Every producer knows this—you have a dozen unfinished project files on your computer, and you think they are pretty good. However, you don’t know how to finish them or turn them into a complete song.
Here are 7 practical things you can do that will actually help you finish songs and take your unfinished projects over the finish line.
Why should I always finish songs?
Before we get into how, let’s answer the why. Because it’s important to completely finish songs—all the time. If you come up with a ton of ideas but only finish one of them every once in a while, you only practice the entire production process once.
Simply put, the routine production process starts by capturing an idea. Then you typically build out that idea which involves two crucial techniques—sound selection (and/or sound creation) and arrangement. To wrap it all up, you’ll generally mix and master your song. That’s it.
You don’t practice all the crucial steps if you only get to the first step (capturing ideas) and abandon the project right after.
Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine completely finishing 20 songs in a year versus completing 80 songs in a year. Just think about how much your production, mixing, and mastering skills will improve after one year if you finish 80 of your projects.
So how do you finish a song? While there are a ton of things you can do to finish songs, here are our 7 tips.
1. Take inspiration from others.
Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from other artists and songs you like. Especially beginners should find a song from another artist that sounds similar to their idea and use it as a reference.
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting stuck. No matter if you can’t find that one synth or figure out how to arrange the song properly, recreating a synth from another song you like or copying the arrangement is the fastest way to get you creative again.
As long as you don’t reproduce a song one-by-one, you’re completely fine “stealing” or rather copying certain sounds, drums, rhythms, arrangement, etc., whenever you’re stuck in order to help you finish songs yourself.
2. Focus on one thing at a time.
Are you not happy with your drums? Focus on the drums and only the drums. Maybe it’s the mixing that’s bugging you? Again, focus on mixing and nothing else.
If there are many things in your song that you want to change or experiment with, you should pick one area and fully concentrate on that one thing. If you have too many ideas or too many things you want to add or change, you can quickly “overload” your brain. Unfortunately, in most cases, this leads to you actually doing nothing.
So try approaching a project in smaller bits and goals like finishing the drums first, then finishing the synths, then taking care of mixing the song—instead of opening a project and going in with the mindset that you’re going to finish it right away.
3. Details are important, but not that important.
Small details like short creative fills, cool FX transitions, ear candy, and other details quickly add up. They give your song character and keep it moving and exciting. Especially in the EDM world, a song with no ear candy can often sound very bland.
That said, don’t get caught up in the small details. Yes, they are important, but there’s a limit. If you find yourself tweaking the same reverb for hours and hours, you’re simply wasting your creative time. Most of your listeners won’t even notice the difference between a reverb you set up in 2-minutes vs. a reverb you spent hours to get “perfect.”
So to finish songs faster, try not to get lost in small production details that won’t be the deciding factor that’ll make or break your track in the grand scheme of things.
4. Take frequent breaks, even when you’re focused.
While you should always take full advantage of feeling inspired and “in the zone,” you should also take short breaks while producing to avoid burnout and to refresh your ears. This is crucial to finish songs.
If you have been working on a song for hours and had it constantly on repeat, you can quickly lose your sense of proper judgment. This can lead you to overthink previous decisions you made that were completely fine. Like you may suddenly assume your melody is not good enough anymore, or you need more drums when you actually don’t.
5. Outsource other producers.
To improve as a producer, you should always try to do as much of the production process yourself. It’s only an advantage if you’re good at everything.
However, there are other producers out there that focus on one thing. They are not trying to be good at everything but amazing at that one thing. That may be sound design, mixing, or mastering.
So even though you should try doing it yourself, if you have a project you can’t take over the finish line just because you can’t figure out how to master it properly, perhaps getting it mastered by a professional is the way to go.
Outsourcing other producers usually requires you to pay that producer, which beginners and producers on a tight budget can’t justify. In those cases, try outsourcing close producer friends. Most of your producer friends will have no problem helping you with smaller things like picking better drums, sending you cool presets, or giving you feedback.
6. New sounds. New ideas.
Having your own go-to library of sounds is always great and certainly a must. However, if you have an idea and are unsure how to take it to the next step, new sounds can always spark inspiration to get you going again.
We have a ton of high-quality freebies that you can check out for this. Thousands of samples, loops, and hundreds of presets for Xfer Serum and Sylenth1—all free. Get your hands on a couple of these free packs to freshen up your sound-arsenal and get inspired. Go to our free downloads section.
You can take this even a step further by limiting yourself to a certain set of tools. So you may challenge yourself to only use a few specific plugins and sample packs to finish songs. Doing this can help you think outside the box and help you come up with ideas you normally wouldn’t.
7. Make it a collaboration.
To finish songs, perhaps a collaboration is the way to go. Sometimes a good idea just can’t be finished. It doesn’t matter what you try; nothing truly sticks. In those rare cases, you should find someone to collaborate with.
Instead of throwing away a good idea, send it to a producer friend. Another producer may have a completely different view on it and come up with a concept to finish the song and perhaps even inspire you again.
Most importantly, don’t force it.
While you should 100% make it a habit to always fully finish songs, you can’t force creativity. If you come up with an idea that you don’t really like, it’s better to NOT push yourself to finish it and instead make room for new ideas. In the end, making music is all about having fun, so move on to the next song when it starts not being fun.