How to make More Music? (Share your Tips)

Hello Composers, Mike here! :smiley:
I want to become more efficient and productive when it comes to actually composing, producing and most importantly finishing more tracks.

Because my intention is making full production music albums to pitch to exclusive music libraries and publishers.

It’s so easy to fall back on perfectionism, bad time-wasting habits etc. So I would love to hear your personal tips and tricks to get more music done on a weekly basis.

I can start by sharing an interview with David Olofson @olofson I did a while back, on completing a full album in 1 single month:

Now please share your productivity tips on getting more music done! :slight_smile:

Sincerely,
Mike

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Here are my tips:

  • Know your DAW inside/out and all your shortcuts to save time
  • Sketch in bold lines and add details later, think of composing like drawing a portrait: you don’t start with the details in the eyes, but you rather start with the general outline and it gets more and more defined.
  • Use the best sounding samples on the market, you don’t want to lose sight of the big picture by spending too much time on the tech side.
  • Mix as you go (adjust volumes immediately as you’re writing) it will give you a better general overview of the final result.
  • Less is more, don’t overthink your arrangement/orchestration. Most composers beginning tend to over-complicate their writing because they want to feel secure, but this ends up hurting the music most of the time.
  • Spend a lot of time ear training to be able to analyze styles by ear and quickly break down what elements make a piece "epic,” "scary,” etc. Is it the instrumentation? Modes? Orchestration? etc. This will help you get to the result you’re looking for faster.

Cheers,
Medhat

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You continue to add so much value with your posts Medhat, I thank you on behalf of the entire community! :slight_smile:

I especially agree with your second tip about sketching in bold lines. It is very easy to get stuck in the details when the big picture is what it is all about in the end in any case.

I also resonate with the “Less is more” point, because I struggle with this myself. I think it goes well with the point about best sounding samples, because I find it is much easier to write with less parts if the individual instruments already sound amazing in solo.

Again, thank you for sharing your tips and experience Medhat! :slight_smile:

Sincerely,
Mike

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Most of everything I could say has already been said which is awesome!!

  1. Inspiration is overrated. Writing meaningful music in specific genres can boil down to knowing intimately what codes and conventions that genre has.

  2. Create genre specific templates. Only include the instruments you’d always hear in that genre. This will also Leave room for creativity in your work.

  3. Have a network of people you trust for feedback, only allow 3 amendments before moving on. At first this may mean that at first you create less than adequate material but coupled with the next point, will actually cultivate efficiency!

  4. Finally, contrary to most people’s views creating great music is more about quantity over quality. Submerging yourself in a routine where you churn out a huge amount of music rather than trying to perfect just one is what will ultimately make you stand out. This way you will expose yourself to more challenges and learn to overcome more obstacles than you would doing just one piece.

  5. Have a finished and unfinished folder so you can keep track
    Extra. My last tip is to only allow one hour slots to compose on one piece. After that hour move to a different project. Studies show that your ears naturally eq compresses when listening to the same thing for too long. So take regular breaks, walks etc and move around your pieces frequently. Oh and if you have an idea for another piece mid sesh, open another project and quickly sketch it down.

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One big tip is make templates of as many styles as you can. I did a blog post using some of my tracks as examples - https://www.biodiode.com/how-to-compose-music-fast/ This way you are not worrying about arrangement or what synth to call up as it is all there in front of you.

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Great tips Geoffrey! =)
I agree very much on point 4 and 5, even though those are the ones I struggle with the most. 1 hour composing, I assume just as session length right? Not actually trying to finish anything in 1 hour? :open_mouth:

That “habit” you mention of just getting into a routine of making more and more music. It’s hard to get into, as we have so many other things on our table. How do you manage to schedule time for music creation on a consistent basis?

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Yeah I don’t mean finish in an hour that would be an amazing achievement if you were able to do that. It would be very interesting as a social experiment to limit yourself to that period of time though, I wonder what people would write if they only had one hour! Perhaps this is an idea for another thread.

