10 Tips For Maximizing Your Studio Productivity
When we asked music creators about their goals for 2018, the biggest response was to create more music. It's no surprise—getting to that final creative stage provides a huge sense of satisfaction.
But making music can be a challenge. There are always creative blocks, lost files and procrastination along the way. Finding time for the studio with a full time job or school can be a juggle too.
Small changes can yield big results, so we put together 10 tips to help you stay on track to getting more music done this year.
Choose A Sound Palette
The first step to having clear direction in your production process is deciding on a 'sound palette'—the group of sounds you’ll be working with.
Round up your best samples, VSTs and synths. It's easy to get carried away by your DAWs endless options, so choose the materials you want to work with and stick with them. This will save you time at the start of every session when your ears are still fresh.
Name Your Files
Keep things organized with a naming structure for your samples and tracks. At some point, we've all had our desktops littered with files like smooth_padsound_9.wav. It's a problem. Clear naming is your solution.
Group samples into folders based on instrument, tempo and timbre, or whatever makes sense to you. For your tracks, create a new folder for each month. It’s straight forward and also shows your progress. Name your projects using the date you made them.
Set Goals For Studio Sessions
Going to the studio ‘just to jam’ can be the best way to relax and have fun. But studio sessions that are too loose can get in the way of finishing tracks.
If you don’t have a goal to make a track or EP, you probably won’t. Write down what you want to accomplish and do exactly that. Make sure you set aside enough time and use it wisely.
Create a weekly calendar for what you want to accomplish and follow it. More tracks will be made.
Create Without Criticism
Focus on getting started without being too critical. Get a solid loop together and move on. Don’t get stuck on details, but focus on expanding your loop into a full track.
Once you have a 3 to 4 minute skeleton, go back and add the extra tweaks to make it pop. If a part isn’t working, don’t spend too much time fussing over it. It's okay to leave loops behind. You can always use them for a different track later.
Setting limits will help you achieve the last two points. Work with a small selection of synths and learn them inside out. You'll know exactly how to make the sounds you want and avoid lost time with trial and error.
If something in your production setup isn’t working, get rid of it. The best music is often made from limitations.
We all have weak spots—either things we don't like doing, or regularly avoid when making music. This often drags out the music production process, getting in the way of finishing music.
Collaboration is all about working with people who know how to do things that you don't. Seek out a collaborator with a complimentary skill set. When each creator is confident in what they bring to the table, the musical process will be faster and the final result will be better. Start a new collaboration today.
Share Your Music
Asking music friends to listen to your works-in-progress is valuable when you want to get a better picture of how your track is coming together. There's no need to obsess over details of your track. Get honest feedback about what works and what doesn't instead.
If ever someone asks you for feedback—be forward and remember to stay kind. Honesty is the best policy, but you don't want to hurt other people's feelings.
Save, Save, Save
If there is one thing to fuss over, it’s saving your tracks. Make it a nervous habit. Computers crash and files corrupt. Back up your tracks on a hard drive and the cloud. Your music is precious. Keep it safe.
After a long studio session, your ears are tired. Take a break, rest up, and return when you’re feeling creative again. Spending a lot of time on a track when it just doesn’t want to come together is a total pain. You even up doubting yourself and no one needs that.
Avoid DAW chaos. If things get too messy, get rid of what you don’t need or just start over.
Every DAW has a set of built-in shortcuts. Find a shortcut list online and use them to speed up your workflow. For Ableton users, we put together 20 of our favourite shortcuts here.
Oftentimes, you can set up some custom shortcuts and MIDI processes. If you have a favourite (or regularly repeated) process, there is probably a shortcut you can make for it.
A clear set of goals and proper workflow is key to turning inspiration into a finished track.
Leave distractions and inefficient ways of working behind. Happy producing in 2018.