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.
Let’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.
It’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?