Top 10 Tips to being more productive in the studio
We found these top 10 tips useful when trying to make more and “better” music in the studio.
1. ORGANISE YOUR SAMPLES
- Cataloguing your samples initially might take a little prepping (something you’ve probably been putting off for a while right?) and time away from making music, but it will help you get organised in the long run.
- Over the years you’ve probably been collecting random samples from all over the place – from purchasing TOP QUALITY samples from us on Beatport to the free samples you get with Computer Music Magazine, you’ll no doubt have a plethora or sporadically placed MIDI loops, one-shots and presets saved all over your internal and external hard drives.
- A good place to start is try sorting your samples in the categories GENRE, SOUND SOURCE (instrument type or layer) BPM and/or KEY. Whichever you choose, make sure you’re consistent.
2. CREATE A HABIT
- Try and make music everyday.
- Contrary to what a lot of people think, usually the best time to make music is in the morning. This is down to being mentally and physically “fresh” and unperturbed by what the day lays ahead.
- It has been scientifically proven that when you are happy, you are more creative. How many times have you come home after work, felt ruined by the long journey home, the workload, an argument with your boss or just the usual day to day S#!T! How can you possibly be in a primed position to make GOOD music?
- Creating a habit of making music in the morning EVERY DAY simply makes you feel good by being creative in the morning, increases your output, improves your production skills by the act of actually making music, eliminates time wasting and memory loss (“what was I working again??”) and by the end of day you can relax guilt-free!
3. TIME KEEPING
- Set yourself a timer when working in the studio. It’s so easier to get distracted by the incoming email, Facebook ping and Tweet, even your cat walking in (or is that just me…). Set yourself a timer so you know you have a limited time in which to work and you’ll create a new found focus.
- Studies show that working to a 50/10 rule is beneficial for optimum productivity. Whether you’re making music, studying or researching, apparently the brain can effectively hold focus for 50 min before getting slightly sluggish. After this period have a break for 10 (refresh, do a bit of desk yoga, grab a bite to eat or watch funny cat videos) then start again! Do this throughout the day and monitor your productivity.
4. CREATE TEMPLATES
- Once you find a good template with channel strip settings, busses and instrument you’re likely to keep using in your tracks, save the template for future use. Most, if not all DAW’s have this option when saving projects.
- This goes even further with saving your preset settings. Don’t be afraid to use the same reverb, filter or compressions settings in your tracks. This can help provide a unique sound within your soundscape and music. Many big producers are known for their kick, FX or type of sidechained bassline.
- If you’re stuck for an idea try searching for MIDI replications of tracks and import into your project. By playing around with the notes and by adding your own sound sources (basslines, kicks, toplines, FX) this will start to shape a new and unique track.
- Try and copy a track you like, but make it in your own style. This is a great starting point when stuck for ideas, or may turn into a credible remix which you can shop. Even if you don’t use the original bassline or drum pattern, you can get inspiration from other elements like the arrangement.
6. KEY COMMANDS
- It would be a crime for any producer to not use key commands (shortcuts). This needs little explanation. Using muscle memory to activate commands at the tap of a few keys is by far quicker than grabbing the mouse every time. Learn your shortcuts and always keep learning! You’ll even find that a lot of applications follow the same methods with some of the basic commands such as copy, cut, paste, zoom, open, toolbar, delete, play, pause, scrolling, etc.
7. LABEL IT
- A simple one. Make sure you name and colour your tracks, regions and channels as you go. When you coordinate your elements, especially when working with over 50, 100, 200 tracks, you don’t want to take up brain capacity by always needlessly searching for the right track or region, and getting lost in the project.
- By using the same colours for grouped sound sources your eyes and brain will automatically recognise the elements and you will increase workflow.
- If you are working with other producers, vocalists, sending your tracks off to be mastered or even sync companies, you will need to bounce stems. There’s nothing MORE BORING than bouncing stems, but made even worse by the fact you have to spend more time re-naming all your tracks so you can then group to bounce.
8. EAR FATIGUE
- Similar to the Time Keeping point – where working to a set time ensures optimum productivity, working at low level intervals can help with ear and brain fatigue. Listener fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs after prolonged exposure to an auditory stimulus. Symptoms include tiredness, discomfort, pain, and loss of sensitivity.
- Working in the studio for too long can inhibit your decision making by altering your state due to physiological changes. If you are tired or feeling discomfort, you’re less likely to be creative and making productive decisions. You’ll literally just be wasting time and money.
9. PLUG IT OR CHUCK IT
- Many producers like to accrue kit – whether it’s a synth, controller or FX unit… and often these sit unused and gathering dust. If you decided to buy a new piece of hardware make sure you have it plugged in, programmed and literally within arms reach, otherwise you are less likely to use it.
10. BE THE MASTER
- We all know what “Being a Jack Of All Trades and a Master Of None” means… There are a lot of incredible and industry standard plugins that are native to the most popular DAWs like Logic Pro, Ableton, Cubase, FL Studio and Reason, etc. There’s no need to go and buy the latest plugin that your favourite tech mag or DJ has recommended. You will spend more time learning about how to make music than actually making music. You’ll also be surprised about what nuggets you can squeeze out of a plugin you’re already using just by playing around with it and by using in different ways.