Having a home studio is an absolute must for every musician (IMO) for many reasons, the biggest one being that your DAW can be the ultimate songwriting tool. Not all musicians approach the songwriting process in the same way, so how to best use your DAW in the creation phase is very open ended. Today I want hit 3 quick tips for taking max advantage of your computer recording setup specifically in the realm of songwriting. Let’s take a look!
Via Stephen Dann Flickr
1. Keep Your Sessions (or Templates) Simple
Whether you like to write music with Pro Tools always open, or you wait till you have a basic idea down before you fire up your DAW of choice, you want to have a simple session with minimal tracks to distract you. The goal in the songwriting phase is creation and idea capturing, right? So don’t let anything get in the way of that or slow you down. Maybe have a track setup for drum loops, a guitar track or two, maybe a stereo keyboard track, and a track for vocals. Much more than that and you’re moving into demo writing territory.
Which brings up an interesting thought: at what point are you no longer songwriting, but rather are demoing? The line between the two is super fuzzy these days because you can techinically do both at the same time. And sometimes that’s helpful. I recommend you keep things super simple in the early stages while you are still figuring out the main hook, melody, or lyric for a given piece. Write it, lay it down quickly, save it, and move on!
2. Close Your Web Browser
This may seem random, but these days because many of us write music at our computers it becomes easy to fire open Firefox and start surfing the web, responding to email, or updating our Facebook status all while we’re supposedly creating a new hit song! The web (or any other program on your computer) is only really going to slow you down, distract you from being creative, and suck out any energy and focus you may have. Creating new music is already a challenging and engaging process, so why divide your mind and your time with anything else for those precious few moments?
3. Use Your DAW’s Loop Playback Mode
One simple feature of most DAWs is the ability to loop a certain portion of a song (say 8 bars of the hook) and play it back over and over completely hands off. This allows you to just jam out with your original hook or beat and just try things out. It might seem obvious to some, but this one basic step puts you in the mindset of someone jamming with a friend or band mate; you keep the groove super simple for the express purpose of creation, soloing, and creativity.
When you just write by yourself with out a DAW or second musician you really can’t try out things layered over a previous idea. This one step can open up a ton of ideas that might even be better than the part you were looping. That original part may simply become a bridge to a new and more interesting hook!
Remember, Your DAW Is A Tool
If you find yourself fiddling with menus and settings too much while songwriting, something is wrong. Take the time once and for all to setup a songwriting template with custom settings that you can save so the next time you want to sit down and write, you can simply fire up the software and go! Your DAW should be a tool to help you make more music, not an obstacle.