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Old 02-06-2012, 10:03 AM   #1
Riddler
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Default How to Organise Ideas (Muscial Scrapbook Methodology)

Hello there!

I often think to myself that there must be a better way to document my improvised ideas. This little problem has plagued my work for years and has now reached critical mass. I've used a multitude of DAWs and never seen or developed a neat solution. I regularly work with tight deadlines and working on these little ideas ahead of schedule is what helps me complete these jobs within an often inhumanely short amount of time.

Currently I have three methods of noting these ideas, but none are particularly sophisticated. I'm acutely aware that some ideas will have sunk deep down into this quagmire of musical garbage, never to be heard or seen again. Here's how I currently work:

1. I have a project called "Scratchpad" which contains a single MIDI track with a piano VSTi inserted, is hours long, and holds a vast scattered debris of disorganised ideas. Whenever inspiration grabs me I open this project and shove a new idea onto the end. Messy.

2. When I've got a new project coming up I create a new folder for it and shove another project in there called "Ideas". This is specifically for any ideas that relate to that project. I listen back and drop markers down onto the various places where I think I've approached musical divinity and write down what I like about the phrase in question. When I do start work on an actual track, I'll sometimes open "Ideas" in another project tab and continue to jot ideas down as I work on the actual track. Still rather messy.

3. I open REAPER and start writing on a blank canvas. 10 minutes into writing I hit save and get asked what to call this project. I come up with some nonsensical name e.g. "He Sniffs His Soul" and continue work. This method has resulted in a burgeoning collection of projects with daft names that span several years. I have no idea what some of them mean.

I've no doubt that most of you pros out there will think these methods hideous for a number of reasons, believe me; I agree. What I'd like is a way of saving all my little musical phrases in a database with some metadata containing my thoughts on each musical idea, maybe with certain tags. Then I can search for "sniffs soul" or "rabid dog" and hear some appropriate ideas. I've seen some commercial solutions aimed at FX libraries and the like, but they looked a little cumbersome for my needs.

If anyone else works in a similar way to me I'd love to hear how you keep things organised!

Thanks chaps!
Tim.
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:32 AM   #2
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If anyone else works in a similar way to me
I do!!!

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I'd love to hear how you keep things organised!
I don't!!

"He Sniffs His Soul" LOL!!!



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Old 02-06-2012, 10:40 AM   #3
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Yep Unfortunately I have thousands of files with random names such as: "OMGSOOOOCOOL"

Best thing I could come up with was to begin saving them by month and year. My file names look like so now:

[BPM][GENRE][RANDOM_NAME]

and I save them in folders like this

year > month > file
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:43 AM   #4
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Yep Unfortunately I have thousands of files with random names such as: "OMGSOOOOCOOL"

Best thing I could come up with was to begin saving them by month and year. My file names look like so now:

[BPM][GENRE][RANDOM_NAME]

and I save them in folders like this

year > month > file
That's a good idea. I too have a zillion stupid files
like "cool bass riff 11" and "delta blues thing" and such.

I really need to start to get better organized before I get buried.

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Old 02-06-2012, 10:53 AM   #5
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When i got reaper i tried out a new method to get me organized, i created a new project for every idea, forced me to give it a name and put it a folder for the kind of idea (instrumentals, band A, band B, Blues project etc...) using templates i can set up every sort of vst instruments immediately but mostly i just record my acoustic or my roland cube with the laptops mic input to catch the idea. When recording audio i like having a small format like ogg to avoid giant files. If i want to extend the ideas and build some kind of arrangement i mute the idea track and build the other stuff around, tap out the tempo etc. I also write down some project notes (using the various notes functions in reaper) and try to describe the feelings i want to archive. I have to say that i really like this approach and it seems to work for me very fine. just right now i rendered some idea files using the wildcards (with date, bpm, and projectname) and put them in a Dropbox folder to share them with a side project member. Hope you find something that helps you keeping track of all your ideas.

cheers, nixon
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:01 AM   #6
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They do say about clothes: if you haven't worn them for X months/years, get rid of them.

Apply the same idea to your snippets and doodles. Quite what X is, is up to you. That'll also encourage you to review them periodically to see if you now have a use for them, knowing that shortly they could get binned.

