Finishing tracks is hard?


#1

This brilliant comment was posted in the Zoia thread and has so far received 26 likes… so it looks like others have this problem!
Please discuss any tactics you have to make yourself finish a track… this is for people making some kind of electronic music on their own, using any combination of hardware and DAW(s).

I’ve been using Live to sequence and mix a small bunch of hardware, with the Analog Rytm doing the beats running its own sequencer synced to Ableton. The plan is to record live jams in session view into Arrangement, and then edit the arrangement, mainly to reduce the length of the jam into a track lasting a few minutes, and add some polish.
The editing is tedious and I tend to avoid it in favour of mindless jamming or tweaking. There is a lot of resistance against sitting down and doing the editing job… After listening to the same track over and over when adjusting gain and compression etc … I start losing a sense of what sounds good. I cannot judge my own mix. The following day it often sounds wrong, so I start again… or I just start another track because it’s more fun, and never finish anything … :joy:


Turning Ideas into Compositions
#2

( if i reply that will be a long post ) :joy:


#3

I wish there was a hardware device which allowed a live jam to be edited into a finished track, what I mean is to do pattern changes, mutes, tweaking etc live and it records all the movements, then you can go back over tweak, polish, overdub etc. That’d be dope.


#4

There’s got to be some (expensive) multi-track recorder that can do most of this?


#5

Closest thing I ever had was Roland MV-8800 but it was a bit too much of the bad stuff of a DAW and not enough of the good stuff of dedicated hardware.


#6

while i do believe that the comment was made by @jb in a sarcastic manner, i do find that this kind of thinking is especially pervasive in the electronic music scene.

I was especially surprised about the what i call the digitakt conundrum. There was a fair amount of post basically saying that people couldn’t write music or make money being a musician because the digitakt they bought was buggy. I couldn’t understand how a group of individuals who claim to make a living off their music were stopped in their tracks by a buggy digitakt, an instrument that is still under a year old. To me it really exemplifies the sentiment of the quote if the quote is not actually sarcasm. GAS is strange as it really gives people a mental block to writing without a certain piece of equipment, all part of the convincing oneself that an item is absolutely necessary.

how do i finish tracks?
pure brute force and will.
no really, it can be incredibly difficult to finish a track because electronic music can easily shuck the traditional song structure/composition structure. for me its about setting up some sort of limitation or mental rules to work under. That way a composition stays focused and can have a pathway which to follow to hopefully come to an end.
i will say that i used to finish a lot more music when i was writing strictly ITB, but since moving OTB my “finished work” has waned a bit.

lastly, sometimes a writing partner helps as well


#7

The finished word is already a word that absolutely annoys all the artists !
Speaking about painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, musicians and so on.

What’s a finished piece of art as a status is ? a status reached?
A point where the artist is happy with him and let go!
(Not easy when you think about it, because then there’s a lot of things regarding the person itself, its skills, its requirement, if he/she perfectionist, self-confidence, … and so on)

I think that’s why Coaching is so popular and growing every day (i don’t say music learning, construction learning, but Project-Goals coaching oriented…)

There are the formats of the past which are always more or less there according to the musical genres radio edit, extended version … Not to mention the remixes which also underlines that there can be so many interpretations of a theme as many as people to make it … (then there are good remixes that pay tribute to this specificity and others that are the reflection of the artist who can not reinterpret but make a new piece that will have remix name that because it contains one or two elements of the original that we may not even recognize …)

There are music genre ! it’s always more easy when you’re not alone with some voices
If you’re alone without singers, singers and things to say… Construction will be more challenging and more if it’s Dance floor oriented because the format is longer generally…

I do think a solid understanding of the Music chain, skills, experience (the more you finish tracks the more you get better at it…), it’s more mind thinking than a Beat or a Loop (and i would say Fortunately)

People may not want to spend too much time on their songs knowing that anthology songs in electronic music are less numerous regarding the mass of RELEASES each month and may prefer MARKETING on their Name (for booking purpose) without making hymns (how many time it could take) but already good pieces of electronic music (in less time)… and let the DJ make from those “THING” by mixing interesting parts from here and there… Better version in Gigs…

There’s so much to say on that subject.
Just few things coming in mind and of course i’m not sure that the same for every music genre…

Also i think it’s subjective what’s a good track constructions ? also, it can change with time and when you get older you can be more challenging on this construction quality … I think the key is to unlock himself from the loop idea and find ways to make a boring or repetitive track something not boring for a fresh hear as well as more interesting for us… by finding variations, other parts it can be anything from an atmospheric break to a funny change… as long as you forget the theme and happy when it’s come back i think you are on the good path to finish the track… The creator at a certain point haven’t a fresh hear… so the trick is to avoid becoming accustomed to his own pieces, tried listening stage with few people people who don’t like your music genre, people who like, more critical and professional people… and be ready to change, shorten things if it is relevant-obvious by taking a step back from his work.

