Our Top 6 Tips to Improve Your Workflow and Finish Tracks Faster
Workflow is a MAJOR key in finishing music (maybe the biggest). When we work with students one on one in our Cosmic Academy bootcamp, we get into this topic right from the start and keep it as a top focus during the whole experience.
In 2022, finishing music faster is more important than it's ever been. With so much activity for people to focus their attention on, we need to keep our music coming to keep up with the pace and maintain relevance with the fans. We may not like that fact, but we can't avoid it!
Below are 6 of our top tips to help you save time and work more efficiently in the studio. This efficiency translates directly into releasing more music faster. Let us know if you have any that you can add to this list!
1. Learn Hotkeys
Hotkeys are one of the easiest ways to speed up your workflow. With the students we work with in our Cosmic Academy Bootcamp, we notice those who utilize the hotkeys typically have an easier time sketching out their arrangements and also achieve faster results when mixing—those little moments saved each time you do an action add up quickly!
Some of our students print out a cheat sheet and tape it to their studio desk until the hotkeys become second nature. This might be necessary for a few weeks, but it’s worth it! Eliminating these extra clicks saves time in the long run.
2. Use Racks & Channel Strips
This one is probably the most important on the list! Don’t save custom presets within your plugins, but instead, save racks, entire channel strips, and mixer states.
Saving your work this way doesn’t just save the sound coming out of the synth, it also saves all the processing, mixing, cleanup and FX you’ve done on the channel strip to color and shape your sound. Often times, the way you’ve processed the source sound is more than half the battle. Think about all the time you’d save if you were starting with polished sounds right off the bat.
The best part is, you’ll still have full flexibility to make the adjustments you need to make within these channel strips to account for the unique situation the song you’re working on calls for.
3. Eliminate Distractions
It’s hard not to say this one isn’t one of the biggest tips on today’s list as well. While we’re working, we need to eliminate distractions. This sounds obvious, but there’s a bit more to this than you might think!
First—if you can—try to have a dedicated workspace solely dedicated to your focused creative work. Productivity and psychology research supports the idea that the mind is more able to quickly reach a state of flow when we create a habit that the same sort of work is done in the same spot.
Next, try putting your phone in a different room, silence your notifications, and turn off the TV or any other stimulating aspects to your environment. We even suggest using the fullscreen mode on your DAW if you’re using a Mac, which blocks out even the top and bottom interface bars and shows literally only the DAW.
If you can do all of that for your production sessions, we’re willing to bet your focus will be more intense and your productivity will be increased.
4. Organize your Sounds
This is a tip that’s often talked about but rarely actually done. But the producers who are willing to do so reap the benefits!
We strongly suggest that you begin to build your own “personal sample pack” folder. This folder should be hand-picked sounds that represent you and your sound and are of the highest quality you can find.
Personally I add to this folder every time I finish a track. If during the process, I discovered new samples that work particularly or created new ones myself by layering or processing sounds, I add them to the folder.
Just be sure not to “over-add”—we want to reserve this folder for the very best material. But once this folder is well-established, it will save you a tremendous amount of time and help you find your sound faster as well (sound and sample selection is one of the biggest components of a producer’s “sound”).
5. Setup Plugin Default Settings
This one is small but effective! If you always load up an EQ, for example, and 95% of the time you turn on a low cut, why not only do that once and then save that low cut as the default? This way, you have one less click to make 95% of the time. This is a great idea for simple plugins like utilities as well!
The same goes for your audio or MIDI channels: we can save default states for them with our commonly used plugins already loaded up.
6. Utilize Reference Tracks
Finally, let’s make sure we’re using reference tracks. We’re not looking to copy anyone, but having solid reference tracks are a major aid in saving us time. We always tell our students in the Cosmic Academy bootcamp: could you drive from San Francisco to Boston without GPS or a map? Maybe, but you’d make a few wrong turns and it would take you much longer than it would with those tools! Think of reference tracks like a roadmap that can help steer your production toward a target. Use them to help save time making decisions about arrangement, mixing and mastering choices, and to help inspire yourself creatively!
Workflow and studio efficiency are some of the aspects we focus on the most in our Cosmic Academy Bootcamp. If you’re ready to dive in and work with us to help improve your workflow, apply on our homepage!