Well, well, well! The year 2020 has arrived. When I think of 2020, I would’ve imagined flying cars. But technology seems to be moving fast enough that maybe flying cars aren’t too far off!
Of course, a new year is nice for setting new goals. And I suspect for many of us Logic users a new goal might be to create more in 2020.
Whether you’re a:
You probably want to get down to launching or growing your creative work. I know I do!
My goal for the New Year is to write and produce more music. For many years I’ve focused entirely on mixing and mastering. So I’d love to carve out time to strengthen my songwriting muscles.
If you’ve got some big goals lined up for 2020 – that’s great!
Of course, we can’t deny the elephant in the room…
Resolutions are great. But how do you start – and maintain – momentum for your goals through the New Year?
For example: many gyms see memberships skyrocket in January. Which is a fantastic step for many people. But as little as a few weeks later good people with good intentions fall of the wagon.
So whatever your goal might be, the biggest question of all is how do we make sure we don’t fall off the resolution wagon?
And I think sticking to your goals boils down to keeping things lean and simple.
By removing as many hurdles as you can from your workflow, you reduce the chance of inertia and procrastination.
So today I’d like to share with you my top 4 resolutions to adopt in the New Year.
These are 4 resolutions I’m going to lean into more to try and hit my creative goals. And I invite you to adopt them as well.
1. Embracing Templates & Saving Channel Strips in Logic
If there’s anything I wish I had adopted earlier on, it would have been creating and saving Templates in Logic.
Eventually I did come around to Templates. In fact, you can download both my mixing and mastering templates for free right here.
But it took me a looooooong time to stop wasting my time!
Every song or moment of creativity is its own special moment, right? You don’t ever know when lightning is going to strike.
And no 2 mixes or Projects are identical. So we assume there’s no “one size fits all” for plugins or routing.
But I bet if you analyzed your creative workflow, you would find that you tend to follow the same habits again and again:
- Maybe you use the same EQ or Compressor over and over in a mix.
- Or perhaps you rely on the same presets in Amp Designer or Ultrabeat.
- Or maybe you find yourself routing inputs and headphone mixes every time you sit down to record.
Starting from a blank Logic Project takes time. So much time in fact, that it can sap your creative juices.
For years I would mix a Project from a Blank Template. Opening one plugin at a time. Routing Track Stacks and Sends. It took FOREVER.
And I would inevitably mess something up. Like forgetting to route a Reverb send. Or forget to add Fades to edited regions.
Instead of getting really good at session set-up, wouldn’t you rather be really good at making music?
Templates are the key to creativity. By organizing our Logic Projects once, we can reap the benefits forever. You can create a Template for:
In a nutshell, you load up your favorite instruments, plugins and routing in a blank Logic Project. And then go to:
File > Save As Template…
And once you’ve said your Template, you can open it any time by going to File > New From Template…
Additionally, you can make short work of loading plugins by saving Channel Strip Settings. Channel Strips are the individual strips in the Logic Mixer.
If you mix vocals a lot, it could be worth it to save a Vocal Channel Strip. So instead of loading 5 or 6 plugins one-by-one, you can load all 5 or 6 in one shot:
- Load your desired plugins onto a Channel Strip in the Logic Mixer
- Click on the Setting button at the top of the Channel Strip
- Select Save Channel Strip Setting As… from the drop-down menu
- Give your new Channel Strip a name, and hit Save
Great ideas can pop up when we least expect them. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the table set to capture those ideas?
2. Embracing the 30-Second Riff
It seems in the years past I was a glutton for pain. Way back when I wrote music regularly, I had some high expectations.
Usually I’d wait for a day all to myself. And then I’d say, “I’m going to write a song – TODAY.”
From there I would hide in my creative space all day. And then I would try to conjure up a complete masterpiece.
Looking back, all I can do is shake my head. A whole song in a day? Not only a good song, but a great song?
Sure, we’ve all heard the story about the hit song written in half an hour. Speaking for myself though, that rarely happened. Instead, I tried to create inspiration in a pressure cooker.
With such lofty expectations, I only got more anxious as the day progressed. “Why am I having such a hard time writing? Try harder!”
