What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
7385 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Post Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:30 pm

To put it most simply - I search for ideas then, once I have one that I like, I turn it into a song. I can use something with a really simple arrangement I wrote fairly recently (in the past year) as an example -

Last March or April I was playing around in Orion with Output's Substance, which I had just purchased, and came upon a really good electric bass sound that I quickly and easily got working as a simple running bass line. It sounded great so I put a 4/4 kick over it and then it sounded even better. I played around with the tempo a bit and settled on 116 bpm because it suited the feel of the bass.

That's when I realised I wanted to turn it into a song so I looked at some of the other stuff I'd been working on to find something to fill it out. There was a rhythmic patch in DUNE 2 that we'd used sparingly in another song that I wanted to use more prominently somewhere else so I started with that and just played around with riffs/patterns until I ended up with what is probably the electronic equivalent of the rhythm guitar part. Then I put the pattern through Orion's arpeggiator and got something much more like a lead part. That was about two night's of work, playing around and tweaking the various bits.

That gave me all the bits I needed to start working on an arrangement, which means going from Pattern Mode to Song Mode in Orion, so I laid it out with verses and possible choruses. My usual chorus is just the verse riff transposed up/down (because that usually works really well) but in this instance the riff seemed to work better if I left it alone, so I used the DUNE part to differentiate it instead. But it needed more to life in the chorus. I'd recently made some nice strings in DUNE 2 so I used that and came up with a few different patterns I could use in various places. At that point I put a bit of an intro and outro in, put some extra drums in with a few variations for different sections, etc. Then I rendered it, did a quick and dirty master and exported it as an mp3 so I could listen to it in the car (where I do most of my music listening). This happened over another 3 or 4 nights.

Driving around, listening to it, got me singing along and after a day or two I had a few lyrical ideas in my head, so I sat down and nutted out a full set of words, then set about fitting the arrangement around them, which led to changing the whole idea of the chorus, putting a lot more emphasis on DUNE's lead part and adding in a solo using the DUNE strings where the lead part had previously been. By the end of my second night of this session, I had a song we could play live. All up it was just over a week from spark to a song we could perform and it basically stayed like that until yesterday.

Yesterday I took the vocals I'd recorded last month and stuck them in. I had three takes and I tried them all before settling on the first one, which I then spent an hour or so editing in Audition to remove all my breathing and other extraneous krap. While I was working out which vocal takes to use, I'd set up a sketch area in the timeline, after the song had finished. In doing that I stumbled upon the fact that my appalling voice actually sounded OK on it's own so I decided to add in a little coda to the song. From the first render I had it fading out over the DUNE lead repeats, with me riffing on the chorus. It still fades out but now there is a two bar gap and it fires up again with just the vocal riffing (from a different take) and the 4/4 kick (quieter) for another 12 bars. That's kind of taken it from something very conventional to being a little bit quirky, which I think is kind of cool and the sort of thing I try to get out of every piece if I can. I also replaced the kick I'd been using with something else I hadn't had when I first wrote it.

So that is a song I started work on last March and only consider finished as of yesterday although, obviously, it really only took me a week or so's worth of work over that 9 month period. But I guarantee that if I had recorded the vocals and put them in the same week I wrote the lyrics, it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as it is now. It's that last 5% that makes all the difference in the end - tweaking a sound here, changing an effect there and getting the levels just right (which is the big thing you need to get that objectivity for, otherwise you make the bits you like too loud).

What is truly gratifying about it is that it's the first song I have written from scratch in about 10 years. In that time I've done a couple of instrumentals (which I don't consider songs), contributed a lot of ideas and written a lot of lyrics but most of our musical ideas have come from my bandmate. The last song I wrote was just after I bought a Korg micro-X in 2007 and the reason I had done very little since was that I had stopped just mucking around with my synths (because for a long time I had lost interest in the whole thing). That's why I think the hardest part will always be coming up with that first idea because without that little piece of grit, you can never expect to get any pearls. Once you've got that, I find the song pretty much writes itself.
NOVAkILL 3.0 : Acer Switch5 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, Win10), Yamaha AG06, Orion 64 bit, Roli Seaboard Rise 25, Elektron Analog Keys, Waldorf Pulse 2 MicroMonsta, IK Uno.

funky lime
KVRian
1228 posts since 17 Sep, 2002

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:26 am

BONES wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:07 pm
piano is krap at rhythm.
Right... sounds like user error to me. ;)

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Distorted Horizon
KVRian
1408 posts since 17 Jan, 2017

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:21 am

I make a kickass 16 bar loop, then I cry myself to sleep every night trying to figure out a good intro and leading to that loop. If I success, I cry myself to sleep even longer, trying to make that 16 bar loop in to an interesting 64 bar thingy. I hate myself, I punish myself, I even stop making music and cry a little more. Then I die from the inside, just finish the song and start all over.

