Workflow is a key element for anyone creating, whether it’s music production, writing a book, filming, editing, photography, you name it. A solid flawless workflow doesn’t only make getting the job done much faster but it also allows you to become more creative. When an idea pops into your head, you need to be able to know the quickest and most efficient way of getting it down into your project. Have you ever had a studio session where nothing seems to go right? Your project is crashing, you spend ages scrolling through samples, you don’t know which synth or preset to go to etc… Because I have.
That’s when I took it upon myself to invest a small amount of time to optimise my sessions. So the next time you go to sit down to make some music, spend the first 30 minutes having a sort out and trying out the following tips:
- Project Templates
When you open up your DAW whether it be Logic Pro X, Ableton, Pro Tools, FL Studio or whatever you may use, it’s good to have everything already set out so you’re ready to go and start writing ideas as quickly as possible. Some basic template setups could include reverb and delay sends, even some parallel compression chains/busses or parallel distortion chains/busses already set out. If you’re using a ‘ghost kick’ to do your sidechain compression, have the ghost kick channel already set up at the top of your template ready to go. A personal favourite is having my Native Instruments Battery kits already loaded on each channel. I have my Kick, Clap and Hat tracks already set up so as soon as I open a project, I can press a note on my MIDI keyboard and I can lay down a groove in seconds. This is a great time saver and will allow you to start making music quicker.
2. Drum Kits
This was already mentioned in No.1 but I must stress this tip. Drum Kits are incredibly handy to have pre-set. As mentioned, I use Battery for my drum sampler. No matter what sampler you use for your drums, try and set up some kits/banks for individual drum sounds. Have a ‘Kick Bank’ set up and pre-select your favourite 20-50 kicks. Same again with claps, hats, percussion etc.. This will also help you craft your own unique identity, your ‘sound’ if you will. Because you’re always using the name similar groups of drum samples. Spend 30 minutes creating these banks of drum samples and you’ll save yourself hours of time-wasting in the long run.
This one is often talked about, but it’s super important. As I work for Sample Tools by Cr2, I’m sure you can imagine, I have a LOT of samples on my hard drive. Often it can become overwhelming and I find myself scrolling endlessly through thousands of samples over and over. So I decided to start collecting my own personal sample library. You can spend a few sessions doing this but essentially all you need to do is save samples you use often to your own folder and name it ‘MY SAMPLES’ create subfolders within the folder for Drums, Bass Loops, Synths etc…
4. Organise your VST’s
Make sure you know exactly where you’re looking and in what folder for the specific VST’s you may use. For example, in Logic Pro X you can organise your plugin library and create your own folders. I like to add my favourite distortion plugins into the ‘Distortion’ folder and all my FabFilter stuff in a specific FabFilter folder. This will help stop you from scrolling endlessly through all your different VST’s.
The organisation is KEY in music production.
5. Phones OFF!
You’re not going to like this one but it’s the harsh truth. When your phone is in the studio with you and it vibrates, you’re going to find yourself glancing over and ruining the ‘deep work flow’ mind state that you’re in. It might not seem like a lot but this 2-second distraction can throw you off massively. There is so much scientific research out there which proves that humans aren’t designed to multitask. At least if you want to truly focus on great results from a single task. So break your studio session up into sections. 30 mins/1 hour in your DAW and then a 5-minute break to check your phone if you really feel like you need to.
6. Lacking inspiration? Try this.
If you’re struggling to get anything down in the studio, you’re not alone. Creativity comes in waves, and when it strikes you need to RIDE it. However, that doesn’t mean you can just step away from the DAW if you’re not feeling it – you need to push through the writer’s block. Try and play production games with yourself and see what happens. These 9/10 will lead to a new idea sparking and a full studio session will follow with great results. Here’s a good one to try: set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes. You have to write a drum loop in 2 minutes. When the timer ends, that’s it! Then 2 minutes again for basslines. Then another 2 minutes for a pad or top-line etc.. something will come out of this. You might not like the result but you’ll definitely have some new ideas come to your head. ‘Hang on, I could use that synth melody and add something extra to it.’