MAKE MORE BEATS FASTER IN BATCHES
It can take a long time to create, mix, and arrange a single beat. A quicker method is to bring several songs through the production process together, like a batch of cookies. I also recommend this method if you’re making a beat tape or album where it’s good for songs to have a consistent theme.
DAY 1 BRAINSTORM SONG IDEAS
First, start by brainstorming ideas. These can be phrases, images, sounds, even doodles. The idea is to get all the brainstorming for the month done in a day. This way, I’ll be able to create even on days when I don’t have any fresh ideas. When I did this, ended up with about about nine ideas, here are three of them directly from my notebook:
1 A celebration of how far we’ve come – Bhangra – instruments fighting and then working together
2 Joy of discovery, soaring above the clouds, unexpected epiphany, Hubble telescope images
3 Z funk bass 140bpm song
WEEK 1-2 START PRODUCING
The next step is to dive in and start composing. The quickest way for me to get an idea into the DAW is to just beatbox it in (tutorial example here), but another way is to load up a piano patch and play a melody with a chord progression. A third way to do it is to find a sound that excites you and come up with a pattern made perfectly for that sound.
Throughout the week, you’ll have the brainstorm sheet to refer to which will save time getting started. Even on days I didn’t feel creative I went back to my list and started to feel creative when I picked out my favorite idea for that day. The best thing to do is go with what sounds good and don’t get too bogged down on the details, reuse sounds across tracks and keep moving.
WEEK 2-3 DEVELOP MULTIPLE SECTIONS FOR EACH TRACK
Production wise, you’ll take these song ideas and make multiple sections for each track. Depending on the style you’re going for, one hook and one verse may be enough, especially if you’re going to bring in a vocalist. Songs that will just be instrumentals should have a lot more sections, for example, two different hooks and two different verses.
MAKE A LIST OF THESE SONGS WITH DESCRIPTIONS AND SOME BOXES TO CHECK OFF LIKE “MAKE SECTIONS,” “MIX,” AND “ARRANGE.” THIS HELPED ME KEEP TRACK OF THE PROGRESS OF EACH TRACK AND MEET DEADLINES FOR EACH STAGE.
Some songs will develop better than others, so pick favorites. Which ones do you see the most potential in? Which tracks are you most excited to develop? As for my list, I went from nine ideas down to five, because the five were top tier.
However, if you’re a beginner, I encourage taking more tracks through to completion to build experience and grow in every stage of production. At this stage it’s more about exploring and learning and trying out all sorts of different techniques.
The next stage would be mixing the sections and then arranging (chorus, verse, chorus, etc). But for now, I just wanted to share the idea that has made me a lot more productive. Get your brain into idea mode for a day, and then in compose mode for a couple weeks, and then in mix mode for a week and grind out many songs by bringing them through the production process together.
words by Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA.