Creative challenge: Create a track in 60 minutes

Three, two, one, produce! Three members of the dBs Music community share their experiences of creating a complete track in just 60 minutes.

At a time when many aspects of our lives have slowed right down, producing against the clock is a brilliant exercise to improve your creative efficiency. So, a couple of weeks ago, we challenged our community to do just that. Entrants to our creative challenge competition were tasked with creating an entire track in just 60 minutes – and the responses, quite frankly, blew us away. Here are three of our favourites.

Focus by George Healey 

Electronic Music Production student George Healey AKA Fiiné not only treated us to a stellar hip-hop track that combines elements of half-time and drum and bass, but a time-lapse video capturing the entire process. 

George said: “I wanted to create something that was ambient and percussion heavy, so I started with finding a simple granular pad preset, resampled it, loaded it into a sampler with a 1/16 note tremolo and made a simple progression with 2 notes. 

“I decided to use a simple melody, harmony, and bass-line. This ensured that the rhythm shines, as nothing else clashes. The next step was finding samples of traditional percussion. I usually use percussion sounds from Asia to cement my own identity and style, but generally I'm looking for fills, ghost notes, and sounds with unique hand movements that can only be replicated with real physical playing. 

"For the beat I was looking for a percussion loop that would jumpstart my ideas for the rest of the groove. I found something similar to tablas, then replaced some hits with other one shots, warped the speed on a few layers, pitching down toms and membrane percussion to create taiko-like kicks, and anything else. At this point I'm usually chopping samples in Ableton and avoiding following the grid. Experimenting like this with longer samples lets you find sounds that you can use instead of the more usual hip-hop drums. 

"After this process I'll usually layer some traditional hip-hop drum sounds (clap, snare, 808 drums). Ethnic percussion side-chained to a huge distorted electronic kick always sounds great. Once I was happy with 16 bars I duplicated it out and removed some layers of percussion and other instruments for the b section. In a lot of my music I often sample erhu and saw ou (Chinese and Thai fiddle) so I went ahead and did that with this beat.”


Peach Pinup by Joe Valek

Joe Valek is about to start the final year of his BA in Music Production and Sound Engineering at dBs Music Bristol. His 60 track minute submission is an understated rap instrumental that takes him back to his music production roots. 

Joe said: “This challenge is not too dissimilar to how I would normally produce, because when I have an idea I try to get it actualised before I lose it. However, having to compose, arrange and mix all in an hour was a super fun task and really made me see how limiting myself with time allowed me to make decisions more quickly, streamlining my workflow. 

“The inspiration behind the track stemmed from my current ambition of producing tracks for rappers/singers. Lockdown reminded me exactly why I got into music technology in the first place; to make music. I feel I lost that in the last year or two, so I’m trying to refocus my energy into producing, both my own stuff and for other people.” 


Dusk by Zoohead

Ian Mason-Laurence AKA Zoohead was inspired by our creative challenge to create something totally different to his usual productions. His submission is a deep and atmospheric track inspired by the theme tunes of gothic dramas.

Ian said: “I have seen these challenges on various websites in the past and ignored them as it usually takes me at least a month of weekends to finish anything. However, I have had a go and found it a real learning experience and this short piece sounds very different to anything I normally produce.

“Normally I use a combination of drum loops, chopped up and treated alongside programmed percussion. For this, I spent 5 minutes auditioning some downtempo lofi loops and chose just the one before I started. I duplicated the track and used a favourite vst effect to warp it in a couple of places which took just a few minutes at most.

“Whenever I am writing a track and I create a sound I particularly like, I export the whole track to a favourite sounds folder. The Rhodesesque keyboard sound, the fretless bass, the Turkish flute and the guitar all came from this favourites folder preconfigured with fx to save time.

“Normally I can be a bit obsessive about quantizing tracks. On this track I used it very sparingly, which is probably something I should do more!

“The part that actually took the longest was finding and editing the vocal sample that comes in at 1:06. I wasn't happy with it because you can hear some warping but as it fitted so well I decided to leave it. To be honest if I had not found that sample I probably would not have submitted the track.

I would also say that using the NI A49 Daw integration definitely helped to speed up my workflow by reducing the amount of mouse and keyboard clicks required.I intend to experiment with this approach again, just to see what kind of music I end up creating.”


If you would like to get involved with one of our forthcoming creative challenge competitions, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, where we post new briefs every Saturday.

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