Or ... save them all up, until you're famous then release them as "the Studio Tapes" or "the lost Years" or ...
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:18 AM   #7
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i save each idea/improv to a separate project and give it a descriptive title (mood, genre, tempo, instrumentation...). all placed in a "bits and pieces" folder

from time to time i go back and listen to whatever is close to what i need or want at the moment

if i go back to something and it no longer turns me on i trash it. no problem, i'm constantly coming up with new stuff. and we all know the real work is developing an idea into something substantial
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:31 AM   #8
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I'll be watching this thread with interest.

The best I've come up with is to use a "mother bin" that holds a number of other project/ "idea bins" in tabs which, in turn, hold multiple ideas differentiated by markers. This doesn't help to organize them, but it is a little quicker when I want to scan through ideas.

Otherwise my methods pretty much resemble those of the OP.
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:34 AM   #9
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I am as disorganized as most others here, same "Sunday Afternoon Idea 4" kind of thing. Some in Reaper, some in Cubase, some in just Wav and some in Band in a Box or similar programs.

I wish someone would write a database utility for us. We could then label all our idea files with date, bpm, genre, mood, instruments, short notes etc. In a way not unsimilar to how some Native Instrument do with instruments or Cubase with presets in its MediaBay. Then we could search 110 bpm (+- 10), country, sad, piano or something. The database would come up with links to all matching files that would just open in the appropriate DAW/Arranger or whatever when clicked.

Maybe there already is a database that could be taylored for this?
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:42 AM   #10
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It's a relief to hear that other people are as disorganised as I am!

I'm afraid the spring cleaning idea just won't suit me as I keep EVERYTHING. I know it might seem a little pedantic but it's just how I work. "Gypsy Vibes" (another of my famous working titles) was a little idea from sometime around 2004. While I was working on another piece of music a few months ago I just happened to remember that little musical nugget from 7 years back (just for the record I'm not a compulsive hoarder, I'm actually ruthless when it comes to throwing sentimental old junk out).

I like the idea of naming the project files, but it still means trawling through the project names. It beats my current system though...

Tim.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:12 PM   #11
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Default Here is a related question....

...along the same subject line.

How often does one of those little musical scibbled ideas, turn into a full fledged finished song?
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:15 PM   #12
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I save all my ideas at path which includes the year. For example, for 2011, I use the following path.

C:\Users\Pete\Recording\Reaper Files\Pete\Ideas\2011

I name each idea according to the date I first thought of it and also store the files in a folder with the same name. For example:

"2011.04.01 Idea"


I might add a name to the title if I think of one, for example:

"2011.04.01 Idea - <Name>"


Then I use a separate Excel spreadsheet to list the ideas. The headings of the spreadsheet are

Date Name Description Tempo Status Comments


Date: gives the date I first thought of the idea, which I don't really need, because the Name gives that info

Name: gives the name as described above.

Description: gives some info (a reminder) about the track (e.g. Pumping bass with gtr melody).

Tempo: gives the tempo in BPM

Status: I usually give info such as how many sections I've got (e.g. "2 sections" for Verse and Chorus), or it might say "Almost Complete"

Comments: anything extra I might want to say is noted, such as "Worth Working On"


But don't listen to me. I never finish anything. I'm very organised in my lack of productivity

Pete

Last edited by stratman; 02-06-2012 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:38 PM   #13
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Man, I can relate! I ue to have over 20 hours of song ideas on cassette tape. maybe 10 yrs ago I took on the big project of weeding out the weak ideas and categorizing them as ballads, rockers etc. and had them on about 4-5 hours of good song ideas. Some of those that I weeded out were like WTF? what was I thinking back then?! ; )

Then a few years back I put all that down into a DAW as wav files...but in the meantime I've added more ideas into my phone, my old PDA and some in REAPER. When does the madness end??!!

The thing is I go back to some of those old song ideas and go man, that's good stuff! So, I don't think I'll ever just throw them out. In the meantime, I come up with even more ideas all the time!

Wish I could be of more help. I'll be watching this thread though for new ideas of organization.
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Old 02-06-2012, 01:04 PM   #14
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There are 61 projects in my 'Experiments' folder. It's a total mess. Every time I download a new VST, I start a song. I try to give them titles which will remind me what they are. This quite often doesn't work.

