Now it’s time to step inside the sequencer to help you finish tracks in lightning speed on your lunch breaks or before work.
There’s No Limit
First let’s tackle one of the biggest reasons that we get stuck and waste time – having too much choice. This applies in almost every aspect of production: equipment, sounds, composition, style and arrangement.
Imposing limits and creating frameworks makes writing music less frustrating and can also help you define your sound.
It’s easy to do and you can apply it everywhere…
Instead of wasting time browsing your whole drive for the right kick or snare sound, create a small library with sounds that you already know work well together. There is a reason so many producers in the eighties used devices like the LinnDrum – the sounds already worked together.
To get some proven material, you can scan your favourite tracks and sample hits you like.
Most sequencers let you save plugin presets which can be quickly recalled. Having a selection of choice presets can save you hours of browsing through different sounds.
You can easily kick this off by going through some old projects and pulling out the presets that worked really well for you. You can also limit yourself to using just one or two particular synths.
Exactly the same principle applies here. If you have a combination of effects or processing that works well, then save it as a preset.
Most sequencers will let you preset an entire track or save groups of devices you can drop in.
Arrangement is the scary task that stands between all those 8-bar loops and finished music. It’s something that almost everyone gets stuck on at some point.
Make life easy by inserting track markers for different sections on your timeline before you start.
If you want something quick and easy then most pop songs are based around Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
If you want to go deeper then pull in a favourite tune to your project and insert track markers at the different sections like intro/breakdown/drop.
Now you can delete that tune and you’re left with a guideline to start filling in.
It’s amazing how much time and energy are wasted by repeating uncreative tasks every time you write a track.
The goal here is to automate all those aspects and focus our energy on writing.
Start by thinking about which types of tracks and other elements you use most often and create a template. You can bring in aspects of everything we’ve talked about so far as well as :
- Track names and colours
- Track groups / folders
- FX channels
Also try creating templates for different tasks like mastering, sound design, mixing your radioshow. Some producers create different templates for different types of tracks.
The more tasks you automate, the easier it is to be creative and complete tracks.
We have a very healthy fetish for shortcuts and are always on the lookout for quicker ways of getting things done.
Common tasks like normalising, pitch shifting, time stretching and reversing often take multiple clicks or key presses. What if we automate those with a quick shortcut?
Logic and Cubase are particularly good for this as they allow you set up custom key commands.
(This also comes in handy when working with other producers or artists as you will have more time to focus on collaboration.)
The Final Countdown
Taking advantage of these techniques will help you overcome blocks and rapidly accelerate the amount of music you can get done around your job – but don’t stop there.
Are there any other limits or frameworks you can create ?
These can also start to form a part of your unique process, helping you create a sound or style of your own.
Let us know in the comments what other tips and tricks you use…