lots of great replies in here, thanks to all for the fresh ideas.
one thing that has helped me has been to change my perspective on what i am doing. when you listen to music by BoC or Aphex you tend to judge the quality of your music against the quality of music they produce.
i stopped doing that (because it was pointless and frustrating) and started looking at the time i spend with the sequencer, instruments, and recorder as a different experiment each time. i am diving in to the machines and going through the process of putting what is in my head into a recording.
i no longer worry about producing masterpieces. this way, i am not obsessing over certain parts trying to get them "right", which involves looping over and over and over again and making myself sick of the track. this is when i quit.
i force myself to finish and look for the things i learned along the way- maybe a better understanding of song structure, or chord theory, or a new breakthrough with a piece of kit, or how to mix effectively. i just push on to the next 16/32/64 steps and see how i can make things develop.
like others have said, the best pieces of electronic music are derived from experimentation. so you have to get in there and experiment yourself as you go through the songwriting process.
hopefully you learn along the way and your workflow improves as a result of it, so you are no longer wanting to finish the track but finding how to do so through tricks you learn when experimenting. i think this way the end of the track will come naturally.
I have( and have had) very similar problems with OP, and sometimes those problems eat away my desire to create any tracks at all for a few days.
I usually get very easily stuck on some particular detail, for example a synth lead sound which I may program few hours at best to make it sound right.Then my ears just get really bored and every other element on the track sounds like shit.
This is just one of the bad habits that I noticed, I've overcome several of them and hopefully I can overcome this one too
There are few advices I can give from my personal experience :
-Limit your session time, take a 15 min break after every 30-45 minutes
-Focus on one element at time( but not too extreme as I mentioned before )
-If you're not inspired at all and feel like nothing comes out, get away from the computer ASAP
It may sound weird, and completely opposite to the guy who runs everything through a mixer setup to where he stays with that project until it's done...but, depending on your setup, a fully computer setup can be beneficial. Let me explain- since I went fully computer, I am probably 4 times or more productive- meaning I create four times as much stuff in the same amount of time. It's just super convenient. I think I will incorporate hardware again to maybe add a little analog spice, but from a creative output point of view, it's just so much more efficient.
If you are feeling this way do not write.
Take some time out and practice writing some drum beats on a drum machine, learn something else, fiddle around with a compressor. Read a bok about mixing or producing watch a video about production. Listen to beats.
Tweak patches or create or your own, build a drum kit.........There is plenty you could be doing which eventually will lead you to somewhere.
Maybe write a 30 second ambient bit and limit yourself to that, or a 15 second score for a tv series or commercial or a 20 second jingle.
It is not wasted time to be doing other things which still involve music production. You do not have to be writing music to be learning and growing.
Who cares, one day when you are ready you will finish a track, until then do not dwell on the I am not finishing music stuff.
__________________ Techno sounds better on a step Sequencer.
Today's distractions don't help. Back in the early 90's when I was banging out tunes with OctaMED on the Amiga, I could quite happily sit up all night for 10 straight hours and finish 2 full pieces from start to finish. Now, I'm lucky if I can go 30 straight minutes without wondering what's going on on Facebook or has someone replied to my comment on that forum or whatever else I've got going on on the internet. It's a nightmare and I'm seriously thinking of using one of those site disabling apps in order to get stuff done.
But oh boy is that me to a tee....spend fragmented hours creating an awesome 4 bars of music, which I loop over and over and think wow that sounds great....that's the song, that 4 bars....and then I get stuck wondering what to do with it, ESPECIALLY creating some kind of intro that leads into it. The annoying thing is, I tend to have ideas when I'm away from my computer, then later when I'm back in front of it they've gone.
I think learning about song structure in general helps. Take a song you like, import it into your DAW, and use it as a "template" or reference to build your song structure around. Try to complete a project of your own composition which mirrors the structure of that song. Worth doing if only as an exercise.
So many long responses here. At the risk of sounding like a jerk, if making music is such an unfruitful process maybe you should apply your efforts elsewhere. It is supposed to be hard but not That hard. There are so many other creative outlets in the world. Just a thought, no offense intended.
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__________________ To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. -Joseph Chilton Pearce
I was in the same situation. Try to build good workflow, learn your equipment, to know how to produce your ideas from you head. Then you will be able to do your things fast, and you will be ready with the basic ideas in some hours.
Rest 2-3 days, then go back, listen it again, and make the mixdown.
