Tools, Part 3: How using Trello avoids song crisis

All my songs has its crisis somewhere between a length of 1 minute and 2 minutes. The question is whether it will be good and interesting enough to make it. There may be one song per year (if I’m lucky) with such a strong drive that it don’t have a crisis at all and I rub my eyes/ears and everything’s done and ready without exactly knowing what the heck THAT was. Pity, but that is the exception. Maybe Prince/Springsteen/Goldie/Dieter Bohlen has this all the time, but not me. Argg.

So, my initial song inspiration brings me to the 1 minute mark with no problem. This may be a cool sample, a beat, a new vst instrument with cool sound, an abstract idea, a sentence of lyrics, whatever. Add some other instruments/stuff and 1 minute of good sounding something is no problem. But then it gets boring or diffuses and it just don’t go on naturally. what you need is a second idea which does not only sound good but fit to the first one as well. Then is the time where the real songs get going. Often this is not at once but after some time, sometimes a few days, sometimes years.

To keep track of this (good?) ideas in various states I found trello really helpful. Before I described my process of creating songs I often had songs who sounded awful and I did not know what to do with them. Which was a great surprise because the same song sounded pretty cool last night before I went to bed. With the process defined I have more tolerance for odd sound/songs because I know that I’m in a different mood. Let me explain by showing my process. If you want play along on the corresponding trello board, check out this link:

  • Inspiration & Jamming
    The first step: Just fooling around, checking out tools, stealing bass lines from great songs or from awful songs with cool baselines, playground-stuff.
    If not cool –> delete
  • Building up
    Find corresponding sounds, samples, song structures matching the first inspiration. It’s ok, if it’s too much, not fitting 100%, only “maybe” stuff, etc.
    It’s like building the sound/rhythm palette for a song without claiming that everything will be used.
  • Arrange Song
    Bringing the main theme and parts into a coarse sequence. Adding fitting stuff.
  • Minimize
    Throw away everything not needed but not too much. Critical step, a lot of refinement takes place here. Dependent on the mood I’m in and if I’m willing to take chances.
  • Despair Zone
    Here a the songs which just don’t sound good, even after trying for some times. Declaring them as part of “Despair Zone” helps to set them aside for later. Often I check them after some weeks and find them still awful (–> delete) or awesome (–> back to Minimize or Arrange). The main point is, they’re not bothering my as long as I want to be bothered. Again, a mood thing (tired vs. energy).
  • Final Mix
    Polishing, making last-minute chances, mastering
  • Songs Done
    Uploading song to bandcamp, soundcloud, thesixtyone, writing blog-post, twitter new release

So, knowing my current ideas and seeing them in a “dashboard” helps to decided what to do next in the context of my current mood and energy level. Feeling tired? Do a slow jamming or build up a song. Full of energy and time to kick a**? Try Minimize or check the Despair Zone and see what’s coming up.

Without the help of trello, I had some frustrating moments because I were not sensitive to my mood/context, e.g. pushing too hard while tired, missing the fun of it.

Often, this helps to get over the crisis. Sometimes not, but “Despair Zone” will help with this, too.

Using trello, too? Maybe for music as well? Maybe for something else? Let’s hear it in the comments.

-mE

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