I think the besway to get into that habit is simply not getting overly attached to the art that we are creating. About a year and a half ago I made a transition in my outlook. I realised that I could look at music in one of two ways:

  1. The artistic way that we are taught in the classroom. Each phrase and note you add is like a brush stroke, you build up your layers to create your masterpiece. This is great and really helps the composer to understand how you approach writing music, it’s a very visceral and tangible way of looking at the process, which leads to a romanticised, arty outlook.

  2. The academic stance. In this view you look at your process as a series of pre designed codes and conventions which differs with each genre you approach. This view comes from the film and tv world, where each genre holds its own codes and conventions. For example, in a crime show you expect to hear gun shots, see a detective wearing quirky clothes being followed by a slightly awkward sidekick. The same is true in music, which frees you from the daunting view of “the blank canvas” or empty mix window. So this view actually encourages you to learn the typical thematic, instrumental, structural and rhythmic codes of your genre which then equips you with the toolkit to just start throwing in your content with the confidence that you are also hitting the brief.

In conclusion.
There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches, ultimately you end with the same result - a perfectly good and expressive composition. I personally side closer to number two these days which promotes efficiency in my work flow, but takes a little more time at the start to learn your genres codes and conventions. The truth is that I sway between both of these depending on my understanding and confidence of the genre. But this definitely does help with getting into that habit.

I hope this helps. The theorist for codes and conventions is Steve Neale. He theorised that a genre was specified by the expectations of the audience.

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Great stuff! I don’t have anything to add other than to repeat what has helped me most.

  1. Organization and Preparation: Templates have been the biggest help here. But generally keeping the work space comfortable, convenient and orderly also helps. When I walk in, with a few power button presses, I’m ready to create. My note pad is where I expect, pencil, coaster, ect.

  2. Moving On: Man, I used to work on a song for days in a row, until I finished. The amount of changes I’d make was ridiculous. Now, I don’t set time limits most often, but the 1st time I say to myself, “what if I played >this< pattern on the drums instead”, I shut it down, go to work on something else or start a new tune altogether with >that< drum pattern. Initial ideas aren’t always the best, but they often are. When I go back to that original tune, if I still want to change that pattern, I do it. But many times, what I had works great.

  3. Knowing my DAW: Still working on this as I’ve not been in Logic that long. But I’m becoming more informed and getting more efficient.

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One hour is probably a bit extreme, unless you practice that very specifically - but two hours is quite doable. If everything goes smoothly, it’s actually enough time to come up with nice sounding tracks, but there’s definitely not much time to get stuck on details!

Of course, you’re not going to pull off five minutes of full symphonic orchestra in two hours… or are you? :wink:

I’ve started participating in this little event:
http://2hac.abstractionmusic.com/

Ben Burnes (not a member - yet! :wink: ), who arranges this, has been doing two hour tracks on a more or less weekly basis for a few years now, live streamed on Twitch, and I’m seeing a few others are starting to do that as well. It’s a good way of learning to work more efficiently, trying new things, and also learning to judge what you can realistically expect to do in a certain amount of time.

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I don’t wanna do any “more” music. I came to the idea that it’s more about quality then quantity so it’s better to spend some time working on one cue but to focus on its production and composing process than composing 10 tracks a day with a shitty sound quality. Production and arrangement play the major key of future potential success of your cue, some composers give advice to other composers that you should compose everyday but to me it’s a bullshit. Because if you don’t pay much attention to what you are doing in general so you’ll never succeed. And the final idea it’s all subjective some people can compose 100 tracks per day but they don’t want to reach anything in their music life so just wasting the time by composing from time to time taking it more as a hobby. I’m not taking music as a hobby it’s my life. So I don’t compose much nowadays only for some “big moments” and always try to focus not only on music but on its production and maybe it will take me la couple of days or weeks to work on one cue but after all it will be a really good done cue I can be proud of.

