[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]
The pandemic is forcing musicians around the world to change the way they create. In a time as challenging and complex as this one, the simple act of meeting up with a band or songwriting partner in person has been made risky or even downright impossible for some.
There’s no getting around the fact that Covid-19 is making songwriting and music production trickier than usual for some, but tools like online music software programs are helping musicians collaborate and create independently just like they’ve been doing since long before this crisis began. The following list of tips will help you make these digital platforms work the best for you and your creative process.
Master the software before you create
Taking a little time to learn the ins and outs of the music software you’re using will end up helping you be a lot more productive later. Since every platform is different, each offers radically different things and works in different ways.
You’ll end up being able to create more freely and efficiently if you explore what your platform has to offer and how it works first. Many creators learn about the software they’re using while they’re making music alone or with other people, but doing this ends up taking more time to master basics and can result in a situation of never being able to use digital music-creation platforms at their full potential.
Match your goals and needs with the right platform
No two digital music creation platforms are the same. Whether you’re using a tool like Pibox to collaborate remotely with songwriters and producers or BandLab to capture and develop spur-of-the-moment musical ideas instantaneously, the options online music software platforms give musicians can be intimidating. To help match the right one with you and your process, first think about your specific goals and needs.
The truth is that each of these music-making tools has the potential to include a virtual endless amount of options for creating. On its face, this is a good thing until you realize that more creative decisions can translate to extra work that distracts from your process.
To make these powerful platforms work for you, have a plan for what you want to accomplish before using them. If you’re using an online music creation platform to work remotely with other songwriters, performers, or producers, make sure everyone is on the same page about creativity and process.
Create in a way that leaves room for humanity and character in your music
Some online music-creation software programs give you the power to edit your music in ways that make it sound “perfect.” But whether it’s quantizing a MIDI track or auto-tuning vocals, editing your music too much will leave your music sounding dull, predictable, and unrelatable. No matter who you are and what kind of music you make, your songs won’t resonate with listeners if they don’t sound unique and relatable to audiences in some way.
We now have the technology to make music sound technically perfect, but all the production and editing in the world can’t make a song connect with listeners. One of the best ways to get the most out of digital music creation platforms is by balancing raw, natural and spontaneous music performances with the powerful technology at your fingertips.
You can edit out mistakes, but in many cases leaving them in will make your tracks sound more human and distinguishable.
Use live instruments as often as possible
It’s important to add live instruments to your music as often as possible. Composing only through MIDI can limit ideas and stifle intuition. Many artists find that MIDI works best when it’s used in tandem with live instruments like guitars, drums, synths, and strings.
While the technology around MIDI has gotten much better at reflecting nuances in playing, nothing can replace the sound of a human being playing an instrument expressively, mistakes and all. You’ll get the most out of digital music-creation platforms if you use them to support and enhance your natural creative intuition and performances, not to substitute them.
Choose platforms that allow for easy remote collaboration
No one knows what the next few years will hold for the music industry, but it’s safe to assume that remote collaboration will be a crucial part of writing, recording, and producing moving forward. Some music-making platforms feature technology that allows for easy remote communication and collaboration, but others don’t. If you’re in a band or frequently work with other songwriters, performers, or producers, choosing a platform that prioritizes collaboration is important for creators who want to stay productive in our socially distanced world.
During this challenging time, we’re lucky to have digital platforms to help us stay productive and creative. By matching your needs with the right platform and keeping your music raw and honest, you’ll be able to get the most out of online music software programs.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician.