You'll be able to add whatever is needed, whether it’s drums, piano, keys, synths, harmonies, strings and more; Stuart can help you to craft your songs into something you’re very proud of.
Stuart approaches each song on its own merits and runs a collaborative environment that allows you to explore different options and sounds. Within the one solo project you can go all out with the production for the song that's a real banger with kick, snare, acoustic, strings, synths, multiple layered harmonies and double tracked vocals; then go intimate with another song that's just piano, one lead vocal and a simple harmony to highlight the chorus. Every song is its own thing, and Stuart is used to working across multiple genres including pop, rock, indie, dance and even classical. Whether you have a clear idea of how it should sound or need someone to help you make it more, Stuart is here to help you.
Before the Pre – Production session Stuart will listen to everything you’ve got recorded, even if it's only phone recordings; he's keen to hear all your work. If you don’t have many recordings, don’t worry because Stuart can record quick demos of your songs, to chat about during the Pre – Production session.
Pre – Production is about choosing the songs you want Stuart to Produce, and then having a chat about your vision for them. If you've only got so far as knowing your songs with acoustic and vocal, but have the feeling they could be so much more, Stuart will have plenty of ideas to discuss with you.
Once you’ve chosen the songs you want produced, the rest of the Pre – Production session will be devoted to the pair of you working out the following:
Most songs you hear today adhere to one tempo for the whole song (there are exceptions); when a tempo change is needed it's usually subtle with the chorus changing by only a couple of beats per minute compared to the verse.
Stuart will work with you to find the ideal tempo for each song; this can mean speeding up some sections or slowing down others. If you've only done one or two writing session on your songs and not played them live often, it's fairly common that you'll tend towards playing them too slowly; with a well-rehearsed song you'll likely have a better idea of its natural tempo. You don't have to make your song the same tempo throughout, but doing so is a popular approach for a reason.
If your song does require large jumps in tempo between sections this can be a creative opportunity to make it happen in a way that disguises the tempo change. Try to think of the right tempo as, the one that has the intended impact on the listener. By then end of this part you will have the tempos of all the songs locked in for the upcoming recording sessions.
The structure of each song is crucial in shaping a banger, and getting it right is part of having a good plan of attack for the whole production. Structure is basically the verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge arrangement of your song. During Pre – Production you work together to agree on the verse/chorus structure of your songs. This can change during rest of the production, once you both get a taste of the song with other elements in place, but you usually get it right during Pre – Production. This is a good time to discuss the instrumental arrangement; eg. Does it need drums? Do you want harmonies? Does it remind you of any other songs? What other instruments and musical elements do you see here? etc. It's likely you both wont have this all figured out during Pre – Production, but you can start making many of the decisions that will shape your songs.
Note: Before offical recording begins Stuart will record a guide track (main instrument) and guide vocal of all your agreed songs, as a working reference you can both easily refer to during the multitrack recording process.
The bridge is often the most difficult part of the song to write. For some reason Verses and Chorus tend to come easier to most people than the bridge. It's therefor common for the songwriter to just use a modified version of the verse or chorus for their bridge. There are times where this works, but it's often a missed oportunity; a brand new section for the bridge can take your song to a new level and be refreshing for the listener. If you find the bridges in your songs to always be a modfied verse or chorus, it means you need to rethink that part of your writing process; Stuart can help you write a great bridge that ties the song together and makes that final chorus hit exactly the way it should. He will first give you suggestions and hints to get you writing the perfect bridge yourself, and if you're still stuck he can come up with the bridge for you.
Not all songs need Pre – Choruses but some can really benefit from them. When the verse and chorus are centred around the same, or similar chord progression, or when they have the same starting chord, your song could benefit from a pre – chorus. Stuart may suggest that one of your songs needs a pre – chorus to make the first chorus stand out; if you agree, he will then guide you in the right direction.
Now it's time to hit record; you and Stuart will have plannned the project for the best use of time, allowing you breathing room for the creative process.
As an example:
If you’re an acoustic guitarist with your acoustic is forming the backbone of many of your songs, you will be recording this first, before any other instruments are tracked. Stuart will record your main acoustic guitar for all your songs, and then move onto the next instrument in your project, like the keys, bass or drums. Final vocals will be done last, once everything else has been recorded. This is the industry standard for multitrack recording and also a great use of time.
Note to guitarists:
Make sure you have new strings, and that they're "played in" before recording starts. This is crucial to the end result (also have at least one set of spare strings).
Stuart is a classically trained pianist with over 25 years’ experience at the keys. He also has 15 years’ experience in writing various forms of music including but not limited to Rock, Pop, Folk and Classical. If you need anything at all regarding keys, synths or strings work Stuart can either advise you, or play anything you need on your recording project himself. He has access to an extensive sound library, and uses an 88 - key Roland weighted - key digital piano and Yamaha effects rack. You are also welcome to use his gear if you play keys yourself.
Stuart prefers to use drum samples for solo artists however if your preference is live drums this can be arranged at an external studio, with one of the many session drummers out there (this is billed at cost price for session musician and external studio hire). Because live drums are so time-consuming Stuart will be recommending you spend some time with him working out what you’re wanting with the kick and snare patterns and any other drums related things, before drums recording. If you would prefer the use of samples (for creative or cost reasons) Stuart can still make your recording sound like it was played by a real drummer, or go for that over - produced drum sound (commonly heard in pop).
If you need low end stuff done, keys or synths is always an option; however if you play bass yourself then great. Bring your bass and amp with you. If you have a bass but not an amp, there are digital solutions that can be used. If you need a session player Stuart can organise this for you at cost price.
Lead Vocal is the most important part of any song, as it's what everyone gets stuck in their heads and sings along to. Stuart has worked with experienced singers as both a Producer and an accompanist, in rock, pop and even opera singing. Because of Stuart's breadth of varying experience he's accustomed to getting a bit extra out of singers, and will help you record an amazing vocal performance.
You'll get more time than you need to nail your vocals.
Stuart will record you one section at a time and give you feedback to help you understand what you did better in a previous take, which will help you with your next one. He'll clip out the best parts of each take and hang onto them. He'll then edit together one complete section from these parts and you’ll hear yourself singing the best version of your song you’ve ever heard. This method is the industry standard, done by all the top producers and is the biggest part of why songs on the radio and spotify can sound so damn good.
You’ll get up to 15 or 20 takes for each section to get it right (which is more than enough!). This doesn’t mean you need to use all those takes if you’ve just nailed it, but they’re there if you need them.
Backing vocals, Harmonies and Double-Tracking has become common place in modern music and for good reason; it works wonders in making the end result sound like it belongs on radio. If you’ve got some harmonies happening already, great! If you don't, Stuart is an experienced singer and harmony specialist himself and will help you get your harmonies right; there are several techniques Stuart will use to make this part of the process easier for you. Stuart will encourage you to sing the harmonies yourself, but if you don’t want to do that, and still need harmonies for your songs, Stuart will be happy to do them for you. Double-tracking is a pro recording technique that add weight to any of your vocals, and be used in many different ways to enhance your vocal sound; Stuart will use this if and when it's necessary to get you the best listening experience possible.