Complete songs, no not me :(

I only end up with cool patterns, and keep twisting them to death.
Really don’t know to Build up a good set…

Similar problems? Advice?

This has always been my problem. I’m still kind of stuck on tweaking endless loops which sound nice for a while but become stale real quickly. These links may help you though:

Tanks a lot, how could i miss it on the OT forum ??

Got to read tarekith’s manual as he is a “big player” for me :wink:

This sounds familiar! When I first started getting into computer based music 11 or 12 years ago this was a huge problem for me. I lost my way with music making but picked it up again 2 years ago when I got myself Maschine on sale.

I still suffer from the whole “yeah, I can build a great 8 bar loop but then what?” thing but I’ve bought tools that really help with it (Maschine/Push for example). I also just went balls out and got as many of these “cool” loops out of my system before worrying about it. Then just randomly tried x with y or got mates to chime in with thoughts.

I can do things all myself a lot of the time now, practice is a big deal and there are loads of great techniques for some inspiration but I feel your pain!

Yep, I hear ya. When I make music with my band it’s not much of a problem because there are so many variables involved, jamming on your own can easily go into ‘tweak one or two patterns to death’.

I remembered something that Allerian (I’ve seen other people’s version of this technique as well)posted a while back and found it in the second thread Thermo linked to. The basis is to start with a pattern that involves 80% of the sound/vibe that you want to achieve- save it- build on that for a few patterns- save them- subtract from your 80% pattern with a few versions- save them- etc. I’m simplifying what Allerian said so it’s worth looking up his post. It’s a solid start.

It’s easy to overcomplicate things though, too. I also remember posts that suggest not spending too much time on something at any one sitting. It’s easy to desensitize your ears and brain, and ultimately lose track of what’s working. No one else is going to listen to it on an endless loop.

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Turn on a recorder. Record jamming for about 6 minutes. Turn off recorder. Call it a finished song.

That’s what I do anyway.

If I don’t record, I just mindlessly jam for hours.

It is hard to finish a track. I’m not very good at it either!

One technique that helps is to decide at the beginning of your session, whether you’re going to focus on sound design, song writing, or system maintenance (file organizing, dusting, etc). If you decide to focus composition for the day, then try to not allow yourself to tweak sounds (sound design) and just focus on roughing out a track structure. Staying focused on one aspect of making a track helps a lot. Once you have a track structure roughed out, you can always go back and fine tune your sounds. Someitmes, if you have great sounds to start with, the loop making and composition will fall together on it’s own.

I’m a big believer in not working on one thing for hours and hours. You become numb to what you’re hearing and end up skewing everything to your tired ears. I take lots of little breaks, and seriously try to not leave a loop just running unless I need to hear it at that moment. So often I will leave the room for a few minutes, and when I come back and start the music again, I can hear things so much more clearly. Sometimes I have to put a project down for days or weeks before I can listen to it again with an open mind and ears.

I also do the technique where you copy your ‘master pattern’ to several slots and start removing, adding, or altering things differently in each one. Some will be crap, others will sound great. Take the best of these and start playing randomly with sequencing the patterns together so you can find which patterns transition together the best.

One thing I try to keep in mind is that most of what we create is going to be garbage. I try to allow myself to delete things that I’m not feeling really passionate about. Don’t get bogged down trying to turn a turd into a cupcake! If you think it sucks, then delete it and work on something new.

As a final thought; I was talking to a guy at my local synth shop, and he said something that I think a lot of people won’t allow themselves to admit. He said “I’m just not interested in creating songs for DJs or radio …I just want to experiment and play with sound”. I think some of us can get caught up with thinking that we need to be producing for other people’s consumption, when maybe all we really care about is having fun for our own enjoyment.

I agree with this, but if you don’t jam and just arrange patterns in Ableton, then be sure you always have a goal in mind (e.g. finish with an intro, connect these two disparate patterns, etc) so that you don’t trail off. I think experimenting is a good thing and can cause for some awesome results, but in order to finish something you need to be shooting for something.

If even after weeks you’re still stuck on the same song, give yourself a timeline and call it finished. Things you don’t like about it can be incorporated into future tracks.

It’s all about making mistakes and learning from them…that is, fail fail fail and try again.

I started a thread bout this same issue a few months ago that had some good suggestions:

I think part of my issue is that I’ve been trying to work a lot in song mode between the Mono and Machinedrum, keeping everything in sync while doing a lot of little edits in the song sequencer. Great for keeping things from being too loopy, but super time consuming, especially because the only way to make sure both sequencers stay in time with each other is to start playback from the beginning every time. Seems like everything I’m doing is really good until the end, and I am sick of hearing it and need to work on something new. Hoping that getting things more centralized with the Octatrack will help, or it’s back to cutting everything in Ableton again.

Great posts so far. Good to know im not alone.
The above quote is pretty much about what i love about jamming. I can really get lost in sequencing madness :slight_smile:
But sometimes my Lady @home needs to get some real songs to understand what i spend the whole money for.

I not alone

from all these suggestions, i will keep the theory of the man in the synth shop, because i find it’s a reality and in the same time a good excuse for not achieved my work. But in the very inside of me, i know i would prefer produce more finished musical works, because i want to find again the sensation of the great pleasure of listening to my sound and thinking “yeah what a nice work, i would have like to be the creator of that” and really surprise myself finding have been good to my eyes ( must precise that i’m very critic about musical work).

But i am not a professional musician, and have plenty things too do, so just creating good patterns and have fun with playing with the sounds is already a good feeling.

Finaly, i decide to put on my soundcloud all the sounds i can, and if it’s just a pattern, i don’t mind if the “songs” is only 30 seconds long, i publish it.

