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Old 17-05-2015, 05:19 PM   #1
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Organization & Workflow

Hey guys
So, i've been having trouble finishing my tracks for awhile now. I've taken steps to organize my library in an attempt to be able to get ideas down as quickly as possible without having to dig for sounds. But after doing so i've realized that I'm not completely happy with my library. For example I seem to have a shortage of sounds that I enjoy using in the midrange, and the sounds that I do have seem a bit stale because I've been using them for so long.
My solution so far is that i need to update my library with sounds that I enjoy using to speed up the creative process. My question is: Do you think that I am misplacing the blame here and putting too much emphasis on my library instead of just working with what I have? I'm really just wondering how much the sounds themselves contribute to the creative process. Is creativity sparked by the sounds you use, or are the sounds you use sparked by creativity???

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Old 17-05-2015, 06:09 PM   #2
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Re: Organization & Workflow

Maybe I'm misreading what is going on here, but, have you considered learning to create your own sounds? Your post is more than a bit vague if I'm honest. Are these all samples? Presets? Presets you created?

As far as workflow and getting songs finished, I've had a lot of success using "place holder" sounds--default drum kit, basic waveform patches, etc to write, compose and arrange my songs. Then I go back and replace them all later after I have the song finished beginning to end.

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Old 17-05-2015, 06:34 PM   #3
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Re: Organization & Workflow

That was very vague, sorry about that. They're almost all synth patches that I've made myself. I'm fairly new to producing (I've been at it for about a year now). When I started I made a big push to build up somewhat of a library of sounds through synthesis (using Massive & FM8). The only reference for good sounds I had was from other artists and songs I had heard. But now I'm starting to discover my own style a bit more, and I feel like I could better tailor a few synths to the sound I'm going for. Bear in mind though that the only reason I'm considering revamping my library is to make it easier for me to finish tracks (only finished 1 to date). I'm just wondering if you think it's a wise decision to focus my energy on my library for awhile and then hit the writing process with some fresh sounds. I have a way of beating around the bush and not getting to the real root of the problem, so that's why I'm wondering.
It's more of a theory type question pointed at how you can get ideas out and into the DAW. It may be that I need to get over my small library and focus on the act of finishing itself. Maybe the habit of finishing is the first obstacle before detailing a library.

I don't know. Thoughts?
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Old 17-05-2015, 07:13 PM   #4
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Re: Organization & Workflow

Sounds like an excuse not to jump into song writing. While I realize much electronic music is about timbre, texture, sound design, the mix, etc...song writing can add a lot to all that.

And while I see the value of having stored up a library of patches you created yourself, doing that is clearly a rabbit hole for you. A year isn't a long time in this game, but you need to finish tracks. I think that is really important for beginners. You might not be happy with them, but having the ability to say "I've used all my skills and knowledge to make this the best I can, its finished" is so important.

And who is to say you can't just create some patches while you are working on finishing some songs? I know everyone's workflow is different, but I feel like if I had a huge patch library I'd end up tweaking the patches most of the time anyway.

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Old 17-05-2015, 07:37 PM   #5
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Re: Organization & Workflow

Super helpful, thanks. Yea finishing is a big priority for me. I'm always looking for ways to better my workflow and make things run smoother, but sometimes it's just biting the bullet and pressing on. For me the biggest hang up is getting a good loop and becoming too attached to it to change anything. A big part of why I'm not happy with my library is because I'm so attached to what i have down that if it doesn't fit I just don't use it. Just need to accept that it's gonna change as I go and tweak the sounds to fit.
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Old 17-05-2015, 09:46 PM   #6
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Re: Organization & Workflow

the method I suggested cured my loopitis;p. but yea man...just go for it...stop getting caught up...nothing you make will ever feel perfect to yourself...just release it out into the world and move on

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Old 17-05-2015, 09:47 PM   #7
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Re: Organization & Workflow

I'll go for it. Thanks bro I appreciate it!
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Old 17-05-2015, 10:59 PM   #8
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Re: Organization & Workflow

For me personally, the most effective way to avoid getting stuck in this fashion has been to segment my process. While inspiration is real, I don't think it's true that the only time you're going to write good music is when you dive in to your DAW after lightning strikes and try to get something down as quickly as possible.

