Blog: How Many Summers Have You Got Left?

How to use your time effectively in the studio      31/07/13
Blog: How Many Summers Have You Got Left?


'Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item. You see when you're young, you're a kid, you got time, you got nothing but time. Throw away a couple of years here, a couple of years there... it doesn't matter. You know. The older you get you say, "Jesus, how much I got? I got thirty-five summers left." Think about it. Thirty-five summers.' - Rumble Fish, 1983

I don't want to preach, but life really is pretty short. Blink and you'll miss it. This doesn't need to be a depressing thought - it can actually be a positive one if it spurs you on to make the most of the time you have. And one of the best ways we can spend time is to use it well, doing what we love. Like making music.

Of course, things get in the way - work, chores, sleep, you name it. If you aren't talented enough and/or lucky enough to make a living from music, you'll need to try and squeeze the most from the time you do have.

Here are a few time-squeezing tactics that I've found helpful.

Tactic 1: Write before you record

My go to DAWWithout having a clear idea of what I want to record, I find I can waste large chunks of precious time on the computer. If I switch on my DAW without knowing what I want to record, I generally find myself auditioning sounds or loops rather than making music. After a couple of hours of aimless noodling I usually have nothing but a tired four-bar loop that isn't worth saving.

It's easy to forget, for me at least, that recording music isn't the same thing as making it. Want more time to make music? Spend more time making it and less time recording it. The act of creation needn't involve the act of recording. You could sit at your kitchen table with a guitar and a pad of paper (or a handy recorder). Freed up from the need to worry about your performance or how it's sounding, you're more likely to come up with music that is actually worth recording.

So my advice, for what it's worth (and Vince Clarke swears by it), is to work out what you want to record before you even switch on the machine. You're then ready to try Tactic 2.





More From: MATTHEW TANNER
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7 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Al    Said...

Good post. Here's one tip I can add:

A while back I experimented with getting up early - like 5am early. Weirdly, I found it's actually quite easy to wake up that early (somehow giving yourself more time in bed makes you sleepier when you get up, ironically).

The benefit is I ended up with at least two peaceful, responsibility-free hours with nobody else up - so you have time to yourself...to make music, write, whatever.

It's like the kind of time you have late at night, but without the danger of overdoing it, staying up till 2am, and ending up very tired the next day.

You then go to work with stuff already achieved before the very day is begun, using time you were just sleeping through before.

Recommended! This post has reminded me to try it again.

31-Jul-13 05:35 AM


Mattsynth    Said...

True statement and a very interesting solution. How about the times when you have an idea in your mind and when you go to record it you cannot get the sound or mix just the way it was in your head. Music today is so buried in technology, computers, DAW & plugins I don't not know which thing to adjust first. Guitar tracks have always been difficult for me and I waste a lot of time trying to get then just right.

31-Jul-13 12:44 PM


Connor    Said...

When I want to make music, I usually plug my synth into my computer's external audio input, turn on a DAW, and start with what it is that the track needs, so I might say, "ok, I need a percussion track first" and then start programming that and then getting a good bpm to work with. The rest is a cluttered mess of adding bass and leads and rhythms and vocals, but hey, it works for me. Nonetheless, the article definitely had some good tips and I plan on implementing some, if not all, of them into my music sessions.

31-Jul-13 01:06 PM


Ted    Said...

Profound advice!

I rarely come up with anything worth a fig if I sit down at my DAW and just expect lightning.

A decent idea or hummed riff is probably worth 10 hours of random noodling.

31-Jul-13 07:55 PM


Matthew Tanner    Said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Hi Al, I've also tried getting up early - I wrote a (very bad) novel after getting up at 4:30 every morning for six months. Ended up pretty tired though, which is why I decided to go down to three days a week.

Hi Matt, thanks - I'm not too bad with guitars and bass, but struggle getting a rhythm track to swing with any genuine sense of conviction. Maybe we should team up!

Hi Connor - good luck trying out my tactics - hope they work for you.

Hi Ted - totally agree with you - the idea has to come first.

And I wanted to write about steering clear of loops - they're one of the biggest time wasters in my book. We're musicians - we should make loops, not assemble them. They're as evil as presets in my opinion - and every bit as tempting...

01-Aug-13 10:48 AM


5SN    Said...

Good article. It's something I've been thinking about a lot. I think one of the problems is that electronic music (which I make) can be expected to be polished to perfection. Also, DAWs allow endless tinkering of incredibly fine details. And then, there's that little voice that says, "I just need to do this, that or the other to make the track better". I definitely think it's a good tip to keep writing and recording, mixing and mastering, all separate. My two cents.

01-Aug-13 11:26 AM


Dan    Said...

Great advice. Unfortunately, in the US if you stop working or go part time you lose health care (if you had it in the first place). Complicates the decision.

02-Aug-13 02:58 PM


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