1. Mixing / Sound designing too much in the beginning phase of making a track
This is my biggest mistake. Too often I find myself tweaking synths or samples instead of writing the music. Mixing and sound design are very time-consuming and too much of it kills my inspiration.
To battle this problem I resample drums and save presets from my previous tracks or collect sounds that already sound nice. I save them all in one folder and do the same for presets. That allows me to have a folder with ready-to-use sounds. This way I don’t have to worry about mixing at the beginning and the ideas don’t sound too bad. It’s a skill to be able to separate the mixing process from writing. You need to get used to the fact that your ideas won’t sound perfect at the beginning and just focus on building strong musical parts. After you have strong parts you can always tweak the samples and presets.
2. Producing without having a strong musical idea or getting stuck with one loop
I find a lot of tracks that are very good productions but don’t have strong core ideas behind it. There’s also tracks that have one good idea but it’s repeated too many times and the track feels boring.
To combat this I switch to the Session View of Ableton at the beginning of making a track. As I make mostly melodic music I create a track for chords, one track for leads and a track for drums with a drum rack. This will differ depending on the genre you’re making - try to find a few instruments that are the most important in your type of music and limit yourself to them at the beginning. When I have the tracks set up I create musical elements in them and after some time I end up with clips on every track. Then I like to see what works together - I’ll play the first lead with the second chords clip, I’ll play the third drums clip with the second lead and so on. The reason why I use Session View is that it allows you to switch between the elements without having to drag and drop. Once I find enough combinations that I like I save them in separate scenes and put them into the Arrangement.
3. Not organizing your sample packs, presets & instruments
Searching for sounds can be time-consuming. During the production process you want to choose the right sounds to work with but they’re not always easy to find.
One way to speed up this process is to organize sounds in folders. My approach to do this is to sort sample packs by genre as a lot of them have folders inside sorted by type. Another way to speed up finding sounds to search for them on Splice. It allows you to search for sounds from a lot of packs in one place. You can sort samples and presets by genre, type, BPM etc. Another cool feature is that you pay per item - you don’t have to purchase an entire pack to get one sound.
4. Using the same settings in Audio Effects over and over without saving them
During the production process I almost never save my effect presets because I’m focused on producing the track. However I encourage you to take the time and to go back and save your effect presets after you make a track. This way you can build a folder with your favourite presets ready to use the next time you make a track. To do this just create a new folder, add it to the Browser section and drag an effect into it. You can do the same thing for your favourite instruments (ie. Kontakt libraries) and VSTs. To save a VST plugin you need to put it inside an Instrument Rack first (click on it and press cmd/ctrl+G).
If you find yourself using the same effects or instruments on a lot of tracks you can speed up the process even more and save a track with that effect/instrument as a Default Track. To do that right click on that track and select „Save as Default Track”. That way whenever you add in a new track these devices will appear.
5. Not having a starting template that encourages creativity
My default template (the „default project” that opens up when you open Ableton) used to be one track with Serum with its default preset. Because of that I often found myself tweaking in Serum before writing any music. Don’t make this mistake and create a few tracks you always use and save them. Now my default template is a piano, lead and Drum Rack in Session View so that whenever I open Ableton I can write music straight away. I also have sections mapped out with Time Markers in Arrangement View for all my sections to save time when arranging. To save a project as a starting template go to Settings>File/Folder>Save Current Set as Default.
I’m k-pizza, a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.
Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one
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