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Rehearsing for recording

An explanation of what it takes to become a record producer.


Rehearsal can take place in any or all of three locations: at the producer's or artist's home, at a rehearsal studio, at the recording studio. These are listed, obviously, in order of rising cost.

For some styles of recording, particularly using experienced session musicians (who may charge rates well in excess of the Musicians' Union minimum) it may be cost-effective to rehearse during the session, just prior to the recording.

But for a band, the members all have a financial interest in the success of their recording so their rehearsal time comes free and doesn't impose any additional loading on the budget. Early rehearsals are conveniently done at home. Song structure is easily plotted with just voice and guitar or keyboard. This would be a good time to alter lyrics or to tinker with the melody line of the song.

Most singers have a fairly narrow range of notes over which their voice is at its best, so the key of the song can be changed either upwards so the vocalist can project more effectively, or downwards so that the highest notes can be reached comfortably.

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There is always the option at this point to choose a key that is slightly uncomfortably high, because the singer doesn't have to do the song all in one go and can do as many takes and punch ins as necessary. This does of course store up a problem for later live performances, but the producer will be off working on another project by this time!

A rehearsal studio is good place to work on arrangements, and to allow the members of the band to settle into their performances. Once upon a time it was normal for a band to write some songs, go off on tour with them, and then record the album.

Now of course, a band goes on tour to promote their new CD. There is a balance to be struck between the amount of rehearsal necessary for the band to perform to the best of their ability and the risk of over-rehearsing, which is not to be underestimated.

Sometimes the right amount of rehearsal will be practically none at all and the first time that the band plays the song all the way through without making a mistake will be their best performance ever. That obviously should be the one that is recorded. Although excessive rehearsing can detract from spontaneity, it gives the opportunity to try out different arrangements.

Perhaps the first rhythm that the drummer and bass player settle into isn't the best one for the song. Perhaps experimenting with another way of playing the song will give a fresh insight on the original and make the performance better.

Although the rehearsal studio is obviously a good place to rehearse, an even better place may be a budget recording studio, depending on the band and on how the producer wants to work. Now there is the risk that something may be recorded, just as a tryout, but the recording isn't technically up to full professional standard and the same 'vibe' proves impossible to recapture.

Everyone who is involved in recording will experience this sooner or later. Just to finish off this section on rehearsal, I should also say that there is occasionally one final - very final - stage of rehearsal. This is where the band goes into the studio with the producer and records a couple of songs. The A&R manager listens to the recordings, decides they are no good and fires the producer!

By David Mellor Tuesday February 1, 2000