Step 3 – The music

Song arrangements and rehearsals.

Music is the soul of your album. This is not just any album. It’s your stuff we’re talking about. But rather than getting too attached to the songs you now have, do make room for flow, more creativity, and for possible changes, as you proceed. Don’t be too defensive about your precious works of art that you guard it behind an iron gate, allowing no one entry. Try to be open and objective.

Song arrangements

Take a look at your song choices. Try to listen to the demos again. Take it all in and try to picture the album with the songs included. Song arrangements can factor in who will be singing what and when, what keys these songs will be in, what instrumentation will be used, what feel each song will possess.

The arrangements are both instrumental and vocal, and may involve background vocalists as well. Ask additional questions like: will there be any solo instrumental portions in some songs? What will the signature song be? Is the lineup interesting enough? Sometimes a song, after it is arranged, takes on a different level. Sometimes it is transformed and stands out as more beautiful than the original demo.

If the song arrangements involve sequencing on a workstation, these are done before you go into the studio.

Give each of your songs personality and identity. Be careful that your songs don’t sound alike. The lineup should be an interesting mix with a good ebb and flow of emotions as well.

Order of songs

Even before recording takes place, you can try to have an initial feel of what your album will sound like, or how it will take form through putting together a sample of your existing chosen songs.

Plot or map out the peaks and valleys of the songs in a way you see fit. Here are some examples:

Example 1:

Tracks 1 – 3 (fast songs to build up energy)

Track 4 (slow song to release the tension from the past 3 songs)

Track 5 (middle of the road song – slowly establish moderate feel)

Track 6 – 10 (mixture of fast and slow)

Example 2:

1st Half of album – fast songs

2nd Half of album – slow songs

Example 3:

Tell a story through the songs’ titles

You may also try an alternative order aside from the one you first choose. A demo CD can be made so that it can be passed around within the band for any comments or changes.

Concept albums

If you have an overall concept for your album, you can check to see if each song contributes to whatever your concept is. For instance, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album was a concept album that contained songs that focused on obstacles people face in life.


Practice time starts when you’ve got the assignments laid out regarding who sings what. Rehearsals may be conducted by any in the group who acts as a musical director and/or arranger.

This is the time to study the material that will be recorded. Here you can again iron out song assignments, key and lyric changes, tempo, instrumentation, and the like. Doing this well will save you a good amount of time inside the recording studio. You can record your rehearsals and keep them for reference if you need to study them or go back to them at one point. If you prefer to skip rehearsals, you will end up doing this during the recording process, which will eat up a chunk of your time and money. There will definitely be some figuring out inside the studio, but songs well-rehearsed prior to recording will ease the load.

As good as a rehearsal

Aside from music rehearsal preparations, include in your pre-studio to do list any other tasks you need to get done prior to recording your instruments and vocals.

Things like checking on any equipment rental, changing guitar strings, having extra on hand, bringing extra picks, drum sticks, batteries, or anything you may need during a session. You may waste a lot of studio time if you forget the essentials.

Take good care of yourself and your health. Eating well and getting enough sleep are important for being prepared inside the studio. You need to be on time and alert and focused, so make sure you’re not drinking or abusing any kind of substance. Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.

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