Single Tracks Or Albums?

I know we live in the era of playlists and individual tracks, but is there still something to be said of the album or collection? I think so.

In the past, I would write single tracks at a time. Then when I had enough of them to pitch, I would submit them to a music library (after doing my homework and research on the library of course). While this worked and gave moderately decent results, lately I’ve changed course. I’m now working on two 10-track themed compilations that I’ll be sending to music libraries and music supervisors. Many library sites offer albums, so it seems logical to pitch an idea for an album to them, especially if the theme is fresh and in alignment with the album themes they currently offer.

So far I’m liking this approach and I feel it gives two distinct advantages. First, it causes me to focus on what I’m writing. Creating ten usable, versatile, and easily-editable tracks in a theme while keeping each track sounding fresh really requires cranking up the creative juices. Second, and this is equally important, I think it will give the library a product that will be of good use to its clients. A cohesive whole as opposed to a bunch of single tracks scattered all over the place.

Since I’m currently in the process, all I have is my theory about this. Time will tell if my hunch pays off, but in the meantime, it sure is fun coming up with themes, producing usable tracks, designing cover art, and researching libraries to submit to when the projects are finished.

What do you think? If you’re a composer, music library, or music supervisor, I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts.

Growing By Learning

How long have you been composing for production music? I started writing music as a young child, but started pursuing a career in production music in 2015. The most important thing I’ve learned over the past six years is that there is always something to learn. I really believe that not learning something new about our craft every day does a disservice to those we serve and to ourselves.

Music libraries depend on us to help them supply their clients with fresh, high-quality tracks. Learning something every day helps us deliver that music to them. I’ve always found it very easy to get comfortable in a style and write things that come easily to me, but that soon gets boring and uninspiring and puts me in a rut. But let me watch a video or read a music library blog and take away a small morsel of knowledge that I didn’t know or think of before, and I soon find myself excitedly reaching for musical elements I never thought of.

I now make it a point to learn something about music production and licensing every day. That knowledge comes in the form of networking with other composers, keeping up with industry trends, and studying what other successful composers are doing.

What an exciting time to be in the business we’re in with so much information so readily available. If you’ve recently learned something that changed the way you approach and create production music, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.

Till next time…

Different DAWs For Different Music

The digital audio workstation I use on a given day directly affects how I write.

On my desktop, I use three different DAWs: Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, and Native Instruments Maschine. I love all three, but I find myself choosing one over the other depending on what I’m writing/recording.

Piano is my main instrument. When I’m doing a piano solo or something that is piano-based and very expressive, I use Logic Pro. Its straightforward timeline and ease of use (Logic remote on the iPad, anyone?) make it my DAW of choice when I just want to lay down an improv track or play a piano piece from start to finish.

Ableton Live, to me, is more suited for pattern/loop-based writing. When I’m writing music that depends on separate sections repeating or being dropped in to different places of the track as needed, Live is what I use. I love creating different sections of the song (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) and then being able to jam along in real time with them as I’m recording in real time over them. I use a Novation Launchpad to trigger the various sections. It’s so much fun to play along while calling up different parts of the song, and really breaks the tedium of long hours of studio work. The enjoyment inevitably shows in the finished track.

That brings us to Maschine, the hardware-based groove machine by Native Instruments. I’ve had the Mikro for a couple of years now and like it so much that I wish I would have bought the full version. I use Maschine much in the same way I use Ableton Live, but Maschine takes it a step further by giving me a hands-on-hardware tactile approach. There’s nothing like reaching up and tweaking a control knob. Assigning sounds and/or samples to the pads and playing or finger drumming them strikes me as learning a new musical instrument for a new century. I often fire up Maschine if I’m looking for inspiration for a track. Once I loaded an old piano piece of mine, sliced it up among the pads, and, along with a sample of my door chimes, ended up creating an uptempo synth rock version of Joy To The World (I’ve embedded the video below).

I’m interested in hearing what DAWs you use and how you use them. Do they affect the way you write? Do you prefer one over the other, or does it depend on the application?

Till next time…

Clearing The Mind For Writing

How do you prepare for a studio session when you’re producing music? Do you dive right in and get started? Do you do some stretches? Deep breathing? Yoga?

I walk. I love walking, especially during autumn. The leaves are late turning this year, but over this past week the foliage really started becoming beautiful. I walk a mile before I start in the studio for the day. I also make sure I take a 15-minute walk break every hour. I love being in the studio, but it’s easy to get carried away. After four hours of that, someone has to carry me away.

Sometimes when I’m walking, I put the AirPods in and listen to anything motivational/inspirational. Favorites are Earl Nightingale and Norman Vincent Peale. Often they give me a needed mental boost to dive into my work once I get back to the studio. Other times I just listen to nature when I’m walking, especially in the morning. I find there’s something about stimulating all of the senses before composing music that seems to unleash the creative flow. Taking those fifteen-minute breaks every hour helps refresh both the mind and the ear, readying me for another one-hour session of writing, mixing, or recording.

How do you prepare yourself for your writing?