Recording the track live (instead of doing the arrangement by moving boxes around with a mouse), kind of forces you to work fast. It takes 5-6 minutes and the track is ready (and you're ready to move to the next track). The results aren't always spectacular, but at least you get something finished.
At least it works for me, but then again I'm the guy who makes his tracks in 2 hours max and has no idea how anyone can spend weeks or months on a single track.
Would Schrödinger's cat sound better OTB?
I do enjoy the initial burst of creative energy. I think if I could get rid of my bad habits
get rid of coffee and sugar, or drinks with heavy sugar content, while working.
When you wrote "initial burst", an automatic alert in my mind made me think of sugar bursts and their downside (brain and body slowing down due to insuline overflow and sugar drain).
Sugar overdose can generate quasi-manic and depressive states of minds, espcially during brain-intensive tasks. You eat sugar (alcohol, sodas), you get a energy burst, the body detects the sugar, shots insuline in your blood, insuline cleans up all the sugar she can find, you get a sugar "down" and a sudden loss of energy. Brain perceives loss of energy, slows down. You feel numbed down, tired, impotent, and become irritable and disgusted by what you are doing.
Eat "slow sugar": half an apple, one cookie per hour, a piece of bread with a little marmalde (bread is what matters, marmalade is for fun: the less, the better).
That kind of carbohydrates takes time to digest, doesn't elicit insuline burts, tames the up-and-downs and keeps the energy supply more or less constant.
That would support your mental effort without creating ripid ups and downs which could add to other more abstract issues which have been discussed.
It's not meant to be a "internet medical diagnosis at distance". I am no doctor, but I am a trained coach, and I know better than allowing athletes to get energy from "quick sugar" or coffee or sodas, because of this effect.
Maybe it's not just that, but sometimes simple explanations just work.
Interesting points you make there. I definitely think these things matter. I used to have a really regimented diet because I was powerlifting. I got sick of the lifestyle and started running, but also have went a bit too far to "the other side" and started eating junk reasonably regularly.
Back when I played live 2004-2007 I could get a song done in day or a week. Mainly because I know I had a show coming up and just commited to things faster and moved really fast. In the last few years not having that pressure it does seem harder not having that goal. But also new style production had place a burden on many people... Constant tweaking. Honestly I set a new rule to not tweak so much. Instead of spending so much time on a bass layer I just take a bass preset I already made and just write it...Try to save the big tweaking for after it's been written. orginization is another...Finding something that works for me. For instance instead of making 8 separate massive tracks for a complextro riff I may use one instument group and just mute un mute...it keeps things tidy and gives a lot more live feel and freedom.
The biggest things to get around is over producing when you don't have much, hearing the same 4 bar over and over then changing it to the point its worse(save, save, save!) and setting some goals to just forge ahead and get it done! Also finding your style! I gave up writing anything upbeat or too happy because it's just not me...My songs have always been on the darker side so I stick with what I'm good at.
Good thing is (i am still a victim of wasting time on loops...) trusting in yourself and your sound. It can make you realize that its time to move on,arrange ,there is no need to tweak like madman this loop,it already sounds good enough to extend to longer.
Imo thats the basis of wasting life on loops. At least thats how i kinda see it in my case. When i somehow believe it sounds ok,the loop,it is much easier to go further...it rarelly happens to me,but i guess it will come more often with time
Oh man, there are tons of awesome replies chock full of advice here.
I'm going to add my 2c because I was in a very similar position last year before I decided to make a change.
For me, the biggest thing to make myself start having something to show for my work, was to give myself a goal.
My first goal - do remixes. Enter remix competitions. I had vocals there to 'limit' what I could do or get sidetracked on with a song. Before long I was doing one or two remixes a week, sticking to my guns and getting actual material done.
So I'd done some remixes. I had some material, but I needed to have more than that. What next? I then made my goal to put together a small mix of original songs that I could perform on a launchpad as a small livecast for my friends. To help guide my way and keep focus, I did a few remixes among the original work. This kept me in line and being productive. I had a theme in mind for the rest of the album, so when I started falling into similar ruts as yourself I just reminded myself of the 'feel' and I was on my way again. I did the livecast and had a blast doing it.
From there, I kept setting myself goals - I ended up doing two game soundtracks and recently raised money via a kickstarter-esque site to write my own album. It's all about having an end goal so when you get distracted, or you feel a song isn't up to snuff/going the way you planned, you know what you have to do to get back on track.
