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5 Steps to an improved music production workflow

Capturing inspiration in the moment is crucial.

As a creative minded individual, it may be difficult at times to maintain clarity and a sense of direction. Sometimes, that musical riff or specific sound we hear in our heads never truly makes it into our digital audio workstation (DAW). The most important tools that a creator has is their ability to continuously become inspired, the efficiency of the workflow to put their inspiration into a musical context, as well as the ability to remain “in the zone” during the creative process. Here are 5 steps to a more efficient creative workflow.

*Setting up buses, using insert FX sends and freezing/bouncing tracks can save precious cpu resources

1. Organize your sound library

Sample library organization is critical for a faster  workflow. Looking for a specific sound? You’ll know  exactly where to find it when you need it.
Sample library organization is critical for a faster workflow. Looking for a specific sound? You’ll know exactly where to find it when you need it.

When inspiration strikes, having an efficient workflow will make it much easier to convert the idea into a musical reality. Organizing your entire sample library based upon their sound qualities will lead to a faster work output. Need a foley sound? Now you know where to find it without needing to listen to a 16 minute foley recording. Create subfolders for more specific labeling. For example, having one kick folder means cycling through every single kick sample. Creating subfolders like 909 kicks, dirty kicks, acoustic kicks, foley kicks, etc. can lead to a much quicker selection of the desired sound.

2. Create a DAW Template

Having a template setup with the desired FX chains and instruments will mean less sifting through plugin folders. Having commonly used routings ready to go in a new project will lead towards quicker decisions. Need a delay or a reverb? Congratulations, you already have your favorite one set up and ready to go. Do you prefer to use a specific synthesizer? Now it greets you every single time you open up a new project.

3. Organize plugin folders

Organizing your plugin folders for quick access to  commonly used processors makes decision making  and processing much faster.

Alongside having a DAW template, organizing plugins into folders allows for quick access to audio processors. Rather than cycling through plugin after plugin, all of your favorite plugins can be localized into one place. Place all of your favorite compressors into a singular compressor folder, all of your favorite equalizers into a singular EQ folder, or make it easier to access a specific developer’s products, etc. Having all of your favorite processors within a few clicks bypasses the endless cycling of plugin folders.

4. Avoid potential distractions

Turn off the internet, throw your phone out the window, and isolate yourself on an island with a volleyball named, Wilson…. But in all seriousness, get rid of unnecessary distractions. The smallest distraction could break our concentration and we could forget what idea we had prior to looking at our notifications. Scrolling through social media, emails, text messages or Discord servers can be a graveyard for potential ideas. When an idea or form of inspiration strikes, it’s important to snatch the idea and run with it while it’s fresh in your mind. Even having a cat jump on your desk could ruin your thought process, so try to set yourself up for success by limiting the amount of potential distractions.

5. Don’t search for the “perfect” sound. Instead, choose what’s “good enough, for now”

Referring back to the first recommendation in this article, having an organized sound library is essential. However, cycling through samples or presets for the “perfect” sound can steal precious time. Rather than searching for the “perfect” sound, instead choose a sound that captures the general idea that you’re searching for. Capturing the vibe or general sound idea in your mind and moving on allows you to keep working. The beauty of settling on a sound that is “good enough” is that you can always exchange the sound out with a new one in the future. The idea is to spend a very small amount of time to capture the general idea that you’ve envisioned, and then you can always exchange sounds for more appropriate ones for the track in the future. If all of your sounds are 85% of what you envisioned, then you’ll have a track that’s 85% where you want it to be, rather than non-existent because you’ve spent too much time seeking the “perfect” sound and then losing track of what the original idea was in the first place.

Writer: Aaron Davis aka Fellow Scorpio

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