Step by Step Process of Album Production for Music Artists
We all have a favorite genre of music. We all have a favorite artist. Most of the time that artist has an album we absolutely love. If you’re a music artist yourself you may be inspired by that particular album. You may want to even record an entire album yourself. However, have you ever wonder what it takes to create an entire album? Do you know the process it takes for music artists to complete albums? If you’re an indie artist you should definitely know. You’d be surprised how many indie artists don’t know how the process works. Or what it takes to create a professional album. Here are the step by steps process of how to record an album for music artists.
The first step to recording an album for music artists may come as a surprise. It actually involves little recording. The first steps requires a lot of prepping. This is why it’s called pre-production. This is a process that every artist do. No matter how mainstream or indie you may be. The top music artists of all time had to follow this process. To get started on your pre-production for your album, you first have to get your songs together you want recorded.
1) Songwriters, Musicians and a Band
Before you record any album you have to have your songs ready. After all, your songs are what’s going to make up the album. In order to get your songs prepared that you’re going to place on the album you need a professional songwriter. If you’re a music artist that don’t write your own songs you’ll need a songwriter. If you’re a music artist who do write your own songs then of course, you’ll be the songwriter. This means you should have your lyrics and melody ready for the songs you want on your album. They won’t need to be recorded yet because that’s what you’ll do in the studio. However, you can have the lyrics written out and the vision you have for your songs ready.
2) Selecting your producer
The next thing you want to do is select your producer or producers. Many music artists have 1 special producer they love to work with. This is because the producer and themselves literally make magic in the studio. This is especially true for singers. A lot of mainstream R&B singers connect with a certain music producer that knows their voice. The producer know what works for their voice and what doesn’t. Be deciding which producer to work with be sure to get to know him or her. How you complete this is by having a consultation with them. Meet the producer and have an initial conversation with them. This can be for lunch, coffee or at a public lounge. At this meeting is where you tell the music producer about your vision. Tell them what you’re looking for and what type of sound you want for your album. You can even request a previous song from the producer that they worked on in the past. This way you have some type of reference. If you like what you hear and everything seems good then 9 times out of 10 you should go with the producer. But please make sure you and the producer also discuss song credits and base pay.
3) Select recording studio
The next thing you want to do for your pre-production process is to select your recording studio. You want to make sure you’re going to record your album at great studio. You should be checking for the quality of the equipment. Also check for the reputation of the studio. Feel free to ask them if any notable music artists recorded at their studio before. Most importantly find out the studio rates. Make sure the studio rates are affordable for your budget. Also see if the studio will take payments. Some recording studios allow you to get started as long as you can put down a substantial down payment amount.
4) Recording demo tracks
When working on an album you want to demo your songs. This should be done before you step foot in the studio. You want to give the producer and fellow musicians you’re working with an idea of what the song should sound like. This makes it easier for your producer to create an original beat for your song. This makes it easier for your band (if you have one) to play the right accompaniment. This will also save studio time and money. The more you work on the demo and make it sound as close to the final version as possible, the quicker you can knock the song out in the studio. To record the demo track you don’t have to have any fancy equipment. You can record the demo version a capella. Or you can record to a simple metronome beat. Your other option is to record to a drum loop or some type of dominant instrument. The goal is to make your demo as close to the record as possible. This way it’s easier to explain your vision to your producer, engineer and/ or musicians. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be perfect. You can record your demos on your phone or any type of voice recording device.
Now that you’ve done all the proper prepping for your pre-production, it’s time to get started. You can now start working on your album as an artist.
1) Working with a producer
To start the production process, you must first start with the demo versions of your song. Now that you have them recorded, you can start working with your producer. Use your demos as reference tracks. They’ll be your guide for what you want your song to sound like. This includes the beat pattern, bass line, various instruments and more. The producer should now be able to create original beats based off your demo and vision.
2) Selecting an engineer
Once you select your producer, you now need your engineer. Sometimes the producer and engineer may be the same people. However, this isn’t always a guarantee. Make sure you establish if your producer will also be your engineer before you start working with them. If your producer isn’t your engineer, you’ll have to find one. Most of the times your engineer will work for the studio you’re recording at.
3) Recording your songs
Once you have your beats ready and engineer selected you can now record your songs. The 1st layer you should record are your lead vocals. This would be your verses and the hook (chorus). Then you want to record your supporting melodies. Next thing you want to record are the background vocals. This is essential for singers who want their songs to have vocal layers. Or singers who want their vocals to sound full and harmonic. The last layer you want to record are the ad-libs.
The next step of your production process is to edit your vocals. This is where you engineer comes in. Depending on how hands-on you are as an artist, you can be involved in the editing process as well. In order to edit your vocals correctly you have to make sure certain steps are apart of the process. These steps should be:
- Arrangement – the engineer reviews each track to figure out exactly what needs to be edited.
- Comping – the engineer compares the duplicate takes of each track and the choose the best one. Sometimes the engineer may blend portions of each take. Meaning take 1 half of a verse from one take. Then the other part of the verse from another take. These 2 portions would then make up the complete 1st verse.
- Noise reduction – removes any extra sounds that your recording may have picked up.
- Time editing – fixes off beat notes (if there are any)
- Pitch editing – fixes off pitch notes (if there are any). This is also where sound effects are added to the vocals if requested. An example would be auto-tune.
The next step on the list of creating an album for music artists would be the mixing process. This part is where you mastering engineer comes in. Sometimes your studio engineer may also be your mixing and mastering engineer. However, this is not a guaranteed. Once again before you work with your engineer make sure all of these steps are discussed. The mixing process is where the layering of vocals and instruments occur. It’s also where the engineer perform tasks such as the compressions and reverb.
The last step to creating an album is called the mastering process. This is where all your vocals and takes are wrapped into one song file (mp3, wav, etc). Once again if you have a mastering engineer this would be his or her job, along with mixing. But this could end up being your studio engineer role as well. To master a track can be expensive. To master an entire album can be extremely expensive. For quality mastering work the price tends to range from $1,000-$4,000. However, if you’re working with an indie or local engineer, you can get lower prices. While at the same time still get quality work. A local mastering engineer who does quality work prices should range from $300-$700 for the entire album.
Once you finished your last step, which is mastering all the songs on your project, your album is now complete. You now officially have a full album. These may seem like a lot of steps. However, with the proper planning and arranging it doesn’t have to be difficult. Also keep in mind rushing a project is never good because it depletes the quality of the work. So relax and enjoy the process as you create your masterpiece.