Other little nuggets of information:
- Some days/nights you aren't going to write anything good, no matter how hard you try. It's disheartening. Accept it. It happens to ALL of us.
- Keep plugging away. If you can see the song you want under those layers that don't work, keep at it. Doesn't matter if it takes days or months, chip away a little bit each time. You're carving a sculpture out of a big block of stone sometimes. Little alterations/additions will get you there.
- Don't be afraid to shelve the track for a while. Let it sit in the back of your subconscious. You'll find you get ideas and thoughts to improve upon the song as the days pass. You often won't think of these in the heat of composing!
- Don't be afraid to delete entire sections if they aren't working. I know this is in contrast a bit to the previous advice of continually chipping away at a track - but if you know it's not going well, delete the section you're having trouble with and re-write from scratch. You're clearing your mind of the cluttered sections that aren't fitting and can start with a fresh slate.
- Again, don't be afraid to work on multiple items at once. Especially if you don't normally work this way. It can be refreshing to have two different projects and stops you from getting creative fatigue.
- Know what your end goal is and don't deviate from it. Going off on a tangent may not end in your favour.
- Don't be afraid to experiment within the bounds of your goal. Some of the best sections I've written were complete and utter mistakes that worked out in my favour.
Fortunately, I don't seem to suffer this malady lately. This is a great post though and I will bookmark it.
I do a couple of things that help me.
When I select a loop I put a bar of nothing at the beginning or end of the loop. I very rarely work on a continuous loop. That was a nice trick for me.
Also, I track a ton of stuff into a session. Often my Logic sessions have more than 700-800 bars of stuff tracked often to audio,Maybe 20-30 tracks then I just edit that stuff from there into a track. I mix later.
When I first started, I made more acoustic music and I would track, mix a piece a day and sometimes do remixes on subsequent days. Now I spend 4-7 days on a track. The early tracks sounded cool but not really good.
Another thing I did lately was a big project. 29 minutes continuous mix. It was epic and the computer would take a long time just to recall the session. After really going through a hairy long arrangement and mix of that material, I find doing single tracks is much, much easier.
Eat "slow sugar": half an apple, one cookie per hour, a piece of bread with a little marmalde (bread is what matters, marmalade is for fun: the less, the better).
A cookie (sugar, wheat flour), bread (wheat flour) and sugary marmalade is exactly the type of food that delivers a surge of insulin! Not to mention the empty calories in all these foods.
As for eating half an apple? 15 minutes later... "I'M SO HUNNNGRY!"
Originally Posted by ozy
get rid of coffee
You are much better off to eat something high protein that delivers steady amounts of energy, and brain nutrients. Eggs, nuts, poultry and whole grains such as Quinoa are all excellent choices, for example. These foods are satisfying to eat, and will take your mind away from food and keep you focused!
It also helps to take supplements, for example Ginkgo, Rhodiola, Vinpocetine are all good for starters.
BTW.... This is a really great thread with lot's of positive energy...
One really easy trick to avoid this problem is to make a pattern, copy the pattern to a new pattern, change it a little, copy that to a new pattern, change it a little, copy that to a new pattern and change it a little...
Basically, instead of working for a few hours on one pattern, you are spreading the same amount of effort into the entire track. The best part is that you now have a great big mess. Messes are the best thing in the world, because the next step it to whittle down that great big mess into a lean, precise, structured song.
I think one of the things that really screws up new producers is the inability to think of music as something that moves through time. A lot of people get stuck trying to make one single perfect loop instead of trying to make that loop progress through time.
This right here is a fantastic thread. I have read it all and these are all fantastic replies.
To the OP above is what helped me. I remember I struggled with this for so long and it almost turned me off the point of no return. I stopped making music for nearly a year because of it.
Anyway the above has really helped me finish tracks. Also what has helped me Is writing most of my music on a hardware sequencer so away from the computer. This is not to say the DAW is not a good thing for writing music however we are all different and some things work for others whilst some things don't, so my point is try something different.
Personally I think nothing is worse then sticking with something that is not working, if it is not working you need to make a change and find a new alternative.
Vid. below tackles this exact topic, and is really good - though I think it's time for me to re-watch it, totally lost track of all the half-finished tunes I've done in the last month or so... feels almost like OCD!
thinking about it, a couple of tips from the vid come to mind:
- 24 hour guillotine on songs - you can work on them for two long seshs, then leave them alone. Not always realistic but as a goal to work for this one is good.
