Join Evan Sutton for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting basic musical ideas down, part of A Prolific Music Producer's Workflow for Finishing Tracks.
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- All right, now that we're past the idea of instantiating simple instruments and preset things that we want to use, I want to talk about starting out your track. Now, this is mostly from an electronic music composition standpoint, but many of these things can work pretty well for a lot of other types of music, but I just want to make that clear that we're talking about composing on the computer, so it's a little bit of a different beast, and my personal influences may be different from yours, but nonetheless, I think that a lot of them hold a lot of water when it comes to just basic music composition practices, so use whatever you think is fitting for the style of music that you work in, and don't use whatever makes you uncomfortable.
Simple as that. So, I've started out a track, I want to talk about getting basic ideas down. So I've started this track, I'm doing something that's kind of like a cool dreamy beat-type thing, and I've got a simple drum part that I laid down. (electronic drums) Super basic. And I left a little space here for a fill, and then I added some chords using the EXS-24 sampler that I had in there, which has a preset that I really like to use to start out with called the Matrix 12 strings.
It's nice and dreamy and fun, and it sounds like this. (dreamy strings) So it's very simple, I'm not overworking anything right now, I want to try and get, like, a nice feeling going between a few different instruments so I have some things to work with. I think that this is part of the mindset of an electronic music producer, that works well for pop and hip hop for me as well, I want to try and get a nice pocket going before I start to build out my structure.
So I'm going to go over to my Rhodes and maybe just add a little bit of a melody. I don't think this is a vocal track, so I want to add some extra little melodies and things like that, but for this particular style, I don't want to make it overcomplicated, so let's just see what we wind up with. So, the Rhodes is just fun, the Rhodes can do a lot of different things, and that's why it's nice to have in the template, 'cause I could play some chords. Or I can play a lead part. So let's just give this a shot, let's see what we come up with. (pleasant electronic music) So I got a little editing to do, but that's okay.
I'm just going to move these guys over here. And I'm not the world's greatest keyboard player, as you can probably tell, I don't allow jokes during my courses, but I'm actually a guitar player, so I do my best and then I tend to try and get the rest of the way home with my MIDI editing, so I'm just going to grab a couple of things, but I'm not overcooking it at this point. (pleasant electronic music) So I'm going to need another chord here.
Let's see what chord I'm playing there. So I've used the chord tool in Logic, it's actually a lot of fun. I know a lot of chords, but sometimes it's fun to work with constant structures. So we've got that there, let's check while we're here, so... (pleasant electronic music) All right, cool. There we go, and maybe we'll add... a little bit more swing to this guy.
Add another note here, oop! Add another note here. Let's keep things simple. No, better the way it was. All right, cool. And I purposefully have this thing kind of ending a little bit early, maybe we'll add some release. Now that I have that down I can maybe use a different instrument if I want to, I like that Rhodes, but maybe take it up an octave.
(pleasant electronic music) That's fun, maybe I can even switch instruments. So we've got that E-Piano, but it might sound cooler with an organ. You know, it's totally up to you, you can have a lot of fun with this. (pleasant electronic music) I kind of like that.
That's all right, but I think I might just want to actually take it back to something super super simple and get just like a nice lead sound going, let's get a synth lead and let's try Deep Sigh. (pleasant electronic music) There, that's great. Ah, I love that.
I wanted something to sort of deemphasize the rhythm that I was playing and just make it kind of a nice ribbon because this whole thing is very dreamy, and I've already got some things on here that will make things kind of jump out a little bit, it might be a lot of fun, so here's my synth strings, I can turn on this compressor. And, as you might remember, I have my ducking mechanism on there that's just in quarter notes. So let's go ahead back over here and, so I'm going to unsolo it, but I'm going to mute my drums for now. (pleasant electronic music) And what you're hearing is actually that, it's getting that quarter note duck, which is kind of a dance thing, but I kind of like that, it adds some energy to it.
(pleasant electronic music) More delay! That's workin' out for me, although I think it might be nice to...
just move these over to the one. I like it to be off sometimes, but not too off. All right, cool. So that's workin' for me, so this is my basic idea that I've got down, and I might even take it a little further and add some percussion or something like that, but what I want is a general theme to kind of work around, so I've got my nice buildup of things, this is not one of those tracks where I'm going to have, like, a really really different hook from like a verse or something like that, this is going to have more of a high point and a low point, and then sort of repeat over and over again, but what I want is something that it's going to be very simple to create variations off of, and that's what I've got here, and it's all about following that inspiration when it strikes, and just creating something and getting it down in a fun way, and not worrying so much about how loud the kick drum is, or how amazing the side chaining sounds, or something like that.
It's just important to get your musical ideas down and kind of jam with yourself and just have fun at the beginning.
Evan starts with the music production tools that can make it easier to see a song through to completion, such as templates, presets, and foolproof hardware setups. Next, he gets into the heavy lifting, mixing both songwriting and production techniques with tips for dealing with the psychological factors that may trip you up when completing a song. He wraps up the course with techniques that help to clear the final steps of song completion, including building transitions, adding ear candy, mixing strategies for increased efficiency, and simple mastering techniques, whether you choose to master your tracks yourself or hire a professional.
- Planning your track with a problem-solving mindset
- Prepping to record vocals and music
- Using DAW song templates
- Getting basic musical ideas down
- Making decisions that serve the song
- Using channel strip presets
- Creating sections and structure
- Building better transitions
- Adding FX, ear candy, and automation
- Mixing and mastering