It’s time to address an issue that plagues producers of all skill levels. We see this with our students who are in the early stages of their music careers all the way to touring artists who have a catalog of music out in the world. It’s the ability to actually finish music! As most runners know, it’s one thing to run the fastest 20 miles of a marathon but if you can’t finish the last 6.2 miles, then you haven’t really earned the right to say you finished.
Now, we don’t need to remind you of the importance of finishing music because, well, you need to have finished tracks to get anywhere in this industry. This fact alone motivates some to finish more music however to others, it may create a certain level of fear that is stopping you from getting a finished product into the world. Today we want to detail the ways that you can finish more music starting right now.
4 Reasons You Aren’t Finishing Music
Before we dive into our tips for finishing more music let’s touch on a few of the reasons as to why you aren’t finishing music. These are important to identify so that you understand how to work past the roadblocks in your process. This list may or may not apply directly to you but as an exercise, take a hard look at your process and write down the reasons why you aren’t finishing your music. You can then address each one as you go.
Speaking generally, we’ve found that a lot of producers end up not finishing music because of (in no particular order):
1. You get tired of listening to your song
This can be due to a lack of musical skills such as arrangement, theory, etc. and the ability to create a dynamic song. It can also be because you are trying to create something that isn’t speaking to you on a personal level. We often see this with young producers who are forcing themselves to create a specific style of music as opposed to creating what comes natural to them.
2. You get distracted by social media, Youtube, TV, etc
In this day and age there are more distractions than ever. It’s too easy to take a break and turn on Youtube or scroll through social media to see what’s going on in the world. There are many articles out there about why this can be a bad thing for creatives. If you are going to do any of these things, be sure to do them outside of your dedicated music-making time.
3. You are stressing too much about the finished product
For many young producers (and established ones as well) they put way too much stress on themselves to create a masterpiece. This pertains especially to those who consider themselves to be a perfectionist. By putting this undue stress on yourself it can make you second guess your process and your art. This is something you will always deal with but like anything in life, it’s about finding the right balance. Remember, you want to be finishing (quality) music and releasing it! Besides, the best music in the world is full of imperfections!
4. You are comparing your work to other artists
It’s great to use reference tracks and to produce within a certain genre. By doing so it provides a roadmap for you to develop your sound and to emulate techniques of artists who’ve found success. On the flip side though, if you compare your music to other’s too much, then you can find yourself in a position where you over analyze your tracks and never finish them. Remember, it’s fine to use reference tracks, but you aren’t producing music to be the same as artist X. You are your own person and your own artist. Trust in your abilities and bring something new and exciting into the world!
These are a few reasons why you may not be finishing your music. We understand that there are a lot of factors out there and it all depends on your situation and your workflow.
4 Ways to Finish More Music Starting Today
Now that we’ve touched on a few reasons as to why you may not be finishing music let’s talk about ways that you can right the ship. By following these steps you’ll check a lot of boxes within the process of making music and we guarantee that your hard drive will start to stock up with more finished music.
1. Set Deadlines… And Stick to Them!
It may sound cliche at this point but if you read any book or article about productivity the first thing you’ll likely read about are setting deadlines. The most successful people in the world believe in setting goals, setting deadlines, and most importantly, sticking to them. It’s one thing to write a deadline down on the calendar, but you have to get in the mindset of actually working to meet that goal.
The reason this is so the most powerful tool in our mental toolbox is because it will force you to stop analyzing the tiniest details which often lead to a paralyzing cycle. Working with a deadline leads you to figure out how to work more efficiently, how to manage your time better, and most importantly, will allow you to find that balance of making the right decisions in your music-making process.
As soon as you are finished reading this article, open your calendar and set a date to finish one track. Don’t worry about how your snare sounds or the intricacies of your sound design. Simply work on writing, mixing, and finishing your track by the deadline.
Remember, this is something that will become normal for you once you become a more in-demand artist. Labels will expect that you finish tracks, remixes, and projects at a certain time so it’s important to get in the habit of doing it now.
2. Throw Away Project
As a DJ I always took a really long time when I made mixes. This was before Soundcloud and Mixcloud were around so I was pressing them to CDs and handing them out at parties. I always spent a lot of time trying to plan out the mix and nail it perfectly. My goal was to make sure that people could listen to the mix over and over so I usually spent more time than I really should’ve on them.