By the end of the day I went to bed defeated and angry with myself. And this habit continued for many years until I wised up.
Then I learned a great lesson from a friend. This friend never worked on anything musically for more than an hour.
Sounds crazy, right? How could anyone accomplish anything in such a short amount of time??
But that friend taught me that there’s a lot of value in restricting time like this:
- Restricting time forces us to focus
- Restricting time means we don’t end up beating ourselves up for hours and hours
- Restricting time increases our chances for results
I expanded on this idea by embracing the 30-second riff.
Trying to write a whole song in one sitting can be creative torture.
It’s important to get comfortable with hard work. Hard work can be transformative. But there’s also something to be said when work is enjoyable and not just drudgery.
So when I sit down to write, I try to write a solid 30-second riff. No more, no less.
And it doesn’t have to be the best riff ever! By setting the bar a bit lower, you increase your chances of success.
And when we succeed, it feels good. And when it feels good, we’re motivated to do try again.
The 30-second riff is not about setting your sights low. It’s about building a habit that persists.
Your goal might be to write a full-length album. By setting incremental steps for your grand vision, you’ll have a better chance of finishing that album.
If you’re interested in tactics for restricting time and build habits, check out the following:
3. Not Buying Any Plugins or Software Instruments
Hoo boy. I bet this resolution is gonna be a controversial one. So let me first say that this is my personal resolution for 2020.
I personally plan on not spending money on plugins or software instruments for all of 2020.
Now you might be inspired to set a slightly less militant goal for yourself. For example:
- “This year I won’t spend more than [$X] on plugins/gear/instruments.”
- Or, “this year I won’t buy more than [X] plugins/gear/instruments.”
The point is I’ve spent A LOT of money on plugins through the years.
And yes, there are several 3rd party plugins I LOVE. But there are also many plugins I don’t even have installed on my Mac anymore. Plugins that I spent good money on!
Plus, I find as time goes on I’m finding more and more value in the stuff that comes with Logic.
It’s easy to think there’s greener grass somewhere else. And sometimes it is.
But I find it a *tad* hard to believe Apple or any other company intends to build something that sucks.
Maybe it’s about learning the tools we already have a bit better?
I’m not denying there aren’t fantastic 3rd party plugins out there. And if a plugin or piece of gear could be a gamechanger for you, I say that’s great.
But less time window shopping can be better spent creating.
4. Embracing Presets
Presets get a bad rap sometimes. Very often forum lurkers like to point out that plugin companies could never, ever guess:
- the best Compressor settings for your kick drum, or
- the best EQ settings for your vocals
And I can’t say they’re not right.
But what those lurkers fail to notice is that presets can provide guidance and inspiration.
Thank goodness for presets! When I sit down to create, it can be mega intimidating to stare at a blank Project.
So I make liberal use of the Library and instrument presets in Logic. Alchemy’s presets can be a wealth of inspiration. Drummer is great as well for getting creativity percolating.
Just one sound or loop can provide the inspiration needed to create something uniquely our own.
And plugin presets can be a great source for guidance as well!
Sure, maybe that vocal EQ preset isn’t custom made for your vocal track. But that preset can at least give us some clues for how to EQ our vocals:
For example, why is the Warm Vocal preset above set up the way it is? Why is it lifting the top end like that? How come there’s a boost around 250 hz?
Or why is the Rock Kick Compressor preset above set up like that? Why is the Attack so slow? Why is the Ratio set to 4:1?
More important: does your kick drum sound better as a result?
Presets are wonderful little things. Don’t let anyone shame you out of trying them out.
There we have it! 4 new resolutions for creating more in 2020:
- Embrace Templates and Saving Channel Strips for organized and seamless workflow
- Embrace the 30-Second Riff for sustainable creativity
- Limit Plugin/Software Instrument Purchases for distraction-free creating
- Embrace Plugin and Instrument Presets for inspiration and guidance
Have a workflow enhancing resolution of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Well, that’s resolution #2 done for – I bought a bunch of Izotope plug-ins yesterday! My resolution is to learn/master what I already have, and that includes buying no more synthesizers in 2020. We’ll see how long that lasts…
Hey Tig, thanks for the comment! And I feel the struggle already too. That’s why I made a public statement, to keep me from falling off the “no new plugin” wagon 😉
My template for song creation is really basic, maybe 7 tracks. I do this on purpose so that I dont get into a cookie cutter mode of producing songs. I do a lot of demo work and everything can start sounding the same if I use the same setup. I let the song decide what its going to need. My mix buss processing is never the same either.
