This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.

One of the most important parts of executing your ideas is giving consideration to how you'll execute them. This process is known as pre-production in music and is valued by music producers as some of the most important time to ensure an album reaches its potential. This time is crucial as many of the decisions of this planning will determine whether you’re promoting amazing music or songs that fall flat.

Parkinson’s Law

 When planning how long a project will take to complete, there's a tendency to guess at an amount of time it'll take to accomplish it. This guesstimate is usually coupled with no analysis of whether that time budgeted compensates for human traits to procrastinate and plan properly. You may decide your writing and demoing period will be two months before moving on to the actual recording of songs. These two months commonly include a lot of relaxing at the beginning followed by intense cramming to compensate for procrastination for the last quarter of the allotted time. Parkinson’s Law states, "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," meaning that if you have a month to record a record, you'll find a way to get it done in a month, but the same goes for any reasonable amount of time. How long you decide it should take to do the various creative phases of your process should be more than a guesstimate.

Many musicians leave themselves less time to do the writing for their record so that they don’t slack. This is born out of an observation that they're more creative under deadlines. However, the science shows the opposite. Teresa Amabile did a study on deadlines that found they don't help creativity. To make matters more confusing, creators commonly believe deadlines make them more creative, but when analyzed, it just isn't the case. In fact, creativity can even be suppressed for days after a deadline. Execution can be helped by momentum, but when it comes to getting good ideas, cramming doesn’t help. The time to incubate ideas and regain perspective after breaks should be free, whereas execution should hold a deadline.

Others leave excessive time to work at a leisurely pace, even though they'll probably procrastinate, which leads to being stressed by the end of the process when they're inevitably behind. Recognizing Parkinson's Law allows you to consider your past output to improve your use of time budgeting. If your last album suffered from cramming at the end, so you wrote some filler material instead of having sufficient time to incubate it properly, it may be best to explore what went wrong so you can either devote less or more time to getting your writing done. If you know you always cram at the end, it may be time to learn to break that habit or allow less time to procrastinate by committing to a more intense schedule.

Devote Your Resources Properly

One of the most common quips musicians make when they hear how long a musician spent in the studio is "what the hell do they do with all that time?" When a musician gets a decent budget, there are countless ways to allocate this budget to get a better result. If you're the type of musician who thrives on live performance, this allows you to have more time to get takes of a song and decipher the best way to perform it.

A common bit of advice is to decide if your record will be a minimalist or maximalist record. Will you be trying to make great songs with a simple arrangement or a record that has lots of ear candy? The supposed wisdom is if you're making a minimalist record, all your attention should be devoted to the songs and on a maximalist record, you can skip the songs since the bells and whistles will make up for it. This advice misses that all the bells and whistles in the world won't make up for a bad song. Instead, if you're making a maximalist record, you need to devote even more time to making good songs as well as how the ear candy works to reinforce it.

One of the most effective evaluations of executing your music is to figure out how to use your resources. When your song’s most exciting feature is the vocals, booking tons of time to play with analog synths to make ear candy when you should be putting thought into vocals is a gross misallocation of your resources. Choosing tones for a full day was a luxury that was mostly left behind in the post Napster-era of the music world. But if your songs are already fully developed and your music will only be exciting if you have the most optimized tones, you should allocate the time to do so.

Will They Hear It? Or Won’t They?

You should strive to hear no flaws in your recording that annoy you since they’ll annoy you even more as your standards begin to develop over the years. Every musician who's made more than a few developed recordings can tell you about all the mistakes they made on previous recordings. Most often they weren’t trusting their instincts to fix or rework parts and settling for what was easy in the moment. The great musicians work tirelessly until their songs reach beyond their expectations, even if that means going to great lengths like re-recording songs.           

One of the most common dilemmas in a recording is when someone points out a flaw and another person exclaims "no one will hear that!" This statement is used when a small detail is off in a performance, such as a rattle in a drum, an overtone in a chord or a slight pitch intonation on an instrument. I've been on both sides of that argument, but the truth is someone will always hear it. If the argument is whether someone will be able to hear it or not, you're having the wrong argument. Since we're making music for ourselves, if it annoys you, you should fix it. That's the answer every single time. Whether or not fixing it will make a production too slick or lose its character is an entirely different discussion which needs to be dealt with using personal taste.

This is an excerpt of the book Processing Creativity: The Tools, Practices And Habits Used To Make Music You’re Happy With. If you would like to download an excerpt or buy a copy you can do so here.