Starting a New Track, Creating Melodies, and Templates!
Where to begin…
You’ve all been there. Staring at a blank project file, unsure what to do first. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up a new project, only to stare at it for a few minutes, lose motivation, and go watch cat videos on YouTube. If that’s you right now, then keep reading! Maybe you can start songs, but lose steam when you can’t come up with amazing melodies or basslines. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered too!
The importance of always moving forward
The key to getting started on a new song, or finding good melodies does NOT lie in inspiration, or extreme skill, luck, or anything like that. It’s perseverance. If you consistently work on your music and keep moving forward, you’ll soon find that creativity comes naturally to you! When you start a song, don’t look for perfection, just get something down and move on to the next step.
For me, that means getting a kick and snare sound in a super generic pattern, then moving to a bassline. I pick a preset that I’ve previously made, or just use the initialized patch and start jamming. I prefer to choose the key of my song beforehand, so I don’t end up writing in C major all the time (I’m not good at piano, so the white keys make life so easy!) I have a few sheets printed out that show me what notes are in each scale, so don’t think you have to know a ton of music theory first.
Next I’ll start clicking in notes, or playing on my MIDI keyboard until something cool pops up. Then I’ll clean it up a little and move on. That’s right. As soon as I get something halfway decent, I leave it alone and move on. It doesn’t matter if my bassline sucks, or is stupidly generic. Right now I just need to get something down so I can keep making progress.
Over time you’ll get better at making these short loops, so you won’t have to come back and redo them, but for now just focus on finishing that step so you can get on to the next. After I have my bass done, I create a lead or pad or some other higher synth sound. Then I round out my loop with some other sounds to fill in the mix.
Once my loop is all done, then I’ll go back and tweak things to make them really good. This may mean starting over on a certain part sometimes. It’s also a good time to do some sound design if you want. Otherwise you can start arranging your track and leave the sound design until later – that’s up to you.
Templates – the key to being fast!
If you aren’t using a template already, let me tell you that you’re wasting a ton of time… Chances are, you use a kick and some sort of snare sound in every track. You probably have a bass in all of your songs. I’d also be willing to bet you have some higher synths, maybe a lead and a pad? Oh, and if you’re like me, you have certain go to effects you use all the time. Well if you have to take the time to create those tracks, group them, color code them, and add effects in every. Single. Song… You’re wasting an absurd amount of time.
With a template, you click new song, and all of your tracks are there waiting for you to fill them up! This lets you get right to work bringing your creative ideas to life. Not managing the tedious task of managing your workspace. If you don’t have a template and don’t know how to make one, let me know. It’s really simple, and if you want, I can even make mine available for download. Check the video out for a quick overview of what I use for my template.
Beginner – Start a new song and try to spend no more than 5-10 min creating a drum loop, then another 5-10 min on your bassline, and the same for some lead sounds. That means you should have the bare bones of a loop done in around 20-30 min max. It won’t sound great, but right now the point is to finish music, lots of it. Don’t focus on making a masterpiece, just focus on finishing songs. Finish one step and move on to the next. See if you can finish a song this week!
Advanced – Create a new template or download one if you don’t use one already. Watch how much faster you can get work done with a template. Next, think about your production process. What step do you typically get stuck at? Write down the few steps you need to do for that process. Now start up a new song and once you get to that point, focus on just finishing each step you wrote down. Don’t worry about making it sound great, just check it off and move on. Practice working past that point quickly a few times, and watch as your struggles start to disappear. Once it becomes a habit to easily get through the parts that used to cause you trouble, then try to make them sound great.
Question: Where do you struggle in your music production or sound design? How do you think you can make it easier to get past these struggles? What have you done so far to try and get past them? How has that worked so far?