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How To Collaborate Effectively

Welcome back to the blog! This time I'd like to discuss an important topic that really matters to me: how to collaborate effectively with other artists.

Collaboration is an essential skill to develop as an artist since it can let you grow, learn, and most importantly have fun with your mates.

But it's not that easy, and learning how to do it properly it's a trial-and-error process. In this article, I'll try to break down a few principles that helped me so far with my collaborative efforts with other sound designers, producers, composers, and multimedia artists.

  1. Find Someone Who Shares Your Vision

It may seem obvious, but the first thing you have to keep in mind when finding someone for a collaboration is that you admire this person both from artistic and personal points of view.

Collaborating should enrich you with new perspectives and ideas, and spark positivity in your life. Sometimes things work and sometimes don't: try it out and be sure to follow your instinct.

2. Effective Communication

This is vital: effective communication is king to a successful collaboration.

There are multiple ways you can explore with your partner: private Discord servers with conversations divided into separate channels, Todoist or Trello apps, on-topic emails, WhatsApp/Telegram private groups, Zoom chats, Instagram DMs...

find what suits best for both of you and experiment: eventually, you will most likely stick to one or two of these methods.

3. Set Clear Goals & Define Roles

Define a roadmap of what you want to achieve together, and what will be your roles inside the project according to your strength points: focus on what you do at best! You'll surely learn something from each other during the process, but start by discussing what value you will bring to the table.

Try to define deadlines: most commonly, they will be adjusted according to your needs, but having a temporal framework to work within is certainly beneficial.

Also, don't forget about the financial aspects and intellectual property rights: it's best to talk about this early on.

4. Organized Workflow

Being organized is essential for your mutual work: define clear steps by breaking down the full project into smaller parts: this way, it will be easier to reach the end without getting lost. If you are two musicians using different DAWs, you can try modern collaborative tools for file sharing or the old-school-still-relevant Dropbox.

Talking of my ongoing collaboration with sound designer Spektralisk, we like to break down our sound pack projects into four parts:

  • V1 will be the initial drafts of the raw sound ideas;

  • V2 will be the revised V1 by the other partner (in this way each one gives his contribution to every patch)

  • V3 will be about assigning expressivity controls like mod-wheel or MPE to various parameters;

  • V4 will be the refining stage, where we test the patches and adjust smaller details.

Following a tidy workflow like this gives you both a direction by knowing exactly the development phase of your project.

5. Keeping The Focus

In order to avoid losing track of the end goal, write it down into easy-to-follow rules and principles so that both of you can compare at any stage of the process for ease of referencing. You can pin some messages inside your social media channels, make a PDF, or even make an artwork that you can use as your desktop wallpaper to stay in that creative mood. Mockups, sketches, and images are all useful at this stage.

6. Be Humble & Flexible

Don't be harsh on giving feedback to your partner and at the same time be open to suggestions and things to fix: in the end, it's about finding a middle-point that makes you both happy. If you find this hard to achieve, revise point 1: find someone who shares your vision. This doesn't mean agreeing to everything, but sharing some similarities certainly helps. The peculiarities of both of you, if well combined, will result in something truly special, that's not the simple sum of your contributions: it will be something that seems to be born from a third person, who is a mix of both of you.

What I loved about my Oblivium collaboration pack with Spektralisk, is that I can hear our signature sounds combined: I weave more towards distorted, heavy sounds that still are quite consonant, being them twisted basses or energetic lead lines. He tends to go after those cool action, gritty cinematic sounds with plenty of motion or complex soundscapes that are more into atonal territory.

7. Revisions

Following the previous point, it's all about constructive criticism and an iterative process: if a client is involved, be sure to achieve the requests by revising any process in the chain. The end result and the overall satisfaction are what matters the most. This is why consistent file naming and version control checks as we talked about in point 4 are so important.

8. Creative Recycling & Templates

With experience, you'll eventually discover you both like a specific workflow and this will lead to creating a template you can re-use in the next project to be more effective and proficient. This is not cheating, it's smart work: achieving the best possible result most effectively. So, feel free to save custom effects chains, your own samples, or wavetables, and use them as starting points or raw materials the next time: this will also help you develop your signature sound as we talked about in a previous blog post.

9. Celebrate Your Milestones

Before diving into the next project, take time to sit back, relax, and discuss what worked and what didn't work: this will help you get better results next time!

Keep improving together :)

I hope this brief blog post helped deliver some guidelines about effective collaboration and inspired you to find a new collaborator.

Remember: art is based on people's ideas, so don't be scared to exchange them!

Feel free to comment down your favorite collaboration method and share this post with your friends.

Until next time,

Have fun making music (together)!

HydraTek Sound Designer

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