How to avoid Option Paralysis by streamlining your music production toolbox
Get to the finish line without spending hours trawling through presets and samples
- The inability to make a decision when presented with a wide range of choices.
Too much choice can really grind you to a halt, in this article we discuss how to streamline your music production toolbox and get you to the finish line without spending hours trawling through presets and samples!
We've all been there before, pondering 'what if' this new product has the golden sound that will inspire me to write the next chart topping single? In truth, sometimes a specific sound or sample can ignite a creative spark that plants a seed for a new song to emerge and yes, this is a great thing. I like to refer to this technique as 'fishing', you don't really have a clear idea of what your going to catch but you're hoping for a big fish! In reality you could be sat there all day cycling through sounds, samples and presets until before you know it an hour or two has passed and you lose interest.
To overcome this try setting yourself time limits. For example, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of trawling through your favorite sample sites... such as the rabbit hole that is Splice! Once you've collected a few inspiring sounds, organise them well, I like to have clearly labeled folders and subfolders to make it easy to come back to your most loved sounds.
I like 'Red Hot Timer' It's a great little app for setting timers while working.
2. Gather Your Go-To's
When you’ve got that spark of creativity you need to get the idea recorded as quickly as possible. Whether it’s a beat, melody, or chord progression you need some sounds at your fingertips ready to go. Let’s go through some examples.
All you really need are two sets of sounds, Acoustic & Electronic. Have an acoustic kit ready yo go, I like to use the Kontakt version of Abbey Road 60’s Drummer for this and Native Instruments Battery for Electronic Sounds, all preset with my favorite but limited set of kicks, snares, toms, cymbals, & perc. If you have access to a real drum kit, try to make sure it’s always setup with microphones, headphones and some sort of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) control nearby so you can jump on any time and start recording
My go-to here, the Minimoog! Specifically the Arturia MiniV. You can get this to sound like the most gnarly ripping low end beast or a simple thumbed electric bass guitar.
Keyboards & Synths
This is where things get interesting as the infinite expanse of the internet's darkest corners of software synthesisers looms over you it can be tempting to download and trial your way through endless possibilities of modulated synth madness. My advice is to limit yourself to 2 options. The first being a piano sound, I like to use Arturia’s Piano V. The second being anything you like, as long as you know it really well. If your using something like Native Instruments Massive, or xFer’s Serum, these really can do anything if you really learn how to use them. That being said, you can also stick yo the inbuilt sounds in Logic & Ableton.
If you are writing with guitars, pianos, or other acoustic instruments be sure to have them plugged in ready to record at all times. There’s no time to mess around with tangled cables or rummaging around for plectrums, make sure it’s all there at your fingertips.
Here’s my writing template that I limit to 10 tracks for the initial stages so I don’t spend too much time tweaking sounds.
So next time you have an idea, a spark of inspiration, don’t waste time focussing on specific sounds. Just get the content down and you’ll find that the tones and sounds of particular instruments will follow naturally. And don’t forget to experiment with setting yourself timers and short term achievable goals.
Please comment below, I would love to hear your feedback and techniques you use to streamline your writing and production workflow.
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