How Do We Make Music?

January 31, 2021
2 mins

My best friend and I have been talking for a while about the tools we use to make music. There are two problems we keep running into. The first is that there isn’t a good way to sketch out musical ideas, there’s no equivalent of a sketchbook. The second thing is that music software is not collaborative. Let’s start with the former.

The closest thing right now to a sketchbook for music is the voice memo app. But what happens when you want to do something a little more complete than a single vocal pass? There are a few tools, but most of them are attempting to be a DAW in your pocket. That’d be cool except the phone isn’t a great space for that. It can do it, but it because clunky or bloated and makes jotting down a bunch of ideas near impossible.

So what’s up with the collaboration side? Even when you have a bunch of people in the same room, you all end up crowded around one computer, and are stuck to trying out one idea per file. It doesn’t capture the essence of how bands write music.

The goal is that everyone is just kind of doing their thing and trying stuff out, and as people figure things out they start joining the pieces together. The second issue that the pandemic revealed is that it’s particularly hard to do remote sessions. The best you can do is send versions of a song back and forth (and pray that they have all the same plugins installed). Pro Tools and some other DAWs have some cloud tools, but they’re still stuck to this old recording studio model of one linear session. That’s great once you have a song written and just need to record, but it’s not fluid enough for musicians to work out ideas.

That’s the problem space. Tools that are too heavy-duty, too linear, and not collaborative. 

What if there was another way?

That’s the question that I’m going to be working on for the next little while in my free time. How might a music software work if its goal is not to record a final piece of music, but to help musicians collaborate and generate ideas together?

Here’s a little sketch of a preliminary design, just the seed of an idea. I’m going to back track and do some research on the current tools and see what can be learned from them. Sprinkled in I’ll be prototyping small pieces of the software to see what paradigms work, and what don’t. Stay tuned here for updates on all of this.

Top down photo of a sketchpad and pen with rough outlines of a collaborative music making interface
Sketch of some initial ideas

Ready, set, go!

Get in touch

Thanks for reading. If you found this useful, interesting, or you’d like to make a correction, shoot me an email with whatever you've got on your mind.