(electronic) music production workflow - a take that actually works

Discussion in 'Genre Specific Production' started by jayxflash, May 26, 2016.

  1. jayxflash

    jayxflash Guest

    In relation with what I've read on this forums in the past weeks, a myriad of discussion on music theory, hardware, software and production workflow I feel like most of the people do not realise how important is to take a decision and move on.

    So this one is for beginners, people that can't finish a track in 3 weeks or crazy artists who ignore every advice on a daily basis, but still want a good laugh. Enjoy :)

    1. Composing & sound design
    Kick: get 10 random kicks, cut down to 3 for layering, use a drum synth and further processing in order to get what you want instead of surfing literally thousands of sample kicks in search for that perfect one.
    Same for snare, hats ... have a goto ride and a small selection of crashes. Pre-made reverses & stuff.
    Chords: yes, there are many variants to pick from. Spend few hours to get a nice progression and move on. Test all the possibilities as you progress in making music (as the years go by, I mean) not in making that one track the absolute best track that exist on this planet.
    Sound design: Use just a handful of synths and learn them inside out. Learn about vintage synths' filters so you'll know what filter produces what sound. From time to time challenge yourself to make at least the bass, lead & pads with instances of just one synth.
    Finally have that 1 or 4 bar loop? All the synths and sounds done? Get on arranging and look back only if something's ridiculously wrong.

    2. Arrangement
    Finished arranging midi tracks? Automation on everything? FX's all in place? Bounce to audio and move to mixing. Again, only if something's out of sync (midi do this sometimes) go back and re-bouce. Otherwise do not change instruments settings or arrangement at this phase. Don't know how to arrange? Deconstruct a track you like, in the same style: intro, buildups, breakdowns, drops etc. Feel free to use the same structure for 10 tracks in a row until you're comfortable in taking the issue into your own hands.

    3. Mixing
    Sub-bass can stay over (psychoacoustics) or under kick's fundamental. Make a decision and move on. Whatever you pick is OK. Essential: make sure all your instruments are clearly represented in the mix. You can mix with slight emphasis on the lows or vice versa. You can distort the sh!t out of vocals or keep them crisp. Again, there is no right or wrong. It's important your mix to sound good in: mono, stereo, laptop speakers, smartphone speaker(s) & earbuds, car, club -- so you're pretty much need to listen to it in preferably all these environments.

    4. Mastering
    Do it yourself or send it to someone who has the skill. If you're doing it yourself, A/B it with 3-4-5 tracks in the same genre you produce and which sound great. You may want to ask someone else with more knowledge what tracks sound great. Seriously.

    The purpose of making music is to finish tracks. Labels almost never accept your first track because is crap and also because they need proof that you can deliver tracks on a schedule. Submit 4 tracks EP, not single track. Even if they like that one you also like, they will see that you can make more than one.

    Stop taking feedback from people you don't know, put every 10th track on soundcloud/facebook and see how it works with people that can actually be your target public. Don't share unfinished tracks, no "snippets", "demos", "work in progress", nothing. Not even with your friends. Always share a finished track (finished by radio edit standards or club edit standards).

    Screw hardware (no pun intended). If you're beginner reserve yourself 2-3 years to understand signal paths, deciBels, noise, headroom, digital/analog conversion and lots of other important stuff.
    Screw 3rd party plugins: Work at least one year in the box. Then see what's missing in your toolbox and shop for plugs. Slate or Softube will sound crap in your hands anyway. A SSL hardware compressor will not make your music better.

    Genres come & go. Educate yourself either to "like" what's fresh or to be able to produce the new trends. Otherwise you'll be obsolete in 2 years tops. If you don't want to sell, you're doing it for hobby or other reasons, at least don't be mad when people say about your music that is crap. Because it is. If is not track 101, is crap. It's how it goes.

    Also, music is a complete frustration in the first 2-3-4 years: you have something in your head, but you can't quite make that sound to become reality. So you can either live in frustration for the next 3 years or have fun while trying all the possible parameters on all your daw's plugins (eq, compression, delay, reverb seem all so simple but so many can be done with them) and making all kind of weird stuff until finally everything falls into place and you just do it naturally. This is where most of the people give up.

    No matter how many tutorials you watch (some watch none) or how much you read, until you actually start making tracks, it's all foggy. Making music and a lot of it is the single way to ... make music. There is no secret formula. Now go make few dozens of crappy tracks (preferably one track each week) to prepare yourself to be a producer.

    Have a nice weekend everyone :)
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  3. fraifikmushi

    fraifikmushi Guest

    Excellent posting, @jayxflash , and very good advice there. We should make this thread sticky!

    What you write about patience cannot be stressed enough. Succeeding will take time, and there is no short cut. You cannot be obsessed with every track. Finish, move on. Finish, move on. Don't get stuck in euphoria, even if you think you've just produced your first number one record: finish it and start the next track right away. The artist is not obsessed with the result of her work, she does not fall for overglorification and preoccupation with her work. She does the work.

