I’m here writing this blog post while I have 72 hours to make as many beats as possible, from start to finish, for a major media company. Essentially I should do my best work and have world-class quality in that time.
Let’s say it won’t be easy, not at all.
How can I even do that? What if I can’t get anything done? How can I finish the beats in time and make sure they’re good enough?
When working with strict deadlines, it’s crucial that you have a step by step guideline you can follow that will get your demos to master files as efficiently as possible.
I know many music producers are winging it without thinking too much, but that can be inefficient. You might be wasting time and losing focus. When you have a structured workflow, it’s easier to move forward quickly.
You might think to yourself:
“I don’t want to follow any rules or guidelines, it takes all the creativity out”.
That’s not exactly correct.
Sure, creating music does require creativity in all aspects, but when you separate each process of the creation you can notice that some things requires less creativity than others.
Coming up with ideas for a track and actually creating a demo is the most creative part. Taking that demo and finishing it with a mix and master is surprisingly technical and straightforward.
After years of producing, I’ve established a quite simple and natural workflow for me that I follow on every track I make. Most often it all happens subconsciously. Needless to say that sometimes some steps will overlap with each other, but this is essentially how I start and finish beats.
1. Create A Demo
Don’t think. Just create. This is the most creative process where I don’t think, but I just create what I know I want to do. Usually a demo includes a basic verse and chorus arrangement.
After a basic demo is done, I move forward to making a full arrangement with intro, verses, choruses and outro, Essentially it will be a full but unmixed track.
3. Prepare for mix
I route all tracks to the mixer, create groups, and add colors so I have a clear view of the session. You should be able to understand immediately what’s happening anytime you open the session. Organize the sessions the same way every time.
Mix the track. Don’t have anything in the master channel that affects the mix. Mixing and mastering should be a separate process.
When I’m happy with the mix, it’s time to focus on the master. Cut unnecessary frequencies, glue everything together, add a limiter to give headroom and make sure it’s competitively loud.
After I’m done with mixing and mastering, I take a break. A day or two pause ensures you’ll have fresh ears before the final steps.
I listen the beat with fresh ears and fix any possible issues I didn’t notice before. Most often there is something worth fixing.
I export the master and start doing comparisons. Usually I like to compare it my previous work and to beats by others. This helps to make sure what I’ve done is good and is competitive with any other beats.
9. Final Check
Lastly, I listen the beat on several different equipment to be sure that it sounds good across different devices. Studio equipment (headphones, monitors), consumer equipment (stereo speakers, headphones) and a phone speaker. Usually it can sound quite different on every device, but that’s fine. It can’t be perfect everywhere in my opinion. It should be good enough.
If I noticed any issues in the comparison and final check phases, I fix them.
Voila, the beat is now done!
I export all the files (read here how to export files properly) and move on to the next beat.
This is essentially how I approach creating and finishing beats. From years of experience I’ve noticed that this process has drastically improved my workflow. I hope you got something out of it!