Producing music while working full time job?

  • Not really KPA related so my appologies for a completely off-topic subject but I had no idea where to post this.


    TLDR: How do you balance music production while working a full time job?


    So this is kind of a broad quiestion(s) so I’ll try to break it down and be more specific.
    Basically I would like to hear from people who work a full time job and produce music in their spare time. By "production" I mean: you write, practice and mix your own material in your home (or pro) studio.


    So my questions are:

    • How do you find balance between work, music production, family/spouse, sports?
    • When do you usually write more music - during the week vs during the weekend?
    • How long does it usually take you to transform an initial idea to a finished track in your DAW?

    I would really like some tips/advice as I’ve been struggling with this for years.


    To help you better understand my daily situation: I work a full time job that mostly involves sitting in front of a computer. While I love what I do, I often find myself lacking energy and proper "drive" for producing music at home during the week, because it involves even more sitting and my back starts aching After work I feel like moving about/working out, doing something other than sitting. So, what I often do instead, is go for a walk/run BUT when I’m done with recreation I often feel too tired to get anything serious done musically. At that point in the day, it’s often a bit of a struggle to get myself to even pick up the guitar. In terms of energy: I start my day off at 100%, but by the time I can dedicate an hour or two for music/guitar I’m at about 30%. LOL, reading this must sound like such a first world problem :D Don’t get me wrong, I feel very lucky to even be able to create music, but thinking how much more I could be making if, I had more time/energy, is sometimes depressing ||


    Anyhow, any advice how to cut corners and better manage my time?


    Would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, thanks.

  • I think you've just described (nearly) everybody's problem and struggles. ;)
    IMO you're half way there. It's great that you dedicate a good chunk of time to some physical exercise to keep things balanced.
    All you have to do now is to additionally dedicate some time (not very long, best is daily, start with 30 minutes and go from there) to making some music, be it exercises on guitar, trying chord progressions, record something in your DAW, etc.
    Being persistent in this will keep you productive in the end.
    Developing a goal on weekends what you intend to achieve next week helps greatly, too.


    But the most productive time for me with music is when I meet with my pals to create, rehearse, record, or simply play music. This is always quality time spent.

  • Thanks for the response Ingolf :)


    Absolutely agree on starting small and building on that. My rule so far has been: try to write/record for 15-20 minutes and if it feels good - continue for as long as I can. If it's just not happening - call it a day and try again tommorow...I'll try extending this to 30 mins.


    Was on the fence about posting this since as you say it's something obvious everybody deals with, I guess I was hoping for a magic bullet to hack time or a link to some awesome nootropic that restores energy 8o:D


    "Being persistent in this will keep you productive in the end." This, so much this. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but for me It's all too easy to lose interest when I'm not inspired.

  • It's like Calvin Coolidge said (my equal-favourite saying, BTW):


    "Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence. Talent will not - nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not - unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not - the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and dedication alone are omnipotent."

  • A couple of ideas spring to mind.


    Firstly, you mentioned back ache etc from sitting at a computer all day. I can relate to that! Then I sit at home with a guitar for anything up to 6 hours per night (I have a very understanding wife who likes a lot of crap TV programs that I don't so we both get our own space after family time at dinner). I have always struggled with back and neck problems from sitting with poor posture for extended periods. I recently discovered the HAG Caprisco chair which has really helped my ability to sit for long periods. It accommodates multiple seating positions including an almost standing one which lets me play guitar while supported but using a strap with my legs out of the way so that I don't need to twist my back. A saddle stood would do something very similar for a lot less money though. Anyway, simply not feeling sore makes a huge difference to the ability to be creative.


    Next, sitting with a guitar and playing is usually the time when I am least creative. I may find a quick riff or melody at the guitar but when it comes to developing it into a full tune I usually find that I get stuck in the same ruts if I have a guitar in my hand.


    I try and do the creative stuff in my head. I'm not always very successful I'm afraid but I'm getting a little better at it with practice. This means that you can come up with the ideas when you are at work, at the gym, running (in my case often walking the dogs). If you can visualise where the notes are on the fretboard you can then play them when you get a chance to have a guitar in your hands. I'm not good enough to get the visualisation right all the time but I am starting to find that I can get pretty close and just tweak it when I sit down with a guitar. The biggest problem is just remembering the idea until you get a chance to record it. Thankfully recorders on phones and apps for music are so good now that it is practical to capture the idea instantly and work it out by visualisation later if necessary.

  • Hi, sounds really familiar to me , I think I somewhat managed to do what you're looking for and I'll give you my best advice to achieve your goals, but it's only my personal opinion & experience, you'll have to find what works best for you and build up your work-flow.




    • How do you find balance between work, music production, family/spouse, sports?


