Ill Gates: 5 Studio Workflow Techniques

When ill.Gates waxes poetic on music production processes, it’s clear that he’s spent uncountable hours in the studio. In today’s video, he shares some of his most valuable tips for anyone taking on the creative process of producing. Learn why “it’s not over until someone kills a puppy” is reasonable music writing advice – watch the full video inside.

ill.Gates’: How To Optimize Your Studio Workflow

In the above video, ill.Gates gives an incredibly detailed overview of five tips that have changed his own creative process in the studio when music making. Here’s a quick summary of the major points he makes:

Divide Studio Sessions Into “Day” and “Night” Sessions

  • Time spent in the studio is incredibly valuable – but if you do everything at once it will be too overwhelming
  • Split your sessions into Writing and Prep sessions
  • Prep/Nighttime: Shorter amount of time, good for sound design, plugins, making sounds and kits, organizing library, practicing finger drumming (essentially anything isn’t writing music). This is more about exploring and experimentation.
  • Writing/Daytime: Treat this like you would a job – wake up early, focus entirely on writing the music for a long period. Get as much writing done as possible in one session!

The Three Production Phases

  • Phase 1: Saying Yes – This is when you’re creating new ideas, jamming. Putting down as many ideas as possible. Add as many things as you want to your project.
  • Phase 2: Saying No – Arrange the above ideas into a track “by subtracting, not by adding”. Delete stuff from the first stage – you can’t incorporate all of your ideas into one song.

“A good song should do one thing really well, not all the things.”

  • Phase 3: Finishing Up – Finalize everything – flatten it down to audio stems. Mix rendered audio instead of live instruments (for the sake of processing power). Correct timing, and tidy things up. Mix again with fancy plugins and make small edits to your stems where needed (reverse things, pitch shift, etc).

Make Your Studio Ergonomic

All of the gear in his studio is velcro’d on monitor mounts/trees
  • ill.Gates likes to stand up for phase 1 – when jamming – not be sitting down. This is common in a lot of creative practices.
  • Buy monitor arms / trees and attach your various gear to. There are a number of low-cost options on Amazon – which tilt and rotate fully. Many pieces of gear won’t have VESA mounts on the back of them, so try using heavy-duty Velcro instead!

Timeboxing + Recipes

The Seconds Pro app in action
  • Make a list of everything that needs to happen to your track
  • Set a timer (simple mechanical kitchen timers like this one work well!)
  • Cross off as many things on the list as possible
  • You might recognize this as a simplified version of the Pomodoro technique
  • You can also use your phone – ill.Gates recommends interval timers – he specifically uses Seconds Pro ($4.99 on the App Store) which allows you to allocate specific amounts of time for different studio tasks.
  • Apps allow you to unit the kitchen timer and the list – to make what ill.Gates calls a recipe (can you tell he loves cooking analogies?)

Find more ill.Gates’ studio advice on – including his Ill Methodology tutorial series. 

Want to own some of ill.Gates’ original finger drumming soundpacks? Check out the packs he released with DJ Techtools here

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Comments (22)
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  • ...

    should of just bought a height adjustable desk

  • CunTROLLERgizmoEanEdmDjsBwahah

    When I see EDM-“DJs” like this guy or that thin Hawtin-Guy then only one phrase comes to mind:
    Cocaine isa helluva drug

  • deejdave

    How does one take this guy seriously? Does nobody remember his rant where he blamed Pioneer for the Apple El Capitan issues with Serato gear as well as blaming Pioneer for Serato releasing the Club kit thus supporting the 900NXS after releasing the SRT!!! Yeah this happened although it has seemingly been removed from the very site ( being promoted here……………

    • Simmo

      Exactly, everyone knew that Apple messed up USB audio devices in El Capitan except this guy….

  • Gregor

    Amen. Great vid. There are similar tips in the Ableton book: 74 Creative Strategies for Producers, which I highly recommend too.

  • DJ Left Lane

    Cant fine the “Recipes” he mentioned… maybe he hasn’t finished them yet.

    Does Anyone have any recipes they have created themselves? It sounds like a great idea

  • Unreallystic

    I’ve been a HUGE fan of the first tip for going on two years now, touting it to other forms of creativity. He goes into more details over at ill.Methodology – but I keep a 5 ring binder with me to write in pretty much everyday, each “subject” represents a different portion, the first subject is more journal-esque, the second portion is more “broad ideas”, the third subject are lyrics, the 4th subject are hand-written melodies/ideas/recipes/etc. Then, while I can’t really do two session days – I end up dedicating one week to the “prep” phase, working on my live setup, learning the nuances of some of my equipment, studying music theory, etc. Next week is live performance work/practice, so its mostly focused on getting better as a live musician, playing the keyboard instead of drawing notes, live looping and automation, etc. The third week ends up being “sit in front of the computer and put it together”, where I take what I did the first week, mixed with ideas generated the second week (both are a combo of prep and practice IMO), and finally work on song(s). I tried to do them all together and it was just a mess, breaking up the various pieces of my “goals” was a huge step in the right direction.

    The monitor arms are a good idea, though where they would really help for someone such as myself, they aren’t strong enough. I’ve just broken my setup into 2 desk next to each other, on the right is my standing & live performance area, with my Aira gear, Push, KP3/Kaossilator, DJ stuff, etc. On the left is my computer, my S49 and MPD. I tried to have everythign in one tight spot, but it just didn’t work, even going vertical.

  • Andrew Welsh

    These are all great. Ill.Gates has taught me so much over the past few years. And for that, thank you so fucking much. I really need to start using a timer. But lets be real, lemme get some of them recipes. At least to see what you’re working with so I can make my own.

  • Preston Hart

    this is gold…thank you. future ideas: how do you transfer work from Maschine to Live (ie workflow)? Also would love to see how you work with the eurorack modular kit.

    • Preston Hart

      PS couldn’t find the recipes at the site you mentioned (which I would love to have). Link?

      • killmedj

        +1 for that!

      • Luca

        +1 for me too!

  • divan

    not really finding studio arms on amazon like the one mentioned here. the one in the link seems more suited for monitors and im not seeing ones that are as long and adjustable as the ones in the video. can anybody post some other links maybe of the $60 ones he uses perhaps?

    • Spacecamp

      Yes – they’re made for monitors – and in the video, Ill.Gates has attached velcro to the VESA mounts.

      • divan

        hmm guess it just seemed like the ones in the video were longer and more swivel-able

        • Spacecamp

          I thought that too – but watch the product videos on Amazon. These seem to reticulate pretty ocmpletley.

      • mizL

        The Monitor(speaker) he’s using I assume is pretty heavy. Can you provide some more specific information on how this is incorporated into the monitor stand. I looked up some similar designs on amazon and wasn’t able to find one that could tilt flat and also support the weight of the speakers. Thanks a lot.

  • deejae snafu

    great video, im off to write new tracks!

  • big_fan!

    I really liked the bit about moveable arms + Velcro ’cause I find every time I get a piece of gear set in place, some change has to be made; this method’ll allow for swapping stuff in and out. thanks for sharing the knowledge as always, ill.Gates! been bumping your tunes for a while. got many people into Harmonica Lewinsky