Just a quick post today to share a thought I had on track organisation. My students were presenting me with their final productions in class this week, which required them to bring an Ableton session and play back a tune they made to the class. It was quite interesting to see some students starting to develop good habits in terms of naming, colour coding and grouping. I've already posted about this in detail before, and the benefits of organisation, so no need to repeat that here. What was also interesting was how a select few of the students had started to organise their sessions into 2, 4 or 8 bar blocks of audio or MIDI, and arranged their tunes through arranging these consolidated clips. I hadn't really consciously thought about this before, but this is something that I gravitated towards doing in my own productions over the years, I find myself consolidating everything into (generally) four bar blocks.
So why have I and some of my students chosen to work this way? Simplest answer is that it makes it far easier to arrange a tune. If you want to test out some different arrangement patterns for your song, you can do so with ease, by moving or duplicating the blocks you're working with. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, by using colour coded blocks to represent four bar (or equivalent) parts of the song, it becomes very easy to visualise the layout of your track. For instance you know that perhaps every fourth block you should be introducing or removing an element. Furthermore you can visualise quite easily the overall flow of your track. Where there are less block of audio or MIDI stacked on top of each other you can easily see your track is in a breakdown or more minimal section of the track. Where there are more you are clearly building to some sort of climax in the song. Just a last note, that some people might try an imply that organising your track this way avoids adding fine detail. I disagree with this point of view, you can still add complex automation, or chop your blocks of audio or MIDI into smaller fragments where necessary. You don't have to make sure every block is a consistent size just for the sake of it, and actually it can help to visualise change if you have half sized blocks or other sizes on your timeline in certain parts, perhaps to indicate a drum edit or similar.
So ask yourself how you are organising your sessions, are you just placing individual samples on the timeline, or do you have a system of organisation that keeps everything consistent and makes things easier to visualise? Why are you working the way you are? Obviously everyone will work in a slightly different manner, however are you getting the most out of your workflow?