    I'd like to quote Steven Pressfield here, once again:
    A year or so ago, I published a blogpost on my blog about workflow in electronic music production.

    How not to Get Stuck - The Danger of Getting Carried Away

    One of the common mistakes often encountered by beginner producers just as advanced producers, is getting stuck in the process while creating new songs.
    You’re loading a synth, play around a little, step through the presets, keep what you like, add another instrument, go on doing the same over and over…You`re jamming, you’re throwing together sounds you like, you’re eqing, working on the sound, create a cool bass, some drums, a nice melody… You make a nice and cool couple of bars and without even noticing it, you manoeuver yourself deeper and deeper into the realm of king Stuck-a-Lot. If you’re expert on getting stuck, it could well be that you even add a mastering processor to your master chain. In the end, you have a 15-20 seconds long hook line that rocks your house, but unfortunately, that’s about it.
    So as time goes by, you produce one unfinished idea after another, and if you’re a sensitive and tender character (which is fairly common among us artists), this could easily affect your self-esteem.
    „Why can’t I never finish a song? Why is making great songs so easy for everyone else?“ you might hear asking yourself.
    Well, let’s at first have a deeper look on what you actually do during the process I sketched above. The process can, of course, differ from what I’ve stated above, but it’s highly probable the pattern is the same.

    seriously stuck – Photo by National Library of Scotland [​IMG]

    Why You Get Stuck

    Let’s analyze what you actually do when you go through a process like the one I described:
    1. „You’re loading a synth, play around a little, step through the presets, keep what you like“ – that is what is commonly understood as sound design, sound selection
    2. „You`re jamming, you’re throwing together sounds you like, […] create a cool bass, some drums, a nice melody“ – also known as arranging
    3. „you’re eqing, working on the sound“ – you’re mixing
    4. „If you’re expert on getting stuck, it could well be that you even add a mastering processor to your master chain.“ – That’s mastering
    So, you do lots and lots of stuff being actually different things, and you do it all at the same time.
    This becomes even more obvious if we have a look at how music production works with other kinds of music: sound design, arrangement, mixing, mastering – those are areas with whole professions built around them and those are usually done by different people: the sound designer, the composer, the mix engineer, the mastering engineer.
    With electronic music, this separation between all those different roles is no longer necessary. This is a great thing because it allows a whole new level of creativity. You have all the tools you need at hand, you can do everything yourself, and the knowledge how to it is just one click away.
    But it is also very demanding and has a lot challenges of its own, one of them being mixing stuff up and getting lost in the process. Being an effective electronic music producer with a solid amount of creative output demands a high level of self-discipline and self-control.

    How not to Get Stuck

    The simple answer might come to mind immediately:
    Don’t mix up the different roles!
    As you can imagine, it is not so easy to do this as it is on the paper.
    If you are designing a sound, it is very likely you touch the channel fader to adjust the volume. Maybe you add an EQ to it. Also, it is perfectly possible that you add a quick beat and sketch an idea of a melody in the process. How should you design a sound if you don’t hear it in the context of the other sounds?
    You see, it is not possible not to mix up and keep everything separated. But that’s ok!
    The key is to keep your focus: If you are adding just a simple low-cut and roughly adjusting the level, it’s ok. If you are tweaking the EQ to eliminate or boost a single band, you’ve switched roles.
    So, constantly check what you are doing.
    Yes, self-discipline, self-control, check what you’re doing – it’s easy to say that you should do that, but actually doing it and sticking to that principle is much more difficult. Is there a way to make it easier for you?

    Good News: There Is a Way!

    What actually helps a lot is establishing a timely separation. Establish a daily routine for doing those different tasks. We’re all human beings, and as such we can achieve the best results by cautiously listening to ourselves and doing things following a ritual.
    So, get up every day at roughly the same time. Listen to yourself what time is best for you. For me, I’ve established that if I get up when it is still dark outside, neither my mind nor my body will work well. But it works the same way vice versa for me: sleeping long into the day is not good either.
    Then, start with sound design. You don’t need to figure out every single sound yet, like spot fx or stuff like that, but assemble a tool kit that will enable you to create the major part of a song. Don’t worry, if you discover later in the arrangement process that you need another lead synth, or a pad, you can always go back. Think of yourself as an artisan. You will need a different set of tools if you’re going to paint a wall compared to the set of tools you need if you build a chair.
    Once you’re finished with sound design, take a break. Take a break and get away from the screen, even away from your studio. I’m an outdoorsy person so what I do is go for a run in the nature for an hour or one and a half. Demanding work from my body helps me to clear my mind and to leave stuff behind me. Off course, you should not exhaust yourself in a way that you’re done for the day.