Last trick : take the place of listeners or clubbers and imagine what they feel, playing on their emotions, on their frustrations by allowing a long tension part… let them think it’s gonna drop but it’s isn’t … a good point to demonstrate that is this video… everyone probably know it, or already lived it at circo loco about ten years ago (of course don’t make that it’s just to illustrate “playing on emotions-frustration-waiting”… and when at some point it became the opening club trick all people are waiting…)


#8

I find finishing tracks is pretty easy. But Elektrons are at the heart of things for me so sound design, sequence, song, are all tied together and there aren’t as many free-flowing ‘jams’. Things just evolve to a natural conclusion. 5 out of 6 tracks on my last album were recorded straight out of the machines with no multi-tracking in any DAW. Whatever this workflow is, it’s working for me, whether its all Elektron boxes or using the Octatrack to sequence and work with other gear.

But starting something new… I’m back at that spot again and it’s almost terrifying. But I remember feeling this way while doing almost every song on the last album, and something always came about.


#9

I like to start building a structure for a track before the themes are even completely finished. Mark out a timeline with sections so that it’s not just a bunch of loops that I can jam forever.
If you don’t have a structure in mind, copy one from another piece, and then adapt it to fit the work as you polish & refine.


#10

I found the Ableton book, ‘Making Music’ really, really helpful.

  • I just got something finished and my process was this sort of hodgepodge of ideas from that book:
    I work on elements (drum/keys/bass/sprinkles) individually, sometimes on hardware - sometimes ITB. If they sound cool then I’ll record them into a DAW, filenaming them after Style, BPM, Key. I’ll create sort of ‘alternate’ versions of the sequence or motif. E.g. a simplified version, a heavily fx’d or glitched version, a version with the same sound, but totally different notes/rhythm. This is good planning ahead for when you need to add structural stuff like a breakdown or whatever. (It’s also good planning ahead for when you want to load everything into your OT for a live set.)

  • Work on a different instrument/element… doesn’t have to even be with the previous element in mind - just create something cool from scratch and repeat.

When it comes to bringing the elements together:

  • Mix and match! You already have styles, bpm key in the names so collect enough of these together and you’re set. They might just serve as good starting points, reliable sources of inspiration. I find this technique really good because often the ear will become dulled to the sound of a motif during the process of perfecting it. It’s only a couple months later sometimes that you can be inspired by it again.

Of course sometimes things just come together in one sitting and you’re not really sure why - sometimes a day is just a disaster area and you feel like giving up.

In terms of actually finishing:

  • Set a date and make promises you have to keep. E.g. Show, throw a party/night out to celebrate the release of a thing you’re going to make, book a flight around the world that leaves the week after your release date. You won’t have time to fanny around idly wondering what your sound is, because your sound will find you in the lead up to the due date. If you’re not happy with what you made and it’s time to release/perform. Well - too bad. You can build on that. At least you made a ‘thing’!

#11

I did like 35 tracks ITB, then i moved OTB and my output got a lot smaller, i talked to a pro -he said , anyone can do a track in one week, but making a good track can take months. Essentially its easy to do a jam, upload it and call it a day. But if you like to have a good polished work, it takes a lot of effort to pull it off.

I currently create a libary of sounds with Maschine and Tempest /P12, i am not forcing myself to finish a track, i collect material, which i hope sounds good together, once i have enough material, i will arrange it, and call it a track, but then i would have more material, to choose from, picking the best elements. If i dont like it, i delete it. Just take that what works.

Learning music theory step by step helps.

My advise is, that you think about energy, i.e. about the flow what would make sense to you, what you will dance to, and what is the story you want to tell, pick those purpose, and align it with your recorded material. Having a theme and purpose helps me.

I do regular jams on Wednesdays with three other guys, which we record, so its like 40 weekly jams. ( Mostly not published online.) That teaches a lot aswell.


#12

Also i do think this truth is also applicable to music construction as well as dj set construction :

You cannot paint white on white, nor black on black. Each one needs the other to reveal itself ~ Manu Dibango

So a good track need boring tracks to reveal that’s yes that’s a good track compared to the precedent or the next one… (or a very good track to a “ok” track)
(with always a subjective aspect, right… but still)


#13

It’s simple; buy more gear

Nah but really the trick is knowing what you intend to make before you start. focus on composition as a skill as much as music theory or mixing. With composition though you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, song structure is less debatable than say what is a good mix. many of us enjoy making music/noise more than finishing songs we’re not fully satisfied with but we have to justify our expenses. It makes it seem less ridiculous to have a 10k studio space. It’s easy to make music, it’s not easy to make good music so it gets put off till later.