I like the 30 second riff idea. I do the same thing but in an 8 measure loop. I bring up a Drummer track and get a beat going. Then I bring up Alchemy or a Bass Guitar channel strip preset and put another idea down. I also like to use the MIDI FX to add some interesting ideas to key and synth parts. Phat FX and Step FX are two of my favorite stock plugins. Step FX and MIDI FX can inspire some cool musicality into your production.
I use presets all the time. Not for the preset itself necessarily, but as a starting point. I dont think presets are supposed to be the end point, but a place to start from, then dial it in.
Thanks for the comment Jimmy! I love your suggestions and workflows. I agree – presets are great for getting started, and then tweaking sounds from there.
Jeff Hardy says
Thanks Chris! Always helpful and inspirational. Your authenticity itself is motivational. My best advice for achieving goals is to simply write them down as tasks and sub-tasks and attach a date to them. It’s a good start! Happy 2020.
Hey Jeff, thanks as always for the good vibes you send this way 🙂 I love the suggestion.
Rhon Van Erman says
Appreciate this post and I’m glad I signed up on the email list. You’re Info and videos have saved me valuable time recently, so thank you!
I also joined so I don’t “live in a box”. It’s important to be a part of a bigger picture and I appreciate this forum.
And Templates are a huge time saver, especially with Kontakt! I leave it blank but routed so I can choose for each new recording. I’ve also created hand written Journals of my favorite sounds from different Libraries and there locations. This was lot of hand written work but also a tangible resource I can just reach for.
Best to you with your goals!
Graham Cordiner says
Too true about making it easy I am finally in the throes of rearranging my desk so that my MacBook Pro is straight behind my keyboard on a suitable stand which can double as a music stand and not to the awkward side as it was Thanks for all your help and tips Cheers Graham
David Woodard says
Chris, these are great resolutions that I look forward to integrating into my creative life this year. Your advice through the last two years has led to the release of two solo EPs over the last two years. My debut release is 2018 was on my 50th birthday. Last month (12/2019) I officially began work on what I hope will result in the release of my first full-length solo release in 2020. Your videos and articles are invaluable to me. Thank you and happy new year/
Bonus tip for saving channel strip settings: you can make folders in Finder and they will show up in the channel strip setting menu, greatly simplifying and organizing the list. In Finder, go to Music > Audio Music Apps > Channel Strip Settings > Track (or Output, Bus, etc) > And then create your custom folders here.
I have obvious things like a “Vocals” and “Bass” folder, but then also a folder called “Albums” with subfolders named after — and containing settings from — previously completed projects. That way if I want “that bass sound from that one album”, I can pull it up quickly. And if you find you have a bunch of settings you’re not using anymore, you can create a “Classics” folder and just dump things there to keep them, but not have them junk up space.
Make awesome music!!
Sam Schwager says
My goal is to focus on the choices I make during the creative process. I recently watched the Sound City documentary with Dave Grohl, and the scene with Paul McCartney struck me instantly. They mention that when you’re working with a limited number of tracks, you’re forced to make important creative decisions. So often now, we can build songs with 50, 75, or 100 tracks – plus we have the ability to come back to our DAW and change/alter any one of those tracks. It’s almost like there’s a mindset, albeit perhaps subconscious, that we don’t have to commit to anything concrete right away (which still isn’t a bad thing!). Thus, I want to limit the number of tracks I use and build the meat and potatoes of a record with core parts and sections. Hoping this changes some of the traditional creative process that I’ve been following, as of late. Thanks for another great post – I always appreciate the tips and guidance you have given! Hoping you had a great holiday season and wish you all the best in 2020!