Timer Beats help you get the most out of your time in the studio.
The Cypher 13 Timer Beats Only challenge was incredibly fun to participate in. It helped me to get out of my comfort zone as it pertains to video recording myself while producing and overall led to spectacular results all around. I really enjoyed catching up with Trap Jesus to learn more from the curator’s perspective.
Trap, tell us about “Timer Beats” and what was it like curating Cypher 13?
First off I’d like to thank ill.Gates and my fellow Senseis, this was truly a team effort. The concept of timer beats is really a core principle of Producer Dojo so Timer Beats Only was an idea ill.Gates had wanted to do for a while. The rule for this cypher was the first draft must come with a video proving the ninja completed it in under two hours. Then the team of Senseis reviewed each submission – if the first draft wasn’t a compelling song idea, we let them know it was time to try again with a new timer.
What do you think was the most common obstacle shared by most ninjas?
The first big hurdle was getting a track done in less than two hours that would be accepted by the Sensei team. The gold nugget of learning to take away here is that if you learn to speed up your initial beat making session you can get a whole idea out really quickly and decide if this idea is worth putting in the rest of the effort to make it a polished release.
How often do you utilize the “Timer Beat” approach in your day to day music production?
Since September of 2018 when I first spent some time with Dylan at the Dojo in LA I’ve been all about 30 minute timers. I downloaded the Seconds Pro app and set it up with a few timers. My favorite is the Timer routine I made around the Melodic Build recipe from the EDM Cookbook (class of 808 secret producer recipes). I spend 5 minutes each on: Buildup Chords; Buildup Melodies and Bass lines; Buildup Drums and FX; Drop Drums; Drop Bass and FX; Drop Melodies.
How long did it take for you to make the Trap Jesus track, “Time is Nigh?”
So the first draft I did was 30 minutes to get the idea down. That first try was not something I loved, and I also found out that the video I thought I took didn’t record most of that beat. So I laughed at myself while fixing the technical issue, opened a new beat making palette and started again. I turned that second one in and Veinz gave me some great notes on arrangement, noting that the groove of my second drop outshined my first, so make the halftime groove the focus of the song.
The next draft Spiderhound said that a vocal would be great so I brainstormed on timers and trap jesus themes until Time Is Nigh was born. I laid down the vocal takes and chopped and skrew’d them as many ways as I could think of, playing them off the basses and melodies. After that I did a bunch of drafts tweaking little things in the mix, cutting harshness, smoothing transitions, finding balance. I was referencing my track against Joyryde x Skrillex – Agen Wida, and their track is so clear and loud I kept having to find ways to clean up my mix and balance it. Actually I’ve even tweaked it from the version that’s on the cypher, speeding it up a bit from 120 to 124. Hell, if I decide to include this one on my EP it will go through another round of mix critiques!
So the actual answer to this question is, it started really fast and still may not be all the way done, lol. But THAT’s the reason to start beats fast, because EVERY song takes lots of time to really polish. Now I start them in 30 minutes, see if it’s a great idea, THEN decide whether the next 20 hours of toil is worth it or not.
When you video record yourself producing how does that impact your workflow? Do you notice a major difference when the camera isn’t rolling?
Honestly, no. If I hadn’t been doing timers for months before this project it may have been weird, but since I had practice moving fast and ignoring the world I could ignore the recording too. I probably narrated myself out loud more with the camera rolling, but I haven’t gone back to watch that video. Wonder what I said!
Are there any Ninjas on this Cypher that you feel deserve a special shout out and why?
Absolutely. Everybody gets mad props, cuz the cut was tough on this one. One of my favorite cuts on the cypher is “Ribbit,” by Veinz, that one is such a banger, and I love the frog sounds during the builds. The drop that Knard Hocks put together on Neotropolis was so tough yet so melodic, he really impressed me. But the biggest two shout outs I want to give are to the new fathers of the Dojo, Vaedynn and ill.Gates. Being the parent of a newborn is both a big time commitment and a huge life change, both of which could affect a producer’s ability to spend tons of time in the studio. But Vaedynn with his cut “Gurgle’s Creek” and Dylan with the opening song “6 Feet Deep” both showed that when using the Timer Beat system and the other time saving productivity tricks and life hacks that we teach in the Dojo, you can make the time you do have count and still drop bangers!
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Your mindstate, your attitude and your preparation are three things you can control. If you’re not in the mood to write a song don’t worry or force it, prepare. Curate your sound library, make favorites folders, create patches, experiment with sound design, make drum racks. Get things ready so your next session can go smoothly. And don’t take it too seriously if your songs don’t sound like the pros yet, that all comes with time. The only thing you need to take seriously is showing up today and showing up tomorrow.
And of course, remember that Trap Jesus Loves You!