The Producer’s Workflow: Tips for Managing Creativity

Producing music can be tricky business. Like any creative work, you are forcing yourself to take the most imaginative idea you have in that single moment and turn it into a tangible, real world thing. But as you probably already know, these ideas don’t always come easily. They take time. They fester in your brain, coming in and out of your subconscious. You may have a brilliant idea while you are at work, but by the time you come home, the idea has faded into smaller pieces, or evolved into a newer, not-nearly-as-exciting idea. By the time you’ve finished the process of setting up your project at home, the brilliance of that idea is gone and you are left starting from scratch.

Take Creative Notes to Save Ideas

Google-Keep4Frustrating as the gap between inspiration and execution may be, there are some ways around this. If your most exciting bursts of creativity are happening outside the studio, then it’s ultimately important that you do what you can to bottle up these thoughts so that you can open them in the studio. It will only take a spark to bring back the fire, and if you are walking into the studio with some ideas ready to go, your music will end up more imaginative. I’m a fan of Google Keep for this purpose. Keep allows you to take cell phone notes and open them in any browser. It also allows for voice notes, which can allow you to sing or hum a phrase into your phone, or to quickly describe your thoughts. These ideas are instantly saved in the Google cloud and ready for you to access from anywhere.

Set The Bar Before Getting Started

My speakers have a unique sound when they are in my studio room. They sound completely different in this room than they do in any other room. Alternatively, your speakers have a unique sound in your studio space, and if you were to play music out of those speakers in various rooms, you will find that the music fills out those rooms uniquely in each space.

In order to understand how your music is supposed to sound in your room, it’s important to get your head around how finished music sounds in your room. Before getting started on any studio session, take some time tune your ears to your own acoustic space. Listen to some music. Play a few songs, sit back and immerse yourself in these songs. Take mental note of what you love about this music and get a sense of balance.

Don’t Just Make a Nice Track

shutterstock_187697057Write songs that speak to who you are and try to say something new. Every song needs a point of view and it is important that you outline this somewhere in each song that you write. It’s not enough that you made a nice sounding house song with library elements that “work” and a spoken word excerpt from [insert inspirational speech here]. All this says about you is that you know how to export presets and simple patterns from your DAW. In order for a song to attract and hold the attention from its audience, it needs to have its own unique catch. What that catch is, is completely up to you, and that’s where you get to be an artist.

A/B Comparison

Sometimes it’s easy to get so head-deep into your production that you lose sight of the mark you were trying to hit. Find a song that closely meets your bar for quality and bring it into your project. Place that track at the end of the project after the end point of all your audio tracks. Any time you need to check if you are meeting the mark, jump to the end where that song is playing and have a listen.

Don’t Force It

If you aren’t in love with what you are working on within a half hour or 40 minutes, save your work and start something new. You might come up with a better idea next time around. Not every project will turn out to be your best work and if you are having a hard time with what you are working on, there is no shame in setting it aside and starting fresh with a new perspective. You may find new inspiration with the older project tomorrow.

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