    I work full time and leave the house from 8am to 6 pm each day, but I keep at least 6 hours during the week & week end for music ( play , record , mix). I'm pretty organized and try not to loose any time, I gave up with aimless noodling and always get my DAW ready when KPA is on.


    I have 2 teenagers at home and keeps lots of time for them , I plan to teach them instruments, and later DAWs.


    I also keep 2/3 hours a week for sport ( with daily 10 min routine abs, and back ex.) , this is mandatory for me as I don't want to age to fast ( I'm 47). Yoga's been fantastic for me to balance my IT pro work life, it also helps a lot to fight carpian canal & tendinitis, as well as sitting posture. It also helps your brain ,creativity and motivation.


    Music has become a great part in my life, as it balances the left brain part that I use at work and is often overthinking. I learnt to laid back and let my creativity wash the dark corners of my life. It's so much important for me, that I barely can feel right without playing my instruments at least every 3 day.


    So that's it , yoga and guitars saved my life ;)



    • When do you usually write more music - during the week vs during the weekend?


    Most is written during the week, I often wait for something really frustrating happening in my life, I get much more interesting & energy ideas this way, as letting the pressure and stress go into energetic music is the best cure ever !



    Sunday late morning or afternoon is my favorite time, but most often I come across cooler stuff, like smooth jazz ;) . nothing better than a boring day at work, followed by a late train/car problem, angry yelling daughter etc to come across a good stoner track.





    • How long does it usually take you to transform an initial idea to a finished track in your DAW?


    Complex tracks like this one took me like 6 hours to get fully played, invented from scratch , recorded, post produced with real drums & mixed but most often 2 hours gets me done for simpler stuff like this one (written at night once I couldn't get sleep).


    Most often I don't know where I'm going, except some starting riffs , I let creativity lead me around, and arrange all this mess later. Most sessions are 1 hour of jamming, rushes , sorting , arranging ideas , editing, then panning, EQing and then remix the whole (1 hour including rendering , slight mastering & uploading). I usually got for 1 to 3 iterations of these pre-mix sequences and I'm done in two hours on 30 min to 2 hours full sessions. It's important to dissociate recording vs mixing to get a fresh ear.


    I really feel it's like painting sometimes, rough ideas ( draw and sketch ) , editing ( painting) , adding some touches here and then ( painting next day , small touches) , and then doing the finishes ( varnish ...).



    The most important is to get used to a very simple DAW like garage band, this way you'll focus on playing , recording instead of clicking, getting to submenus, VSTs and so on. loop recording and automation (like post EQ) are your best friends. You really don't want to loose a sudden inspiration because of a complex DAW that will ruin it with boring starting procedures ( setup your templates for once, like a 4 track guitar and bass setup).



    Use your smart phone recorder to record some ideas by singing, or just humming to it, and store it for an un-inspired day, it's a great way to start a new track.This one was done this way once I was watching a cool concert on Arte TV, I got hooked on a bassline, sang it to my phone , the rest came naturally , as I'm really used to improvising. One important note : I ALWAYS start from a drum pattern, the drumming is my leader/pope/godfather , basses and vocals ( i do very few) always come last.



    And yes the KPA is by far the most important peace of gear there, as it gets your ideas and tone & music in your brain almost instantly translated to the DAW. Frankly, I kept dreaming of such cool tools while I was a teenager and it eventually happened with KPA and DAWs, now is the best time and easiest time ever to write ( I wrote like a hundred once I got my KPA , zero before !) .



    • I'm now in the process of illustrating the way I find my ideas and record my tracks with a specific song, I hope I find a good way to explain my process. I saved 3 different stages of my work on this track and I'm still working on it, I'll let you know about this later.
  • I think I somewhat managed to do what you're looking for and I'll give you my best advice to achieve your goals, but it's only my personal opinion & experience,

    Renaud - it may only be your personal opinion but judging from the tracks of yours that I have heard i certainly works.



    yoga and guitars saved my life

    Got to be a song title or even album title there !

  • It's like Calvin Coolidge said (my equal-favourite saying, BTW):


    "Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence. Talent will not - nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not - unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not - the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and dedication alone are omnipotent."

    I feel like this should be on my desktop wallpaper to not forget. Love it.



    Holy crap, that chair looks amazing, almost like a work of art. The price tag is insane tho. Thanks for the tips Wheresthdug, the visualisation thing is definitely some next level skill that I don't have. I think I would need A LOT of ear training and note/tone memorization to even be able to construct basic ideas in my mind...interesting stuff.



