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Visualizing song structure to maximize studio productivity

My band is preparing to record our first full-length album, and I decided it would be helpful to prepare visualizations of our (complex) song structures for the producers to accompany our demo tape. My goal is to help the producers become familiar with our material as quickly as possible, while also spotting problem areas ("there are no drums here, so we'll need a click"), and providing a reference during mixing.

I whipped up a design for this and am looking for two things:


How is it? Can anyone recommend ways to improve it? Please keep in mind that I am on a very tight timeframe -- so anything highly elaborate is out.


Has this been done elsewhere? I would love to see other visualizations of song structure for this purpose.

Any input is greatly appreciated.



-- Ryan Singer (email)

Here is another annotated diagram showing a process. These are the sound cue sheets (not in their original color, alas) for the mix of Apocalypse Now, drawn by Walter Murch; from the excellent new book by Michael Ondaatje, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (New York 2002).

I prefer the funky, workaday, documentary style here rather than the geometric purity of the example below.

This is an interesting design. Here are some improvements. Eliminate the dreaded legend by putting the labels for the instruments at the beginning and end of the time lines:

The annotative style is good; place the words closer to the time line. The central axis type is inefficient; flush right/rag left instead will allow more detailed annotation. Put the whole thing on a very light grid background to encourage writing notes by hand on a printed version. Add a time-scale at the bottom. Add details about the source, date, place. Perhaps the words of the piece should flow along in parallel beneath the graph of the musical sounds.

-- Edward Tufte

I think it's a great idea! My only suggestion would be to re-consider the placement of the different musical elements. Perhaps have the parts that are present throughout the entire song (such as the bass and drums) on the bottom, and stack the vocals and guitar parts on top.

I've been using a similar -- but much cruder -- technique for organizing my multi-track recordings. It's helpful for seeing where there is open track space for adding additional parts. In the example below, tracks 3, 7, and 8 all have multiple parts. Without a visual record, I invariably erase something by mistake...

-- David Harrell (email)

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