8 music production tips to help you finish your tracks
I think every music producer can agree that starting a new track is a lot easier than finishing an existing one. Putting together a few bars while jamming is a great way to get started, but turning it into a full track can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Getting stuck on unfinished tracks is probably one of the most common issues for producers. Today I want to share with you 8 music production tips that will help you get out of the bad habit of half-finishing tracks.
Let’s dive right in!
Tip #1: Don’t aim for absolute perfection
No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to get your track sounding absolutely perfect. When I started with music production, I thought every song should have the same professional arrangement as the number 1 hit on the Billboard charts. It seemed like an impossible task and caused me writer’s block. Simply put, I was setting the bar too high. Who decides what a perfect track is anyway? Music is very subjective based on your personal tastes and preferences. Just make it sound professional.
Over-producing is something else to be aware of.
Ask yourself, “Does this element actually make the track sound better?” If you find yourself spontaneously adding a lot of new instruments, take a step back. When you’ve reached a certain point on your track you’ll start to notice diminishing returns on your efforts. More often than not they’ll just make your song sound too busy and out of focus. Know when a track is going nowhere, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Music production tip #2: Use a MIDI controller
This might seem like a no-brainer to experienced producers but if you are a beginner you might think it’s unnecessary.
A MIDI controller is probably the most important studio equipment. If you have a MIDI keyboard with pads, knobs, and faders you can map them to automate almost every parameter in your favorite VST. Getting away from mouse and keyboard is truly a joy and will improve your workflow by a lot. You can use MIDI keyboards for FL Studio, Logic Pro X, Ableton, FL Studios, or any other DAW.
Tip #3: Know where you are going and when you are done
It’s always a great idea to start writing a track with an idea of its general direction in mind. By doing this you are immediately setting the atmosphere of the track. This will help you make important decisions later on.
What sound or style are you hoping to achieve? Will it be melodic, sad, inspirational, or upbeat?
Get the track rolling in the right direction from the start and stick to your initial idea!
One of the most powerful tools is to get inspiration from other great artists. What kind of chord progressions and melodies do they use to capture a certain feeling? Learn how these tracks are structured and use it as a starting point for your original creative output. Remember the quote “good artists copy, great artists steal”?
Production tip #4: Step back. Then evaluate.
Now and then you just have to take a break from the track. It may sound counterproductive, but sitting in your studio staring at your loops won’t help you find inspiration. Distancing yourself from the project and let it sit for a couple of days can provide you with a fresh perspective. I have countless tracks that I re-opened and finished weeks later. However, you don’t want to let it sit for too long so you lose the spark that got you creative in the first place. Going back to a track should be for refining purposes rather than birthing new ideas.
Tip #5: Find your instruments or VSTs of choice and stick to them
There are hundreds if not thousands of VSTs and plugins available today. A couple of them will be useful and can help you get the sound you want, but it’s easy to get lost in the jungle. Find the best quality samples, synths, and VST plugins and stick to it. Having too many options available will get you carried away.
What instruments and plugins did you use on your last masterpiece? Start building your arrangement with those. This will also help you build a sonic palette and find your signature sound. Maybe you have a kickass lead in another finished track?
Tip #6: Get feedback from other producers
Getting feedback from other musicians or producers is a great way to get quality insights on what needs improving.
Getting the perspective of other like-minded people can also make a huge difference to your efforts. There is nothing more inspiring than a pad on the shoulder from someone who knows what they are talking about. Think of someone who can constructively criticize your music, and simply ask for their opinion. Beware that friends may try to sugar-coat feedback to make you feel better.
Tip #7: Finish the arrangement first
Focus on either writing or editing, never do both in the same session. You can easily spend 2 hours tweaking the effects of a synth to make it sound perfect. Sure, that’s important but if you only have a 16-bar loop it probably won’t help you produce an entire track. When you are in creative mode, try your hardest to finish the arrangement. Finish the verse, chorus, and all in between. Have the shell of the full track mapped out in your DAW. When that’s done you can spend your time tweaking parameters.
So how can you create the arrangement? Make a 16-bar loop with different instruments on each channel. Now mute the parts, one at a time, and see what happens. Mix and match different tracks to create different variations. This is one of the most effective ways to start arranging.
Tip #8: Set and meet your deadlines
If you are producing music on your own, you have the luxury of calling all the shots. That’s an awesome feeling but it can also be counterproductive. When you have deadlines, things get done. It’s also a great idea to tell your fans, friends, or family about them. Get them excited and invested in your release – and don’t let them down! Personally, I have a songwriting schedule that I follow every week. This helps me create a daily routine and stick to it. This can be challenging because you can’t flip your brain into creativity mode with a push of a button. However, there is always something you can do. Listen to your bars and take notes on what needs to be done. This will quickly get you up and running when creativity knocks on your door!
Now go finish those tracks
I hope these 8 music production tips tips will help you finish your tracks. Don’t overthink it and don’t overdo it. When you get inspired, make sure to write it down and arrange your track. Sound design and mixing should be the least of your problems until you have composed every part of your track. Remember, one finished track is worth more than thousands of unfinished ideas. Once you have a finished song, you’ll have something to release and promote.
Now it’s up to you. Start digging into your project folder and open up an old project. Set a goal to finish one new track every week. In 5 weeks you’ll have your own finished EP!