How to Finish songs faster. An easy to follow outline
Of all the challenges I hear from music producers, perhaps the biggest challenge is finishing songs.
In most cases, starting songs & getting to a cool 8 bar loop is easy, but then the brain starts to shut down. Once you are put up against the pressure of turning this track into a song, you brain gets bombarded with a million options, choices & variations. Every thought pattern goes off into it’s
Is the original idea any good?
Do I add EQ? Compression? Reverb? Which setting is best?
How do a turn this simple loop into 6 minutes of engaging music?
Where do I put the changes, breaks, builds, drops?
How do I write a hook or melody?
This is all so overwhelming & now I hate this song!
At this point your brain looks more like an ink splotch than a roadmap. Full of chaos.
Let me give you some simple tips that can make this process much easier for you.
Music making should be more enjoyable than this, but anytime you are pushing yourself further than than you’ve been before, it’s going to cause some stress.
Your only choice is to work through it repeatedly until your brain starts reaction in a more positive way. Your thoughts will start to shift to “Ok, we’ve been through this before & we got through it last time, so this shouldn’t be so bad”
Also, I can’t recommend daily practice enough. If you want to learn anything, you need to keep regular repetition until the pattern gets locked into the brain.
The 2 approaches
So back to our 8 bar loop. We are staring out our computer screen listening to this loop over and over, not not taking it any further.
If you are working in Ableton Live, you have 2 windows. Session View & Arrangement view.
Let’s rename these to what they are for new (and even veteran) producers.
Session View (clip view) = Limbo mode
Arrangement View (linear view, like pro tools or cubase) = Get shit done mode
The session window issue:
As much as the session window can be an incredibly wonderful & unique music creation tool, you are simply given too many options that keep you from committing on 1 idea.
No matter how much work you do in the session view, your song doesn’t start until it is translated into the arrangement view. Often, when in the session window you try to predict ahead of time your intro, outro, breaks & each progression in your song. I find that this rarely works.
Pretty soon your session view turns a simple idea into something so complex that it’s tough to wrap your head around it enough to start committing to song arrangement.
The faster approach
If you start your work in the Arrangement view, you have to commit to a single idea that will likely be looped for 8 or 16 bars. If you’ve gotten this far, you are ready to take things to the finish line.
Here are some simple steps that you speed up your music making dramatically.
1. Stretch that 8 bar loop out for 6-7 minutes
Yes, I am aware this changes nothing musically yet, but it will visually start to look more like a song than an idea. This in itself is really important if you want the brain to start thinking about this idea in a different way.
2. Find a reference
Next, we create a new audio track as a reference & drag in a track that you like the arrangement on. Make sure to warp the song, so it is synced to your master tempo.
3. Drop the kicks
Everywhere you see the reference track thinning out, consider that a break. It could be 4, 8 or 16 bars. It could also be as short as 1 bar of even a 1/4 bar.
Anywhere you see this, drop out the kicks on your song. Even though you may add them back later, this will let you know where to create your own breaks,
As you listen to your song and hear the drop & return in energy, you will start to get a feel where extra layers need to come into your song to add energy or melodic content, or reduce everything into a simple groove before the peak moment.
It will also give you an idea where you may want to change up with groove or bassline. And since you didn’t try to do this all in advance, the changes you make now will make much more sense in the context of a full song.
4. Back to the reference
Once you have a basic song arrangement happening, you can check back on your reference track, not to copy it, but to get ideas what types of elements are coming in & going out in certain moments. This will help keep you focused when your brain would normally be wondering off.
5. Tightening up
This is where you would dial in your volume levels, Eq’s, Sends/returns, etc, which is more than I can get into in this post, but you should find yourself much further than you thought you would be, much faster than you expected.
Want to go deeper?
If you would really like to go deeper & finish an EP you can sign up to the waiting list for the next launch of my “Create an EP in 30 Days Master Course“.
It takes this concept much much deeper & fills in all the little details that truly stop people from getting music completed. It’s an intense course that will require a level of focus & commitment you may not be used to.
It completely maps out how I was able to complete, sign & release 52 songs in 13 months. It took me all of 2015 to complete & it leaves nothing to question. Everything is in there!
I will guide you daily with workbooks, Videos & homework as well as Q&A’s, so there is nothing left out of the full process.
I need to limit my students so I am able to give enough attention to everybody, so if you are interested, join the mailing list with the link below & fill out the form that will be sent to you.
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