Time Saving Tips
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. No matter what you do there does not seem to be enough hours in the day to finish your latest project. In this blog post, I will give you 5 different ways to help manage your time more effectively when composing.
1. Set up a template
There’s nothing worse for creativity and time than booting up your DAW and having a blank screen. By the time you have set up your synthesizer, routed your outputs and decided on what sounds you are going to use you have used half your time. However, if you have a template set up that has everything ready for you, you can get started right away. I would suggest setting up a template in your DAW with your go-to synth preloaded with a basic patch as you can always change them once your track is done. Also get your routing set up, has your synth multiple outputs. For example, I have a template set up with Spectrasonics Omnisphere as my main DAW. Within Omnisphere I have all the output from A – H setup for each individual channel.
When writing I can quickly call up this template and get on with writing a track without wasting time.
2. Pomodoro Technique
Do you find yourself endlessly tweaking that bass line only to realise what you originally wrote was better? How about setting yourself time limits for each aspect of your track. There is a method for this process called the Pomodoro technique. At its most basic it allows you a fixed period of time for each task. To get the most out of this you will need to head into the studio with an idea of what type of track you want to write and the instruments you are going to use.
Let us take a simple example. The song you are working on consists of Drums, Bass, Pads, Melody. If we use the Pomodoro Technique you have 25 minutes to come up with each idea and tweak it. Once that 25 minutes is up you have a 5-minute break and move on to the next area. It may be hard to just let go at first but like any habit, once you have done this a few times, it becomes second nature.
Here’s a free online version of a Pomodoro timer – TomatoTimer
3. Cut the distractions
What do I mean about distractions? Have you ever got part way through writing a track when your phone goes? By the time you have finished the call you’ve lost the mojo and cannot remember the idea you had. Another is when your phone bleeps, ‘Oh goody, an e-mail or text, best see who that’s from’. To avoid being sidetracked turn your phone off or at least put it on ‘do not disturb’ and set your focus on making music.
As you are using a computer this is fraught with many distractions. You have e-mail, YouTube, FaceBook, all of which are there to take your focus away from making music. However, all is not lost. There are several programs that stop you from being able to access the internet through your browser whilst you are working. A good one to try out is Cold Turkey, which allows you to block selected sites like YouTube, Gmail and Facebook for a set period of time. This should take care of your immediate distractions.
4. Pre-defined Arrangements
Another way to work quickly is set up several arrangement templates. These are templates where you have set markers to denote changes. For example 220.127.116.11 = Intro Ambience effect, 18.104.22.168 = Pad Chords, 10.0.0.0 = Melody commences. The best way to set these up is by importing some of your favourite tracks into your DAW of choice. Then play the tune through and map out the changes. A lot of electronic tracks will either be through-composed with a distinctive A and B section or have an ABACB format of Verse, Chorus, Verse, Middle Eight, Chorus.
What you are looking for here is to map out not just the verses but also when certain instruments join the track. This way you have a ready-made template and all you have to do is fill in the blanks with your composition. This method can greatly speed up the process of writing a track as it allows you to concentrate on the melodic movement of your composition.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to the top in life. Well, normally not without consequences. Shortcuts in this instance are about those key combinations that make tasks easier within your DAW. For example, I have a key command setup in Cubase of Ctrl, Shift + P, which minimises all plugin windows. Most daws use the space bar to start and stop a piece of music and also use the ‘Q’ key to quantise.
I suggest learning the main key commands for the processes that you apply to your projects the most. This may sound so simple but it can be a real time saver. No longer do you have to remember which menu the command sits under. You could go one step further and invest in an Editors Keys keyboard, which has all the key commands for your DAW of choice printed on the keys. You can even get backlit versions if you like working in a dimly lit or dark studio.
So there you have it 5 very quick tips on improving your time management when it comes to writing music. I hope you found at least one of these useful. If there are any time-saving tips that you do, which I have not mentioned, please leave a comment below so we can all share our ideas.
If there are any topics that you would like me to cover on the subject of time management or the composition process please drop me an e-mail by visiting the contact page.