Everyone has his or her own approach to the music production process. Some are exceedingly well-organized and systematic, while others like to just wing it. My guess is that the majority probably fall somewhere in between.
If you’re wondering where you fall in continuum, I invite you to take this thoroughly unscientific quiz. Despite its methodological dubiousness, I have confidence in its general accuracy.
For each question, give yourself a score of 3 for always, 2 for often, 1 for sometimes, and 0 for never.
- Do you use DAW templates?
- Do you save your plug-in and channel presets for later use?
- Do you color-code your tracks and organize them by category?
- Do you approach your mixes in the same systematic way every time?
- Have you configured custom window sets in your DAW?
- Do you take regular breaks when mixing?
- Do you use A/B referencing during your mixes?
- Do you experiment to find the best positioning each time you mike a source?
- When miking a vocalist, do you try different mics to see which best fits his or her voice?
- Do you regularly update your DAW and plug-ins?
- Do you periodically clean out your plug-in folders to get rid of out-of-date, expired or unused plug-ins?
- Do you use your DAW’s note-taking features to write down pertinent session info?
- Do you use recall sheets or take photos of your outboard gear settings?
- Do you have an organized system for folder management in your recording drive?
- Do you at least glance through the manual before you start using a new piece of gear or software?
- Do you back up your work regularly?
Add up all your answers and see which category you fall into:
40 or over: Super Organized
28 to 39: Fairly Organized
10 to 27: Not So Much
0 to 9: Fuhgeddaboudit
I know that I would like to be in that Super-Organized category, but if I answer the questions honestly, I am squarely in the Fairly Organized group. It’s not that I don’t try; I just don’t always succeed.
It’s when I get into a creative state that I tend to go off the rails procedurally. In those situations, I don’t want to risk losing inspiration by stopping to write something down or by forcing myself to follow a specific workflow. I want to act immediately on the ideas that pop into my head.
I think it’s essential to go with your instincts, even if they take you somewhere unusual. As creative people, we all straddle the line between following the tried-and-true path and taking a chance on something new and different. Too much rigidity leads to conformity and stagnation.
That said, there’s always the temptation to along the way to skip steps—not because of some epiphany, but because it’s easier.
Occasionally, I like to take a step back and honestly appraise my work process in the studio. In any endeavor, a little introspection is beneficial. You’ve got nothing to lose but your inefficiencies.