    Waraba, thanks for the detailed responses man, this is gold and exactly what I was hoping to find out. I'm certainly guilty of endless noodling and yes, KPA has made the guitar tracking process so much simpler for me too. Also +1 on fast DAW loading and preparing templates - my KPA fires up faster than Cubase and I don't have a slow machine. It's small stuff but can get in the way if u really want to just go and get stuff done. Awesome tips and I dig the vibe in "Insomnia Boogie" :thumbup:
    Thanks everyone for advice, now comes the hard part of implementing them in my own workflow...and maybe get a fancy ergonomic chair too ^^

  • I feel like this should be on my desktop wallpaper to not forget. Love it.

    It's the only one in my huge collection that exists outside of the computer; it sits on a shelf in my music room.


    I can't tell you how many times I've used it as a part of my "never-give-up" self-talk. Probably several thousand.

  • I took my first two lessons in 20 odd years of playing a few months ago...motivated me for a few weeks...no matter how tired from work I was..to pick up my guitar. Because I knew I had to 'demonstrate' my progress to the guitar teacher at the next lesson.


    I guess I need to be inspired/challenged to prioritise playing and actually being productive on guitar...over googling how to be productive/get better on guitar!

    Suhr Custom Strats - PRS Custom 22's - Diezel VH4 - Bogner Goldfinger 45 - Badcat Blackcat 30R - Colin the Kemper - CLR Neo ii.

    Edited once, last by Greg ().

  • Only last year I made the decision to leave my hard earned and enjoyable "real" career (electrical engineer in Mining) to finally focus on music full time. Took 20 years for it to become a viable full time job. I'm 39 btw. With my engineering career I juggled long hours, international travel, crazy swing shifts, constant calls out if hrs, etc but always still did music... .somehow. I guess my biggest tips would be:


    - Pay a few bucks for a decent phone recording app. No necessarily a complex multitrack thing, just an app that records well from the mic, can be started in a second or two, has auto gain control, and has a email/share function. Much of the day while doing electrical nerd stuff/in meetings/driving/travelling,. etc etc.. like most of us - I was still thinking music. Any ideas that pops into your head, Speak/hum/tap/sing/explain them. Do whatever to you need to capture them and the vibe on the phone. Crazy how many snippits you can collect over just a week or two of doing this... i found that before making a habit of this I'd bastardize/overthink the idea when I finally got in front of a PC.


    - For home recording writing... I always got the most done by getting up an hour early on a day off and hitting the DAW with the aim of getting a solid goal in mind. Never really felt like it at that hour tbh, but it was the most productive DAW time ever. Import the specific phone ideas/snippets for reference and aim to lay down just to get enough tracks I'm that cement the idea. Stay the hell away from plugins in this hour unless critical. Massive time suck and you are not mixing the song yet. The ease of the Kemper was a game changer for me doing this. After 3 or 4 weeks (8 or 10 scratch songs) it'll be obvious which ideas you should persue.


    Could type more.. but most other stuff has been covered.


    Cool thread.

  • Hi Greenblob, I am an electrical engineer too!


    Something must draw us uniquely brainy yet practical beefcake types to the green-box of rock!! :)


    I am far too scared of failure to make music my proper career - so I am green-eyed with jealousy that you've made it work at such a young age!! Well done mate!

    Suhr Custom Strats - PRS Custom 22's - Diezel VH4 - Bogner Goldfinger 45 - Badcat Blackcat 30R - Colin the Kemper - CLR Neo ii.

  • I am far too scared of failure to make music my proper career - so I am green-eyed with jealousy that you've made it work at such a young age!! Well done mate!


    Failure is always a possibility, but really... failure is just as much of an adventure, as success is. Thats how I justify my leap anyway.. New adventure = Good?


    Just don't make yourself homeless in some delusion that you are the true next Bob Dylan or poppy Bieber hit machine after writing a few tunes... Obviously.. that could end badly :/


    Back to the OP:
    Learning to play is one thing, but imo, connections are everything if you want to move towards making music a living with a focus on performing. Put time into meeting and hopefully jamming with the best musos in your town. Don't be creepy about it ( :D ), but be obvious and intentional. No-one wants to be the worst guy in the room at a jam session, so do whatever is needed to jam with the best players you know. It's one of the best motivators ever...


    Keep those relationships. This leads to meeting the good local sound guys, who know the booking people for the cool bigger local venues, who know the bigger festival coordinators, etc etc.

  • It's great to hear advice from someone who's actually making a living doing music.


    I've been slowly trying to get back into the band scene in a new city, after a decade of being a bedroom songwriter and I find it pretty discouraging....makes me think of that one Seinfeld episode where Jerry says: "nobody wants new friends after 30" lol. Generalizing of course, but somewhat true nontheless. Not a big deal for me, since I just started my search for bandmates to jam with and if there's chemistry, form a band, see where it goes.


    As you said: connections are everything (assuming u can play ofc). For someone with a prospective band or looking to be a part of one, your advice is right on the money.


    ps: your singer sounds great, best of luck to you guys :thumbup:

  • I've been through it from all sides.


