ICON instructors Malachi Mott, Paul Laski, David Garcia, Ryan Browne, and Preston James offer tips on finding the finish line with your music projects.
Finding the path to finishing projects is one of the hardest parts of creating music. It’s also a question that our instructors hear very often from students, and a hurdle they have faced themselves. To help you finish some of your own projects, we have asked five Icon Instructors for their best off-the-cuff advice on finishing tracks.
Long Version: Define what finished looks like BEFORE you start your song. How can you reach the finish line if you don’t choose what it is? I take 20 minutes to select reference tracks that will serve as the benchmark or bar that my song needs to surpass. That way, when I doubt if the vocal is clear enough, I don’t have to ask anyone, I can just listen to the reference. If mine sounds as good as theirs, then that’s finished, and I can move to the next thing. If not, then I try it again.
Short Version: Take away the guesswork by defining what finished looks like BEFORE you start your song. References are great tools for removing the guesswork that goes into the last leg of production.
My best advice would be to finish tracks as quickly as possible! Don’t dwell on anything for too long, as this is a sure-fire way to never finish anything you start. Just go with your gut, and try to stick with your first decision each time you need to make a decision. Make the track sound as good as you can, but don’t judge anything you do too much! This is all easier said than done, but every producer has to finish a heap of garbage tracks before they get to a point where they are making something that they are even remotely confident in. You will never get to that point if you don’t overcome that garbage heap. Worry more about being prolific, rather than perfect in your production. This is something I stress with all of the students and artists I have mentored.
Use “Session View” in Ableton Live and record an arrangement performance. I’ve been really enjoying this process. I just jam for 12-15 minutes then edit down my “magic moments” into a track.
Finishing tracks require just as much practice as starting them. People shouldn’t be so married to the idea that everything they start must be finished. Look at the DAW like a sketchbook -sometimes you draw stick figures, and sometimes you create a masterpiece.
Finishing tracks is something that you should train yourself to get quicker at over time. The best producers I’ve worked with finish their tracks quicker than you might think. In fact, it’s often that the best tracks get made in the quickest amount of time. In my opinion, this is a result of creative flow. It’s the art of getting your ideas down in the fastest time possible. It’s both a technical and mental game that takes a long time to develop. As I said, it’s easier for a more experienced producer to finish their ideas. If you’re new to music production, it’s important to shoot for quantity than quality when creating tracks. Over time, as you hone your skills, start focusing on making each idea sound high quality.
Something that you can do to practice this type of flow is challenging yourself to create music within limitations. Force yourself to make a one minute track in 30 minutes using a few selected samples. Trust me when I say that this challenge can lead you to create some amazing music 😉