EP Projects - Lots of Learning

Maaaaan! Im finally producing an EP in earnest after years (flippin nearly 20 years now that I think about it, daaaang that makes me feel old and sad lol :joy:) and years of noodling and 8 bar loops and thousands upon thousands of little loops and seeds that just sit and are discarded or lost. Learning so much along the way here and it’s hella work and hella fun.

I’m doing this dawless for the most part. Just using Elektron machines (DT & DN) and Korg Gear (Volca Drum & Monologue). I’ve had to invent my workflow from the ground up and tune and adapt along the way. During that process I’ve had to let go of a lot of preconceived ideas and embrace different ways of thinking and working.

I’m at the stage now where my first of 3 tracks is wrapping up and it’s really exciting. I’m hoping that the groundwork laid already helps me to get ideas out and completed faster after this.

Of course being a first EP I don’t expect it to be too fantastic but I’ve heard it said that it’s like a faucet where the water comes out dirty at first and then the longer you leave it on (keep producing / creating / whatever) it starts to flow clearer.

Anyways pretty stoked. Would love to hear some Elektronauts stories about producing a first album or EP or just getting started in general. It’s a grand adventure that just I’m really happy to be on. No ideas of fame or riches or anything, just enjoying the process is enough reward for me.

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I’m sort of in the same process: been doodling for years, finally ready to take the plunge and do some arrangements.
I can definitely relate to “I had to invent my own workflow”, I discovered a lot of things about my own music when I started working on full tracks. Out of those things, a few surprises:

  • I’m actually a lot more efficient working in a DAW for arrangement. Seeing that I’ve worked mostly DAWless for the past years, I didn’t expect that outcome, but you know, whatever works.

  • No matter how hard I try to produce a certain style, or go a certain direction, I always end up in some other place. I thought I’d be able to control my “style”, but I have to admit it actually controls me :slight_smile:

  • My better half is into techno after all

Also, I came across a few obvious but essential realizations:

  • Practice makes perfect. I don’t expect to put out incredible quality but the more I work, the better the tracks come out.

  • Staying organized helps getting rid of all the barriers to creativity. For example, having notes handy when you listen to a pre-version of a tracks guarantees you’ll write down changes that are needed, providing actionable items for when creativity slows down a bit.

  • Having a project boosted my motivation to make art in general. I’m now considering spending some time in after effects and photoshop to produce my own cover art and music videos, wouldn’t have considered it before starting this.

I’m using Ableton Live 10 to centralize ideas, but they usually start on the OT, DT, A4 or DN. I’m also considering the testing of the ALS (Live Project format) export from my MPC, maybe I’ll use some of the sequences I have on there as well. TBH I don’t really have a plan, I’m just going with the flow and see where it takes me. Do you have any sort of plan, how many tracks, when to stop, a defined set of examples/guides/styles you want to go for ?

Couldn’t have said it better. Really good idea for a thread, I’m curious to hear what others will share :slight_smile:

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I found that exact same thing! Before I started I had a billion ideas for the sound that I wanted. Came in super hot to a few sessions only to find that, no, I’m not supposed to be doing it this way, it’s forcing it. So I stopped doing it that way. I really had to let some other part of me call the shots and listen to my INTUITION vs my BRAIN :brain: (who thinks he’s the boss all the time (shhh, he’s really noooot))

Same! I’ve always tried to explore where I’m interested and sometimes even called these explorations “wasteful playtime” and felt slightly guilty sometimes for spending time where my intuition took me instead of working on my “ONE THING”. OMG how naive I was!

I’m my defense though, if you want to get really really good at something, it does take sacrifice, everything you do that is NOT that one thing, takes time away that could be put into that one thing. BUT… for me anyways, there is a much better way. A sacrifice in one area is a gain in another. And overall gains are good.

Everything connects to everything else. Even seemingly disparate studies benefit from whatever it is you choose to do.

Watching cartoons with your kids informs you of plot and structure (and introduces you to Gravity Falls, which is amazing! Don’t judge :joy:)

Martial arts teaches you to be humble and listen to something other than your head to get a technique down.

Sumi-e painting informs you that each stroke, no matter how small, means something in the grand scheme.

Reading and especially writing informs you of vast worlds you never knew could exist, along with more plot and structure.