Once Soundcloud came around my buddy and I started the Throw Away Project. This was an exercise where we would trade off week by week and upload a new DJ mix. This was fun because we did it for us and it would give us a two week window to plan, record, and upload the mix.
This can work for producers as well. You can find a friend or do it yourself. Finding someone to participate is helpful as it instills accountability into the project. This also takes the “deadline” concept and adds another element to it. It forces you to get a product finished and requires you to not worry so much about the imperfections. It’s an exercise in getting music finished and putting it out into the world.
Create a Soundcloud page so you can upload your music. If you don’t want to use your main artist name, create a moniker (this is a great way to release various styles of music), and get to work! Set a deadline for uploading and stick to it for six months to a year. It’s up to you if you want to promote the work or not. Also, not every track is going to be amazing but that’s not the point of this tip. The name of the game here is to finish music. Remember, you can always go back and retool something if you like it or want to release it for real one day.
3. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Creating music electronically is one of the most fun things in the world to do. It provides a literally endless amount of options when it comes to creating music and expressing yourself. While this is a huge benefit it is also one of the biggest negatives that can hamper your ability to finish music.
There are countless plugins, sample packs, synthesizers, samplers, etc out in the world. For those producers who like to collect all of these tools it means that you are compounding the amount of decisions that you need to make throughout the music making process. Let’s talk about streamlining the workflow a bit.
As the title suggests, let’s:
Reduce the amount of tools in your arsenal to the ones you use most often. Forget about all of the extraneous plugins and sample packs on your computer and literally uninstall them. You can always go back later on and install them again but for now, only focus on the essentials.
Reuse sounds that you’ve used in other tracks. Seriously, take that awesome snare that’s layered with 85 different claps and snares that you used in your last track and make that your default snare for every single one of your songs. The more sounds you can put in your own little sample pack the better. You can create your own percussion, bass patches, synth patches, one shot samples, etc.
This accomplishes two things: 1) makes your process more efficient so you don’t have to search for the right sounds and 2) allows you to start creating your own signature sound as an artist. You will by default start to create your own style
Recycle those sounds from your own sample pack. Write your song with all of the sounds that you’ve saved in your own sample library and combine them with other sounds or add creative effects to them. By doing so you are always drawing from a set amount of samples, sounds, and patches, and then altering them slightly based on the style of track you are working on.
4. Practice the Mix Process
For the purpose of this article we aren’t going to go too in-depth on the importance of learning how to mix your own music. We cover this extensively in both our San Francisco school and our Artist Music Producer program through Pyramind Online. It is however a process that not a lot of young producers get proficient at because they never have tracks to practice with. That changes today!
If you follow the previous tips in this article then by default, you’ll have ample opportunity to work on your mix process. We understand that everyone’s time is limited so when you sit down to make music, you most likely want to be working on something with the intention of releasing it one day. Remember though, you have to take time to train and build your skills. This exercise is all about setting your sights on the mix process which will allow you to become a better mixer and release better sounding music.
Sit down for a few hours and write a track. It’s as easy as that. Using the previous steps in this article load up your go-to sounds and write your track. Put some effort into it but don’t feel like this has to be your opus. Remember, you are finishing this track to get to the mixing phase.
Once you’ve written, arranged, and added any little ear candy effects walk away… you are done. Now, bounce the track down into stems and open a new project to start the mixing process. This is important to do as it forces you to commit to the finished track.
What you’ll have accomplished by following this step is:
- Finished a track
- Allowed yourself to get better at the mix process
- Forced yourself to call a track “done”
Of course you’ll need to hold yourself accountable when it comes to the mix process as that can go on for a long time. Mixing your track opens up a whole other can of worms which we’ll talk about in future articles but for now, it’s all about getting to that phase and practicing. If you find that you are getting stuck in that part of the process, refer to tips 1 and 2. You should be good to go!
These are some of the ways that you can start to finish more music. For many musicians it’s all about putting in the reps and making a lot of music to land on the few pieces that are ready for release. If you follow these steps you’ll start to find that important balance between finishing great sounding music and not over analyzing it to death.
As mentioned previously, we know that everyone’s process and situation is different so feel free to adapt these concepts to your workflow. Remember, the goal here is to get more quality music finished and out into the world. Best of luck friends and we can’t wait to hear what you create!