Incorporating other hardware keyboards and/or rack synths in a midi chain played by a master keyboard in addition to our Elektron instruments not only adds variety but it’s good idea to think of music as a collection of layers. If these layers all come from same instrument, there’s not only monotony but also listening fatigue.
Music Theory and Compositional Courses are highly recommended because it goes a long way.
If you perform, meaning, other synths and Elektron gear as aforementioned, you also want to be able to replicate what you did if your talking about compositional song structure and transitions as well as lyrics.
Just flipping on a recorder and crapping out something you call done is literally crapping out turds that are probably only shiny in your mind. Having your mate or partner give you honest feedback is also really important.

^^^ That’s me too, exactly. MNM and MD are my main tools, and I often get pretty far along in making a track, but i get so sick of it, I jsut don’t finish it. Makes you really respect those individuals that can take it all the way to a point where it sounds “done”.

I like to write around one pattern (or two if I absolutely need more variation - happens very rarely). I’ll sequence a bunch of layers and make sure they all sit well together and compliment each-other. Then, if I’m recording it live, I’ll just mute/un-mute parts and tweak parameters (usually filter cutoff or at most one synthesis parameter or effect, so I don’t get too far from the core intended sound).

The key, I find, to make sure it isn’t too boring is to keep things short. It’s very easy (for me, at least) to hit record and jam something out and realize 10 or 15 minutes have passed. So, I make sure I’m conscious of how much time I’ve been spending evolving the sound, and then try to focus on keeping the transitions efficient. I’ll usually do a couple of practice runs, and then a couple/few live recordings. I’ll then just choose the one take that fits best, and I’m done.

One thing for me, and has been mentioned earlier, is that it helps if composition and recording can be done in one session. That way, you’re working with the same “vibe” from start to finish. I find if I let an idea sit for too long, it can stagnate and lose its appeal, even if it’s a great idea. As artists, we tend to hear our music the most, and it’s very easy to get tired. For me, the best remedy is to become proficient enough with the machines to be able to power through from idea -> composition -> mix -> performance -> recording in one go. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way, but at the very least, it ensures I have something to show for my time spent hunched over my silver boxen, and I can listen back later and make notes on what to change for the next recording attempt.

My best advice is discipline.
You never get batter at compositional arrangements and competed tracks if you don’t actually get any finished. It doesn’t matter, how, good, bad, lacking in something or great a piece is the important thing is that your develop the art of actually getting them finished.
It doesn’t matter if they take you a while to get to some sort of semblance of an arrangement either IMHO.
I am not the worlds fastest composer and some tracks I’ve created may take me 2 - 3 months from start to finish but I always make sure I make that commitment to seeing something through to the final production stage. It may not make an album or ep and it may not be share worthy at time but the processes learned through self discipline within the activity itself are always invaluable.

  • When it comes to patterns, make copies, edit them , transpose them, add variety to the copies, copy an entire set of patterns and use totally different kit / machine sounds for each part.

  • Record, multitrack and twist a pattern to death but record the process. Go back and flesh out the best bits and use those as the anchor point for a finished arrangement.

  • Don’t always approach your production and sound design techniques from the same angle.

  • Limitations are healthy and sometimes a forced framework will help you get the most out of a certain working block or mindset

  • Think laterally, think literally, think metaphorically, think both inside and outside the box.

  • Create inspired themes around subjects that fascinate you and find ways to explore those concepts musically

  • Find inspiration in unusual places, literature, art, life, the environment, news, your family and experiences.

But… always commit to seeing those ideas through.

Very wise words.

Critical Thinking 101–think inside/outside/under/above the box.


Here’s some truisms for me:

-The longer I have to finish something, the longer it will take me.

  • You’ll only get better at making songs if you actually set out to make some.Even if they’re not awesome.
    -Your energy is more valuable than your time. Try and keep your energy levels healthy and work at the moments your feeling energized.
  • Get up at 8:00 in the morning, no matter what time you went to bed.
  • More gear is probably not a good idea. If one thing comes in, another piece of gear may have to go.
    -Computers are hopeless, just give it up with the never ending issues.
  • You need an arranger that works for you. I’m happy now with the Analog Four’s arranger but wasn’t happy with the Machinedrum’s (does Octatrack have the same style?).

Forcing yourself under a time limit will also make you quite familiar with your gear, what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve done a few songs every week now but couldn’t get anything finished before.

These are just some attitude & workflow pointers and obviously don’t go into music theory or artistic merits, since that advise should probably be catered to each individual.

Here are my tips for finishing things one way or another:

[li]Like Burn Cycle, the longer I have to finish something, the longer it will take me. Hence, given an unlimited time to finish tracks, no track will ever get finished. Solution: Get yourself a live gig a month or two in the future and start working. I’ve done this many times, and it’s a great way to concentrate the mind.[/li]
[li]Like Barfunkel, I think there’s something to be said for hitting record and jamming something out from a couple of patterns, muting and tweaking sounds as you go. It may not be a masterpiece, but you’ll have the satisfaction of having something with a beginning, a middle and an end. And after listening to it a few times, you’ll appreciate the little unintentional bits and pieces that make it more than just a four-bar loop.[/li]
[li]Forget Song modes . . . maybe some people can work with them, but I find them way too fiddly and you end up playing stuff from the beginning so much that you’re sick to death of the damn tune before you’re half way done.[/li]
[li]Get together with other people and make tracks together. This definitely works for me.[/li]
[li]Read the great ideas for getting songs done from all the people above![/li]

you end up playing stuff from the beginning so much that you’re sick to death of the damn tune before you’re half way done.

That’s what I thought until I started using the Octatrack arranger (2 and a half years after purchase, lol), it’s like adding a new sequencer to your sequencer :slight_smile:

But that’s good for tracks that need to have a proper structure… when I make techno, I make loops, and I really make them loopy.