Workflow - from empty DAW to finished Master

Firstly, I think this could be tagged under Sound Design, EDM composition and Mixing/Mastering. In my case, it could even sit under Cubase, but it is the workflow, not the DAW that I am asking about.

I am stuck and looking at the ads I see in Facebook and the number of videos on YouTube, so are many others, with workflow. I don’t know when to stop worrying about the ‘final’ sound of the kick in the composition or even sound design stage for example. What I do know is that when I heard saturation for the first time, I was like wow! That’s how they do it. It isn’t just the kick of course, it is the bright buzzyness (resonance) of a synth or punch of a stab.

The advice around melody first, drums first etc. varies and I guess everyone finds a way (or multiple ways) that helps them. When it comes to how ‘polished’ everything is though, should I be just getting the right notes down with a vaguely correct sound or should I be perfecting each channel as I build it. And by perfect, do we mean the full MMWA channel strip or perfect for outputting ‘dry stems’. If the latter what is that level?

See what I mean, I am so lacking in this whole workflow area and I know it is holding me back. So guys, help me out please! How do you go from empty DAW to mastered track?

Also, does anyone use the idea of repeating (lots of times) the same 8 bars for every channel and then deleting to taste when it comes to arrangement? I can see the logic, but I just am not sure about that?? Youtube (and Facebook ads) are a minefield of completely useless information until you come across things like MMWA!

Hope some of the above makes sense guys and I really appreciate your input.

Like you said, Workflow may be a dynamic process that is continually refined and varies drastically from one individual to the next

many elite producers divide their work sessions into two categories: sound design and composition

The work in sound design eventually translates to a saved archive of quality sounds that have been developed over time which can then be implemented for compositions and iterated upon etc - this might help reconcile the dilemma of endless sound polishing. The sounds that you have created will be polished to an extent via your sd sessions. Also not all sounds need a 10 plugin strip - if the source is good, further processing can eventually become redundant and whatever’s left over can be addressed in the mix down.

It’s supposedly all about insulating your composition process from any meticulously analytical, compulsive activities that interfere with attaining a flow state.

Also, using a reference track seems to be the likely answer in regards to delineating when a sound is finished being developed and if it has reached a competitive caliber of quality.

It also depends on the genre: many dubstep producers may start with building a drop, dnB may start with beat, etc.

Also, I have received lessons from an elite producer who advised me to more or less work on what I feel at the time. He relayed an experience during which the momentum of his productivity shifted when he followed his own such inclinations instead of forcing something. Other times forcing may be required lol

Anyways, your genre of choice is trance, right? I feel as though trance is a very emotionally driven genre and it arrives upon this primarily through lush soundscapes, immense reverbs, waves of white noise, tension/release, intimate vocals, etc.

You could try finding/creating the best pads, watching tutorials for Hardstyle & Trance leads, dissecting and replicating your favorite songs, work on modulating parameters during break downs and build ups/intros to create kinetic energy, that is what comes to mind.

The mixing in trance seems to be paramount as usual, getting the immense reverb and lush layers concurrent with evolving synth plucks and delays that are woven into the fabric of the mix.

All this and whatever excites you the most. i have found that falling in love with a specific dimension of music or becoming enraptured in general actually really helps to clarify what it is that summons your muse. The muse has historically been considered a disincarnate spirit that interacts with the musician and is summoned forth in various ways.

this has been one of the most helpful ways I’ve found to interpret and reinforce creativity, by incorporating rituals and summoning forth to the surface your deepest emotional and archetypal/mythological undulations- but im typologically very much that way already.

(I decided to write this response without inhibition. I realize that you may have encountered much of the information presented already and that I haven’t exactly shared a discernible system of workflow so yeah: FWIW is heavily implied lol)

Some, such as Mike Monday (check him out on YouTube), advise placing all emphasis on quantity of tracks completed. The philosophy is just to finish as many tracks as possible. It’s interesting, you may benefit from his videos!

Really appreciate that Ryan. A lot in there to digest. Although I love analogue (subtractive) synths, I am a middle weight at all and master of none currently. Hence joining MMWA. I wonder whether I should ignore sound design temporarily and use say Nexus or bought Serum preset packs (I know, I just said that!) until I get confident and competent with composition, mixing and mastering. Let’s face it, there is a lot in those three anyway.

I could do a few tracks without worrying about sound design and then re address the issue. When I follow along with those ‘ultimate supersaw for Serum’ type videos, mine just doesn’t sound the same? Hence thinking I need to isolate the different learnings to avoid the freeze.

