[MUSIC] I know many of you are going to be working on recordings where you're mainly programming the track, sequencing the tracks in DAW like Pro Tools or Logic or Cubase. Or maybe even in something like Ableton Live, where you're working in a slightly different way, but you're mainly doing the tracks on your own, on the computer. And that offers some amazing advantages. And it also offers some great challenges too. So I'd like to delve in and talk a little bit about that. On the upside, you have control. You have an amazing opportunity to really realize what is in your head. And the entire arrangement and composition of what you're trying to do. You have entire control over it. On the downside, you don't have anybody to bounce it off of, necessarily, unless you're worker in a duo or a trio, which can be a good option. It can be very difficult to maintain perspective and have some objectivity about it when you're listening over and over again. And there are some strategies you can use to try and overcome this. The first thing is to try and loop this as little as possible. If you're listening over and over and over to something, it's actually going to affect how you hear it. I had a really fun conversation with one of my colleagues, Susan Rogers, who studied the neurology of the music in the brain. And I was talking about this phenomenon, about how a lot of times my students will listen to something over and over again, and they'll just get used to it. And they'll come in and play it for us, the rest of the producers in the class and myself, and we'll all just say, wow, you're going to fix that thing, right? And they'll say, actually no, that bothered me at first but now it doesn't bother me anymore. That's not necessarily a good thing. [LAUGH] Basically, what that means and what Susan was telling me, is that human beings, we hate cognitive dissonance so much that if you hear something over and over again that's not quite right, your brain will actually work to quantize it out, just in your mind. It will actually take off the rough edges. So you become less and less of an honest broker of what it's going to sound like for most people, if you listen to something over and over and over again. So, I know you've gotta listen a lot when you're programming. And we do loop things, and we do listen back, and that's just part of it. But even if you can just cut it down from having to listen to it 200 times to maybe listening to it 100 times, just by trying not to listen to it when you don't need to be. Don't have it looping in the background when you're doing something else or thinking about something else. It'll cut down on the amount of time that your brain has to kind of take off the rough edges for you. So, that's the first strategy I would say. The second thing is to really keep in mind the rule of threes, which we have talked about. Basically, having a rhythmic track, then your lead track, whatever that is, vocal or instrumental, and then the wildcard. I find that often my students will come in and they'll have a couple of rhythmic instruments that are doing harmonic stuff in rhythm. And there's nothing at all in the track, including the vocals, that's really sustaining. So just always keep in mind that you have the opportunity, if you want, to have at least one of your harmonic tracks playing a pad. Or even just a sustained keyboard sound. Or even a sustained guitar sound for that matter. Or strings, what have you. But think about divvying up the harmonic information between things that are more percussive and things that are more legato and have sustain. And that will give you a little bit more space. In terms of the lead instrument, my advice there is to get the lead instrument or lead vocal on there as soon as you possibly can. Now you might want to wait until you have the whole track to lay down your final lead vocals so you can really get into the vibe of it and get into the mood. But I would say get a scratch vocal on there as quickly as you possibly can. So that as you're programming all these other things, you're staying out of the way of the lead vocal. And you're not just staying out of the way, but you're pointing to it. You're actually supplementing it. You're complimenting whatever the lead vocal or the lead instrument is doing. In general, simplify. You've gotta be willing to kill your darlings. The nice thing about sequencing obviously is you can get in there and you can see your midi notes and you can design to where it is going to be staying out of the way of say the lead instrument. And interacting with the other tracks in a way that you totally designed. And I would say use those visual cues. Be able to see where you're overlapping and where you're not. And sometimes you can get in and just take out some of the overlap. And it doesn't change the vibe of it, but it just makes it a little easier to grasp. And there's just a little fewer things going on at the same time, which are tending just to clutter the track up. If you have too many parts in there that you're too in love with, try muting one or two of them, and then go away for a while, come back and see if you can live with that. If you can't mute things, if you just can't bring yourself to do that, another strategy that I've used a lot is to go in and just thin things out. A lot of times when I'm sequencing a track I'll do one round of going in, and with the tracks that I've already sequenced, pulling notes out. And just seeing how sparse I can make that track and still have it function the way that I want it to function. And often I'll find that that makes the track so much stronger, because it's not so thick, it's not so coffinistic. It's leaner, it's more direct, it's more focused, and it has much better porosity for the song itself. And always keep that in mind. Is this advancing the point of the song? Is this advancing the reason that we're making this piece of music in the first place?