For me personally, I like to start by writing down a kind of tonal palette, what am I generally trying to achieve with this track? Is it going to be a heavy electro tune with lots of full-spectrum bass sounds, or more of a hip hop tune with simple 808s and more focus on percussions? Deciding a general direction beforehand helps me understand what sounds I'm going to need, and at that point I start on sound design. Not worrying about arrangement or anything, just designing the core sounds I know I'm going to need. Then after I'm done designing the sounds (usually a day or two or three later), I start jamming and trying to actually write the track.

I don't think anything kills your creative flow more than having a good groove going, and then having to stop it to dig through presets, so by designing all your key sounds before you even think about writing and arrangement leaves you totally free to focus on the musical side of the tune, and you know that the sounds you're using are going to be exactly what you need to fit the tune.

And of course you won't be able to design everything in advance; the act of writing the tune will give you more ideas which you'll want to make or find sounds for, which is fine, but that's more of decoration and less of the foundation of the tune. If you prepare a sonic palette in advance, I think the real battle is in the writing and arrangement, and if you can finish the arrangement it's all smooth sailing from there to just polish and finish the tune.

It's a process that requires some discipline and delayed gratification, cause making the loop is the fun part, but I think the advantages far outweigh that. Not only does it free up mental energy for the writing process, but all the sounds you're using will be specifically tailored and unique to that track which can only make it better.
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Old 18-05-2015, 02:14 AM   #9
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Re: Organization & Workflow

I've been using mostly the same synths, samples and patches forever. Honestly, if you can't write a track with what you've got, adding to your library isn't going to help you. In fact, it's going to result in you writing less because you're too busy fucking around with your library. Trust me, I have a huge library (8TB NAS).

When you're working on my library, you're not working on your music. Unless you need a well organised library for work (like I do) or organising libraries is something you actually enjoy (like I do) then I don't think that there's much benefit to curating one beyond having a dump folder (like most music people I've worked with). That doesn't work for me because if I have somebody that I did work for five years ago who wants to use those project assets tomorrow, I need to be able to compile, upload and send to them by this afternoon. Once again though, I'm not really working on music. I'm just retrieving past work.

On the topic of work. At the moment, I'm not really finishing anything. I have a lot of things worth developing, but no motivation to do so. However, every day, I'm playing around with sounds at a more basic level - patching, creating racks and templates, tutorial fodder, writing loops and so on. The main reason is so that when I do have the motivation to write a track, I have a whole collection of new and unused assets to exploit in my projects.

Really, as an artist, if you do something that you think is worth saving, then put it in a library. When you finish a track, or at least get to a point where you intend to finish it, that's when you spend an afternoon curating all of the project assets and adding them to your library. If the project's not going anywhere but you have a few great assets, just curate those and leave the rest.

All of this being said, the point I'm trying to make is that you don't have to finish things to be creative or productive. If you're not writing tracks, don't worry about it. Worry about what you are writing (patches etc) and how they should be presented (in a library, as a program bank etc) and keep doing what you're doing.
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Old 18-05-2015, 02:29 AM   #10
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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I really think you are one of the sharper people on this forum and I usually defer to you on most things...but I'll stress again...for a beginner...learning to finish things is really important. I'm taking this from working with professional writers (creative writers and otherwise) in two separate degree programs. You simply have to learn to know when something is "finished". We can tweak things forever. Sometimes we can tweak things into garbage as well.

I think you've got some solid insights here. And I know you aren't directly disagreeing with me...but if I had a writing student who had been working for a year, trying to get better and trying to produce a work for publication and they had only finished one chapter/poem/story I'd have a friendly/motivational "Get your shit sorted" talk with them.

I absolutely agree with the last paragraph of your post, but if the OP's goal is to finish songs...I dunno...maybe I'm missing something.

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Old 18-05-2015, 03:15 AM   #11
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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but I'll stress again...for a beginner...learning to finish things is really important.
No it's not! I really would like to know when this became a thing.