Titles include:

# a bunch of filtered delays triggered from the drums
# A Strange Pretty Thing What I Found In My Head And I Don't Know What It Is Because It Isn't A Girl
# Billabong Bob
# Blimey O'Riley (named for Babs)
# Brainwreck - Reasynth Tweakin 2 (I've no idea what that is, I probably found it here)
# Cherry Isotope (I think that's a synth preset)
# Crunchy (probably is)
# Daed Dog Dub
# Dead Dog Dub (I guess one of these should be in the recycle bin)
# Darn Speet (wtf?)
# Deepest Arpologies
# Five Seconds Of Your Life That You'll Never Get Back
# King of Win
# Kyster (named for the bloke who made the riff, I think)
# Long Clock
# Merrick (named for Christopher Merrick Hughes)
# Not Dubstep
# Not Spont (I know what 'Spont' means, but it's not particularly helpful)
# Number Stations (includes sub-directories; I'm quite interested in number stations)
# OMBD (I could hazard a guess)
# Stories For Girls (named for Pearl's Girls, the best song, ever)
# The Thesque (which is self explanatory, I think)
# Zimmer Frame (named for Hans)

I think "He Sniffs His Soul" is a superb title. I might have to steal it.

Last edited by Fex; 02-06-2012 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 02-06-2012, 01:14 PM   #15
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I'm the worst at organization. I have a zillion unfinnished ideas all over my harddrive, but I have somewhat decent naming conventions:
-BPM KEY short description ddmmyy, so I have a lot of mystery projects that look something like this -> 95 Bbm ZydecoFunkiness 020512

Mostly my improvisational stuff is just a leaping off point or an "exorcizing of the demons." The processes of doing it is the reward and the material is actually okay to die because it lives in my subconscious and will be resurected when needed in a real project. But I can never actually willfully throw anything out.

---AND THEN there's my portable LS10 recorder I take with me everywhere capturing samples and live shows. I can't change the names before I dump them to my computer and usually I wind up doing a mass exodus an hour before a show I want to record. I make file folder that's called "Unsorted LS10 ddmmyy" and dump everything in there. All the LS10 files are named LS000000123, LS000000135, etc. That can be a real pain in the butt, or a fun treasure hunt, depending on my mood.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:06 PM   #16
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Right, business/music/software minded geniuses listen in. Lots of us appear to have the same problem, and this is evident from one post, in one forum, in one hour. There looks to be a potential market here; if you build it, they will come.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dea-man View Post
...along the same subject line.

How often does one of those little musical scibbled ideas, turn into a full fledged finished song?
I'd love to give you an example, but how can I attach a clip here?


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I think "He Sniffs His Soul" is a superb title. I might have to steal it.
Fex, please feel free to steal it. From the looks of your song titles, I think we could enter into a spectacular songwriting partnership.

Tim.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:17 PM   #17
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There is no solution.I have its of paper,micro cassettes,countless folders,likewise project files.

Nowadays,I start a song,if its not written in two hours it goes into the mound.Which I dip into when I'm feeling a bit low on creative juice.Dosent really ever pay off though.


I have a special folder..called CHORUSES.These are closely minded!
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:22 PM   #18
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This thread inspired me to go looking, and I came across a tagging Windows only freeware:

http://lunarfrog.com/

You add your own tags, search by combining tags, add and edit tags. Also you can use select all and tag a whole directory with the same tags if needed.

I will do some testing and see if it is useful. But I guess you all know there is the risk of just falling back to recording and leaving it there in the mess. Maybe it all stems from the fact that creativity is a right brain activity and ordering a left brain one.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:25 PM   #19
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Fex, please feel free to steal it.
Consider it stoled, matey. You'll probably hear it on the radio when I'm dead.
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From the looks of your song titles, I think we could enter into a spectacular songwriting partnership.
Well, maybe we should. One thing you might consider doing with ideas that aren't going anywhere is to post them on ccMixter, or similar, to see if anybody runs with them.

One of mine is now the soundtrack to a beautiful YouTube video about red dragonflies. (I half regret posting the piano part, which was intended to indicate a possible vocal melody, but sounds like crap.)

Another, Goat Fish, is now the soundtrack to a YouTube video about Russian trains, and is also well on it's way to turning into something very special, as soon as I get the contributed vocals mixed properly.
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:21 PM   #20
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I have folders for ideas by year:
Ideas 2012
Ideas 2011
etc.

