1. COLOR : Color is the fastest way humans interpret information. When composing music in any DAW , we are really working with lots of little chunks of information. Employing a robust color coding system to your production process WILL dramatically increase the rate at which you can produce music based on the idea that you will be able to interpret your compositions faster.
If you integrate the system into your production process (color code while you work, or in little chunks along the way), when you are towards the end of a set/session you will have a beautiful graphic score. You will be able to make larger scale compositional edits and tweaks and whenever you revisit any of your sets, you will instantly know where your guitars/bass/drums/piano are for example.
2. Explore Ableton Live – of all interfaces I’ve used, it’s the cleanest, fastest and most efficient for editing, production and mixing (not to mention the most beautiful). In terms of editing information, It works similarly to the Adobe Creative vector-based application, Illustrator. If you can wrap your head around duplicating silence, your sets really start to expand themselves.
This isn’t a realistic route for every musician, but for those who use Live, I’d start with Bass as Blue, Percussion/Drums as Red, MidRange instruments as orange, pianos as white, FX as bright green and softies as teal. If you’re using Live, switch your Interface display to Midnight – it’s the only color template that offers really strong contrast that lets your colors and the interface elements pop. (oh yes: Pink for Vocals/Voice overs, Purple for pads and ambiances) I use the same color system for my audio jungle productions as I do for sets designed for live performance, theatre, dj sets, film and animation.
3. Arrange your sets in a vertical representation of the frequency ranges you’re producing. Basically, imagine your set/session as a Piano Roll. Put your percussion and kicks at the bottom, your bass above that, then mid range, finally FX, and piano. If you continually use this idea, coupled with color coding, every time you open your set you will quickly find what you’re looking for. Do this for more than a month, and you can start opening and editing sets without even listing to the music: this, in my mind, is a very powerful production process. (And just for the record, I’m not implying that listening to your music shouldn’t be encouraged; simply stating that editing without using your CPU is a pretty powerful thing to be doing)
4. The GRID : The Grid is your friend. Learn how to quickly move between seing your sets in bars, beats, 1/2 bars, 1/4 bars, down to 1/64’th. It depends on which DAW you use, but the faster you can move inbetween seeing how your music looks on the grid, the faster you can edit and make large scale compositional changes (without killing the groove of your whole track). I’m all for playing off the grid, but design your own first, then have fun breaking it.
5. Build Custom Loop Libraries. Got some old dusty softies laying around in your digital closet? Have a sample package you bought 2 years ago that you forgot you had? Decide for yourself a theme and a group of BPM ’s. For example: Action, 90BPM. Build a set and bounce out 50 high quality action percussion loops (named apropriately etc). Do the same for 100 BPM , 120 BPM and 128 BPM . Do the same with your synths – don’t forget to label the key if it needs it) Now start composing, and use that custom library. You’ll find that even if it only serves as a placeholder for what you want to do later, having those loops at your fingertips is really enabling you to think through your computer and DAW as an instrument.
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An excellent post by digitallush.
What happens regarding #1 if you are colourblind?
Thought you’d never ask! My brother in law is color blind… it comes in different degrees.. so the same system could work depending on how severe the disorder is. The most popular forms of color blindness affect interpretations of hues, so as long as there’s still contrast, even the most color blind person could develop a basic 5 color system that differentiates between black, white and greys.. which doesn’t require hue information to interpret ;D!
One of the good way that helped me to became much faster is: Practice some team work experience with FAST skilled guys in industry :))) I cant forget how shocked I was when I saw great speed of workflow (no waste talking and bullshiting in studio and so on)
Few years ago one of locally famous hip-hop artists asked me to help them with bluesy guitar on one of new songs. And I was lucky to be nearest bluesy-artist in town. When I came into studio, it changed me forever! While watching 2 hours of their work on recording guitar and back-vocals I had learned more than learned for last five years of my own self-teach approach.
Extremely useful advices guys:) I can confirm that they are working – I often works with musicians as recording engineer and everybody is watching on clock – you must be very fast and accurate. Worst thing is that I may devote for my own stuff approx 2-3 hours per one music track to complete it – so they could be much better
you want to be able to work as quickly and creatively as possible without technical niggles weighing you down. A lot of the advice already posted is really good though!
one thing i find that works is making the tune in one session, mixing it on the next session and finally going back to make final tweaks on third pass.
1) making a track needs to be done first. I mix as I go, but you can find yourself doing some funny things (i.e. newest added sounds are too loud!) and often you don’t want to be thinking about compression and effects while composing/arranging making music.
2) come back to track with fresh ears and then think about levels/EQ/compression/effects etc – you will notice things you hadn’t noticed while making the track. try and get a good mix.
3) finally come back with fresh ears again, to notice any little mistakes in the mixing you had made, make final adjustments and then bounce the finished files.
Theoretically with modern technology you could probably make a complete tune in a couple of hours, but to make, mix and render a tune in that time doesn’t allow for any thinking time or mistakes, plus you will have been listening intently for 2 hours and won’t be able to make good decisions about the track and the mix.
ok, so I have a couple accounts on here for exclusive and non-exclusive, what I have noticed recently is the tracks I spend more time on, usually end up selling better. I used to be a get 1 track up a week type of composer, now I’ve slowed way down. I’m now taking the time to get things sounding great, because these songs could potentially sell for the rest of your days, might as well take the time to get it right, right? But here’s the deal, it’s not about spending hours and hours trying to get something sub-par to sound amazing, it’s about spending the time up front to make sure the song itself is good, that it’s current in regard to things you see on TV, etc, that it has good movement throughout the song so that it keeps attention and doesn’t seem like an endless loop with more variety. Don’t worry so much about trying new compressors, or different techniques every time, or recording things over and over. find things that work and stick to them when they make sense. And do what you’re good at. And just know that if you’re going to try to conquer a new style your not family with, it’s going to take time to get it right. In the end, I say as long as your product is quality and in demand it will sell. These other guys have gave you good feedback too, look into templates, and get familiar with some go to effects and techniques that can (for the most part) be used on every piece you do. It’s not about previewing every effect and sound on the planet it’s about finding the strong one’s that work for you a majority of the time. My basic template in protools has all my tracks labeled (drums, guitars, keys, etc) with all my favorite effects bypassed, along with a master track with my favorite compressor and a track with the AJ watermark muted.