What is your process in regards to composing an album?

RIght so what is your process composing an album?

me personally beforehand i usually just herped and derped and threw random shitty experimental tracks together,

but now i find myself making a word doc describing each track in general in terms of style while at the same time holistically organizing/planning the overall progression of the album…

so I ask everyone if they wish to share what is your process?

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My previous releases have so far all been collections of tracks I made individually, without much thought about a finished collection.

I generally try to produce tracks that work well on their own, allowing every track be what it wants to be, - often in very different styles. I like the freedom of that, even though it sometimes turns into “shitty experimental tracks” as well:) ha ha!

When I decide to make a demo, I begin by looking through my available (more or less finished) un-released tracks, - taking notes along the way.

…and then start putting together a selection.

I use Ableton’s arrange view for this, often making several different versions, with selections that “go in different directions”.

This can be tedious work, since in order to decide on the best selection of tracks, I have to listen to all that old stufft - over and over - like some dusty old custodian.

But yeah…

Sometimes I’ll mix/fit existing tracks into each-other, like a DJ-set, but mostly I’ll just select tracks that I feel work well with each other, adjusting the timing, individual volumes etc.

I’ll sometimes try to make small custom made “interludes” or special effects for transitions, but usually end up deciding not to use them after all. At this point, I think I could probably make a 20 minute EP composed entirely out of un-used transitions.

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I usually start thinking about an album when I have a few tracks that are similar in style and sound. This way I have a clearer stylistic idea that helps me understand how the new tracks need to be

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It all starts with some early concept build - what do I want to achieve with this new album. This can be very abstract and often change a bit later. Then inspiration has to strike: listening to other’s music, playing video games. I dedicate every album to some video game I played while album was in making. You just keep listening to stuff and daydreaming later.

Concept requires to pick your tools. Let’s say I want to make some cyberpunk futuristic soundtrack-like album so I start building some sound design profile, creating tools for that, selecting things I will need, building effect racks, what audio processing should I use to keep it all bit consistent. But here you shouldn’t limit yourself too much, it’s this early stage when you need to get “hooked” on something to successfully continue with your original intentions. If I need I record some foley with microphones, find some CC0 sample library for a quick access if it’s possible, etc. I dedicate sessions just for that, just making sample packs for myself without thinking how it will used in tracks. Bit of a mindless fully experimental mode which I can later shape in one direction or another. This leads to greatest accidental discoveries that can really inspire you to continue but also it doesn’t often work as you intended originally. It takes a while but keep it mind that you can recycle these abstract ideas later. Just never delete anything you once bounced to audio.

When these sound design sessions develop into multiple sketches with a same concept in mind it’s nothing surpising that they start sharing lots some similarities because of a narrow time frame all of it is being made in. So when I reach like 3-4 really strong WIPs that actually work together it becomes a much more defined idea for a full album. Here I can start building stuff around it, to make any newer material be much more related to these now “main” tracks.

From then I can start thinking about opening/closer track, rest of album structure, “fill the gaps”, get rid of ideas that became way too “off-topic”. Keeping the similar workflow sounds like a thing you should follow again but it’s very often that album concept shifts quite a lot when WIPs become full tracks so you never know. For example, one day I realize I want to have all tracks more beat oriented. The good thing that most of tracks are in their very early stage and I can work with that and change what’s necessary to fulfil my latest goal.

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Early stuff was just a collection of individual tracks that sort of sounded like they go together.

Later, I got more into thematic ideas and designing around a goal.

Now, I make albums based around a single process of some sort (a writing technique, a type of audio processing, etc). The tracks can vary wildly sometimes, depending on what’s coming out, but they’re tied together by the process of creation.

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When I would make albums I’d spend several days in marathon sessions on my DAW making the tracks. I’d make each track one after the other, so an album would be ideas from a similar timeframe and mindset. This is how I made it seem “album-like”.

Now I always make 13-14 minute tracks and release them as an EP, about once a week.

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also i find myself using a similar set of samples for the tracks but i process each sample differently for each track when i resample them, i do it because of lazyness, but apparently the bonus is that sometimes it makes it so that the different tracks sort of sound like they blend with each other even though they are different in terms of composition and in some ways sound design, also i find that i tend to stick with the same key or at least a related key but have different chords progressions for the different tracks, that and I stay within a tempo range of something like 80bpm i.e. all the tracks in the album would be sequenced within the range of 210bpm-290bpm but in different time sigs and different in the sense that each would vary because some of the elements for each track would have a different combination of subdivisions with elements either being in 1/16, 1/8, 2/4, etc… so that each has a different rhythm

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To inject some humor, it’s 5 years of pulling your hair out over tiny details no one else will ever notice, or pay for.

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i just carve out a time period where i don’t have to go outside much and for a month or a few weeks and i just marathon it balancing working, sleeping, exercising, and other required life tasks, either that or i dedicate my weekend mornings to some daw sessions,
not drinking mass quantities of alcohol the night before does wonders for productivity.

that and describing what i want to the overall idea/composition of the track to be on paper has done wonders for speed and productivity…

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I wrote my band’s first EP over a single stoned drunk weekend, all 4 songs (which later was released on a small label). Determination, having a clear goal in mind and the path laid out in which to meet that goal (like gear, connections and signal paths from said gear), not having to force things because you’re inspired and ready to get things rolling with your current ideas, that’s all a factor. That’s where having a notebook handy works wonders, writing ideas down and sketching out rough ideas.

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Your comment made me think about the importance of also trying to answer questions like: “What to do I do with the album once it’s finished?”

If I don’t know what the end goal for the music is (a demo for WARP records, a home-dubbed cassette to sell at gigs, a self-released vinyl - or whatever), then doubts about “what I’m really doing” can easily undermine the creative process.

Something that has sometimes worked for me in the past, has been to create demos with specific labels in mind.

Doing it like that, part of the album process becomes digging into a certain label’s back-catalogue, reaching out to the owners with questions and so on. Not all label-owners like being headhunted like that, but many smaller (underground/DIY) labels will appreciate if someone is trying to tailor a release specifically for them.

I’ve never sent a demo to WARP btw. My style was never that glitzy.