Tips For Faster Production?


#1

Hi, everyone. I’ve been writing and recording for years, however, there’s one thing that’s really held me back: time. Most of my songs have taken me a long time to record and mix; probably much longer than what’s average. While this wasn’t too big of a concern for a long time (since I was producing music for full-length CD’s, versus for media), now it is, since I want to have a lot more tracks out there within the next several years.

What I’m getting to is that I’m now trying to work out a general workflow that will enable me to complete songs within a matter of days, (or sometimes even hours, if their simple), versus weeks. I’ve been using FL Studio for the last couple of years, but I’m trying to work in Reason now also, and I want to see if I may be able to use both in an efficient way.

Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for getting recordings completed in a reasonable time-frame? I’ve put some quick loops together in the past, but it’s not typically like that. I don’t want to rush things too much, I just don’t want to take weeks to finish one song anymore. If producing music is ever going to be my sole source of income, I’m going to have to step on the gas! Maybe I just need inspiration. Thanks.


#2

H Nathan,

You’ll probably get a varied set of responses, but I can give you a list of tips that I use in logic:

  • set up templates for your projects based on previous songs (or set them up specifically) so you can quickly get ideas down and each track layer sounds good already (this will speed up the mixing process)
  • save channel strips of common settings you'll be using with effects and plugin chains
  • be organised with your loops etc (folders for genres / types of sounds etc)
  • plan your songs structure on paper before you even play a note if possible
  • set up an automated process for adding watermarks to your tracks or a separate project you can just open up and use to render out watermarked tracks with
  • prepare an excel doc with things like tags, titles, descriptions etc for each track so you can copy and modify similar track tags for future releases
  • learn to play your instrument(s) like a ninja (and your DAW)
  • give yourself challenges when working on tracks whether that's by limiting the instruments you can use, limiting time for each stage of creating a track or setting milestones over the course of the year.
  • enjoy making your tracks and know when to stop being a perfectionist (easier said than done)

Hope that helps


#3
tacoMusic said

H Nathan,

You’ll probably get a varied set of responses, but I can give you a list of tips that I use in logic:

  • set up templates for your projects based on previous songs (or set them up specifically) so you can quickly get ideas down and each track layer sounds good already (this will speed up the mixing process)
  • save channel strips of common settings you'll be using with effects and plugin chains
  • be organised with your loops etc (folders for genres / types of sounds etc)
  • plan your songs structure on paper before you even play a note if possible
  • set up an automated process for adding watermarks to your tracks or a separate project you can just open up and use to render out watermarked tracks with
  • prepare an excel doc with things like tags, titles, descriptions etc for each track so you can copy and modify similar track tags for future releases
  • learn to play your instrument(s) like a ninja (and your DAW)
  • give yourself challenges when working on tracks whether that's by limiting the instruments you can use, limiting time for each stage of creating a track or setting milestones over the course of the year.
  • enjoy making your tracks and know when to stop being a perfectionist (easier said than done)

Hope that helps

Great Advice Taco! (I’m taking notes lol)

Nathan, for me, i’ll try to keep a balance of steady workflow, but not rushing it. For example, production of my material usually isn’t super time consuming, but when it comes to mixing and “post-production,” that’s where I’ll notice that when I rush a mix for a track, i’ll go back the next day and hate it! So what I’ve learned to do (for me) is to create when i’m inspired, then mix and edit either on the same day or another, and then tweak & finish up on another day to finish my mix. I usually end up happier with the finish product. When I have a good finished product, then I don’t have to spend extra time and hours tweaking again because I rushed something. Hope that makes sense.

But every person is different :slight_smile: It just feels good to know you have one awesome track versus completing 3 unsatisfactory tracks at the same time.


#4

Wow , great advise from tacoMusic. He basically nailed everything down for you.

I would rather go for the quality rather than quantity, so take all the time you want to get the perfect sound you’re looking for. You just can’t have both.
These are my two cents.


#5

-Make sure you know all your keyboard shortcuts.
-Make sure you know all the tools in the program and how to use them.
-Know what you end result is going to be before you even start… as close as possible anyways.
-Try out different software DAWs. Some might be better for what you are doing or your style of creating.
-Your sample library should be as organized as possible.
-Make easy to access folders for your plugins so that you have quick and easy access to them. Not sure how FL works with arranging plugins…
-Don’t keep second guessing yourself. Go with the flow. Record a part until it sounds good, then move on.
-You can only work on a part so long until it starts to get worse not better… and you don’t even notice it happening.
-If you get to a point when working on a song where you get tired or bored, take a break. If you took a break and you are still bored move onto to a new song or an old song and work on that. I think you could have at least 2-3 songs on the go at all times.

-These are just a few that I can think of… taco mentioned some really good ones in his post.


#6

Great thread, within Taco and Joe, you have pretty neat answers =)


#7
tacoMusic said

H Nathan,

You’ll probably get a varied set of responses, but I can give you a list of tips that I use in logic:

  • set up templates for your projects based on previous songs (or set them up specifically) so you can quickly get ideas down and each track layer sounds good already (this will speed up the mixing process)
  • save channel strips of common settings you'll be using with effects and plugin chains
  • be organised with your loops etc (folders for genres / types of sounds etc)
  • plan your songs structure on paper before you even play a note if possible
  • set up an automated process for adding watermarks to your tracks or a separate project you can just open up and use to render out watermarked tracks with
  • prepare an excel doc with things like tags, titles, descriptions etc for each track so you can copy and modify similar track tags for future releases
  • learn to play your instrument(s) like a ninja (and your DAW)
  • give yourself challenges when working on tracks whether that's by limiting the instruments you can use, limiting time for each stage of creating a track or setting milestones over the course of the year.
  • enjoy making your tracks and know when to stop being a perfectionist (easier said than done)

Hope that helps

Amazing advices! I’m taking note!!


