Eight Ways To Challenge Your Workflow

  • by Kim Bjørn

You really never know if your production process could be better until you’ve made plenty of mistakes or challenged yourself to discover new paths to creativity or specific goals. Stress-test your workflow with these self-imposed constraints and improve efficiency, both in the studio and live.

1. Don’t use your usual instruments, sounds or techniques.
Avoiding your usual go-to tools will force you to learn some of those that you may have previously avoided because they seemed too daunting. By limiting your choices, you might discover that you can cut down on certain software or hardware and, consequently, the time it consumes. Avoid using samples, for example, and you’ll save the time spent searching for them, giving you the chance to fully explore a particular synth.
 

2. Use only one instrument
Producing a complete track using just one piece of software can be a hugely rewarding exercise. Multitracking a monosynth will make you get the most out of it, and, as a result, learn to program specific sounds with it faster. Likewise, limiting yourself to using just eight pads or three Eurorack modules will force you to think creatively. Here’s an inspiring example of a track being made using just one synth and a sampler.

3. Limit your time
See if you can make a track in an hour, say, and record a video (live or screen capture) to ascertain the points at which your flow slowed down. This video of modular techno artist Colin Benders demonstrates his deep familiarity with his setup and the reasons for his choice of instrument.

4. Aim for a very specific outcome
Work towards a particular sound, track length, style or other musical goal, and keep at it no matter how long it takes. Again, make note of any parts of the process that took too long and find better ways to perform those tasks, whether it’s recording, arranging, editing notes, playing in time or whatever.

5. Do the opposite
Doing the opposite of what you usually do might turn your attention to new and better techniques. If you always start with sound design, kick off with the melody instead. If you always address the arrangement at the end of your process, try doing it first. Changing things around can lead you to discover more efficient ways of working with your software or hardware.

6. Replicate the masters
Picasso learnt to paint in renaissance style but ended up moving about as far away from it as imaginable. Copying the masters of any art invariably leads to an increase in knowledge and understanding. Challenge yourself to recreate a particular process demonstrated by your favorite producer on YouTube, or try to make an exact copy of a specific track or sound that you love. Once done, ditch the result and keep the “a-ha!” moments.

7. Rearrange, and make templates
Regularly moving things around within your musical environment – in the studio or on stage – helps to ensure that you leave no scenario undiscovered. If you constantly find yourself stretching out for that synth module, find a better spot that reflects its frequency of use. The same goes for software and samples: tidying up folder hierarchies, making templates and defining keyboard shortcuts will save you a lot of time in the long run. This example of Dutch house and techno producer Steffi clearly shows how the arrangement of her studio supports her workflow.

8. Read and practice 
Although it might be easier in the moment to take your technical issues to the online forums, reading the manual for your software and keeping it handy in the studio will make your workflow much faster and efficient. Ultimately, the better you know your DAW, instruments and all the rest of it, the more efficient your production flow will be. Take Detroit house and dub techno producer Mike Huckaby, for example: he learned the ins and outs of the Waldorf Wave synthesizer and consequently released the now-legendary sample CD My life with the Wave

For more workflow-optimizing strategies check out PUSH TURN MOVE.

Join us next time as we dig into the deep world of modularity. Is your favorite way to challenge yourself listed here? If not, leave us a comment and tell us how you like to do it!

 

This article was part of a blog-series originally appearing at https://blog.native-instruments.com who kindly allowed us to repurpose Kim's articles again – here in a version edited by Collin Russel.

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