Even (ughhhh!) work (the antiquated system put in place during the beginning of the Industrial Age and still has not changed… never mind!) teaches you that you WILL, whether you like it or not, suffer through projects that make you want to wig out, for years, until they are completed, and then you have something that is pretty huge that you didn’t know you could pull off.

I’ve gone off on a rant, sorry, still pretty applicable though I think! It’s all helped me pull it off to this point.

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I’d love to hear more about these!

Also, when you say Dawless, what do you mean? Are recording a stereo track straight out of the machine? Or using a hardware multitrack recorder?

Anyway, good luck on your project, hope to hear it soon!

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Well a few off the top

Thinking I was going to track in each sound into the daw so I can apply affects and compression and do mixing and mastering. No… no, I’m not. I tried it a few times and with my interface drifting by 2-3bpm and having to deal with micro timing and latency for each track, it’s just, no…

So creating all patterns in hardware and doing levels there and I can apply effects to the summed audio. I may record in sections and chop them and do rearrangements until I like the build and ebb and flow of a track. Or alternately I will figure out how to trigger ceropatterns from FLStudio to figure about the right arrangements. That’s where I’m at currently. Figuring out the arrangement for the first track.

Another one was like I was saying earlier. I had ideas about how I “thought” I wanted my tracks to sound. Which is not always how they are “supposed” to sound. How they are supposed to sound is what comes out of you, as purely as possible. And if it’s techno then that’s what it is. If its not space funk dub jazz like you thought it was going to be then that’s ok!

So riffing off of that one, embarrassing as it is to admit, I had a bias against using samples, because I thought that my tracks would have every sound constantly evolving and everything synced to everything else and it was going to be epic. But that was a vague notion and not the truth of what comes out of me. Maybe one day I’ll be able to realize that type of music, when it’s clearer in my mind and more fleshed out and solid but not right now.

More later as I think of them.

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I’m in the process of making my first EP as well. I’ve only released a couple of singles so far.

I’m mostly using hardware to create the tracks, but I’m doing a final mix + adding a few bits in Ableton after I’m done tracking all of the hardware stuff.

The way I went about making the EP was a little different from the usual way I assume: I wanted to play live so I made a live set 100% on hardware, played a couple of gigs, and waited a bit to decide which tracks from the set I wanted to use for an EP.

I think I very much like the process, because making tracks for a live set makes me more relaxed about the creation process, as I’m not too concerned about everything sounding 200% perfect in terms of EQing, etc. Some of these tracks I made pretty much in a day, when it takes me weeks to finish anything in Ableton.

Now of course I’ve started to complicate things with the introduction of vocals on these EP tracks, but that’s another story… :slight_smile:

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Nice!

That’s a way of going about it I didn’t even consider. The DT and DN encourage actual playing, mutes / cntrl all / etc so of course it’s a good approach to come at it that way. I’m having to come down from the opposite way which was the 200% perfect mindset and that took some mental change.

The only thing I’m doing in the DAW at the moment is sending program changes so I can get the sequence right without writing down pattern numbers. I find for myself that the earlier I introduce the DAW into the mix the less chance that I’ll continue to be focused.

It always ends up in the DAW eventually, but I’m just pushing it further out. Before I would try and program everything in there and mix and arrange and sound design and master and plugins and try to learn plugin on the fly… just kills any inspiration dead within minutes. And on top of that why even bother with the little black boxes and sequencers if you’re going to sequence in the DAW anyways?

I still want to record to tape, and I’ll try that out since I have the levels mixed pretty ok to my ears. But there are some good things to do to a final mix before printing to any medium, like eq out everything below 20hz, some nice saturation. Those kinds of thing. I have rudimentary controls on the mixer but to accomplish same things I might have to buy more hardware. Unless :thinking: (I’m broke though… unless :thinking::rofl::joy::rofl:)

Good luck with your EP! It’s awesome you’ve come to a point where you want to start releasing some tunes to the outside world. It takes guts to put yourself out there.

A couple things I learned along the way when I started releasing projects online was

  • Strive for perfection, but don’t let it consume you. You will make tracks that you will not like. Sometimes you can fix them, make them better, other times you have to throw in the towel. The more music you do, the more you release, the better it gets
  • Don’t be afraid of criticism. It helps you grow as an artist.
  • Have an idea in mind for EP or at least try to select songs that build into the bigger picture of an EP. The order in which the songs play is important to tell the story as well

Good luck on your journey, can’t wait to hear your project!

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