In this post, I’m going to share how you can get organized for music production, because the worst thing that can happen with your music making is that you aren’t properly organized in all the important categories. Without organization, your ideas are not going to be able to flow through as quickly and more often than not, you’re going to lose those inspired ideas because you’re moving too slow.
Your brain is moving faster than you’re able to catch up with, so what you want is to have everything ready to go, so when inspiration hits you, you can immediately get right down to business.
I’m going to share four different ways to organize yourself so that when the inspiration comes and you sit down at your studio, you’re ready to go, your mind is clear and all the tools you need are ready to go for you. This way you can just start tackling what’s in your head, or you could start experimenting. Even if you’ve got no ideas, the right sounds will be there for you.
First and foremost, we’re going to get into the mental preparation, because if you’re not mentally prepared, it doesn’t matter what information you have. It doesn’t matter what tools you have. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are. If you’re not mentally prepared, things are going to go south pretty quickly.
A few things that I recommend that will mentally prepare you and organize you for music production.
1. Work on music every day.
It doesn’t have to be an hour, two hours or three hours. It can even be 15 minutes, but start setting the habit that you sit down, hopefully at the same time every day to work on your music.
If you end up working longer than 15 minutes, great, but that doesn’t take away your need to come back the next day and put in at least for 15 minutes. It’s much better to consistently work every day than it is to sporadically work once a week or twice a week. Marathon sessions can be cool, but you should also have your daily practices set in place, because what’s going to happen is that daily practice is going to keep your mind open for creative ideas every single day and you’re not going to forget what you did the day before.
It’s like the story keeps unfolding, & you don’t forget the story along the way. So you don’t have to go back and relearn all kinds of things or to figure out where you’re actually at with a particular song you’re working on.
So daily habit is very, very important.
2. First thing in the morning
Another thing I recommend if possible is to try to work first thing in the morning. That might sound counterintuitive. Some of you guys are night owls, but I find either late evening or early morning usually works best. The reason I like early morning is you can get to it very first thing. You’ve just come off of several hours of sleep, so you’re starting off fresh and all the frustrations of the day haven’t caught up with you yet. At the end of the day, you’ve gone through all the frustrations of the day and all the clutter and things and those might be sitting with you as you’re trying to produce.
So totally up to you, but I recommend that you try to create your practice first thing in the morning. If you early, maybe it’s possible that you can get up an hour earlier in the morning. It made be going to sleep an hour earlier at the end of the day.
This is really simple, but most of us don’t do it. Drink a gallon of water every day. Hydrate the hell out of yourself. It’s just going to give you more energy, more focus. Your body’s going to react really well to it. It’s going to make you healthier overall & gets the body’s electricity flowing right. You don’t need to have any special water unless your tap water is terrible. I that case get a filter.
A gallon of water a day will really change a lot of things and really help your brain focus much better.
4. Have a task
The next practice is choosing what you’re going to accomplish before you start working on the music. If you have an idea of what you want to get done, you can break that down into baby steps. That way, every day you’re marking something off your list, or maybe you’ve got a process that might take a couple of studio sessions, but you can get half done the day and half done tomorrow. This way you have that momentum because you have a direction that you’re going in. You don’t want to just come into your music production blind. You want to think “How can I get 5% further today than I than it was yesterday”.
If you keep on making these tiny goals, you’re going to reach your final goal of finishing great songs more quickly and efficiently.
5. Sacred time
Make sure to tell those around you, especially in your household, that the studio time is your sacred time. When you sit down to do your music, ask your family, ask your friends, ask your roommates, just not to interrupt you during this particular daily habit. Every time you get your concentration broken, it’s going to take you probably 15, 20, maybe more minutes to get back into the groove of where you were. Especially if you find yourself in a flow, you don’t want someone to interrupt that flow. That would interrupt your ability to work at your peak level.
Next, Let’s get into physical preparation. This is pretty straightforward.
1. Organize your studio space
The first thing we want to do is clean and organize your studio & all the physical space around your studio. You don’t want a bunch of clutter all over because once again, that’s going to clutter your brain. Keeping your physical space clear can really help you come in with an empty slate.
2. Clean your computer desktop
The next thing I recommend to you is to clear off your computer desktop. If you’ve got tons of icons and stuff on your desktop, just create one folder, call it “desktop” and drag all the icons, everything you’ve got, into that one folder. That way, when you set up your computer, you don’t have any distractions from icons and things like that. You’re going to be really surprised if you haven’t done this before of how much more efficient it will make you.
1. Define your style
What I’d recommended to you is to figure out what your sound is, what your style of music is going to be. It could be obviously a collection of different styles that you bring it together and that’s overall fine, but what I would recommend you do is…..
