Working on tracks across multiple sessions - tips/strategies/advice?

So like many, and at least a few here, one of the things I struggle with is finishing tracks.

For whatever reason I really struggle to come back and work on a track after the initial session. I’m not too sure why this is, but overall it’s a sensation that there’s something totally impenetrable about the session, whether it be in maschine, a daw, patterns on a hardware device etc.

It’s nothing to do with endless tweaking and nothing to do (generally) with disliking what I’ve done when i come back to it… it just feels inaccessible.

I think the only time I haven’t felt this is writing out tabs in guitar pro as I’m coming up with guitar parts. That always seemed easy enough to come back to. I think it’s because of the highly visual information of numbers vs blobs on a piano roll or waveforms.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Have you overcome it? How?

Cant do that neither. When I was only using my daw I used to be in a “one session -> one track ; take it or leave it” workflow… But at that time i could easily spent 4 to 8 hours per session making music without generating problems in the other aspects of my life.

Nowaday I focus more on recyclating. still cant finish a track across multiple sessions but I always find something to salvage off my sessions : a sequence, an effect chain… And I found the 1010 blackbox really useful to gather and organize all my sketches that could be used later to complete a track in shorter session.

But, in the end, what really helped me overcoming this “problem” was learning to use my daw/plugins really quickly and stop wanking around with false problems, like mixing. U’ll still got time to do that later if u want to release ur track, but I found it more difficult to develop the structure of it after the original inspiration is gone.


Same… Lately I realized that 90% of my songs I started with several boxes are lost because I wouldn’t remember what synths I used etc. - leads me to the conclusion that I need to finish my sh*t right away / record it into my DAW.

I keep a notebook where I can write about the session.

For instance, it may have a list of the scenes, or diagrams of the parts, on Octatrack. Also, I’ll write out the key, BPM, and any chord progressions used.

Another tip is to name any samples you create, as you create them. That’s a huge help to knowing what’s going on.

And if it fits with how you work, have a kind of default layout for your devices. EG on Octatrack, track 8 might always be a flex recorder, track 1 drums, track 2 bass, etc.

All this seems a pain when you’re in the moment, but it really helps. And you can come back to a project a year later and still figure it out.


Both of these resonate with me, despite being new to this lark, with primarily one box (model:cycles)

This inhibits me from starting, because I know if I start something on multiple boxes, I will stray into “organising” how to re-visit this track later, or worse, solving the problem of how to try and solve the problem in general like fixing all the presets that can be driven by midi PC (say, on mopho, or k-station), devising a controller to drive that (launchpad X with a bank of Midi PC messages) etc, etc.

'course having everything in one box (say, deluge) would solve that.

I definitely yearn for a better orientation (like a visual representation) when I return to a track. On model cycles, its: Now which track is doing the argeggio ? Then I watch the lights for a few seconds, or perhaps try muting (minimum 5 button presses, max 15).

Again … one of the solutions to that problem is a deluge.

(Yes, I know, I’m selling myself a deluge here)

1 Like

Yes, I do pretty much the same thing. It’s easier if you’re not working dawless because you can keep it on your computer, although a phone/tablet would work. I use an app called Notion. I write down a plan for how I want the track to turn out and a diary of what I did on each day (I’m pretty slow at working so it can drag on…)

Working dawless I tend to have this problem because there’s no clear arrangement to come back to. Mind goes blank if I try to load up a session that consists of nothing but a bunch of loops, like “wtf am I sposed to do with this?”

Don’t have this problem with itb or hybrid as long as I’ve got some sort of basic song structure sorted. Opening the project I can immediately see where I was going so it’s not such a big deal to get back into the swing of things.

If sticking with dawless, maybe sketching out a basic structure on paper might help.

I have to either “find the hook” or get down a whole basic arrangement in the first session. Otherwise, when I come back to the track I often forget what I intended the energy or “spirit” of the track to be.

1 Like

I keep a notebook where I can write about the session.
For instance, it may have a list of the scenes, or diagrams of the parts, on Octatrack. Also, I’ll write out the key, BPM, and any chord progressions used.

Would you mind to share an exemple of how you stay organize on paper ?

I recently picked one of these up and hoping it will have the same effect. Have been sampling lots of stuff which is building up that muscle memory but haven’t quite yet got up to its song mode yet and a few other quirks I’m working out.

This app is how I manage my life. For someone who needs to write stuff down to make sense of stuff and keep on top of things having this synced across three devices is amazing. Love that I can have a whole page dedicated to a list of woodworking projects and basically hide a novel worth of ideas behind a single line in a toggle list. Haven’t yet turned it to song projects though… hmmm

The other day I found a spreadsheet I made about 10 years ago that pretty much templates an album… it looked super useful but no surprise it never got used haha. Documenting and planning for me can be a little bit of a trap.

How do you go when you come back to it? Are you writing new parts? Making transitions? I tend to find I can’t get anything new to match the original session’s vibe.

I’ve been working in a daw the past year and like to have a vault of unfinished songs I come back to every now and then. Not being inspired to work on something is okay. When you have a lot to work on though you can sort of pick and choose what you’re inspired by that moment.

Another weird thing is that time away from a piece opens up new paths and gives you a different perspective. Even day to day sometimes I have a totally new direction for a piece when I hear it early in the morning and just roll with it. Then you can also work on a piece late at night and get different to results, completely.


Unfortunately the answer to that is that it varies. I usually have the vibe of the track down and don’t have a problem getting back into that and doing whatever needs done.

