Here's the basic outline I used to teach a class about record making at Club Passim a few years ago... it's slowly developing into a fully fleshed out document.
The general idea is to lay out my "wholistic" approach to making records... thinking from the end product backwards to the start of the project seems to help in achieving the desired goal. I like "concept" records... records with an overarching theme, and I like thinking about the song order very early in the process. Records are just long songs to some degree, and good records have many of the same properties as good songs.
How to make a record, in six easy steps:
1. PLAN imagine the end product before you begin the work know what the record should be, and what it should do for you develop the skills to know, and communicate, what you want to end up with few records are made in a vaccuum: understand the value of teamwork
Theme: the thought process/conceptualizing the record concept always applies...so deal with it upfront who is the record for? what is it that we're making anyway? Songs: knowing when you're ready how do you develop your material? peer groups, band mates, preproduction copyrighting songs and performances
Listening: defining audio terms what is the sound you want contemporary folk, pop, country, learn to hear the styles finding words for the sounds you want, or hate favorite records: why are they so cool?
Production: finding the right lens: what's production? Do I need a producer? How can we get the best from the song? raw, overproduced, sparse instrumentation, other ears, other ideas choices and wisdom, using the studio instrument Rehearsals: scheduling the team listening to the songs, listening to each other the arrangement makes the song keeping the options under control
2. RECORD: find the way to get what you want Location: Live? Studio? Positives and negatives Setup: Who goes where? What do we need to hear? Basics: skeletal arrangements clicks, loops, wild: tracking options preparing for the session: charts, tempos, lyric sheets, food, and sleep scheduling is king is your instrument ready to record? Overdubs: filling in the holes with the right sounds choosing the players choosing the parts...pieced or played
3. EDITING: tidy is good, and saves money pre-mix housekeeping keeps the focus at mix time notes for the mix... don't edit the feel out!
4. MIXING: relating the theme to the sound what can be controlled: timbre (eq)/level (pan, volume), fx imtimacy, depth, width mix styles for music styles what's the focus?
5. MASTERING: what we need to know making a "record" from a group of songs Essentials: fades/levels/spacing/pq codes. Options: eq/comp/limit/tricks/ISRC
6. MANUFACTURE: making it tangible The Package: choices relate the product to the production Graphic Design: why the cover is still important: how the album is represented in the physical world retail sales, posters, promotion will rely on the package- not the music Design Essentials: Name: appears on cover, spines, back and cd Songs: back, inside, cd all with times Contact info: Back and inside- website, address, phone, e-mail Options: DJ Cheat sheet Lyrics? Conceptual interior? Website connections? Postcards?
HIRE A DESIGNER with experience doing cds. Dimensions, colors, film prep work must be precise or it will cost you more money later! Prep for booklets and CD is different. Number of panels, booklet type, eco- and alternative packaging options Photos: mood, location, color all lead to the concept should you be on the front of the record? Duplication: quantities, turn times, submission file types audio delivery formats (pros and cons) specs, copyright, over/under runs Scheduling