Dutty Artz Studio Knowledge :: Production Speed Dating

03.03_shadetek_inberlinPRODUCTION SPEED DATING

This is the first article in a series of pieces I’m going to be writing for the Dubspot blog.  The plan is to talk about some of the things I teach in my Logic production courses at Dubspot, and to share some ideas I find useful in my own musical practice.  The goal of these articles is to share some of the general strategies that I’ve developed over the past ten years of doing music, so that hopefully some of you can benefit, and dodge some of those potholes and pitfalls that I had to struggle with during my own development.

The idea that I’m going to talk about for this first article is Production Speed Dating.  This is an approach that my good friend, and level 99 music production wizard, Timeblind (twitter.com/timeblind) taught me when we were both living in Berlin a few years ago.  It is designed to avoid a specific pitfall, which is the polishing, mixing, and arranging of ideas that are just not that good to start with.  It is a way to give yourself options and choices in the production process, and avoid wasting time on songs that you are going to end up not finishing (gasp! I know, shocking, but this happens to all of us, even level 99 music wizards).

The basic methodology is this: suppose you and I are making music, and we have an eight hour production session planned, from 11AM – 7PM, with an hour break for lunch.  For the first part of the session what we are going to do is sketches.  Sketches may have various levels of completeness but the idea is that it’s a short loop, 16 or 32 bars, that contains the main musical ideas of a track like a beat, bass line, and melody.  Normally once you get to this stage it’s starting to sound like a track, which is exciting, and the impulse is to start arranging and mixing.  Stop!  Arranging and mixing can be a time consuming process, and this is where many people get bogged down.  Instead of moving into this phase, save your track and start a new sketch.  Do as many of these as you can in the first half of your session.  When I’m working with my production partner DJ /Rupture (twitter.com/djrupture) we can sometimes get three or four sketches done in this part of the session: we’ve been doing this for a while, so don’t feel bad if you get less.  Generally speaking, getting down the basics is among the least time consuming part of making a beat, and can be done pretty quickly.  Now, break for lunch, talk about what you’ve done, which ones you like, which might be an appropriate start for the remix that’s 3 months overdue, etc. Obviously if you are lunching alone you don’t need to talk to yourself (go ahead if you want to, just watch out for the men in white coats).  When you return, listen through and pick the one idea which grabs your ears and take that one and arrange, mix, and develop it.

Another alternative within this method, which Rupture and I sometimes use, is to do all the sketches in a day.  Since we are both very busy, and it’s sometimes tough to find time to get together, this can make sense for us. We’ll do five or six sketches, then both take copies of the files (either stems or project files) and work on them independently, sometimes each branching their development in two different directions and making two versions, sometimes with one of us returning with new ideas and then re-convening to finish the song together.

A third approach, which I’ve heard advocated by people like Dubstep producer Rusko, is to spend this time crafting detailed, well-constructed drum loops.  This way when the inspiration strikes you can run to your computer, have a solid foundation prepared, and start adding your basses or melodies – which for many of us are the fun part, or maybe the part that relies more on inspiration than methodical construction.

Regardless of the details to your approach, the key applicability of these techniques is to maximize your production time spent working on GOOD ideas.  By giving yourself a few solid possibilities to choose from when you move into the next phase, you ensure that your investment of more pain-staking time in crafting a mix and arrangement will produce songs worth finishing.  I cannot tell you how many times I have sat listening to a mix or arrangement that’s not working – again and again, sometimes for days – just trying to figure out what’s wrong, only to pull it up a few months later, still unfinished, and realize the problem was that the main melody, or some other key part, was just never going to work.  It happens.  If I had had a couple of ideas to choose from I probably would have gone with something better.  Something that had a more clear path to the finish line.  A track that I’d been able to maintain my energy and enthusiasm for through the entire process.

Next article >> I’ll talk a bit about what you can do with some of these problematic ideas and some techniques for salvaging unfinished tracks.

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[...] The basic methodology is this: suppose you and I are making music, and we have an eight hour production session planned, from 11AM – 7PM, with an hour break for lunch.  For the first part of the session what we are going to do is sketches.  Sketches may have various levels of completeness but the idea is that it’s a short loop, 16 or 32 bars, that contains the main musical ideas of a track like a beat, bass line, and melody. [READ FULL ARTICLE HERE] [...]