You are right with the emotional aspect of trance. Sometimes the problem I get is I end up in the land of cheese. A bit like Mickey Model does trance!! First few times it triggers the emotions but then after a while it’s like ‘really’! But then if you check out the C64 track on my SoundCloud, I like it and it has the most likes? The mixing/mastering is none existent ax it is old… it is real cheese!!

By the way, I am a naturally happy guy, just a tad frustrated at my progress. I don’t want to sound flat or negative. I will get there and I am looking forward to looking back!

Haha, well I am happy to hear that my stream of consciousness reply was somewhat well tolerated.

So my thoughts:
In any event, it would be nice to be able to replicate the supersaws that you hear in tutorials and I am confident that you are capable of exceeding their results, especially with the MMW techniques. I like this tutorial:

Have you tried using virus Ti hyper saw waveforms in serum?

Also, W.A. Productions honestly has some good tutorials for edm synths, using ssl compressor with layering, additive eq, multiband compression, etc.

My strategy for SD has been to use tutorials or presets as a base and then to just iterate upon them extensively and experimentally incorporate my own channel strips. Works decently so far since I can’t program synths from init that well either

You could definitely eschew the more labyrinthian mazes of sound design in favor of focusing more on composition and mastering, in fact I think that philosophy has a lot reputable of supporters.

Focusing on composition will then enable you to become more experienced in modulation (so that you can instill the best evolving, moving qualities in your sound ) - as well as mixing those elements together (which is where a lot of the magic happens.)

There should be a MMW super saw :slight_smile:

Anyways, you definitely don’t sound flat or negative in any way - you’re always positive and constructively contributing in all your posts mate

The learning curve of edm is nauseating sometimes; I myself am in the same boat and often find myself seasick. Definitely PM me and I’ll send you a clyp of my best sounds so far which, if you like them, I will gladly share the exact layout of.

Also, Tritonal has a cool video walk through on their track Black Out. It’s inspiring to see their workflow and techniques - worth watching if you haven’t already.


Thanks Ryan,

I will look up the W.A. Tutorials. PM on its way too…

I think the idea of WWMA ‘sounds’ not just super saw is a great idea. Maybe someone who finds that area a lot easier could do posts along the lines of taking a classic ‘sound’ from a track (start with the actual reference track clip on YouTube for example). Then, go through the whole process including any channel stripping until the sound is matched. It would be a good way to learn what each element of the process is doing to the sound. This would be useful not just for replicating sounds but also learning ‘process’.

Yes, something of this sort would be exciting to see. I’ve often thought that having a proprietary approach/technique, within the school, to arriving upon specific hallmark sounds would be exciting as well.

I actually plan to do this myself, in a way. I’ve compiled a long list of my favorite sound design Tutorials and, guess what?

None of them use UAD. None of them use Acustiva Audio. None of them use Slate.

This leads me to anticipate that the sounds could be enhanced further via the implementation of the aforementioned software, and I intend to verify that possibility.

For instance, look at Seamlessr. He has one of the most popular Sound Design channels ever created & he really only uses stock plug-ins.

I wonder to what extent the MMW channel strip is compatible with advanced sound design and how the two could be adapted to one another. I realize that this is not relevant to mixing, which is why it is not in the curriculum - i would love to hear Jor’s thoughts on/experience with this though.


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great topic. This workflow question has been a thorn in my side for a long time and i end up chopping and changing approaches more times than i’d like to admit. But what has worked well for me in recent times is the following:

  • The realisation that sound design, arrangement and mixing are all interrelated and for me at least, can’t be seperated. Mixing is really just a form of sound design and arrangement is what gives context to that sound design. When i sit down and design random sounds that have no track context, i find that later, i struggle to fit them into a track.

  • I really battle with arrangement, so i’ve realised that i need to push myself to arrange from Day 1. From a blank DAW i need to force myself into arrangement mode and make sounds and arrange what i have, as i have it.

  • I channel strip these sounds there and then, no waiting for a giant mixing session later. This is liberating because the mental overwhelm i feel when looking a a 75 track mix can be paralysing. Does this rob me of “flow”? No it doesnt because its all sound design. Actually, its all just track creation, so why should it. It’s all one process.

  • Now part of the channels strip involves modulation FX. I perform and arrange these as needed and then bounce the audio for just that part. I then disable the whole origiinal track so i can save CPU. Then when i need that sound in a different part of the track with different midi, modulation and automation, i re-eanble it, make my tweaks and repeat the bounce process. This way i get the best of both worlds: A properly mixed sound, with the modulation i need, in audio, while still having the midi and original processing to return to if/when i need it. If i need to change a recorded audio part later, i can just repeat the process.

