Improve as a Music Producer by Committing to Your Creative Choices
We live in a world of growing possibilities, especially in regards to the tools we have at our disposal.
In the last decades, music producers moved from making music on 8 track recorders to using the first domestic computers with limited CPU power and memory, to running a professional DAW on a single laptop.
The choices we, as producers, currently have when we are creating music are far beyond what anyone had back then when working with analog tape and hardware samples. No one imagined how far the digital music revolution would take us.
The biggest challenge of a modern-day music producer
How do you navigate your creativity in an environment with seemingly unlimited choices? Within the ocean of possibilities digital music offers, how can you be sure you’re making the right creative choices?
We all find ourselves, at some point, in a situation where we lose ourselves by tweaking one tiny detail after another of a project we should’ve finished a long time ago.
That string part we recorded via Midi a few days ago, maybe it sounds better by shifting the notes a bit? Or by adding one more FX plugin? Or even, why not, by completely changing the instrument sample we’re using?
That’s why one of the biggest hurdles a modern-day music producer faces is the difficulty to commit to their decisions.
Since there’s always the possibility to go back and rethink our choices, we can easily get trapped into constant dissatisfaction leading us to never finishing our projects, or over-engineering our ideas, which makes them lose their initial power.
A creative process—be it production, arrangement, or mixing—is always made of a series of choices the creator has to make. By always revisiting your past decisions, you’re faced with the risk of running around in circles without ever moving forward.
How to commit to your creative choices when producing music
One of the best steps you can take in your creative process is to commit to your decisions as you take them. A great way to do this when you’re producing music is to bounce individual elements of your tracks to audio.
Don’t wait until you’re finished with your project to bounce some of your tracks to audio, do it as you go. Actively decide to “seal the deal” on a track once you’re satisfied with it.
- Did you create a great string arrangement using MIDI instruments? Bounce your MIDI tracks to audio.
- Did you just apply a new effect plugin on a MIDI track you like? Decide you’ll stick with it by bouncing it to audio.
- Did you create an awesome synth part that sounds just right and adds a great vibe to your project? If you are happy with it, take the decision to stay with this version, and bounce it to audio.
The process to do this is different in each DAW. Doing this will leave you with a pure audio file—no midi notes, no additional FX plugins. This is what committing to your decision means.
- In Ableton, you can "Freeze" and then "Flatten" the track.
- In Garageband, select the track you want to bounce, go to Share > Export Song to Disk… then choose the format and check the box that says Export cycle area, or length of selected regions. Once the track is bounced, import it into your project.
This might sound scary at first but once you get into the habit of using this technique as part of your creative process, you’ll notice that not only will you work faster but you’ll also make better decisions. If you can’t easily go back to edit your work, every decision you make has a lot more weight.
Another positive aspect of using this technique is if you are using digital instruments or effects that use elements of randomness to shape the sound.
Let’s take the Yum Audio LoFi Flux Machine as an example. This plugin has a lot of random-modeled elements which makes it sound slightly different every time it’s applied on a track.
If you’re using this kind of plugin on a track that you bounce to audio, you’ll commit this randomness into place. Doing this can be especially helpful if large modulations are an important stylistic element of your track. This awesome pitch flux effect will then always happen at the same moment. You can then make it an active ingredient of your arrangement and build your ideas around it.
There are a million ways to express your ideas, the difficult part is choosing only one. But once you learn to commit to your choices, you’ll see your skills as a music producer skyrocket.
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