We’re nearly at the end of our ‘produce a track’ series of tips guides, and now it’s time for some advice on that hardest of tasks: actually finishing your track…
1: Learn to Delete
One of the things that gets in the way of finishing a track can be having too many ideas kicking around on your hard drive. Opening up a folder crammed full of half-finished songs can be depressing and fill you with dread – when will you ever get around to completing some of those tracks that you’ve had for so long? One of the key secrets to composition, then, is actually learning when to discard old ideas.
What is good? What is worth keeping? More importantly: what can you delete? Getting rid of old ideas can be nerve-racking at first, but actually binning rubbish can be surprisingly rewarding. Have a clearout once in a while and you will be surprised at just how focused you become on finishing what you have left.
2: Bounce, Bounce and Bounce Again
No matter how far you are into making a track, it’s always a good idea to bounce your work down to a stereo file so you can listen to it away from the studio. Load it on to your phone, play it in the car… you’ll be inspired on where to take it and how to finish it.
This is also a good exercise to do to keep focus. If you keep all the versions you have made of a song and then go back to an earlier one every so often, you might rediscover the original direction and point of the tune, which might have got lost along the way. Making music with technology can take you in all sorts of directions, very often far away from where you originally wanted to go, so using this technique can help you stay on your original path.
3: Work to a Deadline
If you have someone waiting in the wings demanding you finish something, there’s a much better chance that you’ll actually finish it! We’re not advocating employing someone to stand next to you looking at their watch and shaking their head every few minutes, but having a deadline is a good way to get focus and, as you might be realising by now, focus is the key!
Set your own deadline, if you must, but try getting a track done within a certain time period and you are almost certain to get more done (whether you finish it or not).
4: Accept That it Won’t Be Perfect
Don’t take this the wrong way, as it’s always good to aim for perfection – the higher you set your sights, the better your results. But – and it’s a big but – if your level of perfection is too high, there’s a very good chance you won’t hit it.
If you accept your work will never be perfect, you will finish it. Why not deliberately add subtle mistakes, so you know perfection will never be achieved? Flaunt that imperfection – at least your music will be out there.
5: Get More Ears… but Not Too Many
Getting bogged down? Been working on the same loop for hours? Losing focus? Perspective gone? Get someone else in!
Having a fresh set of ears to comment on what you are doing or even help it along is always a good idea but – as with everything to do with music production – don’t overdo it. More ears can mean more ideas and even less focus. Did we mention the ‘focus’ word again?
6: Limit your Options
This one could be applied to the whole process, not just finishing a track. If you limit your options, you can get things moving and get to an end point quicker. So you might want to consider keeping your track-count down – why not go old-school with eight tracks? – or keep the number of instruments and effects you use to a minimum. With far fewer options you’ll not only start your productions more quickly, but you’ll also finish them sooner, too.
7: Know When Something is Finished
It’s the ultimate question: how do you know when a track is finished? When it’s ready to be shared? When you’ve played it to death and not criticised it? When you play it back after a week of not hearing it and it makes the hairs on your arm stand up?
The answer is all of these and more, but don’t let it fester on your hard drive for too long. Finish something today!
We nicked some of these from a rather good video that the folks at Novation have put together on finishing music. You can see more here