When you're a beginner, learning to do things is really important. When I started out learning to play music I learned by playing music. Going around and sitting down with some friends and playing with synths and seeing what they do. Programming drum patterns and jamming to them. Banging on drums and instruments.

In terms of how many "tracks" I finished in the first decade of my learning, if I subtracted all of the ones that involved other people's guidance, that would be zero. If I included ones which involved open guitar strings and adolescent angst ridden lyrics, that would be 1,000. But that's like saying I did 1,000 loops.

If I was worried about finishing things, what would I have learned and how long would it have taken me? The answers are half as much and twice as long. I'd have to sit down and learn about recording, sequencing, automation etc etc etc. Instead of learning about how to make a sound... Which is more important than having a good library, or finishing tracks or anything else.

I think in large part, this is why the average quality of music has seen such a decline in the last thirty years. There's no barrier to "entry" anymore. Teenage kids who are playing with synths together now "release" their "finished" work instead of learning how to play in a band. Bedroom "producers" do the same instead of learning how to be a producer.

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I'm taking this from working with professional writers (creative writers and otherwise) in two separate degree programs. You simply have to learn to know when something is "finished". We can tweak things forever. Sometimes we can tweak things into garbage as well.
Yeah, but you're talking about people who are being trained in a discipline versus a creative outlet. The skills of a professional are more about working within a structure. Whether you're a creative writer or a copy writer or somewhere in between (Journalism, PR, etc) there's a discipline required to ensure you meet a deadline or observe a brief or stay on message.

The other difference is that when you receive a new writing student, even if they're fresh out of high school, they already have a minimum of thirteen years of training in the discipline and practical experience, so many of the basic concepts of language are already inherent in their knowledge.

In contrast, someone who's been "producing" for a year at a bare minimum has zero experience in the languages, technologies and conventions. Now sure, maybe they have some experience with one or the other. When I studied sound at uni there was me and one other person who had over thirteen years of practical experience at the start of the course. But my training was limited to seven years of music and three years of studio lessons, and the majority of the rest of the class had next to no experience or training.

We didn't produce a "finished" work for the first semester of the program because we were too busy going over the absolute basics. And that finished work was a recording project where we produced someone else's work. In terms of producing our own musical arrangements, we didn't do a complete project until the second year of the course. So if I had a first year sound student who was learning production and they hadn't finished a single piece of their own, I wouldn't be too worried.

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if I had a writing student who had been working for a year, trying to get better and trying to produce a work for publication and they had only finished one chapter/poem/story I'd have a friendly/motivational "Get your shit sorted" talk with them.
Well, you'd probably fail them because they obviously didn't complete a single assignment for the year.

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I absolutely agree with the last paragraph of your post, but if the OP's goal is to finish songs...I dunno...maybe I'm missing something.
The only other thing I'd say about finishing things is that if you listen to a lot of electronic musicians' works over a decade or two you find that it's mostly unfinished work, experiments or learning exercises. Especially in particular genres. For example, Richie Hawtin's Concept album. That wasn't so much an album of finished work as it was the result of an experiment which involved creating a new "track" every month.

So that's another thing to think about. If you're not "finishing" tracks. Maybe stop trying to, and instead be more experimental and learn to hit record.
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Old 18-05-2015, 03:44 AM   #12
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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No it's not! I really would like to know when this became a thing.

When you're a beginner, learning to do things is really important. When I started out learning to play music I learned by playing music. Going around and sitting down with some friends and playing with synths and seeing what they do. Programming drum patterns and jamming to them. Banging on drums and instruments.

In terms of how many "tracks" I finished in the first decade of my learning, if I subtracted all of the ones that involved other people's guidance, that would be zero. If I included ones which involved open guitar strings and adolescent angst ridden lyrics, that would be 1,000. But that's like saying I did 1,000 loops.
I don't know when it became "a thing"...but it has, clearly, been beaten into me as something that is important (I also realize the context here is somewhat different, but you address that later on in your post...).

Yea...just f'ing around and learning how things work in a really organic, pleasurable way is important. No disagreement there.