    Many years ago, my main income came from teaching guitar. Great work hours, not even close to a 38 hour week. Very little money, but enough to survive. An extremely happy period in my life.



    Later, I worked in IT for many years. Music was always the most important thing in my life, the idea was to do a day job, doing something that I kind of enjoy, to finance the music.
    I was able to buy lots of fancy gear during that period, but did not have the energy to play and record nearly as much as I wanted. In the long run, it started to make me sick.


    Which takes me to where I am now. I quit the IT work a few years ago, to fully focus on music. My current financial situation is, how do I put it, not good at all. But I am happier than I have been in many years. Healthy. Music and creativity really happening. Fantastic times.




    So my recommendation depends on how you see music. If it's a hobby for you, continue with your day job, don't think about 'achieving' things in music. Simply enjoy every minute that you can spare for it.


    If you're serious enough about music that you consider doing it professionally, don't hold back. Quit your day job and go for it. Today.



    In a recent video from Premier Guitar, John Bohlinger suggests that having a 'plan b' when you want to do music professionally is actually counterproductive, as it keeps you from fully engaging. He's making a very good point.

  • Nice to read different points of view in this thread.
    I'm a part owner and vice president of of a successfull business in the transportation Industry.
    I love what I do, but my true passion is music.
    I've had my share of playing in bars and small venues a few years back, as main source of revenue. But to be honest, I prefer the stability and quality of life I have now.
    Built myself a nice little home studio, bought (and still buy) lots of guitars and I write songs.
    Yes, it's only a hobby, but something I do with passion.
    I try to work on my music, either by practicing, writing or recording, at least an hour or two each day.
    Not always possible, of course, because of other obligations.
    I send my songs to publishing companies and then leave it up to the "universe" to take it's course... :):)

  • Love the last line: ..leave it up to the universe.. :) Yeah, I'm in a similar situation, and while I absolutely admire and respect someone who gives it all up to pursue music I don't see it as a realistic option for myself atm. At least not until music starts paying half my bills.

  • as @greenblob said, wake up an hour earlier to get to your DAW. that's the easiest wake up you can get: to do something you love. you'll be freshly awaken, full of ideas and energy. that's a great piece of advise I second. I'm not doing it because I'm a young dad and I lack sleep, but I would if I could. I usually play late at night and always have trouble to sleep cause music takes too much place in my brain then. mornings are perfect, I'll get back there one day.


    I have also been dreaming of doing full time music as a living but I have debts and a family to grow. potential music incomes will hardly balance those of my full time customer service manager in aerospace. I also love to spend time with the family, surf the ocean (3h drive so it usually takes full weekends), ski and hike the moutains (2hrs drive), see friends and have a beer/bbq. oh and I have a house that requires much works, it's 4 years I'm spending most of my free time working on it. all in all I can't have too much ambitions and I stick to being in band that allow spare time, hence not many objetives, just playing, making songs better and a few live shows.


    I'd buy time if I could

  • I have also been dreaming of doing full time music as a living but I have debts and a family to grow.

    Yeah, aiming to morph an enjoyable part time hobby to become your full time source of income doesn't necessarily make it more fun. That's a very common illusion imo. It can be great, but the added repetition/obligation/stress that comes with trying to make that thing pay your bills can quickly suck out a huge chunk of what previously made it appealing.


    Be it golf, photography, fishing, cycling, a car rebuild project - whatever really.. a big part of what keeps you coming back is that you can challenge yourself, learn some cool new skills and improve totally at your own pace. No undue stress.


    As I've grown older I've realized a big part of what kept music fun and productive is it's social aspect and the friends I've made through it. We all spend many hours alone practicing, and I enjoy my time at home in front of the DAW and tinkering with gear, but all of my best playing memories have come from getting out and actually making noise with people. Doesn't have to be with a band necessarily. Casual garage jams, hitting an open mic with some mates (or going out to meet people), or just sitting down and writing with another muso for an afternoon... This not only makes you a better player/musician but more importantly, keeps it fun - and that's kind of the whole point ya?


    Basically, a casual weekend round of golf is much more fun with some other people. :)

  • Failure is always a possibility, but really... failure is just as much of an adventure, as success is. Thats how I justify my leap anyway.. New adventure = Good?


    Just don't make yourself homeless in some delusion that you are the true next Bob Dylan or poppy Bieber hit machine after writing a few tunes... Obviously.. that could end badly :/

    Yeah, totally agree!


    My scary feeling is only from having my house repossessed.


    Mortgage paid off when I am 45...and then I will do a big shit on my bosses desk and play guitar full-time! \M/

    Suhr Custom Strats - PRS Custom 22's - Diezel VH4 - Bogner Goldfinger 45 - Badcat Blackcat 30R - Colin the Kemper - CLR Neo ii.