How Do You Save and Organize Ideas?

method1

Active Member
GREAT question.

Here's my dilemma: What about an idea that hits you when you aren't sitting at the studio desk? If you hear ANYTHING that pops a melody or chord change in your head, what medium do you use to retain that? That's the workflow I'm trying to establish. I suppose a voice memo or quickly dictating into a Note on my phone gets it saved, but then I work best if I can sit down one night and go through what I've collected and pick what's most usable and get it in Cubase. THAT part of getting things saved in Cubase is fine, I keep a Sandbox project for snippets and stuff. It's the middle collaboration/collection part. I guess that'd be whatever I stored on the iPhone, I suppose I just answered my own question. Digging out voice memos and notes and remembering what hit me at that moment is the part that doesn't work. I'd love a simple app with a keyboard to play in the idea and save it in cloud of choice (OneDrive for me). Then later I'd like to directly import those idea files right into Cubase or DAW of choice and start running with it. Anyone know of something like that? I develop software but not iOS or Android, otherwise I'd be hammering that out.

ANYWAY, how do you all store ideas when not in the studio? Or do you at all?
Cubasis?
Granted it's more than just a simple app but since you already have cubase the integration is there.
 

Batrawi

Senior Member
I have a project file with a piano in it. All Musical Ideas are in it. The file has multiple backups. So when I start a new track, I open it and pick a random idea that resonates with me at this moment.
That's what I started doing lately. just sketching with a piano putting each idea in one track. I give a quick name (just something to remind me) then maybe create a folder track, to group multiple tracks that fit certain mood/emotion (like: mistery/sad/funny/romantic etc..)
 

bill5

Senior Member
Digging out voice memos and notes and remembering what hit me at that moment is the part that doesn't work.
This is what drives me nuts. I'll have something hit me but no matter how detailed I am in describing or just singing/humming a melody or whatever, or even capturing at my desk in a basic way, when I go back to it, often I don't really recall or quite get "that sound" that popped into my head at the time. I wish there was some way I could record that sound that's in my head. There's really no solution either..
 

PaulieDC

1967 Bizzarini GT 5300 Strada
Cubasis?
Granted it's more than just a simple app but since you already have cubase the integration is there.
Oh for pete's sake. I just bought that on sale last week, but I thought that would be iPad only. It ISN'T, I just popped it on my iPhone! This is exactly what I was asking for, lol! Holy moly, huge thanks! Yep, I'm Captain Obvious at his best...
 

marclawsonmusic

Senior Member
I have a tons of ideas recorded on my iPhone while sitting at the piano. Every now and then I offload them to MP3, store them in an 'Ideas' folder on my computer, and add them to a long running Excel file I keep.

When I want to start something new, I scan Excel or listen through some of the ideas and pick one I want to work on.
 

marclawsonmusic

Senior Member
This is what drives me nuts. I'll have something hit me but no matter how detailed I am in describing or just singing/humming a melody or whatever, or even capturing at my desk in a basic way, when I go back to it, often I don't really recall or quite get "that sound" that popped into my head at the time. I wish there was some way I could record that sound that's in my head. There's really no solution either..
I mostly hear melodies, so I spend a few minutes to figure out the chords, and then record a voice memo with 4-8 bars of melody / chords on the piano. That is normally enough sonic information to jog my memory.

But sometimes I have these voice memos where I am humming or groaning or singing and I'm like, 'what the hell was I thinking?!?!' So I totally get it.
 

Hywel

Never knowingly underscored...
Regarding file/project titles - I have gone through phases...

I started my early projects with Idea 1, 2, 3... Song 1, 2, 3… etc - not terribly memorable.

Then I started using creation dates - again not terribly memorable because I had June 6th, June 23rd, August 4th etc, etc.

Somewhat more useful was my next naming scheme which was to name based on something that had happened recently or a place I'd visited eg Before the Snow Arrives, Highclere, Broken Toe.

All of these titles are "working titles" so when I finish a piece, I change the name from June 23rd to something more interesting for the project. Although finding an appropriate title for a project can be more challenging than writing for the project itself!

Just recently I have been picking titles from glossaries of astronomical, geological and geographical terms as my working titles!

Probably worth restating what I said earlier about Cubase’s Media Bay – I find adding a star rating useful for individual ideas and adding a note in the comment field with for example “nice tune and chords in the A section, strings added but consider brass in B section development” or “nice Signal pulse and groove, but needs work on melody”
 

bill5

Senior Member
All of these titles are "working titles" so when I finish a piece, I change the name from June 23rd to something more interesting for the project. Although finding an appropriate title for a project can be more challenging than writing for the project itself!
Funny, I think I'm better at coming up with song titles than I am for the actual material. I have tons of titles which will probably never be used...but some do, and some are about an idea I had for a song, so I can go back later and it sparks or reminds me and I can go from there.

Meaningful naming matters a lot with things in progress though; mine aren't overly detailed, but enough to give the gist of what it's about, like "prog rock intro," "jazz song idea," "ambient background," etc.
 

Mark_Kouznetsov

Rated "M" for Sax & Violins
I have two main folders with my projects: FINISHED and IN DEVELOPMENT. I also have around 20 or so basic ideas (some are almost done). Once a month or so, I pick 3-4 of them and finish them. If I have a writer's block, I just go in the 2nd folder, pick and again, finish it. All the 4 chords progressions and other small stuff get wiped out once a month when I load all of my small ideas and take a listen. If it's worth it, it'll stay on my hard drive and again, I'll soon come back to it and finish. If it's just alright, it gets wiped out. As you constantly come up with new ideas at the same time as trying to clear your backlog of older ones, just get rid of those little things you won't use, be honest with yourself. If it was really worth it, you would already do something with it.

Oh, and also. Name it. Even temporarily. But not as Song 1, or cool arp. Name it as a track. After something: like, i don't know, Mountain Top. Or Rainy Afternoon. Or something. Then, you either get an idea for development. Or you never will. And you can always change the name later.
 
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bill5

Senior Member
just get rid of those little things you won't use, be honest with yourself. If it was really worth it, you would already do something with it.
That depends on the person and not necessarily so. I have things that were stashed for sometimes years and I went back and did something with it. I have little to lose by keeping something and little to gain by tossing it - but I do agree that it's a question of degree. As you say, be honest with yourself. I have had things that I knew just weren't working and tossed.
 

Mike Bonta

New Member
Usually I come up with ideeas improvising at piano. When I feel that I found something intresting I record it on my galaxy watch then I give a name to the file according to its mood or my imaginary scenario.
Very often when I work on a project I use those ideeas. :)
 

Hywel

Never knowingly underscored...
That depends on the person and not necessarily so. I have things that were stashed for sometimes years and I went back and did something with it. I have little to lose by keeping something and little to gain by tossing it - but I do agree that it's a question of degree. As you say, be honest with yourself. I have had things that I knew just weren't working and tossed.
I agree, I never delete stuff that I work on. Yes, during the writing process I might come up with ideas that never even get recorded BUT once recorded I don't delete. I have often come across something from years back while I've been listening to the mp3s I made that I've decided to work on again or change in some way, or even just to use the chord progression with a different melody, etc, etc.
I recommend making mp3s of anything you have recorded and listening back on it after a period of time,... you may find a hidden gem that you never realised you had at the time.
 

Brocktoon

New Member
I would suggest watching Deadmau5 masterclass. There's a lot of stuff there, but I like listening to his process of making clips every day. I personally assign all my clips in separate folders based on how they sound (happy, sad, etc.) and then I keep a kind of nonsense folder. Its fun to go back to that one from time to time!