Inside, at the root level there are the ideas rendered (as they might use multiple tracks).
Also there is a folder for a single Reaper project where all the tracks and audio files are for that year.


* So whenever I manage to come up with something spectacular that isn't a song yet; in whatever Reaper project I have opened, I render the mix to the folder of current year.
* Then I open the project for current year in another tab and cut the items to that project.
* Then I glue the items so that the files are moved to the ideas folder - maybe there's another more intuitive way to automatically move them - I don't know.

Then it's easy to navigate to the rendered ideas folder with either foobar or Reaper's media explorer and have an entertaining hour or two.

There you are...
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:22 PM   #21
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Fex,

On a dark, cold winter night, many years from now, I'll be living peacefully in a quiet little cottage in a corner of rural England. I'll be just about to retire to bed after a long evening spent smoking my pipe and reminiscing about the how the project idea tagging feature introduced in REAPER v27/x256 really revolutionised my workflow. Just before I tamp down the fire and take off my slippers I'll hear the faint sound of a young chap on his way home from the village pub, and he'll be whistling a familiar tune. That's when I'll know you made it, Fex. I'll die peacefully in my sleep that night, with big a smile on my face.

Tombuur, I'll have a look at that Lunarfrog software, that might just be the ticket! If you've solved this little conundrum I'll be on the next plane over to Denmark to buy you a drink. Well, maybe not quite literally, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Tim.
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:41 PM   #22
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Carbon, that's a really neat system you have there, I think that wins my award for "Best Workaround Thus Far". Your solution in conjunction with the Taggedfrog software for your root level folder is looking like the kingdom of audio organisation heaven is peeping through the clouds.

Tim.
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:57 AM   #23
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I could massively use "ReaProducer" or an Anti-Proacrastinator VST, given I seem to accumulate maybe 10-20 "themes" a week. Ideas/riffs - "many" a day.

Which I try to name descriptively to no real avail.

My "solution" - new year's resolution, actually - is to just start dumping this stuff onto the net the way it is, to both get it off my drives(s) and to have a definite explanation to give to people when they ask "what have you been doing?". Very *traditionally* unprofessional - and against basic precepts of quality I have, but it's the 21st century and paradigms have changed.

WHAT COULD REAPER DO TO HELP?

FR - auto-insert project bpm into project name? Append the the number of hours a project has been open onto the name? Append the number of tracks to the name (thereby visually identifying "oh yeah, that's just a riff).

I dunno.
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:58 AM   #24
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Quote:
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I have folders for ideas by year:
Ideas 2012
Ideas 2011
I have *hard drives* separated by year.

They all have a "MIXES" folder - which somewhat tells me the state of what's in each folder, but... ahrghrghrhhhh.
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:51 AM   #25
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ahrghrghrhhhh.
+1 for ahrghrghrhhhh.
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:55 AM   #26
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+1 for ahrghrghrhhhh.
AHHRGHRgrhgrhhgggghhhhh.

/ and I don't even play Nordic post-viking black metal
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:13 AM   #27
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Hey guys have you seen the "croak" extension for Taggedfrog?

From the Lunarfrog website:
"The extension is designed to help musicians organize audio sample libraries and supports play/stop, auto-play and loop functions. Croak is not included in full and portable versions of TaggedFrog."

I'm downloading it now!
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:35 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by chip mcdonald View Post
I could massively use "ReaProducer" or an Anti-Proacrastinator VST, given I seem to accumulate maybe 10-20 "themes" a week. Ideas/riffs - "many" a day.

Which I try to name descriptively to no real avail.

My "solution" - new year's resolution, actually - is to just start dumping this stuff onto the net the way it is, to both get it off my drives(s) and to have a definite explanation to give to people when they ask "what have you been doing?". Very *traditionally* unprofessional - and against basic precepts of quality I have, but it's the 21st century and paradigms have changed.
I have very similar feelings to you about quality or work and posting online. Having said that I've seen producers put shoddy sounding demos online before, Bill Bottrell used to upload several unfinished tracks a week.
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:07 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dea-man View Post
...along the same subject line.

How often does one of those little musical scibbled ideas, turn into a full fledged finished song?
I've found somewhere to host the mp3 files. The first was an idea I had back in 2004 I called "Gypsy Vibes" (another famous working title). The second "Slightly Altered" was a piece I wrote for a film last year. I remembered that little nugget from 7 years ago and dug it out!

