Completing a track from start to finish is one of the most difficult tasks in music production. There are countless roadblocks that producers experience on the way to finishing a song and many of these tracks never get completed. To help you finish these unfinished tracks, I have compiled a list of the five best tips for how to complete your music.
Set goals for each studio session
Goal setting is an incredibly effective tool that you can use for completing your unfinished tracks. Having a set goal allows you to focus on and complete specific tasks at a much higher rate than without setting goals. Before every studio session, make a goal that you plan to accomplish by the time the session is over. No matter how big or small this goal is, set this goal and tell yourself that you will reach this goal. You will need to be aware of the time you will have for each studio session. Setting a goal of mixing down your entire track in 30 minutes is not the most reasonable goal. Make sure that each goal you set can be accomplished in the allotted time you have for your session.
Commit to certain sounds in your mix
In the music production world, the possibilities are endless. Every single sound all the way down to the high hat can be interchanged for a different sound of your choice. The limitless nature of music production has its benefits. You are free to create anything that comes to your mind and experiment with these limitless possibilities. However, this is a double-edged sword. These limitless possibilities often lead to procrastination, creative blocks, and ultimately unfinished tracks. In order to avoid this, you need to start committing to certain sounds in your mix. Producers will often fall into the trap of continually replacing sounds in search of a better one. This leads to procrastination and a slower workflow. You, of course, want to give yourself the option to change out specific sounds if they are not working in your mix, but you need to start committing to the sounds that you put in your track. There are always going to be other sounds that can be replaced. Have the confidence in your production skills to choose the right sound for your track the first time.
Use a reference track
Reference tracks are a lifesaver when you are struggling to finish a track. They give you a reference point for all parts of the production. If you are having a hard time mixing down your track, coming up with melodies, or finding out where to place elements in the arrangement, you can always turn to the reference track for inspiration and ideas. The reference track should just be a reference though. Use it to influence your current production not to simply copy over large parts of the reference track into your own. Before you even start your track, find a reference track in the style or genre that you are working in and place it on an audio track in your DAW. As soon as you start to run out of ideas for your song, take a quick listen to the reference track for ideas. This will help you stay in the creative zone and avoid the dreaded creative block.
Use visuals to inspire you
When looking for inspiration for our music, we often just use one of our five senses – hearing. While listening to new music or some of your favorite songs is a completely reasonable and helpful way to gain inspiration, we seem to neglect using our other senses to gain this inspiration. A great way to generate this inspiration is to watch videos before or during your studio sessions. While this may appear to be a very simple tip, it is incredibly powerful. Load up a video of someone skydiving, an astronaut in space, or anything that you think will get your creative juices flowing.
Color code your tracks
Organization is key as a music producer. Before you know it, you will have fifty tracks opened up on your DAW and you will lose track of where each particular sound is in your song. This makes the mixing, revising, and the creative process even more difficult than it needs to be. There is a very simple solution for this. For each specific category of sound in your track, color code them. For example, I like to color code my drums blue, my synths green, effects yellow, and my basses red. After I have color coded these elements, I will then group them together. This color coding and grouping of your tracks allows you to find any sound in the mix without doing any unnecessary searching.
Continually having unfinished tracks as a music producer will hurt your career. Tracks must be completed and must sound professional in order to compete in today’s market. If you struggle to finish your music or have a hard drive full of unfinished tracks, apply the five tips above to your productions and you will start to see more and more finished tracks.
Daniel is a caffeine-dependent entrepreneur, music producer, sound design junkie, and world traveler crazy about teaching modern electronic music production through his site SoundShock.