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Itona shares 7 tips to be more creative in the studio

UK electronic act Itona releases his first new music of 2021 with ‘You Are So’: an effervescent downtempo cut that calls to mind the shimmering atmospherics of acts like Fatima Yamaha, Bonobo, and Flume.

Itona is the newly launched alias from James Vine, aka ENiGMA Dubz – a creative departure from his signature bass-heavy sound. He released two EP’s last year on his own Morii Records imprint. ‘You Are So’ is his first new music of 2021, and marks the start of a run of singles leading up to the release of ‘You in May’, completing the trilogy of EP’s with his strongest material to date. ‘You Are So’ will be followed by a further single ‘Hold Me’ to be out on April 16th.

Today Itona shares 7 tips to be more creative in the studio.

1. Make music you love

I’ve seen producers talk about how they don’t really enjoy playing their music out live or like listening to their own music. For me, it’s really important that I vibe with the music I’m making. I don’t think I’d be able to create something my heart isn’t in. I love my music and often find myself listening to projects I’m working on in the car etc. If you’re not feeling the music you’re creating, how can you expect others to? That goes with when it enters the public domain too. You have to feel passionate about what you’re putting out – people feed off that.

2. Be open-minded

I know this may sound a bit cliché, but I really find my creativity is at its best when I surround myself with various genres and project styles. I went through a period of work around 2011/2012 where I made nothing but house music and in between work I was always listening to house. When I look back, this was the time I found creating music the biggest struggle and I put it down to being stuck in one frame of mind. It’s rare I hit a rut in my creative flow now and haven’t done for a few years now, mainly due to making so many different styles on a regular basis. Starting my new Itona alias, alongside ENiGMA Dubz, has only made this better too as I’m discovering new music all the time through different artists and genres on this vibe – which only encourages and inspires me more.

3. Don’t break the bank

One thing that seems to surprise producers who question me is the amount of standard Logic Pro plugins that I still use religiously to this day. Granted, there are some incredible plugins available to buy on the market, and this is something that’s constantly evolving, however, I am a firm believer in utilizing what you have without having to splash out on the latest and greatest gear. I use the standard logic Channel EQ more than the fab filter Pro Q for example. I am so comfortable and used to the way the logic EQ behaves that I tend to use it a lot for analyzing as well as shaping sounds. Another go-to in logic is the ‘Platinum Reverb’. It’s the reverb I use 90% of the time and when used in the right way and with the correct pre and post-processing around this reverb, I’m never looking for anything more.

4. Referencing

After over 15 years producing music across a wide array of genres, I have learned how valuable referencing music is, both before and after creating projects. Some weeks I find myself making 3 or 4 tracks across 2 or 3 genres, so for me it’s essential I get my head in gear before the next project. I have a few Spotify playlists covering various styles which help me freshen up and get my mind into a new way of working. It’s also so important for me to reference new tracks I’ve made not only on various systems, but also against other tracks in the similar fields, as it’s one of the curses of creating music that after some time you inevitably grow fond of a track and forget how it might sound against others.

5. Headspace

When I’m not creating and producing music it’s really important that I allow my mind to wander and free up my creative energy. There have been times in the past where I find myself literally trapped in the creative head space and as much as it’s useful when immersed in a project, in between it can also be a real issue and can eventually lead to burnout and writer’s block etc. One thing I do throughout the day and week is take short breaks and jump into podcasts or sometimes ASMR tracks that take me out of the zone and allow me to come back with a fresh pair of ears and a clear mind. Obviously I don’t want to do this when I’m mid flow in a track and if things are coming together well, but when I’m done with an idea, or just simply needing to re arrange things, I find a short break for a coffee and something new for my ears and mind is the perfect time to clear my head.

6. Switch up the creative structure

Often, I start projects by laying down percussion layers and samples as I find it gives me a base to throw musical ideas on top of. However, sometimes I do the opposite and start by laying down a chord sequence or a melody, or even a vocal sample that I cut up and form a melody from. It’s important to change the workflow, especially when you start to feel a lack of inspiration. Often I may have formed the groundwork with percussion that doesn’t suit a melody that comes along after, and it may be a great melody that then gets disregarded, rather than re-shaping the percussion around it.

7. Being organized

Over the years I’ve gained the tagline from my wife ‘Clinical Clive’. I’m not exactly proud of it but when it comes to organising projects and organising my arrangements in logic, I’m very keen on keeping things in order. There’s nothing worse than having somebody who needs a stem form a project if you haven’t got your work properly named and dated etc. Also, within logic I tend to organise projects with the various types of sounds grouped in relevant areas. E.g, all percussion layers at the top, followed by instrumentation/synths, then vocals, then fx etc. This way I know where to go if something needs adjusting and I don’t waste any time or energy trying to work out where something is. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose that spark in the creative process when you have to deviate and stop the train to make adjustments.

Itona’s ‘You Are So’ is now available via Morii Records. Stream and buy here.

Follow Itona links: Facebook | Instagram | Soundcloud | Spotify

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