2. Listen to a Mix
Sit down and listen to a DJ mix in your basic style of music. The reason for this is that you want to take note on the types of sounds all the songs in the mix have in common. This is going to give you an idea of the types of sounds that you’re probably going to want in your song, at least the most important elements that you’re going to want in your song.
You want to be able to listen to each of the drum sounds, especially the kicks, the hi-hats, snare, claps & percussion & try to describe it each one. This way, when you go looking for sounds, you know what types of sounds you want to look for instead of just starting at the beginning of your sample folder and going through thousands of sounds. That’s not gonna really give you the freedom to create. You’re going to just get lost in trying to find the right sound.
So figure out and describe what the sounds are. You want to do the same thing with bass sounds, synths, stabs, pads etc. These are the elements that work best for your style, and you don’t have to create a song with all these elements if it doesn’t work for your song, but it’s really good to have these prepped so you are prepared to create when an idea comes to you.
Another thing that I would recommend is try to note any effect sounds. Do you notice a certain kind of reverb? How would you describe the reverb? You notice any delays? Does it sound like it’s running through saturation? Does the mix sound a bit dirtier?
Figure out what kinds of effects might be being used. Maybe there’s a certain kind of chorus or flange or filtering. Whatever it is, try recognize it & describe that. This will help inform you of the types of effects that you’re going to want to have at your arsenal. You want your “shortlist”, if you will. So that’s what I would do before getting into the process of sitting down to create.
You don’t need to do that every day. You just need to do this once & update on occasion, so you’re prepared with what’s next.
The next step is your studio preparation.
1. Create your go-to drum sounds
You want to create drum kits based on the types of sounds that you’ve described in your listening session. What I recommend you can either have a different kit for every sound like a different kit for your kicks, your snare, claps, hi hats, all the main sounds that you’re going to have. If you’ve got 128 slots to work with with your drum program, then you can put collections of Kicks, hi-hats, snares and so forth.
What I highly recommend is you only pick 10 of each sound. With 10 sounds, especially when you get into layering of those sounds, you can get a wide variety of great sounds and you’re picking sounds that already work for your style, so these sounds are ready to go.
So you can basically drag in one kit that has all of the sounds or several kits that have all that the separate sounds and that’s just gonna make things work much quicker because you’re giving yourself less choices.
2. 3-5 bass sounds
The next thing I would do is think about those bass sounds that you wrote down & described and try to make between three and five bass sounds. right. Back in the day when it was real bass players playing in live bands, for the most part they were using the same bass guitar through, most of their music. Maybe two main bass guitars. Your bass sound can become your signature. You don’t need to change your bass sound with every single song.
I’ve probably gotten by for years on variations of, let’s say five different bass sounds and you can do the same thing. And what’s great is once you get a sound that really works and fits with the types of grooves that you’re making, it’ll be much easier for you to create bass sounds for future songs.
Save 3-5 different bass sounds as your ‘go-to’. The way I do presets, is I just put 000 in front of the name, that way all of my custom presets come up to the top of the list alphabetically. That’s just the way that I do it. Do whatever you prefer creating presets in your DAW. Okay.
3. Create ‘go-to’ presets
Go through your DAW & find sounds that are similar to what you are going for, that you can tweak to your liking. Those will be starting points that you can have for most sounds you might be looking for. Like before, rename them for easy access, so you’re not searching through thousands of presets from all your synths. Instead you’ve got 10 great presets for certain sounds or whatever. That’s going to really free up your mental space, so as you’re putting songs together, you can get it close enough for now.
You can always come back and fine tune, but I think the best process is to get the ideas down as quickly as possible with sounds that are close to what you’re thinking of and then move yourself from there.
Once you do that & you’ve got your sounds, you’re prepared every day to sit down and produce for at least 15 minutes a day.
4. Use a reference once you have a starter groove
My recommendation to keep the process going even more quickly for you & not overthinking things is, I would start with, a basic drum beat, bass and maybe one other element, like pads or something just to get a vibe started.
The next thing that you’ll want to do is find yourself a basic template like yourself using a song that you like the structure of.
Then you could use that as a reference track. And since you’ve already started with your own idea, you’re not going to be copying the original song. With that, you’ll be able to move more quickly. When you get stuck, you can check with this reference song to make sure that you’re still heading kind of in the right direction, because it’s very easy for you to get off track.
So those are the ways that I recommend that you organize yourself for music production. I hope this helps you guys. This is just a small hint of what I teach in my master course, the create an EP in 30 days.
If you are interested in reading my book “The Mental Game of Electronic Music Production” for free, you can go to https://MusicSoftwareTraining.com/thementalgame
Happy music making,