In the comments section of the last article, someone asked: “How do you spend the 45 days? How much of it is by-the-books feature evaluation and how much is actual real-life music making scenarios?”

So let me walk you through how I go about one of these “30 days with…” reviews.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I read every comment and respond to most. No registration is necessary to comment, so don’t be shy.

Contents

Time Tracking

I use a combination of Time Sink and Org Mode to track how much time things take me.

I know precisely how often I’ve used the software per day, per week, per month etc… I know how much time I spend working on the article, as I clock in/out when I do this.

I know how much time I spend working in my image editor, video editor, using any given plugin, chatting in irc/discord, fooling around browsing the web etc…

If I tell you how much time something took me, it’s because I keep detailed track of exactly what I was doing. If an article took 20 hours to write then I’m certain that was time writing and time spent with media. I don’t count use time.

EXTRA - I strong recommend anyone do this. It helps me keep track of my productivity. When I’m feeling down I can take a look and have an objective view of what I could spend less or more time on. Maybe I was even productive

Acquisition

1-10 hours.

The very first thing I do is acquire the software.

“But Mr. Bee, you own A LOT of audio software!?” Sadly, yes. I do.

I take journalistic ethics very seriously. With DAWs I always utilize a license procured for the express purpose of reviewing the software. This ensures that the company is aware of my intentions and generally gives me access to advanced support that can be necessary when I want to clarify a technical question.

There’s been 3 exceptions: Logic, Digital Performer and Cubase.

  • Logic - I purchased a copy of Logic directly from the App store using a secondary account, since acquiring a review copy from Apple is nearly impossible. If you read the articles you will see that I didn’t do a normal “review”.
  • Cubase - I’m a beta tester for Steinberg and have access to excellent resources if/when necessary.
  • Digital Performer - I’m also a beta tester for Motu and have access to excellent resources.

I NEVER use licenses acquired for review for personal use. If I enjoy the software and do not own it, I purchase it. No exceptions. If my evaluation is positive, you can be certain that I purchased the product like a normal customer during or after the review.

Beta Testing

I’ve had people in the past ask me about beta testing for multiple companies. How is it not a conflict of interest?

It’s pretty simple: I test the software, and I don’t speak about other software’s alpha or beta features/issues to other testing teams.

Testing is testing too. Beta testers are usually presented with new features that were decided by the company’s employees. There is feedback given before and after, but the implementation is always at the decision of the people working on the software.

Notes

5-40 hours per post.

The very first thing I do is open the DAW and just start fooling around. I do whatever strikes me. It could range from fiddling with a single synth from 6:00 till 0:00 or building up an entire song over the course of a week.

While I do this I’m constantly thinking about how I’m doing things rather than what I’m doing. I’ll turn on a 30 minute timer and every single glitch gets written down. At the end of the 30 minutes I take a moment to reflect on what I was doing and note tasks that seemed particularly smooth.

I sometimes repeat this for months. I’ve been using Ableton Live like this for months ahead of time utilizing my personal license.

Often I’ll screenrecord myself and watch it back at 10x. I’ll take notes while I watch myself work. The recording/watch process is potentially the most valuable thing I do. It highlights bumps in the process clearly. Sometimes I’ll think “Hey, I remember doing X.. where was that”, only to find out that it zipped by in an instant when watching at 10x speed. That gets noted down as a good thing.

I used to write my notes on paper, but I’ve been utilizing org mode for a while now (again). It allows me to integrate my note taking with other features like code evaluation, spreadsheets and html export.

Lately I’ve been transferring notes directly into the article so I have a pseudo-outline when I start.

Manual

10-40 hours per series.

I read the manual with notes in hand. Then I read the manual straight through. Then I read the manual while using the software, careful to try to act upon everything in the manual. I double check the manual while writing, dozens (sometimes hundreds) of times per article.

Then I post the article and I go through the manual again.

I read the manual, from cover to index in full at least 10 times, usually more while writing an article.

Forums

20+ hours per series.

One of my main sources for information is checking official and popular forums for the software. I start every series by going to the forums and reading the top posts from the recent month, year and then all time.

Trends go into my notes. Complaints go into my notes. Helpful answers go into my notes. Thread titles go into my notes.

I rely heavily on the community to see what they love and what they hate, and I dig into those things extra to find out more. I’ve found plenty of ‘big complaints’ that were a non-issue, and ‘loved features’ that were based purely on ignorance of how awesome it could actually be.

Use

Minimum of 10 hours per article.

Absolute minimum of 100 hours per series - I usually log ~200 hours of real use per series.

I use the software. I write a couple songs. I take some old projects and re-edit and re-mix them.

I follow tutorials.

I write more music. Some to video, some with only synthesizers, some only with samples, some with only recorded instruments and sometimes a mix.

I write notes about the process. I go through the manual and try everything, and write notes about it.

Outline

2-8 hours.

When I’m ready to work on the article I start with an outline of the ideas that I want to present. I then write sub-outlines (not sub-headers, but individual outlines for each section).

When I release an article, I’m usually starting on the outline for the next article that day. I will work on the outline for a week or more, and it slowly becomes more and more detailed.

During the outline phase I sometimes will record my screen while I’m working, then watch it back on 10x speed. This helps give me some reflective introspection for the outlining process. Outlining is just note organizing, so I will often repeat procedures I use when taking notes.

Manual Again

1-2 hours.

Then I go back to the manual and reference my outline. Every topic in the outline I reference to the manual.

For detailed topics I’ll watch tutorials and reference the manual.

Details

30-90 minutes

Next I’ll take my outline and translate it into english sentences. Generally this process is simple and often just means reformatting the outline, since the outline often becomes very detailed itself.

Images

1 day - I usually set aside a full day to work on images.

The next step is to go through the article and add images. I will often screen record myself (yet again) and take stills or short animated movies from that process.

Conclusion

A single article usually takes me on average 20 hours of writing, ~5 hours of media time. If I do a video then that adds another 8-10 hours. That’s pure time working, not including when I switch windows to chat or send an e-mail or check hacker news etc…

I then build, commit, push and post to patreon.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into the effort I put into these articles.

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If you have any questions or comments, please comment below! I read every comment and respond to most. No registration is necessary to comment, so don’t be shy.