As far as finishing "tracks" or "loops" or "beats". When I say "finish" I mean saying to one's self "this is done" and moving on to the next thing--not that anything has to meet some kind of standard or be released/published (I realize my last post I worded it that way, but it isn't what I meant, my bad on the wording!). I just feel like the beginner needs a mind set in which they can move on. Like don't get hung up on shit. Keep pushing forward.

As an example. I was often told, in both writing and music, that I should pick a skill and start a project where I specifically work on getting that thing down really well. And when I got that little part of the project fairly shinny I should call the project "finished" and move on. Obviously none of these projects are ready for the public.

Quote:
If I was worried about finishing things, what would I have learned and how long would it have taken me? The answers are half as much and twice as long. I'd have to sit down and learn about recording, sequencing, automation etc etc etc. Instead of learning about how to make a sound... Which is more important than having a good library, or finishing tracks or anything else.
Well. For one. Many of these tasks are dead simple when we are talking making music in a DAW--there is no learning curve for exporting a .wav or "recording" a track--but I get what you are saying and I what I just said isn't even really related to the point you are making. I'll go back to what I just said about choosing a skill and making a "project" just to work on a single skill.

And yea. You are correct. Learning to make a good sound (or write a good melody, as I think that is a valid approach as well, though texture/timbre/sound design is more the focus in electronic music...) is really important and the rest of it doesn't matter if you can't do that.

Again, I'll blame my poor and abbreviated wording, but I'm not suggesting that someone drop the essentials to "polish a turd" and throw it out into the ocean of music on the internet. Its more a mind set of saying "I worked on this 'thing' and took it as far as my skill allowed me, now lets do another and learn something new".

Quote:
I think in large part, this is why the average quality of music has seen such a decline in the last thirty years. There's no barrier to "entry" anymore. Teenage kids who are playing with synths together now "release" their "finished" work instead of learning how to play in a band. Bedroom "producers" do the same instead of learning how to be a producer.
We are clearly agreeing, I think, at this point. Because I couldn't agree more with this paragraph : )

Quote:
Yeah, but you're talking about people who are being trained in a discipline versus a creative outlet. The skills of a professional are more about working within a structure. Whether you're a creative writer or a copy writer or somewhere in between (Journalism, PR, etc) there's a discipline required to ensure you meet a deadline or observe a brief or stay on message.

The other difference is that when you receive a new writing student, even if they're fresh out of high school, they already have a minimum of thirteen years of training in the discipline and practical experience, so many of the basic concepts of language are already inherent in their knowledge.

In contrast, someone who's been "producing" for a year at a bare minimum has zero experience in the languages, technologies and conventions. Now sure, maybe they have some experience with one or the other. When I studied sound at uni there was me and one other person who had over thirteen years of practical experience at the start of the course. But my training was limited to seven years of music and three years of studio lessons, and the majority of the rest of the class had next to no experience or training.

We didn't produce a "finished" work for the first semester of the program because we were too busy going over the absolute basics. And that finished work was a recording project where we produced someone else's work. In terms of producing our own musical arrangements, we didn't do a complete project until the second year of the course. So if I had a first year sound student who was learning production and they hadn't finished a single piece of their own, I wouldn't be too worried.
So here is the part about context and you are absolutely correct. For 99% of us--even those with big dreams--this is just a creative outlet, which is a much different situation than some kind of professional situation in which time is factor. I supposed I'm reading into OPs posts and assuming that they ultimate goal is a "finished product" so my instinct was to direct them in that professional context where end products are the goal.

In this case, writing is kind of a poor example as you point out since we all have previous experience with language.

How you describe your music education only makes sense. And what we do has electronic musicians is really to far away from writing for writing to be a fair analogy. There are so many jobs we have to do on our own. In writing, even in the age of digital media, most writers don't have to worry about anything but the words. Musicians have to worry about much more than the raw notes.

Though, one could argue, the raw notes or alternatively the raw sounds matter more than anything else--I'll totally listen to song based on a great synth patch or a great melody even if the rest isn't up to snuff.

Quote:
The only other thing I'd say about finishing things is that if you listen to a lot of electronic musicians' works over a decade or two you find that it's mostly unfinished work, experiments or learning exercises. Especially in particular genres. For example, Richie Hawtin's Concept album. That wasn't so much an album of finished work as it was the result of an experiment which involved creating a new "track" every month.