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I don’t think anyone is suggesting that quantity over quality is the goal here. (Well, maybe some are, but they would be missing the point, in my opinion, or maybe they just work in a field I’d rather stay away from…)

Though time limited challenges and the like can serve as training to work in a more focused and structured manner, and to actually finish stuff at all, the goal is not to produce large volumes of mediocre work. The idea is to optimize your process and hone your skills, so you can work faster and more efficiently. If you can do that, you can of course leverage it to finish jobs in very short time (very important in trailer scoring, apparently), but more interestingly, you can also leverage it to get better results in any given time frame, or push the limits of what you can achieve when there’s no strict time limit.

Of course, if you already have years of classical training and professional experience, and/or an extremely good ear, maybe you already have all you need to realize your visions with perfection. If you’re a full time composer with no particular time pressure, I can certainly understand if adding a “stress factor” just seems pointless and counterproductive.

Personally, I’m an amateur with no classical training whatsoever, a full time job, and likely not enough years left to live to acquire the skill level I really want for my own satisfaction, let alone professional work, so I need to do what I can to make progress.

If I were already able to compose anything that comes to mind, and have it come out exactly as I intended it, I would just do that, and not bother with any of this. Is it even humanly possible to achieve that? All I know is, I’m nowhere near that yet, so I’ll keep doing a bit of this “basic training” for the time being. :slight_smile:

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Yes perhaps I was a bit unclear what I meant. Basically I want to become more creatively productive, since I often procrastinate, get distracted, side tracked, get stuck on workflow etc. I believe we all are to some extent.

Being more effifient to increase my professional ability is what I would like I guess. Discipline, focus, and overall better flow when making music. :slight_smile:

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A general tip to help with procrastination, distractions and getting side tracked, basically, to get your productivity on top, is Sprinting. Work in 60-120 minutes intervals and then get a 30 mins break. Call the working part a Sprint and make it how ever long suits you. Even 30 mins may be OK. I am sometimes sprinting in a group, and then share the result, whether it is writing a story, composing music, or drawing a picture. Sharing the result is just a little bigger motivator to keep going during that period but even comparing the progress in your head works.

I recommend setting some sprint bot or alarm to track the working period :slight_smile:

Aside from helping with productivity and procrastination, it also helps to better estimate the time you need to get work done.

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The page can’t be found.

can you fix please? it seems to be very interesting :slight_smile:

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That is very interesting, I also want to hear how you do this “sprint in a group”. Can you explain how that works? :slight_smile:

I have some friends who write and so they run sprinting chats on Discord app (it is usually part of bigger community tho). And there are bots that start the sprint for you and as those are manily for writing, you usually enter the word count at the start and at the end of the sprint. Then it calculates your progress, word count per minute etc. It just adds a little competition in it which can actually boost our productivity quite well.

This obviously cannot be applied to music so easily, but you can still somehow measure it and share the result by just saying something like “I finished polishing the violins in pt. xyz.” because every kind of progress counts, right. And that’s how I do it. Mainly working with friend who sprints too and then we just say what we have finished. Sometimes we talk about the result, or help each other when we are stuck. Getting some out of the box and a little blindfolded feedback can be a great push.

Composing music is quite lonely job. So working with other loners helps, to me at least :smiley:

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Sorry about that. I am working on an updated article but in the meantime you may find this post useful - https://www.adrianearnshaw.com/5-ways-to-start-a-track/

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My apologies for the delay in getting this article backup online. I have updated and refreshed the original and I hope you find this article helpful - https://www.adrianearnshaw.com/how-to-compose-music-fast/

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Very nice article Adrian, thank you for sharing! :slight_smile:

PS. You know that you can share educational articles or videos in this section as its own topic: https://forum.professionalcomposers.com/c/resources/tutorials

Thanks Mikael. I am still working out what goes where during my fleeting visits to the forum. I will make a suitable post so others can share their tricks for stream lining the composing process.

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