How to wear different hats

How to wear different hats
3rd December 2019 Dave Rose

Making an entire piece of music yourself requires a lot of different skills. If you don’t have a huge budget for musicians, studios and engineers, chances are it’s just you and your computer.


At Noiiz we’re familiar with wearing hats, not because we like to dress up, but because we’re a small team and each member spans across multiple disciplines.


Here are some things we’ve learned both as music producers and as part of team Noiiz that can help you separate out the different types of tasks, stay focused and most of all, enjoy the process.


The different hats we wear



First off we need to identify what different hats we wear. This might differ depending on how you make music and what kind of music you make, but here are some hats we have lying around in the closet…


The sound designers hat



Making music with a computer often means we end up building our own instruments and creating our own sounds. This is different to making music with real world instruments alone, as chances are you won’t need to build these from scratch each time!


Sound design requires a slightly more technical approach, although it’s still highly creative. It’s perhaps a little less reactive, needs a little more thought and planning, requires knowledge of how to build instruments/design presets.


Quick tip: try building a collection of instruments/tools before you start creating. You don’t even have to design everything yourself, you can use instruments/presets/samples created by other people too! But having a collection you can quickly reach for when you’re wearing your songwriting hat can be the difference between creating something great and losing the creative spark.


The songwriters hat



This is the hat to wear when when we’re coming up with new ideas, sketching out melodies, playing beats and doing all of the lovely musical stuff.


We need a lot of energy to feed our creativity, so we need to be disciplined about not getting distracted or going off on tangents in case we run out of creative energy.


Quick tip: the line between songwriting and sound design can be blurry and sometimes that’s a good thing! But they can also detract from each other – having to design an instrument before you can get a melody idea out of your head can drain your energy and stop you being in the flow. Remind yourself when you are wearing your songwriting hat and try and stay focused on constructing your piece of music.


The engineers hat



Technical processes can creep into all aspects of making music, especially when your computer is your instrument. But it can be helpful to focus on these separately where possible, so that they don’t distract you from things like sound design and songwriting.


Again, the lines are blurry, but being disciplined here can really help with your workflow.


Quick tip: don’t get too bogged down with a perfect mix too early on. Songwriting can be a scrappy process, but that’s OK and it can help you ideate more quickly. Try saving most of your mixing until later in the process when you are happy with how your music is progressing. This is going to save your time – if the song is going nowhere you won’t have wasted time trying to polish a turd. 💩


Quick tip 2: preparation is key! Get your setup just right and do all the laborious technical tasks before you start, so when you sit down to make music you can focus on being creative. When you’re not feeling creative, why not spend time building up your sample library, configuring your equipment and improving your setup? 💡


The performers hat



Not everyone performs their music live, but for those that do you’ll know that this hat is very different to the others. Performing music with others or in front of others can be very different to being in the studio. It’s instant, exciting and requires you not to mess it up! Practice, preparation and focus are your friends as a performer.


Quick tip: performing for people can be daunting but also exhilarating! Don’t overthink it, enjoy the moment and go with the flow


The mad hatter



In reality, completely separating out processes like this is difficult and the truth is we end up swapping hats all the time, like an over enthusiastic guest at a fancy dress party.


There’s no getting around this, but by being conscious of what kinds of processes we’re working on and being intentional about how we go about it can really help us stay focused, work more quickly and keep our energy levels up.


What do you wear?


Drop us a message (or send us a pic 😁) of the different hats you wear. Everyone has their own process and there is no right or wrong, but recognising all of the different skillsets we need and then creating the best conditions for them to thrive can be a useful exercise.