*edit* my tracks usually have 3 of those 64 bar thingys..

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Dillinger
KVRist
99 posts since 2 Apr, 2016

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:18 pm

I listen to music alot!

If something strikes me, I re-listen and draw inspiration from it keying in on the element that inspired me.
I hum it out for melody and/or pound it out for rhythm and walk around the next couple days with it in my head on repeat. It inevitably morphs from the original into something more "me".
If its a rhythm, I lay it down. If its a melody, I record it as humming and try to flesh out the note relationships, then track as midi or audio.
Then arrange the ideas into something meaningful.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I get inspired by an instrument or a sound design patch that just lends itself to something else that i must have assimilated through the years and a song pops out the other end. I enjoy when that happens and certain sound designers seem to make that happen for me more than others. Probably because they must have similar assimilations.

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
7385 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:41 pm

funky lime wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:26 am
Right... sounds like user error to me. ;)
Or maybe someone who just doesn't like the sound a piano makes when people try to do certain things on it, perhaps? To be fair, I don't like piano much at all and in 37 years of writing music I have only ever found two songs that it worked in, both in the 1980s when I had way fewer options than I have today.
NOVAkILL 3.0 : Acer Switch5 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, Win10), Yamaha AG06, Orion 64 bit, Roli Seaboard Rise 25, Elektron Analog Keys, Waldorf Pulse 2 MicroMonsta, IK Uno.

hyperbits
KVRer
8 posts since 8 Jan, 2019

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:25 pm

That's fair @bones you can certainly think that way, I won't stop you! But this 'workflow' helped me go from making 4-6 tracks per year to making 40-50 tracks per year and getting signed to the labels I always dreamed of.

I unapologetically prioritize quantity over quality, and I would never recommend that an artist take a lot of 'time' because the quality of your music never correlated to time (more time does not mean better quality music). If this was writing, who is the better writer? Someone who writes one short story in one year? Or the one who writes a short story every single day? I feel like that answer is self-explanatory.

Don't get me wrong, if making music is just a hobby, that's one thing. But if you want to exist in the industry it will require an incredible amount of output to survive off of it. For more perspective as to why, I'd check out this production session I made as it might explain it better: https://hyperbitsmusic.com/free/8-advanced-tips-video/

cthonophonic
KVRist
184 posts since 1 Jan, 2018

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:48 pm

hyperbits wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:25 pm
If this was writing, who is the better writer? Someone who writes one short story in one year? Or the one who writes a short story every single day?
Dunno. Are the stories any good?

funky lime
KVRian
1228 posts since 17 Sep, 2002

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:06 pm

cthonophonic wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:48 pm
hyperbits wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:25 pm
If this was writing, who is the better writer? Someone who writes one short story in one year? Or the one who writes a short story every single day?
Dunno. Are the stories any good?
From the book "Art & Fear"

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.


I dunno, sounds a bit contrived, but the point it raises is still very valid.

Why Quantity Should Be Your Priority

Quantity Leads to Quality

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4damind
KVRAF
4704 posts since 17 Aug, 2004 from Berlin, Germany

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:28 pm

Trial & Error would describe my workflow the best ;) I test sound/ideas and sometimes it's interesting enough to start a track with. The rest is discipline. I have my regular time-frame where I make music and at this time I always open my actual project, listen for errors or things I don't like. If I found something it will be changed => Trial& Error ;)
But my daily goal ist not to finish a song, my goal ist to work with this song. This can also mean to open a plugin and program a sound or test a interesting effect. The song is growing sometimes quicker sometimes not, this is the problem everybody have.

funky lime
KVRian
1228 posts since 17 Sep, 2002

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:30 pm

BONES wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:41 pm
Or maybe someone who just doesn't like the sound a piano makes when people try to do certain things on it, perhaps? To be fair, I don't like piano much at all and in 37 years of writing music I have only ever found two songs that it worked in, both in the 1980s when I had way fewer options than I have today.
Right on, I was just being facetious. Anyway, I was more referring to piano as a general composition tool, rather than a sound generator in a particular song. Most of the music I write at a piano doesn't end up having piano in it. But as a tool for composing, it's got enough harmonic density to act as an indicator of whether or not a certain chord voicing works. It also has versatility as far as note length and dynamic range. There's got to be some imagination involved, though, regarding how it will translate to other instruments (e.g. being able to imagine a sustained piano chord as a string section or synth pad, etc).

And you can smack your hands on the wood and stomp your feet if you're working out a percussive part. It's not just keys. :)

Everybody's different.

Examigan
KVRAF
4532 posts since 15 Sep, 2005 from East Coast of the USA

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:37 pm

I haven't been writing much music at all lately, but I used to put the ideas I came up with in the DAW whenever I would think of them. It would be a sort of sketchbook or me. Then I would find parts that fit with other sections I had made up earlier. I'd also along the way I'd make new smaller parts to segue from one to another.

