The Rule Of 10: Production in Rotation for Big Results

I was speaking with a friend about my approach to making music, and I explained my rule of 10. Most people, especially new producers, will work a song until it’s done. But this is actually a huge mistake. The reason is simple:

after working hours on the same track, these guys have a hard time knowing if it’s still good or making any sense at all.

Plus they fall into the trap of tweaking things endlessly for that one track.

You might already see how this can be quite limiting from a learning perspective. Or maybe you don’t agree. So let me throw a few ideas out there that could help you jumpstart your inspiration.

tomato-676532_1920Let’s compare making music to planting vegetables. You’re not going to plant one tomato plant and then wait for it to produce a tomato before planting something else, are you? To get big crops, you’ll need to plant a whole bunch at once, and nurture them all at the same time. Then you harvest.

The same goes for your songs. Start multiple at a time, and while one is progressing, don’t hesitate to stop yourself and let it sleep for a week or two, especially when you’re entering a very productive phase. This is to make sure you’re always fresh when you open a project and know exactly what needs to be done next. You’ll observe that your perspective on your work will be more accurate. If you open your project and it’s a mess, leave it to rest some more, or maybe recycle it into another, ongoing project.

There are two approaches to the rule of 10:

10 different projects.

Create 10 folders, and drop an Ableton project that you want to develop into each. Also, take the time to insert reference tracks that you love. This is music that you’d like your project to sound like but not necessarily mimic. Don’t hesitate to drop anything in there — get some classical or jazz, record some field recordings, anything. No rules should limit you.

You should also do some careful sample hunting on a site like Splice, for instance. Drop various sounds in there you like, along with presets you want to use. Save some in there in a specific folder.

1 project, 10 songs.

This one might surprise you, but I love this trick.

Open one project and build your 10 songs inside it, one after the next. They will all share the same number of channels, effects, and so on.

This is also an excellent way to keep a particular mood from one song to another.

You will run into interesting results by having some sounds go through the effect chain from the previous song. You can also be creative and not use all the same hi-hats in the same channel. For example, one song could use channel 3 for claps, then the same channel for toms. Don’t alter the EQ and compression on the other tracks. Try instead to take advantage of the settings from the previous track to see how to tweak the following one.

party-629240_1280It’s rare that you’ll think you can create multiple songs in one project, but the idea came to me while I was turning parts of a live set into various songs. I thought it was really interesting to try a different way of working.

For me, two things have always enabled new ideas: limitations, and being forced to work or think in a new way. Both go hand in hand. I know that most people feel like the more gear and gizmos they have, the more productive they’ll be. Yet getting more usually leads to procrastination, since you feel confident that you can do it in the end. I call that the runner’s syndrome: you bought your running shoes and shorts, so you feel you can run. But are you, really?

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Find a track tester for your productions

This might be one important post, so consider taking 5 minutes to go through it carefully. You probably already know how important it is to test the music you’re creating, but the big question is, how do you test your music effectively?

you need DJs who will test your music properly

First, there are a few traps people fall into. I’ve said it many times, but succumbing to the myth that your music isn’t important if it isn’t signed to a label is a very common mistake — even for experienced producers. No joke. The truth is that your music is important simply because it’s yours. It deserves real love and attention, and that means proper treatment.

So how do you make sure to test your music properly?

In a word: you need beta-testers.

Track testers are experienced DJs who regularly play in all kinds of events, both big and small. The fact that someone plays often will ensure that your music gets inserted into their sets alongside other tracks, and that it will be heard by live crowds. The great news is that thanks to the internet, you can work with DJs across the globe and test its reception in different countries.

Here are a few tips on how to proceed:

Find a track tester to test your music properly Follow artists/DJs on Soundcloud. I’ve said it in past posts, but the importance of connecting with people on Soundcloud can’t be overstated. If you follow artists and DJs and engage with them, you can make some great contacts that will be beneficial to you both. Find people who enjoy, support, and comment on the music you really love. This is a good way to make sure the people you invest your time and energy into genuinely share the same tastes, which is a crucial factor in finding your beta-tester.

Share music in private. If you’ve gotten into the game of sending music to labels only to have your experiences end in frustration, then working in a one-on-one setting can be much more interesting. Don’t just send a random link to a DJ though. Take the time to connect with the person first, and then share a track after you’ve made contact. It feels special to receive music privately after a nice introduction — and even more so if the music fits.

Get feedback and tweak. This part is a bit trickier. If you want the DJ to play your song in a club, you’ll need to let them download it first. Be sure your mixdown is right, and it’s even better if the track is mastered too. Once the track is played, try to follow up to get some feedback. Be clear that you’re not fishing for compliments, but that you’re genuinely seeking constructive criticism. This is the only way to improve your track.

And very importantly, make sure the person will not share the track with their DJ friends! 

difficult producerYou have no control over this of course, and that’s why you need to be extra careful about whom you share your music with. I’ve seen some really awkward situations where unreleased material accidentally got into the hands of a vast network of people. There are even online groups where members create pools of music to be shared abroad. If your music finds it way into one of these groups, the good news is that you’ll be known by a lot of music collectors (who for the most part aren’t DJs). The bad news, though, is that your track will have been burned, and there’s basically no way to release it after that.

So sometimes, a smart strategy could be to sacrifice a great track you feel could get you attention, even if it means giving it away. If it works, then the benefit in the end could be much higher than the loss. I myself have done this multiple times with netlabels, and it often paid off.


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