#8

Arranging and producing a song that already is composed is a part of our craft, so it might be pretty fast for skilled craftsman. Composing, however, is something that cannot be artificially speeded up. It’s also important to take a lot of time listening to the recording in different places on different equipment, so it has to take time.

Of course you can speed up the production using an easy progression and very simple melody line while composing, then program everything quickly using prepared templates of everything, and mix everything quickly and master using prepared settings. But I doubt it will lead to the ultimate goal of making good sales anyway.

The only point of making production faster is an attempt to spam the marketplace with frequent uploads in order to leverage the front page exposition. This has been discussed already that such approach doesn’t work, in opposite to quality-oriented production. Recently, the reviewers became more strict, so most quickly-made tracks will probably get rejected anyway.

Spending a few weeks for one track is just right. Doing it faster is a mistake. In best case, such song will create a few sales, then disappear. Only high quality tracks can produce sales continuously.


#9
TJMusic said

Composing, however, is something that cannot be artificially speeded up…

While I agree that high quality songs should regularly make sales in the long run, I disagree that you can’t learn to compose faster and still compose well.

There are plenty of composers who score films in 3-4 weeks. Sometimes that’s over 120 minutes of music and, although some do reuse old material, being able to compose quickly doesn’t necessarily mean your work will suffer. In some cases, I’d say it actually improves your compositions as you have to get the job done to a strict deadline so naturally focus considerably more on the task at hand.

TJMusic said

The only point of making production faster is an attempt to spam the marketplace with frequent uploads in order to leverage the front page exposition.

Spamming this site is only possible if the AJ review team allow it as there’s a vetting procedure in place. If you think ‘spammy’ tracks are here now (however those may be defined), it’s because it’s been welcomed in through the front door and given a glass of buck’s fizz to join the Envato party.

I’ve heard some composers say their best-selling track took them an hour to write in some cases, so for me, it really is about when the track is ‘ready’ rather than how long it takes to write and produce it. Also, how simple a melody line is has nothing to do with the quality of the track in my opinion (listen to the Social Network soundtrack, which is simple yet works very well I think). All that said, I usually can’t write a track in an hour and be happy with it, but that’s a personal preference.

While both you and I probably agree that there should be fewer tracks (and of higher quality) in this marketplace, it’s partly because we want our own tracks to be found more easily to boost sales. But library work has two approaches that lead to success from what I see and from what seasoned composers in this area have told me:

  1. The first is mass-producing tracks that are over a certain threshold of quality so they are suitable for purchase. Some composers have told me that you need over 1000 tracks in some libraries to make regular cash as that’s what is needed to be found and purchased regularly, particularly as prices drop and competition rises. I don’t like the idea of that at all, and I suspect you won’t either, but there is some logic behind it when you look at the maths and it’s certainly an approach that a lot of composers take. We are told to continuously upload after all, so big portfolios tend to appear as a result.

  2. The second is to be extremely focused on creating a few very good commercial tracks that work for your niche market and sell well on the merit of hitting the zeitgeist (among other things of course).

This second scenario is the ideal in my opinion and works well for some authours here. I kind of wish I’d taken a single-niche approach when starting to build my portfolio as I went for the varied genre approach.

However, option 2 is a tricky route for new and future artists because of the rising number of tracks in this catalogue. I’ve found some incredible authours with small portfolios whose tracks are great, but they get lost in the sea of new tracks / competition.

You may have noticed there’s a strong correlation between successful AJ authours (often with small portfolios) and successful Video Hive authours - that relationship will only become harder and harder to forge over time for new artists and, I think, relies on a great deal of good luck.

Unless you are so unique and have no real competition (Gareth and I were talking about this in another thread with reference to Tim McMorris), then marketplaces get crowded so you’re not going to get found as easily. Getting quick at creating and mixing your music can only be a good thing in that environment, particularly if you want to make a living making music professionally as you’ll need to be able to compose very fast when the client clicks their fingers.

That was a long one, sorry for the rant!

PS, something that I think is worth adding (albeit off-topic) is that, like any marketplace, we should be constantly adapting to demand. While we learn to write and produce higher quality tracks (whether that’s quickly or not), we should also be learning when to trim back unsuccessful ones over time. That’s kind of like a third ‘half-way house’ approach to composing for libraries I think, essentially distilling your portfolio down to only your best work over time.


#10

tacoMusic, thank You so much!

I was thinking about all this ideas before reading this thread, but I like when something is written, so I can make some king of plan.


#11
  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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


#12

An excellent post by digitallush.

BUT!!!

What happens regarding #1 if you are colourblind? :smiley:


#13

Thought you’d never ask! :stuck_out_tongue: 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!


#14

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.


#15

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 :slight_smile:


#16

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.

why?

  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.


#17

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.