5 tips on how to finish tracks
When you get stuck and want to give up
I keep getting stuck in drafts and can’t finish tracks. I do some basic arrangement, then I do some tweaks over and over again, but it seems I physically can’t finish tracks, you know? Then I start a new project and it happens again, I get stuck and eventually give up on the track completely. Do you have some tips on how to finish tracks?
Simon, I’m sure every music producer out there feels your pain! Indeed, getting stuck on unfinished tracks is probably one of the most common issues, I see people write about it all the time. Luckily, I know few tips that might help.
Aim for results
First of all, ask yourself: do you really set your goal to finish the track? I know some producers who enjoy the process more than results, they can tweak synthesizers for hours and days! And that’s totally fine, as long as you enjoy it and not worrying too much if this work will be ever released or not. However, if you’re not happy with this, then stop playing around with the synths, presets, samples, and stuff. Change your mindset, and aim for the results.
Embrace the limits
Can you draw a picture? The good answer should be the question “what picture?”, but what if I tell you to draw just some picture, with no more details — could you? I bet not. Same happens with music production. Having no limitations you can create anything, but most likely it turns into nothing. It’s like if you would sit with a blank paper trying to write a novel, having no ideas behind it. You should create a context of what and where will be happening.
Now let’s say you’d like to make a 138 BPM track, with no triples or swings, just a straight driving bassline, with a key bass note at D#m, with long progressions and not many breakdowns, with a strong lead what will be revealed in the main breakdown, with a mysterious female vocal samples, and heavy atmospheric pads. Now we have a more specific talk, right? Such boundaries don’t limit your creativity but helps and guide you through the process to the final result.
Looking at the description above, these are exactly the limits I’ve set myself when I made “Enuma Elish”:
One more reason why you probably get stuck is because you get bored. It especially can be true if you go the same route over and over again, copy-pasting presets from one project to another one. Don’t forget why do you write music in the first place, you should be very excited about every project you working on.
I realized that the tracks of mine that I like the most were made in one breath when you completely immersed into it. Try to get inspired by whatever inspires you to feel that excitement again.
Keep it simple, do it quickly
Try to make it as simple as possible: get idea → write it down → arrange a track → finalize the project. Stop thinking «maybe I should change or add something else?», and don’t “marinate” your ideas for months, just let it go. Don’t overthink, write music quickly. Remember, one finished track worth more than hundred of drafts because you gain experience and growth.
P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.