Anyway, I would usually start with some sort of a melody line, then do a bass line for it. I always like to make an interesting bass track, if at all possible. :wink: After that, I'd normally start making up a drum track for it. If needed, I'd add chords for the background, etc. I used to spend a long time with the drums to make them sound realistic (if it was a sampled acoustic kit) as I liked doing that type of thing, and actually I still do.

Some examples: "Stellar" is one I liked that turned out pretty well (I think anyway) and "Voyage" from an OSC which has more of an electronic sounding drum track, and "Dark Matter" which just has a simplistic/repeating drum pattern but has some nice spacey synth sounds in it.
https://soundcloud.com/examigan/

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Signal Jacker
KVRer
3 posts since 13 Jan, 2019

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:03 pm

My tracks always start with a lot of research gathering within the genre I'm producing and looking at pieces similar to those that I want to produce, it's important to do this so as to gain not only a better view of what you want to produce, but also to know as many other pieces and artists as you can which you will likely be comparred against by your listeners.

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
7385 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:50 pm

Like a few other posts, that sounds like a sausage factory where products are made, not a studio where art is created. I'd rather be flipping burgers at McDonalds than have to do that with music. I did it once, for a TV commercial, and it was a soul-destroying process. I vowed never to put myself in a situation like that again.

Moreover, how you think you can fake it like that astounds me. Do you really believe you can just work out what makes a particular style of music special to people and fake your way into making something they will like? Where is the passion in that process, the honesty and integrity?
funky lime wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:30 pm
But as a tool for composing, it's got enough harmonic density to act as an indicator of whether or not a certain chord voicing works.
I don't even know what that means (honestly) but it sounds very formal. I just try stuff until I find something that works. Of course, I couldn't play a piano to save my life - you have to hit the keys way too hard and they have way too much travel, it's very off-putting - and I've forgotten most of what I learned about chords 35 years ago (it never seemed very relevant to anything). I found it far easier adapting to my Roli than I do trying to play a piano.
NOVAkILL 3.0 : Acer Switch5 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, Win10), Yamaha AG06, Orion 64 bit, Roli Seaboard Rise 25, Elektron Analog Keys, Waldorf Pulse 2 MicroMonsta, IK Uno.

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harryupbabble
KVRian
1278 posts since 20 Mar, 2012 from Babbleon

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:36 am

My workflow is almost nonexistent. I typically use (both, at the same time, well, consecutively at least) my online computer to play speed scrabble and my offline computer to try to make a song. While waiting for a fast player to join my game, is the time that I try to make a song.

I never join other people's games because 99 percent of them are probably tournament players and HAVE to play slow because tournament games lets players have 25 minutes per player. So a "normal" scrabble game can take 50 minutes. There is no tournament award/reward for playing fast.

I have my games set at 2 minutes per player. It's the fastest setting that the site will allow. So that's a 4 minute game at most. So in the time it takes to play a "normal" scrabble game, I can play about 13 speed scrabble games.

Life At The Speed Of Fast. That's probably wrong. Bad memory. Too lazy to Google that right this second. But I think that is the title of a Paul MacCartney's Wings CD?

Speed scrabble is also about 13 times more fun than "normal" scrabble. To me at least. I don't get adrenaline rush playing "normal" scrabble.

The problem is that the owner of the site changed the site. It used to be that people had to download the WordBiz program and install it.
It was great like that because the installed WordBiz scrabble software did not cause lag. I don't know why. It was great for speed scrabble.

But now, Internet Scrabble Club no longer uses the WordBiz software. All people need now is a compatible internet browser. People can play scrabble in Firefox now... and other browsers. My online computer is super-old. My internet browser is super-old. I have intermittent lag. Maybe I have browser malware slowing things down. But I can still play somewhat fast. And get my adrenaline rushes.

In short, yeah, speed scrabble is interfering with my music-making workflow. But I have never been able to quit speed scrabble. I tried. Many times.

But I guess it's better than being into leather whips and whipping underage groupies and getting off living in one of Mister Crowley's castles. That's worse, right? I really don't know if anybody here are into that, or something like that. Who would admit to that?

Maybe that is actually more fun than speed scrabble. Of course it is. Most likely. But I have no plan finding out. I'm NOT naturally kinky. But most of all, I can't afford leather whips and castles. I can barely afford REAPER 6.
ah böwakawa poussé poussé

Alchemedia
KVRer
14 posts since 27 Nov, 2017

Re: What's your typical 'workflow' to write a track ?

Post Tue Jan 15, 2019 2:13 pm

All my music is about Aleister Crowley, who incidentally hated Scrabble.

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