Okay, whoever is reading this, I’ve come to the conclusion that taking detailed notes on what I do in my DAW every session and then posting them here in the magazine is too time consuming for me and I am assuming not very informative for you. The process is just plain old me sitting behind a computer and beating my head against the keyboard until something more or less interesting reaches the eardrums.
So from now on to save us both some time I will just post the latest track with more detailed and accurate production data, and the most important takeaways a-la "short and sweet". As always, if you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them.
Ok, so here is my latest track. I hate it because it sucks. (Like what genre is it even?!) But it is too weird to live, to strange to die.
Writing sessions: 6~7
Total time spent making track: N/A
Time counted toward 10000 hour goal: 05:05
Here are the main takeaways after finishing this track:
Trial and error is a valid way to compose.
I used to freak out about not having the music originate in my head. I never hear any chord progressions or melodies in my mind. But the more I browse the web and listen to other musicians talk about their creative process, the more I realize that trial and error is the way a really big chunk of all music is composed. Not convinced? Think modular synthesis. The magic of it is the unpredictability. Our goal as musicians is to recognize a good musical idea and then develop it into a song. How that original idea comes to you does not matter.
Any time spent producing is better than that same time spent wasted.
Even a 15 minute session can be productive and move the track along.
Hack your production workflow.
If you are feeling "uninspired" (a.k.a. lazy) and don't want to work on arrangement, you can still be productive. Organize the tracks in your DAW. Build some drum loops, make some drum racks, program some patches, make some midi clips with little melodies, get to know your samples. This way you are doing a bunch of easy and fun tasks and creating materials which you will be able to use as creative fuel in your future productions.
Do whatever it takes to get out of the loop.
Stuck after the drop? Don't know how to build the next section of your song? This is perhaps the most frustrating thing a musician can encounter. There are two ways to deal with this. 1 - Get depressed and not make music for the rest of the week. 2 - Play the drop on repeat so many times that it plays in your head for the rest of the day, then get sick of it and not make music for the rest of the week. There's also a third secret way to deal with this. 3 - Do WHATEVER it takes to "bleed" the part that you already have into the next section of the track. All methods are valid. Sometimes all it takes is a reverb tail decaying into the silence of the next section to give you some ideas of what should come next. If that doesn't do it, turn on the delay with high feedback for the last note of your existing part and listen to it rhythmically propagate into the next section. Whatever you do, get into the next section of the song. And turn off those loop locators because they are like a cage keeping you inside your creative prison. I recommend listening to your existing section and then how it transitions into the silence that comes after. Like this you can start thinking what should come next instead of going back to listening what you already have.
The track you are writing now may not be a game changer, but it's a stepping stone. Finish it. Can it. Ship it to the nearest black hole.
Get rid of redundant plugins. Nothing is worse than choosing between two identical VSTs instead of making music. Pick the one you like best. Delete the rest. But make sure to bounce all your previous projects using those plugins that you are about to get rid of.
Dedicate time to learning your plugins.
The best way to familiarize yourself with a new plugin is to play around with it for an hour. It is preferable that that hour is specifically dedicated to just that kind of exploration and isn't in the middle of your creative/arrangement session (see next point).
Use the tools you know well when working on serious projects.
I learned this one the hard way. I used one of the many free VSTs I had just downloaded for the melody of a track I was writing. I selected a preset that sounded good and then moved on with the arrangement. At one point after having developed the other parts of the song, I realized that I needed to change the melody sound. The problem was that I was completely unfamiliar with the VST I had used! It took me a good half an hour to just get the sound that I wanted. The takeaway? Learn VSTs outside of your creative time. Use the VSTs that you know well when composing tracks, especially for serious projects.
Know your materials.
Get familiar with your samples. What's the point of having 1000 kicks if you only ever use the first 10 on the list?
A minimalist approach to samples, equipment, and VSTs that you know inside and out means that you are more likely to finish more better music.
It's not the end of the world. At least not until the world hears your new song ;)