Now because the sound design, mixing, modulation and arrangement are all happening together, each little part of the track gels together better because its been made to fit “that” moment, not “all” moments in the track. If i need to tweak the channel strip for an instrument in a certain 8 bar period, i just re-enable it, tweak, bounce the audio and disable the channel again.

  • As i arrange as i go, the track is more organic, less “8 bar loop”/“subtractive arrangement” sounding and i create transition effects as i need them (and channel strip them too). This makes them more authentic (i feel) because im creating them in the moment that im battling with that piece of a arrangement. So im really “feeling it” at that point.

The end result is that i may still end up with a 75 track monster, but it was much less painful to create because i wasnt overwheling myself with sound design or arrangement or mixing in isolated chunks.

Are the tracks better? More professional? i suppose that’s subjective. Who knows. It doesnt really matter because its more fun and if it stays more fun, eventually it will become better too (hopefully).

Now in terms of actually getting better with sound design…THIS!!! Best thing ive found on the internet to learn sound design. I suggest doing this with their Sylenth course first, then Massive, then Serum and force yourself to use only that synth for the creation of an entire track.

Combing their sound design course (and focusing on a single synth for a while) with MMWA channel stripping as i arrange and mix has made a huge different to the quality of my tracks.

Another win for me has been generative processes whereby you create a crazy chain of instruments and effects that geneate all sorts of musical choas for you and then pick out bits from that - can be drums and percussion sounds, even whole melodies and harmonies. For example: Native instruments Polyplex being triggered by a chain of ableton’s Random and Arpeggio effects (while modulating the Arp Gate and Time controls with a controller). The end result: crazy, creative percussion (both in sound and arrangement) that i could never have come up with myself. This is kind of workflow, kind of sound design, because it allows you to get interesting results by controlling the machine that creates the sounds, instead of the sounds themselves. At worst, it’s time-saving, inspiring and fun.

Even the great Jean Michel Jarre makes reference to ‘happy accidents’!! These are like deliberately happy accidents!

Hi Elton, Hi everyone.

I’m new around here and I beginning in order MF. I’m a sound engineer (in search for progression), a drummer an a Trance lover. So I produce Trance. The way I do at the moment (and it will evoluate with time) with a blank session :

  • First of all, I created a Trance template with all the groups, routing, basics synth and low-cuts filter. I’m still changing it to be “perfect” (for the moment). Using my templates will help me with no “time waste” doing routing, modulated delays, reverbs, etc. I already have a classic hit-hats pattern, a kick and some generic bass sound that I will tweak later on.
  • I find a motif or/and melody or a chord progression. In my templates, I have already a beautilful pad sound (and generic) for the basic harmony and a cinematic piano sound (lots of reverb and delay) to get in the mood for inventing the melody.
  • If I started with the melody, I harmonise it. If I began with the harmony, I create a melody.
  • After creating my piano melody, I will arpgegiate it with leads (plucks with more release). I’m getting than a first direction for the drop, a first melodic option.
  • I will also create my drop bass pattern. I don’t care about saturation or compression (maybe juste side chain for the groove)
  • than I add my percussions and acid lines, etc.
  • When I got the drop, I come back at the beginning and I’m bulding the intro. The use of risers and dowlifters (home made ^^) as well as crashes helps for the mood. Than my breakdown and the drop. And the outroduction too :wink: .
  • After that I listen to it several days listing what I can still do for a better track (transitions, etc). Maybe I will change the acid lines or the pluck sounds. I will add atmospheres, drums fills, etc. Maybe come back on the melody or the harmony ?
  • Than you export each track and begin the MWMF and the rest. But I already, during the arrangement, put some saturations and reductive eq’s just to feell the track better and cleaner. I have my sends to delays and reverbs. But I export each raw track, without any plugins and than I restart the mix.
  • Here is and example of a track that I’m still arranging, with no big mix (even no outro !) When I will consider it as finished (like a artist will do), I’m becoming the engineer and start the mixing process. To my ear, it sounds already nice and big, but I know there is so much to make within the mix : . It’s downloadable, I hate Soundcloud’s compression :triumph:

I hope I helped you a little bit with my process. It’s mine and will not fit to everyone ! Some people doesn’t like templates for example.

For the sound design : I start in Serum from nothing or from a professional patch that I will always tweak for my taste. I usually don’t use the delays and reverb in Serum because it’s no good in my channel strip (I have to learn Danny’s one). I use also Omnisphere for atmospheres with a soundsource. I have good kicks from Myloops and percs from different compagnies. I learned to make risers and downlifters. So I made a basic downlifter patch for exemple that I tweak for a specific track. If I go crazy with the sound, I save it for later.

Have a nice day !

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