In this post we will look at what you should prepare in advance to make the most of your time with a dance music engineer.
Whatever your level of production, one of the keys to getting the most out of your time with an engineer is to enter the session with idea of the type of track you would like walk away with. If you’re not sure what sort of outcome you want, you’re likely to spend valuable time with the engineer discovering which direction to take your track – this is something that you can do on your own in most cases and spending money for your engineer’s time while going through this process is simply going to add extra expense to the project.
The most obvious consideration to have a grasp of before you go into a session is which type of dance genre or sub-genre you want to produce and what BPM you would like the track to be.
If you are someone who has many unfinished tracks and you are going in the studio to get the engineer to finish and polish your track then take the best one you have produced so far and build on that. The key with this is to not have loads of contrasting ideas within your unfinished track otherwise it will be confusing for the engineer. A bassline, some percussion, and possibly a main lead would be more than enough to get you started. Knowing what key you have arranged in is helpful but the engineer will be able to work this out.
You should check whether the engineer uses the same DAW as you and has all the same plugins as you. If they don’t then you will need to bounce down the individual tracks as stems ready for the engineer to place these into a session.
It is always good practice to do this anyway, because you may find when you get into the studio that your project may not open correctly on his computer. Again, this is a waste of time as you would need to figure out a way to bounce them down whilst you are paying for engineering time.
Good practice is to make sure you have named all the stems correctly with obvious names so the engineer can tell exactly what they are from the start – for example Kick, Snare, Bass, Main Lead, Pad rather than “track 1 sound”, ” vst instrument 1″ etc.
Good housekeeping on file management is also key, so that you are not wasting time when the engineer asks for a particular sound from a project> Make sure that all of your necessary files are in the project folder before you leave for the session, even if you do bring in an external drive. This will save your valuable time in the studio with the engineer – you don’t want to be paying for him and you trolling around your drive looking for that one drum loop.
If you are new to music production and are not able to produce yourself then the best thing to do is buy some sample packs and take loops from the packs that you like. Also taking the equivalent Rex (recycled) loops with you will make it much easier for an engineer to incorporate these into a project and save time on any REXing you might want to do to send slices to samplers etc. Some sample packs already offer rex loops such as our sample packs here at Loopmasters. It’s worth noting that in this case, you are asking for production AND engineering. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to mention to the studio that this is what you are after. One reason is that this is going to take longer and the studio will need to alot for the time. Secondly, some engineers will be great engineers but not producers – others may not have a very good sense of your genre at all.
No matter whether you need production done or just enginnering, it’s a good idea for you to take a selection of tracks that you like and want to emulate. This makes it much easier for the engineer to get a sense of what you are after, especially if it’s something like a specific effect, a certain bassline or a lead sound. A good engineer will understand what you are after and create something similar for your track.
Always take a form of writeable media with you such as CD’s, DVD’s, or a hard drive. Don’t expect the engineer to have a CD to burn you track to unless they specify that this is part of the session cost.
What to Expect from your Session
If you have fully prepared and have a good idea of what you are looking for within the session then you should expect to see results quite quickly. If you are ill prepared don’t expect an engineer to create miracles for you. It’s within the rights of an engineer to refuse to work with you until you have enough prepared to work with.
What Problems May Occur
There are various problems that may occur in any studio session and even a good engineer’s computer can crash. A good engineer will be very used to saving regularly, but if you have been working for a while and you are concerned that a save hasn’t been made, prompt your engineer. It’s likely he has saved in the background but it’s best to be safe – just in case.
You may encounter unforseen obstacles in working with an engineer. One may come across is a simple personality difference between you and the engineer. For this reason if you are thinking of working with an engineer that has been recommended to you if possible have a quick meeting with them to see how you think yo will get along. Because you are paying the engineer for their service most engineers will be happy to meet quickly for a briefing of what you are looking to achieve
Finally, try to work with engineers that specialise in your genre and have a decent number of releases on various labels under their belt. Don’t expect the engineer to pass on his contacts to you – once your track is done you will still need to approach labels yourself.
Working with an engineer the first time can be daunting at first but don’t be afraid to quickly voice what you do and don’t like so that you are not wasting your time. This will help make sure you come away with a track you are happy with.