When I first started making music, it was with a group of friends from my neighborhood in Los Angeles. We all grew up together and decided to make music in my friend Irv's garage. His garage became sort of our neighborhood "hub" where everyone would stop by and hang out. The "hub" was also our makeshift studio and we would make music with various artists we came across in our travels. It was a fun environment, we basically hung out and made music at the same time.
Fast forward about 5 years later and I was working as an engineer in a well known studio in Los Angeles. The environment was pretty much the same (except we were in a million dollar studio) we hang out, and make some music. The sessions there would be twelve hour blocks with most sessions stretching into the morning hours. It was fun, but after the fun of it all wore off, those long hang out and make music sessions turned into work - long hours of work.
As I would sit there, sometimes in the middle of a small amped-up studio party, I started thinking about how much work was actually getting done vs. how much hanging out we did. I noticed a pattern too: If the session starts at 12, clients arrive at 2 or 3, or later; then everybody wants to eat, so the food must be sorted out; then drink or weed must be sorted out for the drinkers and smokers - then its time to work. Oh and those damn girls. I've seen hours of session time wasted on getting girls to the studio, hanging out with the girls while they're in the studio, arguing and having issues with girls in or out of the studio and everything in-between. In defense of the ladies, I've also witnessed plenty of creativity and inspiration generated from their presence in the studio. So, hey, more power to the ladies!
After years of observing different artist's work habits, learning my own work habits, and sitting in an empty studio waiting for clients to show up, I put together my "Theory of Studio Productivity" or TSP. Yeah, I had a lot of time on my hands! The TSP is my very, very scientific observation of how much actual work will be done within the designated session time. I figured that for a 12 hour session there would be approximately 6-7 hours of actual work. I also figured that most people had about 3-4 hours of true creativity in them before it fades. I specified true creativity, as opposed to forced creativity. I've seen many artists work for hours past their creative peak only to end up scraping what they did the next day. Very rarely do I see singers that can sing well for more than about 3-4 hours. Producers and writers have a similar fate with about 4-5 hours of inspiration. So, to break the TSP down even further, in a 12 hour session there is 6-7 hours or actual work, then hopefully 3-4 hours of true creativity.
The TSP taught me something. I discovered that having 5 hour sessions are a great way to achieve more productive studio time. With a 5 hour session, people are rarely late as there is little time to waste. Artists plan to eat before or after the session (preferably after) and they are generally more focused simply because there is little room for error. The 5 hour time frame works well with the 3-4 hours of creativity theory, and there is still a some time to goof off. If there is a lot of work to do, having two sessions in the same day and a break in-between works well and keeps everybody fresh.
Essentially, its all part of the process. Creativity and inspiration is a fickle thing. Inspiration is like a sunset, its beautiful for a while but its always moving and will be gone before you know it - then everything's dark. Those hot melodies, beats and lyrics have a small window of time before they ain't hot anymore. They eventually move from hot to warm, then to cold. Working when the inspiration is at its peak is the best way to go. Since discovering the TSP I have shorter, more concentrated sessions that bring fruitful results. And after the work is done, I can hang out till I pass out.