That's why I don't spring clean!

Tim.

http://kiwi6.com/file/38h8xganol

http://kiwi6.com/file/60kn552t8o

Last edited by Riddler; 02-07-2012 at 06:16 AM. Reason: Corrected URLs
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:02 AM   #30
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The second "Slightly Altered" was a piece I wrote for a film last year.
This is obviously some exotic usage of the word 'slightly' that I wasn't previously aware of.

Very, very nice work, sir.

What did you use for the calliope on the demo? I had to jump through hoops to build that kind of sound.
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:27 AM   #31
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Fex, I'm not too sure what I did to get that sound as it was a while ago now. I *think* originally it was a patch called something like "Bottle Blow" on the E-MU Proteus 2000/Emulator X.

How did you go about building that sound? Did you create something usable?

Tim.
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:41 AM   #32
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How did you go about building that sound?
A combination of soundfonts, two from free complete GM sets, and a cheap one of a genuine calliope, which turned out to be horribly out of tune, and largely unfixable, having been recorded on a very cold day. It did add something to the high notes though. I threw in a couple of Bontempi style organs for extra cheese.
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Did you create something usable?
You tell me....
The Carousel (demo)
(Skip to 3.10ish)

Last edited by Fex; 02-07-2012 at 07:47 AM.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:06 AM   #33
Riddler
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I really like that track, the beginning sounds like underscore for a period war film; slow realisation as the protagonist begins to appreciate the scale of the task ahead!

The sound really does work in that track, it has a bagpipey edge though. Maybe that's the cheesy organ's contribution.

I remember having weeks of hassle trying to get a harmonium sound once. I found a VSTi, which was horribly out of tune. I then bought a real harmonium, only to find that it was even further out of tune that the VSTi. In the end I decided to use an accordion instead anyway.

Tim.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:24 AM   #34
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I really like that track
Thanks. It never occured to me to try bottle blows for a calliope, though I'm using a similar sound elsewhere on the album.
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the beginning sounds like underscore for a period war film
I recently had a violinist copy the piano motif at the end. I told him to imagine he was standing in the ruins of Nuremberg....
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I remember having weeks of hassle trying to get a harmonium sound once.
I quite like Harmonium. It reminds me of listening to John Peel play Ivor Cutler.

I had this at one point, but I never got round to doing anything with it. Maybe I should have another look.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:43 AM   #35
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That's the one I used! The sound is good but the tuning is funky!
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:48 AM   #36
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Lol

Ah well. As long as it's consistent, it can be fixed.

We seem to have hijacked your thread....
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Old 02-07-2012, 09:19 AM   #37
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Good point. Back on track...

I've emailed the developers of TaggedFrog and told them about this discussion, who knows, maybe they'll be able to chime in.

Today I've successfully categorised some of my old demos with Taggedfrog and added another 5 minutes of rambling ideas to the end of my "Scratchpad" project.

Wtih a little more thought I'm hopeful that my system will become more organised. The tagging solution doesn't help the projects that don't get mixed down, so I may have to just mixdown tons of tiny idea clips from the main project so they can be tagged. Hmmm.

Tim.
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:26 PM   #38
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I'm really amazed at how creative your idea titles are. Mine are mnemonic in relation to what the rhythm or melody of the idea is, such as: Backawacka, Oooahh, Bwink Bwonk and so on.

Needless to say it's totally ineffective.

So time to come up with some reaProjectManager with an audio preview like an mp3 or ogg when you click it.

-robo
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:35 PM   #39
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Mine are mnemonic in relation to what the rhythm or melody of the idea is, such as: Backawacka, Oooahh, Bwink Bwonk and so on.

Needless to say it's totally ineffective.
Huh? I know exactly what all three of those sound like. I particularly like Backawacka, which (I'm quite sure) sounds like the soundtrack to a 70s porn movie. They're great titles, too.... I might have to steal them....
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So time to come up with some reaProjectManager with an audio preview like an mp3 or ogg when you click it.
Now, that is a very interesting idea.

Hmm, I'm thinking, Wookie porn. Chewbackawacka. This has potential....
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:47 PM   #40
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.Hmm, I'm thinking, Wookie porn. Chewbackawacka. This has potential....

Wow!!
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