So that's another thing to think about. If you're not "finishing" tracks. Maybe stop trying to, and instead be more experimental and learn to hit record.
As for the first paragraph. This is true in writing as well. From the most well known to the most obscure authors I know, they'd all agree that most of what they've done falls into that description.

One more time because I failed to make it clear before, I think, and if I'm reading you correctly I think ultimately we are agreeing--the importance here isn't about necessarily getting it all correct or getting it out there and promoting it, but its the mindset I'm going to try this stuff out and hit record and when its done its done and there is always another knob twiddle to record and a new thing to learn.

Yea? No? Mebe?

Either way...its always good if I can get you to write an epic multi quote response--someone will learn something.

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Old 18-05-2015, 04:30 AM   #13
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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As an example. I was often told, in both writing and music, that I should pick a skill and start a project where I specifically work on getting that thing down really well. And when I got that little part of the project fairly shinny I should call the project "finished" and move on. Obviously none of these projects are ready for the public.
I think this is the thing though because I notice in all of the "educational" media being offered these days there's an overwhelming focus on endgame and very little discussion of process. It's how to make "this sound" as opposed how to use "this synth". So much of the knowledge of process that's important to develop gets lost by people in isolation consuming media that's designed more to make money than educate.

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I'm not suggesting that someone drop the essentials to "polish a turd" and throw it out into the ocean of music on the internet. Its more a mind set of saying "I worked on this 'thing' and took it as far as my skill allowed me, now lets do another and learn something new".
In the same sense, the quality gap between a "professional" artist and an starter/enthusiast is massive now and comparing your work to the pros is silly because their quality is unattainable to the novice. I think this gets in the way of finishing things as well because you either don't care and release your turd or you do care, get discouraged and completely stop working on your turd.

But the thing about turds, is that they're really important. You should be regularly producing turds otherwise you'll get backed up. Maybe not every day, but if you go more than two days without shitting, you should probably be concerned about your health and go see a doctor. And every time you do produce a turd, you should be getting up and looking at it before flushing it to make sure you're healthy and check for corn.

Turds are super important, and whether it's shit or music, you should be learning from them. They're a measure of quality of your human and your sound.

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the importance here isn't about necessarily getting it all correct or getting it out there and promoting it, but its the mindset I'm going to try this stuff out and hit record and when its done its done and there is always another knob twiddle to record and a new thing to learn.
Nah. Fuck all that shit. Just do something. If it's shit it's shit. If it's good it's good. What can you take away from it? That's more important.

"Finishing" is a psychological state. Really, it describes a state where you either don't want to, or cannot go any further, or you simply choose not to. So in terms of tracks, it's less about actually finishing something and more about letting go, moving on and doing it all over again. And I think that's the biggest challenge for the untrained or new creative artists because creative work is 99% mindset, 1% skill. It's all psychological, it's very much connected to your self-esteem, identity, self-worth and confidence and all that fun stuff that eats at the back of your mind every time you look in the mirror.
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Old 18-05-2015, 04:47 AM   #14
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Re: Organization & Workflow

Yes! All the educational media is terrible for the exact reason you state. I'm glad we got that out of this conversation : ) So to your point about obsession with end product--this is the ultimate example. Don't learn synthesis, only learn to make this sound. Don't learn about mixing. Learn to do a mixdown (exact numbers) that will work most of the time. etc etc.

Also, yes yes yes. You have to get all the turds out of your system before you can lay the golden egg.

Quote:
Nah. Fuck all that shit. Just do something. If it's shit it's shit. If it's good it's good. What can you take away from it? That's more important.

"Finishing" is a psychological state. Really, it describes a state where you either don't want to, or cannot go any further, or you simply choose not to. So in terms of tracks, it's less about actually finishing something and more about letting go, moving on and doing it all over again. And I think that's the biggest challenge for the untrained or new creative artists because creative work is 99% mindset, 1% skill. It's all psychological, it's very much connected to your self-esteem, identity, self-worth and confidence and all that fun stuff that eats at the back of your mind every time you look in the mirror.
I'm not sure where my communications are breaking down, but that is exactly what I'm trying to get across : ) I guess its that word "finish" you aren't liking. But what you write here is exactly what I'm getting at!

