31-10-12 | The Art Of Editing

So things have been pretty busy here in the studio the last few weeks, lots of different projects I’ve started working on. Just happened to be one of those times where I suddenly got a lot of good ideas for things to do musically, so I’ve started a lot of different things before I forget what they are. Quite a leap from my Doldrumming post a few weeks back! :)

The main thing I’ve been working on is a new techno live set, using only the Elektron Machinedrum. I’ve done a few downtempo sets using only the MD, but I wanted to have a go at doing something a little more upbeat for a change. Also driven by the fact that I’ve heard a lot of really good techno and tech-house music this past summer, namely from local Seattle DJs like Amanita, CTRL_ALT_DEL, and Bert & Chewy.

So the last couple of weeks I’ve been mainly working on creating 16 new songs on the MD that I can play live, and so far it’s coming along great. I have 14 songs at about the 80% mark, and 2 more at about the 50% mark. At this pace, I should be done in another couple of weeks if all goes well. Talk about writing a HUGE amount of music though!

The other project I’ve been working on here and there as I have time, is creating some fun little grooves on my iOS apps like IKaossilator and Triqtraq, and importing those into the Octatrack to create a new EP I want to release later this winter. At least, that was the plan.

One of the things both of these projects have in common, is that I’m writing a lot of material at one time for each of them. Multiple songs and ideas are started in a single day, and it’s not uncommon for me to work on 4-5 each day as I get them closer to completion. When I’m coming up with this much material, my main goal is to capture it as fast as possible, and then move on to the next one as soon as I get an idea for it

As a result, I find that every few days I need to send some time doing some critical editing of all this material. Now, I don’t mean edit in terms of manipulating the audio data, but rather taking a step back and really thinking about what’s working, and what’s not when I listen to what I’ve created.

A lot of people get so attached to their rough drafts while sketching them out. They have a hard time being objectionable and realizing after the fact that perhaps the idea was interesting, but ultimately it’s probably not going to be worth spending more time on. Certainly there’s a fine line between realizing that you have a solid idea that’s just a little basic and needs more work, and deciding that it’s not worth wasting anymore time on something though!

For albums, live sets, and things like EP’s, I find that it helps to quickly play all of the songs back to back, just snippets of them really. Load them in your DAW so you can quickly move song to song. It’ll help give you a brief overview of all your material so far, and more often than not anything that’s not up to the standards of the majority of the songs will be pretty obvious right away. Or maybe it’s just that a couple of the songs are good, but don’t fit the same vibe with the others and should be culled for use later. Certainly one of the last things anyone wants to listen to is a bland and samey album, but at the same time having too many ideas or directions the work is trying to go in can be just as painful to listen to.

The same could be said when you’re just working on a single song too though.

It pays to take a break now and then and see if everything in the song is really adding something useful, or if it’s just distracting from the main elements that are what’s really importnat. Or perhaps the arrangement is too busy, there’s an extra chorus you don’t need, or that long solo in the middle really is just too long. Might be cool on it’s own, but it has to serve the song too, so you need to put the ego aside.

One of the more common issues I hear in track these days is too many dramatic fills breaking up the flow of the song. For years I used to bemoan the fact that people didn’t add enough fills and transitions and the song was too loopy sounding. Now the opposite is happening, and people are putting in so many fills and drops in their songs, it’s impossible to dance or even nod your head to them. Every 10 seconds there’s some new interuption to how the song is flowing.

Take the time to step back and try to think about what you’re working on as if you weren’t the one writing it. I think it’s one of the more difficult things to learn for any artist, but learning to edit out what isn’t needed is probably one of the most important skills that separates the pros from the amateurs. Don’t get so attached to every part of your work that you can’t remove the things that are holding it back. You have to be proud of your work, but that means being critical of it too.

As a wise man once said: “Edit, edit, edit!”.