We have all had those unproductive studio sessions where nothing gets accomplished. The lead you tried to put into your track didn’t work, a plugin needed updating, or you couldn’t find the sample you were looking for. While it is inevitable for you to have unproductive studio sessions every so often, many producers will often encounter more of these unproductive sessions than they should. By doing a little bit of preparation before the actual studio session, you will be able to avoid these unproductive sessions more often. Here is a list of four ways you can become more productive in the studio.
Organize your samples
One of the best ways to ensure a productive studio session is to have an organized sample library. Having an organized library allows you to find the exact sample that you want without having to search through hundreds or even thousands of samples. When you search through an unorganized sample library, you not only waste time looking for a specific sample, but you take yourself out of a creative mindset. Not only will you waste time looking for samples, but you will waste even more time trying to get back into the creative flow of your track. You want to organize your samples in a way that makes sense to you. One way to organize your library is by type. For the type of sample, simply put all your drum loops together in a “drum loops” folder, all synth one-shots in a “synth one-shots” folder, and repeat this for all the different types of samples that you have.
Create folders of your favorite samples and presets
Finishing a track from start to finish can be a lengthy process. To ensure that you are getting the most out of your production sessions, you need to be prepared. Before you even begin your track, set up two folders. One for samples and one for presets. In the sample folder, place 10-25 different samples that fit the style or genre that you are working in. In the presets folder, place 10-25 synth and/or plugin presets that you think will fit the style or genre that you are working in. When working on your track, just stick to the samples and presets that you selected beforehand. Using a limited set of samples and presets in your productions may appear to limit your creativity, but this is often not the case. Having this limited set of tools allows you to generate more ideas with the limited number of samples and presets that you chose before you started your track. If you have your entire library at your disposal, your creative mind may be distracted by browsing through all the different options in your library, rather than making a limited set of sounds work in unison. This does not mean that you are stuck with the samples and presets that you chose at the beginning of the production process. After you have written your song, and gone into the mixing phase or final tuning stages, then you can change out the samples or presets if needed. The idea of having this limited set of tools is to help you move through the producing stage distraction free.
Learn key commands
To become a productive music producer, you must learn your software’s key commands. While using a key command may only save you a second or two, these seconds will add up over time and have a significant impact on your overall time spent trying to operate your software. Any DAW that you are using will have a manual where you can view all the key commands available. On your computer, type which key commands that you use the most on a notepad. When you are producing, keep this notepad open and refer to key commands every time you perform an action that has a key command. If you forget to perform a function that has a key command, undo the action, and perform it with the proper key command. In the short run, this may slow down your productivity. In the long run, you will start to see a significant improvement in not only your productivity but your creativity.
Create DAW templates
Creating DAW templates is another great way to set up a productive studio session. Templates allow you to hop right into the production process with a setup that fits your particular workflow for the type of track that you are working on. Here are a few ideas on what you can add to your template to kickstart your productions.
- Arrangement markers
- Basic drum samples
- Your favorite synths
- Set up groups of sounds (Example: can add a few audio tracks, group them in DAW, and label them kick, snare, hats, etc.)
- Favorite FX plugins
To save this DAW template, you can save it just like any other project. Just make sure to “save-as” in your DAW’s saving options once you start working on a track or else your template will be saved over with the current work that you have done.
Update your software
While this may seem like an obvious tip, many producers still do not do it. Depending on the software, updating your plugins or DAW may be a very time-consuming process and take you out of the creative zone if not handled before your sessions. Before you get into your session, go through all the various plugins that you might be using for the particular project and see if any of them need to be upgraded.
If you are taking your music production career seriously, then you must be as productive and efficient as you possibly can. As an artist, unproductive studio sessions are bound to occur, but can be reduced. By applying the four tips above, you give yourself the greatest chance to be productive and reach your music production goals.
Daniel is a caffeine-dependent entrepreneur, music producer, sound design junkie, and world traveler crazy about teaching modern electronic music production through his site SoundShock.