However, considering that we've gotten to this discussion about the obsession with "finishing" and "end result" perhaps it IS important to avoid that word.

Learning to move on. That's it.

I'm really poor at spontaneous communication--this has been a good conversation/revision process to get to the correct words and most accurate words.

Sorry man. I'm really not meaning to be argumentative or anything, but this whole time I'm sitting here like "FFS...I KNOW we are getting at the same thing..."

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Old 18-05-2015, 08:11 AM   #15
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Re: Organization & Workflow

I think that what's most important for a beginner is learning to just.

do

and not care

not to do things carelessly, but to not care about good, impressive, technical, style, and such concepts most of the time.

every one of those things is important to explore and dev into skills at some point for anyone intending to work in music in a professional capacity but they should be tackled individually. learn just to be an artist, then to be a 'good' artist, then to be an 'impressive' artist, a 'technical' one, etc, etc. things are skill to be tackled one by one or in related groups.

and of course learning to define what finished means to one self. My friends who i make music with have a much looser concept of finished. I have too strict a concept a lot of the time and continually see things always that can be tweaked and improved in many project. so there's a dissonance of perception there that we have to work with.
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Old 18-05-2015, 08:20 AM   #16
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Re: Organization & Workflow

WElp this thread has been handled nicely..no need for my two cents..I shall move along..

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Old 23-05-2015, 04:02 PM   #17
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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Originally Posted by oly View Post
to not care about good, impressive, technical, style, and such concepts most of the time.
It's definitely an issue that so many seem to think they can get into a DAW and become the next madeon within a few months or a year.

Deadmau5 was producing for 10 years before he started to get noticed, and there's a reason why a lot of big-name electronic artists are in their 40s/50s. It takes time to get good.
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Old 23-05-2015, 04:32 PM   #18
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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Originally Posted by oly View Post
[..]
not to do things carelessly, but to not care about good, impressive, technical, style, and such concepts most of the time.
Excellent point. An approach with a novice mindset driven by curiosity.
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Old 18-07-2015, 11:51 PM   #19
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Re: Organization & Workflow

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I don't think anything kills your creative flow more than having a good groove going, and then having to stop it to dig through presets, so by designing all your key sounds before you even think about writing and arrangement leaves you totally free to focus on the musical side of the tune, and you know that the sounds you're using are going to be exactly what you need to fit the tune.

And of course you won't be able to design everything in advance; the act of writing the tune will give you more ideas which you'll want to make or find sounds for, which is fine, but that's more of decoration and less of the foundation of the tune. If you prepare a sonic palette in advance, I think the real battle is in the writing and arrangement, and if you can finish the arrangement it's all smooth sailing from there to just polish and finish the tune.

It's a process that requires some discipline and delayed gratification, cause making the loop is the fun part, but I think the advantages far outweigh that. Not only does it free up mental energy for the writing process, but all the sounds you're using will be specifically tailored and unique to that track which can only make it better.
This is how I work most of the time. Accordingly, each song/loop I make has it's own library of sounds/presets within the project folder, so if I ever wanted to use something from the track it's easy to find.

To the OP:
Making a large library of sounds does have its benefits no doubt, but I'd rather have the confidence of "I can use these synths to make any sound I need when I need it" over "I've got all the sounds I need in this library."
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Old 22-07-2015, 01:43 PM   #20
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Re: Organization & Workflow

workflow is directly relate to how your Audio library is set up. Obviously it would kill your workflow to search for a hr for the right kick, also once you have an organized library and user library with presets that are organized in folders really helps workflow as well. You then can create your own problems/solutions that directly correlates to developing your own sound. I first like to have a cadence or a gate or a feeling of the groove before I start composing too much... this gives a feeling of linear movement. Also if you work in Live, you can place an ! in front of your folders to bring them to the top of your search tab. I like the way Live consolidates "all samples" this is a huge advantage to searching for the right sample.

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