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> Juggling Studio Roles, How to stay focused when doing it all?
post Thu 15 Dec 2005, 15:55
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I've been wondering why it takes me so long to get from start to finish when making music – and in many ways the answer is obvious: when you're acting as writer, musician, producer and sound technician for the same song, of course it takes time.

However, I feel that one problem with performing all these roles is the difficulty in staying focused. I'm sure I can't be the only one who writes a song with a certain production or instrumentation in mind, and then gets bogged down mid-song by worrying about how I'm going to achieve that sound, rather than leaving this problem to someone else. I think this is particularly a problem when you use programming software as your composition tool, rather than just a production tool.

I'm sure that all of these roles get a little easier through pracitice and experience, but I'd love to hear from anyone how has tips on how to juggle these roles and take things a step at a time, rather than chasing your tail.

All the best,

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post Thu 15 Dec 2005, 17:23
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Can you be more specific? What do you mean by using "programming software as a composition tool"? I try to stay away from programming when I'm doing music--but some people really dig it.

Certainly, it's tough to stay focused when you have to wear all of those hats...

I don't know if this'll help you but here's how I stay focused--

As much as possible, I divide writing from producing. If I'm writing with a band, I'll set up audiorecorder with my powerbook's crappy lil' microphone and record some ideas as we hash them out. Then we listen back to them, decide what's best, and refine them further. When we think we've arrived at a form for the piece of music (be it verse-chorus pop song, 32-bar standard, atonal jazz, or what have you) then, and only then, do we switch over to the process of getting it into a multitrack computer environment.

As recently as five years ago I did most of my writing walking around town singing into a dictaphone. Because studio time was so expensive, it made it easy (and cost-effective) to get ideas worked out before spending money on getting them fleshed out in a studio.

I know people who buy Logic and spend all their time just farting around with Scuplture and Ultrabeat and downloaded plugins. I suspect that if I allowed myself time to do so, I could just play with Reaktor for days and days and never come up with anything besides a lot of fun farting around...but I guess what I'm trying to say is:
  • get your structural writing done first, either away from the computer or as simply as possible
  • then, piece by piece, add the sweetening. Record a better vocal--tweak your drum loops--whatever
I hope this helps.
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Dr. Harmonica
post Thu 15 Dec 2005, 18:59
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I don't know about you but for me it's a one step at a time procedure. First I write the song and I don't worry about the recording process yet. Just if the tune can stand up on it's own with just a acoustic guitar or piano. If I'm happy with the tune and arrangement then comes the recording process. First naturally comes the rhythm tracks. The bass and drums, rhythm guitar, keyboards, what ever. Then a scratch vocal. Then lead instruments and sweetening. When all the tracks are done it's time to mix. Does it take a lot of time. of course because one person is doing the job of several one bit at a time. I suppose the trick is to focus on each task one at a time. When your the are only the singer. when your being the engineer, your only the engineer etc. Focus on the task at hand. When you wear your producer hat then look at the big picture but change hats often. There is no quick way to do everything because everything takes as much time as it takes so......take your time

cheers....Dr. Harmonica
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post Fri 16 Dec 2005, 06:19
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One of the problems with having gigabytes of cool sound libraries is that it's easy to get lost in finding the "perfect sound". Put together a Short List of preferred sounds that you can go to to get ideas out of your head and into the computer quickly. You can always tweak later when you're in producer mode. But while you're in performer mode; i've found that having some stock sounds at the ready helps me to get things like drums, bass, keys and strings done quickly.

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post Fri 16 Dec 2005, 11:06
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The more toys you have, the more time you waste comparing, say, 50 snare sounds. Best to keep in mind that cardboard boxes have been used as the snare on #1 hit records, so don't sweat the small stuff. A good song will shine through bad production and no one other than you will ever know that you chose guitar/synth/bass/whatever sound A over sound B - you know, that decision that took you 4 hours to finally make and you're still undecided.

Write a song, record it, write another song, record it. Repeat until you run out of songs! Forget chasing the myth of the "perfect mix".

For software, Live 5 is great for working out ideas on the fly and being able to keep, edit and time-stretch favourite bits and pieces as the idea evolves.
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post Mon 19 Dec 2005, 23:18
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Very good points mentioned above. I think the #1 thing is to get the structure of the song finished as fast as possible, never mind the sounds too much. Then forget about the track for a while, get back to it and listen carefully - and change everything you find is not working. Repeat this until the arrange is good and ready. Bit by bit refine the sounds and then finally have a mixdown session.

On the other hand I love to work with an engineer / programmer or even "outside" producer who I trust - someone to call it a quit when the track is finished, because I tend to refine and tweak everything untill the track is totally dead. If I "have to do" everything by myself I at least like to have someone with me at the mixdown. There was a time when I trusted only myself (foolish..) but as time has gone by I've started to focus more on the creative side and leave the bassdrum EQ tweaks and plugging the cables under the mixing desk to someone who really enjoys doing it (or gets paid to do it..)

Rickenbacker wrote : "Forget chasing the myth of the "perfect mix", that's a true wisdom, too bad it takes many people years to understand it and they end up creating nothing, just looking for a "perfect mix".
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post Mon 20 Feb 2006, 07:53
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My buddies and I have a fairly simple procedure for staying focused. Basically we use a program called "tabit" and tab out our songs, and it plays them back in midi so we can hear how everything sounds. Then eventually after we all approve it we call the song "done". Later we come back to any random song we have created that we especially like, and we sit down, and we begin to record it. However we have never managed to record anything that didn't sound like junk, due to having no "good" equipment until a few days ago. smile.gif

Here's an example of one of our songs, it has all the parts we are going to record, the drums, bass, everything is all there, so you know exactly what you're going to be doing. Much easier to stay focused then noodling around.

This post has been edited by Wilko: Mon 20 Feb 2006, 07:54
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post Mon 20 Feb 2006, 10:03
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I program with supercollider, Csound (and blue thanks to help from pickel and cheese), and use ardour so im a little into the programing side myself and my answer is to stay focased is to SMOKE WEED!!!!!. now hear me out. some ppl might not agree with me but when it come to having to write hours ( and with suppercollider and csound i really mean hours) of code it really helps stay you stay interested and focused. Just remember you have to havew the ambition and motivation to get it done if you take this advice becuz thats what some ppl cant rumage up and it just makes them lazy. i have a couple of freind who also feel this way and some who dont. (This might be a little out of the box, and even get me kick off the list but its true and i will always stand by it.)
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post Tue 21 Feb 2006, 16:04
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Tools are just tools. It's much too easy to get lost in the toolshed these days.

For me, I start with the melody, the emotion, the lyrics (if any). Build from there. If it sounds good on just acoustic guitar, you're onto something.

Experience will guide your sound choices, style, etc. But getting the emotion across is still the goal. A song is really 2 essential parts: an emotional idea, and a technical vehicle to deliver it.

Listen to some classic 60s Bob Dylan songs. Brilliant lyrics, mainly. Performance came second. Robbie Robertson is on record trying to get across to Dylan how the great 45s captured a moment -- think Otis Redding "These Arms of Mine".
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