- unplug the internet, literally unplug it and put the cable away in a drawer somewhere. This one works an absolute charm for me.
- separate creative seshing and technical seshing. Make sure you can find sounds quickly during creative seshing (try to avoid getting bogged down in with hours of tweaking for the perfect sound). One way to separate these is to do what i think he calls "128 libraries", basically make a whole keyboard full of snaredrums, full of kickdrums, etc, so you can audition loads of sounds rapidly, and stay in that creative zone.
I had also suffered from that my music is annoying me problem sometimes. Best advice I can give you is try to put down the volume of some instruments. In fact a lot of the time I produce with the bassdrum at very low levels, it can get a bit irritating trying to create a groove not succed and only hearing the whole time the thumping bassdrum on your head. Its worst if your room has some serious bass issues.
1) Don't try to make a full track in one session. Most of the times I create a track in three phases : 1 = creating the basic loops, 2= putting them into an arrangement, 3 = make final mix of the track (allthough I allready do rough 'mixing' from the beginning onwards)
Doing it this way I might have several tracks I am working on, all in different 'stages'.
Meaning if you get tired of working with a track, you can just open another one and work on that one.
So an evening session could be : I created some loops for an hour for track A, then worked an hour on the arrangement of track B, and another hour doing the mix of track C.
This way every session I move on with 3 tracks, and finalize one of them each session.
This is a rewarding way of working and avoids you are working 3 hours on the same loops.
2) creating some loops from scratch is the greatest part of making music : you create something out of nothing. This is also the 'fun' part. Realize this. After that, it becomes discipline and work. Realize this also . Most people only want to have the fun side and there is nothing against it , nice hobby ! But if you want to have tracks, this means that -instead of starting with the fun part every time again- you will have to deal with the less funny part of makin music : this is where most of wannabee producers get stuck and why their harddrives are 'full of good ideas' but not one complete track.
3) I work with Ableton and allthough software and VST's are great, nothing beats hardware with knobs to get 'out of the loop' : a few twists on some knobs can make something completely different. What I see around me are 'producers' taking a dull loop, looping this and adding 10 FX on it then hoping it will 'become interesting' , then getting bored after 10 minutes of this loop...because it was dull to start with. I can get a 'loop' of let's say my TR-909, SH-101 , xoxbox and have this looping for 1 hour, twisting knobs and not getting bored of it. So : buy some hardware, it ll also help to not look at a screen the whole time
5) Even if you would complete a track, chances that you will listen a lot to it are slim...this is also why the motivation to actually 'work' on a track, is low. What helped me is to create full tracks in ableton, then to put them in one mix in traktor (I make minimal/techno). In that way you have an hour of nicely blended music of your own to listen to in a car for example. Actually being able to 'listen' to your music is such a way , is a great feeling. (I never listen to just one seperate track of mine, only in 'mixed' form) This feeling will motivate you to make more tracks. Alternatively : try to fill an 'EP' or 'Album'. This will set a goal.
6) If you really don't want to put effort in your music to complete tracks but still want to have fun with loops, buy Ableton and a good controller, load plenty of loops , and 'jam' with these loops 'live'. Use your controller to mute/unmute channels, add FX, control filters etc. Record what you are doing, later cut out the best parts and you might have a track just by some jamming away and cutting out the good parts. Sometims this is more fun then 'drawing some blocks in an arrangement'.
7) we can give tips, but it is different for everyone what the 'nice' or 'fun' part of music making is. I do know however lot of people get stuck in the loop just because it's the fun part to do (open new project, create something new) instead of working on something you have. It is up to you to decide wether you want to stay in the 'fun' part or do some work. But note that after this 'work' the music becomes so rewarding : you actually have -on top of the fun while making music- the fun of being able to listen to it.
I can give one advice,suffering the diesease of not finishing tracks.
one of cures is :
When you start to like the sound,vibe of this longer loop for example that is going to be your base , SAVE it,and never ****in ever again dare to try to find new bass patch,or change this or this. At this point you ENDED your tweaks. Because if you start to tweak it on and on again you will get STUCK and it will lead you nowhere.Proceed to you basic arrangement,add some transition moments,buold around what you have,additional ideas will come. But dont tweak this damn basic thing that took you to the point you are.
Later when you start to finish tracks this way you will be able to be less strict on this,having a habit of finishing tracks.