Versioning

In the daws that I am familiar with, you have an undo/redo function that’s limited to one branch of your project. So if you undo some steps, then record some new changes, you lose the backup of the first version of the track. You won’t be able to redo back to that.

Zach Barth from Zachtronics (video games) was talking about his development process and explained that in the program he uses to code, all branches of the versions of code are automaticaly saved and backed up. Any member of the team can pick up on any of these branches and expand on that code. So any version where there is a switch between undoing or redoing, the branch is split up in two new branches. This way you can code with abandon and make any quick, drastic changes you feel like without worrying if it is the right choice to add or remove something.

If you need to backtrack two months back, because something got stuck and did not work, you can easily do that without having to Frankenstein your way back to that point.

This frees up a lot of mental bandwith if you are someone who overthinks easily or does not like taking risks in creating.

Because of this talk, I got into the habit of saving every version of a track I work on routinely, before undoing or redoing. Naming every version “trackname1.1”, “trackname 1.2” and so on. When a materialy different version of the track comes up, you start that branch out as “trackname 2.1”, “trackname2.2” and so on.

Another reason why this is a good practice, is what Brian Eno talks about. He tells the story that any time he worked on a new track, which has several parts for instance. He would at the end of the day, being tired and worn out from the hard day’s work, make a version of the track with most of the instrument parts cut out and often make it slowed down and extended in length. Then more often than not he would end up liking that version of the track better than the song he actually composed, when he would listen back to them the next day.

Which is similar to some stories told about the invention of dub music in Jamaica. Where the engineers, or producers would make mostly instrumental versions of the song they had worked on all day long. They did this to amuse themselves after all the work of that day.

These are some examples of why versioning while composing or mixing is important to think about for process.

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Also this:

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I don’t think that would work for me. I have too many options and need to commit to decisions. Doing things like printing effects to an audio file means I can leave that alone and move on to the next part.

Always versioning means you avoid ever having to make the tough thumbs up/thumbs down decisions needed to get to a finished project.

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A friend (who works in IT) introduced me to that idea of saving song files separately through the process. It’s a good thing, particularly as projects often suffer from a heavy-handedness after working on them for too long.

An idea I’m fascinated by is how Eno will get musicians to circle-back on a song. Whether it’s getting them to play parts on an instrument they wouldn’t normally play, or getting the drummer to play while listening to a different rhythm.

And I also wonder about the alternate versions that must exist for tracks. Like that reggae version of Heart of Glass by Blondie, which was a demo before they realised it as a disco song.

That last idea seems to pick up on what Cleese was saying.

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I version absolutely everything, I can’t imagine not doing so.

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I use an app called AutoVer that watches folders and automatically makes a backup each time a file changes. I keep it running in my Maschine projects folder as well as the folder where I do destructive edits to my complete mixes.

It’s saved me from the occasional technical problem or clumsy mistake, but I don’t use it as a sort of creative branching tool. I find I work better when I commit, move on and don’t second-guess myself.

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final_master_120719_1b-copy-copyV2-FINAL_AMEND_180719_clientversion_v3 amended from previous render MASTER2 copy BKP.mov

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Yes, I only use it in the composition phase, not in performance or mixing. With that, I mostly stick to the first take, or pretend I’m recording it on overdub tape so I won’t let myself do several takes or keep fiddling with the mixes.

When writing though I like to go wild, then pick the version I like, reduce it down as much as possible, cutting out parts and unnecesary phrill. Maybe slow it down.