Alla Prima compositions

I’m somebody who has a habit of getting lost in details that can drag out the song writing process indefinitely. So sometimes, I like to sit down with the specific aim of starting and finishing a song in one sitting, at first attempt, no matter what it ends up being.

How do people feel about having a topic dedicated to sharing pieces we’ve finished in a single sitting? At the least, it’s a good exercise for shaking up your usual process (unless that’s how you always work) and using your creative problem solving skills in a new way.

I suppose there will need to be an agreement on what should be considered a finished piece, and what should count as a single sitting. My own two cents are that the former is so subjective that it should just be whatever feels like a finished piece to the creator, and a single sitting would mean starting from scratch with a new project, initialized patch, unpatched rack, or whatever your blank slate may be and working through to the end without leaving for more than a bathroom or food break–definitely taking no more than a single day.


That is how I always work, if I can :slight_smile: Sometimes I run out of time and have to continue after a meal, an errand, or the next day, but it makes me a bit nervous to have to leave it hanging.

I also prefer to record in a single take (unless it’s bad or I have an idea in the middle of recording). I always record to a single stereo file, and then unpatch my synths and effects before getting into editing it (for EQ, dynamics, fixing clicks and pops, cleaning up the intro and ending etc.)

Sometimes I’ll go back for more editing, if I am bothered by some prominent peak frequencies or think the end needs a longer decay or something, but I consider that a separate task.


I think about this a lot. thank you for creating this thread. I think I’m mentally blocked as I start (a patch in this case) through discovery and learning. Once I find something I like, I haven’t practiced the exercise of thinking about the piece beyond what is directly in front of me. Any advice would be appreciated.

I had the good fortune to spend two weeks at a residency in Vermont in August, and this was exactly how I worked. I brought my eurorack system, some small korg synths, and effects pedals, and started each day with a completely blank slate. I then patched and composed and fiddled around for about 8 hours each day, stopping twice for lunch and dinner, culminating in a final piece that I then recorded into a small digital recorder, with no overdubs (minus one piece that I “soloed” on top of with a kaossilator). I then pulled out all the patches to start over the next day. I came out of it with 11 pieces:

I’m really happy with what I made during my time there, especially considering I had minimal experience with modular synthesis before that trip. I’m sure in a few years I’ll be able to spot the amateur qualities, but it’s hard for me to judge it too harshly right now.

It was an ideal setting to work uninterrupted, to say the least. Meals were prepared for me, and the only thing on my agenda was to make a song a day. I didn’t have to answer texts, or work emails, or feed my cats, or do any of the endless little “disturbances” that usually interrupt a flow. Hours would disappear while working, and it really illuminated how different it is to work at home versus in a residency setting.

I’m able to complete tracks at home, and am most successful at this when I have at least (and ever so rarely) 6 hours of solid, uninterrupted time. But my time at the residency was beyond productive. I realize now why artists of all kinds are always going after residencies.

It was also a practice in letting things be how they’re going to be. Without the opportunity to endlessly tweak and repatch and mess around, I had to just trust and commit to what I made. Some days were incredibly frustrating, other days flowed easily, but either way, at the end of the day, I had a finished track. Even if I wasn’t 100% sure about a piece, I knew there was always next time, and it was refreshing to not feel the need to be precious about it. It filled a big reservoir of trust in myself to constantly practice that trust and commitment.

@adrianf I’ll share the very rudimentary compositional technique that I used during my residency to go from “This is a cool patch” to “This is a composition”. This is probably embarrassingly simple, but I’m a simple guy, so… Basically, I’d get to a place where I had stacked a few patches: something giving rhythm, something giving harmony, something giving melody, and then a wildcard (maybe another melody, or an ethereal harmony or sample). I’d then just start fading stuff in and out, listening to each patch on it’s own, trying different combinations, until I found 3-4 combinations that I liked. Sometimes I’d scratch patches entirely because I realized they didn’t add anything to the mix. Then I’d just practice fading parts in and out, starting and stopping rhythms, etc, etc, until I had a composition I liked. Then I’d hit record, and give it a shot. A benefit of spending hours building the patches was that I was familiar enough with them that then playing them to build a composition didn’t take much practice. Most of what I recorded was done on the first take, after practicing just once or twice.

And, I hope any of that made sense!


it usually takes me hundreds of fragments of time to get something to a finished state.
These days i’m trying to make room for such a “small project” of tracks where, say, the last stage of assembling would be rather fast and without regrets, as to allow get things done without the pressure of their unfinished state looming on me for weeks.

12 years ago i did a truly “one-sitting” (something like 20h00 to 05h00 in the morning) album, from the impulse to do it to the 5 copies CD-R edition. It was an emergency therapeutic and somehow worked. But it was also daunting to have been able to put out such a quantity of energy at once and did not help with subsequent blocks. A bit later I tried to channel similar flow through FAWM but only got 2 tracks out and was drained. I think my problem is that if i work fast i have no idea of what i am doing (lack of reflexivity) and can’t develop further related material to turn a nice spark into a complete album.
So… i guess it’s time to try again n_n

my old way of working almost always was a single sitting affair. these days i pour over round after round with weeks in between and often 30 files/tracks/pieces current plate in any scene of my compositional undertakings.

i love the idea of intent and i wish i still worked in my old way so i could contribute. maybe it will resurface from time to time.

fare thee well single sitters!

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I think this is a good example of what happens when I record in one take. I had been messing around with playing Mangrove via MIDI keyboard and exploring W/ as a looper (with some Clouds bits) and hit upon something that I liked, so I decided to give it another shot, but this time, recording.

Since I come from a piano background, it’s a lot easier for me to have a feeling for what is going on in a piece when I’m physically playing notes, so a lot of my single-take recordings are just me riffing on some idea that I had and felt like I could improvise into something cool.

I’m currently (very very slowly) working on taking what I’ve learned from recording single-take or single-sitting pieces and trying to stretch it out over multiple sessions, often by dedicating each session to working on a part of the track I feel like I know what to do for.


I came into the single-session workflow as a habit more or less by accident/necessity.

I used to be in sort of a bipolar cycle with music making. I had no trouble finishing FAWM, NaSoAlMo, Double NaSoAlMo, etc. but I’d burn out, and then just not make any music at all for several months.

To break out of that, I decided I’d finish one song per week for a year. That started very chore-like, and I’d wait until Sunday afternoon before getting started, pretty much forcing myself to finish in one session if I was going to meet my self-imposed deadline. It got easier and more fun as it went along though.

I also started getting back into hardware that year. A couple of indie desktop synths I tried were unstable and temperamental, and I found my chances of something going wrong were a lot less if I could finish in one session. Likewise, modular sometimes seems to get into a fragile balance where if you don’t commit it to a recording, you will never hear it again :slight_smile:

I guess I already had a bit of an anti-perfectionist attitude, but it grew as I transitioned into hardware and especially modular. And I kept my “render everything to one stereo output file” habits from my ITB days. I don’t usually sample/record snippets to assemble later; I set it all up, start recording the master stereo bus “live” in my DAW, and start playing.

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This is the only single session song I’ve wound up putting on an album so far, and I love the way it turned out. It started as a patch I was playing with in VCV rack, which I then recorded into a sampler and slowed way down, and layered it with the arp, distant pad sound, and clicky sounds from a Mopho x4. Altogether I spent less than 2 hours on it, but it turned out to be my favorite track on the album and a perfect outro.