Posted: Jun 14, 2021
**Guest post by Martin Kristiansen, founder of HomeStudioIdeas.com.
"Getting stuck on unfinished tracks is probably one of the most common issues for producers. I think we all can agree that starting a new track is so much easier than putting the finishing touches on an existing project. Today I want to share 7 tips that you can use to achieve some closure on your music-making.
Let’s dive right in!
It’s hard to finish your tracks if you constantly fumbling around in hundreds of sample libraries, or sifting through countless presets and plug-ins. Organize your samples into folders that make sense. Create your own sample packs with sounds that go well together. I bet you have tons of them from different projects.
Before I start a new track I usually choose 10 sounds that I know work well together. By doing this I’m creating a pallet to work with rather than having to scroll through endless hi-hat samples.
There are a couple of cool tools that can help you create collections of samples. I recommend having a look at Sononym, a sample browser powered by machine learning.
First of all, ‘focus time’ is the time you spend on finishing a track. You’ve got an idea or a track you want to get out to a label.
‘Play time’ is when you try new plugins, effects, or VSTs. It’s crucial to try different settings on a new synth, delay, or bass compressor that you’re not familiar with. Saving presets and bouncing samples will help you start building your sonic palette. The downside of ‘play time’ is that it’s not very productive when you trying to push a track out.
Almost all my ideas originate from funny experiments. They get finished when I use my saved presets during focus time. Never mix both.
Concentrate on either writing or editing; never do both at the same time. You might easily spend two hours fine-tuning the effects of a synth to make it sound just right. Sure, that's crucial, but if all you have is a 16-bar loop, it's unlikely to help you compose a full track.
When creativity comes knocking on the door, give it your all to finish the arrangement. Map out the verse, chorus, and everything in between. Using a chord generator plugin is a great way to quickly sketch ideas down in your DAW. You can spend your time fine-tuning compressors and equalizers when that’s done.
When you get to a point where you’re happy with something, render it to audio. Apart from freeing up resources and making the whole process of working in a DAW more pleasant, working with audio files will help you approach the finishing line.
Compared to MIDI, audio files give you fewer parameters you can tweak, meaning there’s less messing around. You’re committing to your track and you set things in stone. Simplify your decision-making process by limiting your options.
Having a musical reference is great for songwriting and arrangement. However, many producers forget about reference tracks whilst mixing.
Choose a commercially successful release in the same genre as the one you’re working on. Use this track as a perspective on where your production should be. If you are hitting the right direction from the get-go, you’re going to save hours when you’re approaching the finish line.
A tool like MetricAB can help you make course corrections. With a simple click of a button, it enables you to compare your mix to any reference. When you’re going to bounce your first mix you know you haven’t backed yourself into a corner where you have to restart from the beginning.
Having no goals is counterproductive and things get done when there are deadlines involved. Notify your followers, friends, and family about your deadlines. Get them psyched about your release, and don't let them down.
An example: since I don’t master my tracks I usually book my mastering engineer for 3 months in advance. Why? I’m committing to my tracks. When the deadline approaches, I have to be finished.
Setting bit-sized goals for each studio session is also a great way to get things done. I’m much more effective if I know exactly what part of a track I’ll be working with and what I need to achieve before calling it a day. Organization is key to success and I recommend using Trello to keep track of your progression and completion.
The last tip for today is easy to forget, but probably the most important. It's never healthy to be working the number of hours that we constantly do, without taking a break. It may sound counterproductive, but sitting in your studio staring at your loops won’t help you find inspiration to finish your tracks.
Step back, then evaluate. Distancing yourself from the track and let it sit for a couple of days can provide you with a fresh perspective.
I hope these 7 tips will help you finish your tracks. When creativity strikes, make sure to write everything down and arrange your track. Sound design and mixing should be the least of your problems until you have an intro, verse, chorus, and bridge.
Remember, one finished track is worth more than thousands of unfinished ideas. Set a weekly goal of completing one new track. You'll have your own finished EP in 5 weeks!"
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