initial brief and then filters down into the session plan. Getting to know the artist better leaves everyone feeling more comfortable, hopefully resulting in a clearer picture of the sound you are trying to achieve. Producer and engineer Guy Massey had this to say after an initial brief with a client “we decided on an organic feel, record to tape and do it live” Sound On Sound Magazine. (2014).
This shows that just from an initial chat and some prior knowledge of the music decisions can be made before the recording. Failing to do a proper initial brief can lead to decisions beginning to snowball downhill. The goal of the session plan is to try and make everything go as smoothly as possible with minimum of delays and technical issues. “Of course, being very familiar with all the equipment is essential for a smooth-running session!” (Houghton, 2012).
Session planning would include equipment lists, session times and breaks, order of songs to be recorded and pre and post equipment checks and setup times. For big bands a floor plan would be ideal so you can begin to decide where to put microphones and instruments. It’s always a good idea to bring extra equipment to a session, when Matt Houghton from Sound On Sound went to record a big band on location he said “ Packing extra mics and stands to give us plenty of options on the day, and ensuring we had long cables and stage boxes to set up a temporary control room wherever seemed best on the day” (Houghton, 2012).
The importance of session planning to the success of the project is to try and limit the number of unexpected problems that may arise and cost you and the artist time. Things like making sure you have proper equipment for the session and a strong idea in your head about how to run the session is important. Make sure you have a schedule to give yourself adequate time for pre and post testing of equipment.
Houghton, Matt (2012, December). Selwyn Jazz Part 1: Tracking A Big Band On Location. Retrieved from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec12/articles/session-notes-1212.htm
Sound On Sound Magazine. (2014, August 20). Recording Ajimal At AIR, With Guy Massey [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI7uXKyfjAY#t=10
Jones, S., & Boland, C. (n.d.). Recording session management. Retrieved from http://www.stuartjones.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Recording-Session-Management4.pdf