Sometimes, the vibe of the track even ends up changing part way through.

I guess if I basically just have some loops with the basic elements/hook down then yea, I’m writing parts and arranging. If I get a whole arrangement down its about adding the details that will keep things interesting.

1 Like

Johannes Brahms wrote counterpoint exercises like some people do crosswords or Sudoku. Apparently, it was never his intention to save any of those exercises. Brahms threw them away (along with many drafts of other musical works).

Sometimes, reading forum posts, I get the impression that people regard their material as precious. Everything produced is intended for a soon-to-be-finished track.

Maybe we should spend more time at our setups practicing technique. If we have 20 minutes to work, we should focus on a specific problem we can solve in those 20 minutes. No need to save our work.

Improving our technique will allow us to think more musically about what we want from a finished work. And with that clarity, there is less chance of being confused from one session to another. If we know what’s possible from our setup, our artistic process will be more intentional and less based on our aesthetic response to happy accidents.

If our workflow isn’t deliberate to begin with, we are going to be confused when we return to it after a hiatus.


Everything I do ends up in a DAW so this may not be as easy for everyone depending on what you use.
It also depends on what kind of music you make.
I make dance music mostly and sometimes more chill synth stuff. Who am I kidding it’s all synthy stuff.

To the point:

Let’s say first session is just building a bunch of elements that sound nice together in a loop. Drums, Bass, Pads, Leads, etc… Honestly this is what most people do, it makes sense. It’s also when it sounds the best because it’s raw and fresh and you’re feeling it.

If the initial loop takes a couple sessions that’s okay. Just work on the loop until you like the loop, nothing more.

Okay so this is where most people get stuck or stop until the next session and get stuck.

Let me help.

If the loop sounds pretty decent that’s good enough.

Now take your MIDI notes and repeat the loop for like 3 or 4 minutes in your arrangement view. Just lay it out the same thing for 3-4 minutes.

Route each part to its own audio track.
Record the audio of the loop for the whole 3-4 minutes one at a time.

The biggest thing is, don’t worry if it’s perfect, you won’t know what perfect until you start arranging.

If it’s a hardware synth, let it play normal (don’t touch the synth) for a couple of loops then start tweaking the synth live for the remainder of of the 3-4 minutes.

Do this one at a time for each synth on its own track

Record your drum parts as audio tracks too.

Now you have 3-4 minutes of recorded audio to work with for every track.

On your next session just chop up and make an arrangement of this audio.

Keep your MIDI parts in case you want to record some more takes after you get an arrangement worked out.

Now you just fine tune, mix, master, done.

Wham bam thank you ma’am!

You work fast, you don’t dwell. You have fun. You make lots of tracks, you get better. What’s not to like?

Seriously, just try this once. Don’t worry if it’s gonna be great. Just push it out and see what happens.

Make sure to go hog wild tweaking those synths while recording! One take, that’s it.


A lot of baroque music training was running through lots and lots of phrases to fuel improvisation. So you’d get this range of things in your muscle memory and you’d be able to navigate freely in real time when performing.


I just write it down in a notebook. If I use scenes, I make a list of what they do. If I use parts, I draw a little 2x4 grid and write the sample names and maybe F, P, S, T, or M for machine type.

Patterns get a list. Etc.

My notes are a mess for anyone else. I much prefer paper as it’s so flexible. Layout can be anything.

1 Like

I’m not using song mode neither ; it actually plays the role of the missing link between the noodling phase and the daw session.

I restarted music making this year after years away. I’ve gone DAWless for hipster cred/LOLz/change. I’m still looking for “my” workflow. I’ve tried out these processes, through the year:

  • just noodle around making loops and not care. This one’s fun.
  • if I start a loop and it’s groovin’, I have to “make a track” before moving on. This was really challenging but I got four tracks “done” in about 10 weeks (of grabbing an hour here and there)
  • picking a fixed set of gear & routing, and sticking to it for some arbitrary number of sessions/tracks. This works well for me and in particular, I’m planning a fixed series of OT+one synth set-ups for next year. This one actually stops the process being about the gear and more about the sound, music & happy accidents because the need to make choices about technical things has gone
  • arbitrary deadlines. “Two weeks per track”, or “play a live set at friend’s party” (ongoing). The deadlines are very effective

On my Elektrons, it helps to commit to a coherent plan for how to lay out an arrangement. EG:

  • one pattern per track
  • four patterns per track, four tracks per bank
  • one bank per track
  • one track per project… maybe later copying the track to another project for live/e.p. Etc

You can then plan how you’ll use mutes, scenes, performance macros etc. I really like the idea of a consistent scene layout across kits/parts/tracks… but I’ve yet to work out “my” layout… different tracks/kits invite different scenes IMO. (E.g. on the AR, I sometimes use scenes to affect tuning, allowing me to transpose/modulate key/chord. That uses as many scenes as modulations, which is “inefficient” and only useful for some tracks).

Maybe try just doing a real time record of your patterns by mixing/muting/tweaking live into a DAW or stereo recorder before you finish the session for the day, don’t worry if you fuck up either just carry on or restart. This way you will have something next time to either guide you or to edit into a finished work.

1 Like

That’s exactly how I do it with multiple machines. Record a demo take if you want to come back to it later. If you’re lucky, the demo track ends up being the finished track. Otherwise it’s s a good guide.

I often do the whole track on one machine though. I don’t like saving a project on multiple devices that much.
Maschine, OT and the Polyend Tracker have the best song modes I used so far