5 Simple Habits of The Highly Organized, Productive, Effective & Efficient Music Producer
Music production, as you probably know by now, can become very complex, very fast. It stands to reason then that anything you can do to save time and work faster and more effectively will improve your workflow, productivity and creative output in your home studio.
The most important thing is to pay attention to your music production workflow and do what you can on a regular basis to improve it. Below you'll find 5 simple practices or habits you can implement today to start upgrading your own music production workflow and system to be more productive and creative:
Let's take a quick look at each of these habits...
1. Create & Use Your Own DAW Startup Templates
Your goal is to get into a creative flow state as easily as possible when you sit down to produce. So, you definitely don't want to set up your DAW project preferences, tracks, groups, routing, inserts and sends every time you start a new project. This would not only waste your time but also puts you in a technical/admin-type mindset which isn't the creative playful state you need for producing, especially when writing music.
This is why it's crucial to not only create your own basic DAW startup templates but also to refine and refresh your templates on a regular basis.
A good DAW startup template has the things you know for a fact you'll use ready to go. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you make your startup template to complex and crowded you'll negatively impact your music production workflow. Same goes if you make it too simple and need to set up stuff in every new session. So, it'll take some time to discover the right balance for your own startup templates, but once you get it honed in you'll find that you start and finish tracks much faster.
2. Create and Use a Consistent Color-Coding Scheme
Theres nothing worse than getting to the stage where you have 100+ channels in your project and they all have the same default color assigned by your DAW. This slows down your ability to quickly navigate to the tracks/parts you want to work on. Talk about a music production workflow killer!
Color-coding tracks and parts solves this issue because the different colors provide a visual que for our brains to easily navigate to the right place, faster.
It's best to create a color-coding scheme and stick to it from project to project rather than using different colors in every project. In other words, if you decide to have drums colored red and synths yellow then you want to have that the same in every project. In time you'll get accustomed to your scheme and associate the color with the channels, folders or parts.
3. Name Your Tracks Something That Makes Sense to You
Along the same lines as color-coding, it makes life a whole lot easier when you name your tracks descriptively rather than leaving them as MIDI 1, MIDI 2, Audio 1, Audio 2 or whatever your chosen DAW does by default. Again, this makes navigation easier and also makes life easier when you open the project after a while of not working on it.
Good track-naming habits also helps mix engineers and collaborators you might work with as they are able to know what's what in your session at a glance, without having to solo each track and label it themselves.
So, in short, it's not MIDI 1 or Audio 1. It's Sub or Lead Synth or Snare. Make it a habit!
4. Know, Organize & Tag /Rename Your Samples
We've all been there. We start producing music and one of the first things we do is begin to gather samples. From free music magazine samples to sample-pack giveaways and tasters to other producers sharing their own samples, it's a freaking sample-collecting rampage.
Before you know it you have a 100+GB folder of samples named "My Samples" or something to that effect with a chaotic mess of subfolders with a variety of sound packs.
Now, as you're probably well aware by now, this makes it hard to find the sound you want. You may have a nice selection of snares, but they're all over the place, spread between different packs in different folders. Not only does this slow down your music production workflow, it also means you may miss some samples just because you don't go through certain folders when you hunt for a sound.
A much better way is to go through your samples and place them in a folder system that makes sense.
How you organize your samples will depend on how you like to work. You might have separate folders for different instruments like Kick, Bass, Snares, Hats, FX and Vocals. You may want to sub-sort tonal instruments by key. You may want to sort loops by BPM. Again, this is something you'll want plan out a bit and base your decisions on your own personal preferences.
Sorting a sample library, especially a huge one is no fun task. The massive improvement of your music production workflow once it's done is however what makes it well worth your time to do. The added benefit is that as you go through your samples systematically you'll discover great samples you've forgotten you have.
Don't be afraid to rename your samples as you go through them and/or tag your samples. This makes it easier to use your DAW media manager search function. I mean, isn't "WhiteNoiseSnare.wav" or "Distorted909Clap.wav" better than "Snare23.wav" and "Clap45.wav"?
5. Create Shortcuts & Macros for Multi-Step Processes
When you start out it may be easier to open a menu, then a sub-menu, then another sub-menu and then click on the function you want, rather than memorizing shortcut hotkeys. A shortcut could however reduce the same 4 steps to 1 or 2 steps. Sounds like nothing but if you count the amount of time you waste over a few years you might be gobsmacked at the result.
So, of course you want to learn and customize your shortcuts. You can even take it further and learn how to create macros that complete multiple functions with 1 or 2 keystrokes.
In short, if you do any multi-step process more than once then you should see if there's a way you could create a shorcut or macro to make it faster and easier in future. The upfront time and effort pays huge dividends in the long run.