10 Tips from an ADHD music producer on how to finish songs faster : ADHD

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Hey,

Male 36 here, I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, the inattentive type (ADD). Not only did my ADHD diagnosis gave me a whole new perspective on why I have always struggled in many areas of my life. In particular, music production, where I have over 1000 unfinished songs which I have collected over 10+ years.

After getting my ADHD diagnosis, trying meds and reading a lot of general books about ADHD (Driven to Distraction & ADHD 2.0 are by far the best). I began to understand that less is more for ADHD brains. Fewer distractions mean more music.I have developed a few production techniques for my ADHD brain that I want to share with other ADHD producers here.

  1. Follow the rule of 3 in your life. In the past, I was obsessed with installing the latest plugins and trying out the latest presets packs, etc. But this leads to more distractions. So I chose to only use 3 VST synths that will cover all my needs.

Even if those 3 synths are limited, it will help me to think creatively and outside the box. I chose 3 VST synths that I think had the easiest to use user interface and not too many presets.


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2. Instead of starting new songs when you get bored of working on your current songs, make a folder with 3 songs to work on. When you get bored of song 1, you switch to song 2, when you get bored of song 2, switch to song 3. When you get bored of song 3, switch back to song 1 again.

If you get bored of all songs, take a break of a few hours or days. When you do this, you will eventually start finishing your songs. Because otherwise, you will start new song templates and those will reach to 100+ templates. When you work a little bit on 3 songs and rotate in between them, you will get more done than starting 100s of new templates.


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3. Produce with imperfections and work fast. Do not get stuck in details or 16 bar loops. ADHD minds look for perfection and this holds us back. We need to learn to overcome perfectionist thinking and get used to strive for imperfections.

That is why I always record my ideas fast, the intro, bridge, verse, chorus or whatever. Even if there are wrong notes recorded, i keep them. Because progress is more satisfying than aiming for perfection.



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4. You will be more proud and remember the imperfect songs you finished than remembering that perfect 16 bar loop you worked on for hours. After I have roughly recorded my bridge, intro etc. I roughly copy and paste the sections so it makes a full song.

When I do this, I get the feeling that i have accomplished something and that I look at a fully finished song. Then i make sure to put colors on all the sections in the song so i get a better overview.



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5. When you have roughly recorded and sketched your song, start to fine-tune each section. Remember, you should never edit when you record ideas or sketches. The recording process is separate from editing. A writer who write articles never edit while writing the first draft. The same applies for recording music. That is why i follow this principle.



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6. Do not compare yourself to others, you can only compare yourself to yourself. If it feels good, it probably is good. once you start doubting yourself, you start editing the sections too much until you get frustrated and leave the project to collect dust.

Remember, progress makes perfections, not details. No one will hear the details except for you the producer. If you have managed to translate your feelings in a roughly recorded sketch, you have succeeded.



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7. Make sure to create a start-up template in your DAW that loads with your favorite synths so you easily can get started.
 I use Logic Pro X.


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8. Choose your 3 VST synths that are more basic with fewer features and less fancy menus. Its all about music and not loads of features. More features mean more distractions for the ADHD mind.



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9. Choose your 3 VST synths with a few preset packs and soundsets. Otherwise, you keep downloading sounds and get addicted to just browsing sounds and not making music.
 Make sure your 3 VST synths are not too similar or overlap in features. You can not choose 1 because ADHD minds get bored on sameness. 3 keeps get you enough stimuli. I use Dune 1 (1-page layout and easier than version 2 and 3) and Sculpture & Retro Synth stock plugins in Logic.

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10. Keep a structure of your song ideas and sounds. Create folders like 90% finished, 3 songs to work on, songs to mix, soon finished. More details the better.
 As for your sounds, name them properly and create folders fr LEAD, BASS, etc.

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BONUS TIPS: Try to leave home at specific times or days of the week to make music in a public place like a cafe. Do not bring your internet stick with you. This keeps you focused. Apparently, studies show that you are more creative in a cafe with 70 dB background noise. I always leave home 2-3 hours a few times a week to work on music. The visual and noise stimuli from a cafe give enough stimulants to focus on music.

Work with the limits of your ADHD mind and optimize your production flow according to it. The key is to limit yourself with fewer distractions.

Hope this helps.

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