What is workflow?

Workflow is a term I use a lot, and I use it with a quite specific meaning.

When I use the term ‘workflow’, I’m usually referring to project workflow – a series of processes or stages that a piece of work goes through from initiation to completion.

For example, a typical workflow for a song might be something like this:

  1. Preproduction + Initial vocal demo recording
  2. Instrumentation (bass and drums)
  3. Instrumentation (guitars and keyboards)
  4. Final vocal recording
  5. Edit + mix

Each stage is clearly-defined, having a purpose and outcome. Some stages require particular equipment or people.

With experience, you can establish the needs of a project and determine what workflow is best. Not all projects will require all the above stages. Some projects will require other stages. Some projects are particularly complex and require long workflows for each song. Other projects might be simpler and require fewer stages.

Once a workflow has ben established for each song on a production project, the next steps are to determine how much time each stage requires and to schedule each session. If your plans are realistic, you should be able to spell out exactly what tasks are being done, when they’re being done, and when the whole lot will be finished.

If you do this well, you’ll bring a high level of predictability to your work (your project outcomes – not your music!). In turn, predictability gives you much better control over your projects. With a well-established project plan, you can suddenly provide reasonable answers to these kinds of questions:

  • How much later will I finish if I want to record more instrumentalists?
  • If I get sick for a week, how long will it take for me to catch up and get back on schedule?
  • If I want some extra help with post-production (editing, mixing, mastering, etc), when can I start asking for that help?
  • If I’m likely to find some extra time in a couple of months, how can I schedule my work to be able to take advantage of any extra sessions?
  • What compromises do I need to make if I want to add another song to the album without pushing out the release date?



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