If you really want to finish tracks write down your song structure before you start. Don’t be hard on yourself cause you’ll just put yourself off finishing. It won’t kill anyone to take a few weeks to try it out, but just churn out tracks. At the end of the month see if you’re more satisfied with your output than before. then you can really decide if you’re avoiding making music or if you’d just be forcing yourself to make bad music, in which case drop the pressure and wait for inspiration to make good stuff


#14

Be patient. All your tracks will be finished in due time.

Sincerely . . .

The Grim Reaper


#15

One upside of normally being into noise and free-improv is I just hit record, do my thing, and its done.

Working on a much more structured tune in Korg Gadget. Funny how I end up putting a lot more time into a “joke project” than originally thought. Oh well, just put in a little here, a little there over time…


#16

Excellent. This is how it is for me too. “Pure brute force and will”. Starting tracks and jumping around between projects and sound designing is fun. Finishing tracks mostly feels like tough work. But I do enjoy that last 95-100% when I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once it’s done it is a very rewarding feeling. I’m not saying my tracks are crowd-pleasers or brilliant or anything, but it’s very rewarding knowing I’ve done everything I can, put in my best effort, and sent it out into the world, for better or worse. I think that last 5% of the process is what I’m addicted to. But I wouldn’t kid anybody and say that it’s easy, or there is some magical flow, or the clouds part and I know exactly what to do and what choices to make. I sometimes think that if it feels too easy, then it’s probably not that great.

+1 on the Ableton book! Full of great ideas to keep things moving.


#17

What I’ve started doing this year is just hitting record and jamming. Posting those jams and learning through listening and feedback from people.

I’d say I’m starting to understand what works, what doesn’t. What’s annoying.

I also started listening to more DJs like Carl Cox. What types of tracks are those guys playing. What elements are in those tracks.


#18
Little playlist for Electronic music inspirations

DEEP HOUSE :
Rick Wade - Kum Tu Tan = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSPyonQwuOg
Redshape - Kung Fu = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHgDcVykF_0
Rootstrax - Harlequin = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDB77MjMTYU
Kuba Sojka- Message From Earth = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctXk92ZYAOk
Deetron Feat. Ovasoul7 - I Cling = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmvADu74PXQ
Axel Boman - Purple Drank = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywJlK8P1AiQ
Pezzner - Chiuso Per Ferie = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiqfY3Wn7NI

HOUSE :
Murphy Jax feat. Mike Dunn - It’s the Music (Legowelt) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whv5LKk_OCE
Lone - Airglow Fires = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KcOZ2qHz5g
Mango Boy - Live And Let Live (Mr G) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szf3seqh5Mc
Legowelt - Clap Yo Hands = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-DTurSjWvM
Marc Romboy & Paris The Black FU - Dark 'N Lovely (Kenny Larkin Remix) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A2lVYZlUuk

TECHNO :

TECH-HOUSE :
Pakt - Oktogon = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDzWkyTwRpI
Humano - Life = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB00_1ZGwLM

DETROIT from it or infused
Shed - Atmo-Action = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXpAjl1wX40
Los Hermanos - Birth Of 3000 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQSlhNg04ZY
Los Hermanos ‎- Quetzal = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuX4pPFqci4
AUX 88 - SHADOW DANCIN = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzqsRW7CWgs
Kuba Sojka - Life Choice = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIQC1FPIB6U

REALLY INSPIRED ME :
Redshape - 2010 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jf8qbBrzQo
Locked Groove - Dwarsdijk = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix1pmYXmjcY
Redshape - It’s in Rain = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTE8TlfEJHQ


#19

Thanks for your replies, all very interesting and/or fun. I’ve been working on dance music and yeah using a timeline is the way to go…
When I was using Reason I found it a lot easier to finish tracks but then I got into Live for live performance and it’s hard to get out of the session view loop. Using a timeline seems necessary to focus all the parts of the track in a coherent structure. People think that dance music is simple but making a track that makes people want to get up and dance needs structure, dynamics and focus… life will be easier when I get older and move on to ambient music. :smirk:


#20

Join a jazz band.
I played jazz Bass for years and if you asked me to improvise “a song” I’d be like yeh okay, and just scat away till I couldn’t stand the smell coming from the drummer (he had a particularly strong cabbage scent).