    A huge boost for your creativity: a walk in the nature – Photo by amira_a [​IMG]

    If you’re not into sports, take a walk in the nature. Getting your body to work plus a dose of daylight is an unparalleled creativity booster. Besides, it’s the most effective anti-depressant known to man ;)
    If you really don’t like to be outdoors, the least thing is getting away from the screen. Grab a cup of tea, meditate, whatever does the job for you.
    The key is listening to yourself and giving your body and soul what they need. Replenish spiritually.
    A great inspiration for this approach can be found in this video:

    Then, get back and start with your song. Leave sound design alone and start arranging. Try to get into flow and ideally finish the song (or at least the basic framework of the song) in one day. Working concentrated and creatively on a song for several hours can be hard and is often very exhausting, so really try to get 80% of your song done in one go. Mixing, adding spot fx, polishing etc. can safely be done the next day.

    So to sum up:
    Keep your tasks separated
    Always check on what you are doing

    Even Ice Cube knows it :)
    You gotta check yo self before you wreck yo self
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2016
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  4. thantrax

    thantrax Audiosexual

    Feb 20, 2012
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  5. jayxflash

    jayxflash Guest

    Pretty much that's it: treat music making as a lifestyle and everything falls into place. It's not easy to be happy and is not easy to have a healthy music-producer lifestyle. It worth the effort, however :)
  6. D-Music

    D-Music Producer

    Apr 21, 2014
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    Superb! I'm also struggling from time to time and that's exactly what is described earlier: you take too much than you can handle. So take a break and restart your engine after you created a fresh approach. Which is divide each process to start with (indeed). Otherwise you'll stay in a vicious circle. Sometimes it's hard to fight you through this jungle because at the end there's only one obstacle and that's .. YOU. And maybe time because you want everything done immediately (or you're dealing with deadlines) while planning is the key to a satisfying result.

    Man this sounds so easy coming out of my mouth but I'm such a n00b that it's still unavoidable, after all those years. It's almost similar to organizing events (which I did for years). You can do all the preparation you want and take all your experience from previous projects but the start from an event is always unpredictable/hectic and it takes always a few hours before everything falls in the right place. Okay, I'll admit, if you're with an experienced team and everyone sticks to their tasks it becomes easier to deal with. But still. :)

    This article is also helpful btw > http://output.com/14-ways-to-beat-creative-block/
  7. foster911

    foster911 Guest

  8. Von_Steyr

    Von_Steyr Guest

    Practical advice.
    1.Stop watching tv,especially news,you need focusing in life,you dont need to know how many people died each day,nothing you can do about it.
    2.Get a big white board for writing daily,weekly,monthly plans.
    3.Get rid of facebook,instagram and other useless social platforms,use linkedin for serious contacts,you dont need to process unimportant information.
    4.Watch inspirational movies and listen to quality music material.
    5.Dont be afraid.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 27, 2016
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  9. Cav Emp

    Cav Emp Audiosexual

    Dec 7, 2014
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    I don't think this is necessarily true. I've been producing less than three years; I am and mostly always have been pretty happy with my music. Until about 6 months ago I had no way of bringing my 'vision' to fruition, but if you're persistent, willing to gut it and rebuild, and are not afraid to be experimental, turning your shitty starting point into a good track by sheer will/trial and error is pretty much an inevitability if you mess with it long enough and you have good taste.

    Agreed on the rest of that paragraph. Just fuck with things and have fun. The not-so-dirty little secret is pretty much all audio stuff does something cool to sounds. Just turn enough knobs until you know which processors do things to which sounds that appeal most to you.

    Love your post but I disagree with this point. I think if you're going to promote your music, social media is where it's at, and if you build up a presence on there before you even have a serious product to peddle, all the better. Now people are alreay paying attention. But I do of course agree with the principle of not getting sucked into everyone's vapid, useless opinions on facebook. If you're reading much more than posting on there, you're probably doing it wrong.
  10. Von_Steyr

    Von_Steyr Guest

    Yes,agree,if its business related its ok.
  11. statik

    statik Rock Star

    Jul 3, 2014
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    under your bed
    you're just trying not to scare them, music and the industry are forever a complete frustration (why cant i make good shit, why are they publishing shit that worse than my shit)
    shit was foggy for years, mostly while making tracks, but then again i was a huge pothead
  12. xbitz

    xbitz Rock Star

    Apr 18, 2013
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    to the initial idea generating / composing part, personally I'm keeping the chord and melody parts in a common(but different) place, the chord sequence(s) goes some AL clip slot, the melody goes some Nora slot (Nora gonna chop the chord sequence(s) into smaller but repetitive pieces) then routing the chopped sequences(which contains the bass, lead, top lead etc. pieces) to different instruments separated by key based zones

    for creating the basic concept I'm using only pianos, this why u can see pianos in the first slot

    hope make it can help to somebody, IMO this is the fastest method currently (I don't know better one :) ) because u don't have to modify the chords/melodies in more than one place which makes the initial idea generating (sound design) phase quite comfortable

    ps. the velocity curve tweaker in AL is a priceless tool, and redline monitor is quite good for pre-checking the timbres if u not use external monitoring in the beginning (in the experimental phase)
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
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