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Refine workflow, how? Really good at starting ideas/bad at finishing Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 5th January 2019
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Refine workflow, how? Really good at starting ideas/bad at finishing

Okay, so I don't mean this to be one of those threads about the issue that 50% (guessing the other half has a hard time getting started) of musician has, to finish, but rather to see what you guys have done to prepare your workflow to make this process easier.


I want to hear all your tips and tricks but I figured I could use this thread to ventilate some thoughts and maybe get some tips a bit more specific for myself as well, even though all tips are welcome.


----- >If your only interested in sharing your workflow & similar related tips and tricks without relating them to me, please skip until you get to the end of < -----

So this is me starting on a new song
Step 1. I load up a new project in Logic to start working on a new song and.. I need to work like this a bit of "producer"-way because I'm not very good at remembering what I've "written", this is because I kind of always have a new idea in my head mostly musically but also an idea about a subject for lyrics and I'm also not very good writing songs down on paper (glad we got that out of the way).
...Step 2... and put down some midi chords for an intro, verse of chorus. Sometimes I've got an idea about what the song should be about but usually no actual lyrics but I've got it pretty easy to write down a really good line, sometimes this is my second line and sometimes it's my first.
Then I get stuck.
Step 3. I usually continue working on the music (and in those cases I feel uninspired I might skip the lyrics writing in the beginning and go to step 3 directly)
Step 4. Now I got a roughly, often good idea and it might include a Intro & Verse, sometimes Intro, Verse & Chorus. Very rarely I've got lyrics for all parts but it happens.
Step 5.This is where I get stuck, this is where I feel uninspired by what I've done, even though I most of the time, really like it when I put on headphones and go out to the store etc, but I do not to 99% want to continue working on that song so I start a new one, repeat and you get the picture.


Is this only because I didn't have the lyrics before I made up the song as some people tend to say?
The times that I have gone back to the song and written lyrics afterwards (that is when I feel the idea I had is so amazingly good and I've had some self discipline) I've done quite okay actually but I just don't want to, I've probably come up with two different ideas and are now battling which one to start working on before it changes / I forget it.


I really love starting projects, but I know the feeling of finishing and I love that feeling more, to see and sometimes see a finished product, I actually used to be able to finish tracks 7-10 years ago.
I'm guessing the high from starting is easier, but it's also a lot shorter and with that high I have also started getting real anxiety, like I'm obsessing about finishing tracks but my body goes the other way.

----- >The end< -----

Sorry, as usual the ventilation of my thoughts is never short when it comes to me.


For those of you who read and didn't read I would like you to share your workflow tips for continuing/finishing your songs and tracks.

I'm talking about something similar as a DAW-template for starting a song which could probably help someone that has trouble with that sort of thing but for something such as continuing an idea or finishing the song.
Though it could be anything. Learn more/all the scales, practices relative pitch, buy new cables ( ), stop with the drugs, watch X tutorial about Y, decide the root chords you're gonna use before you write anything else etc. etc. you get it.

It'd be fun if you shared details as well.
I feel a lot of these type of threads have had someone come with a good or great tip such as, let's say, painting the song out on paper "as it feels" or maybe the dynamics of the song but I haven't seen anyone share an example of this themselves so I stay clueless even though I know there's not a right or wrong (but with my imagination I need limitation, because I can go far far out), an example of a persons work would have helped me a lot more because I'd know fairly where to go with it and it could have gotten me inspired.


Maybe this thread sounds a bit more unfocused and confused than I planned it to be, I'm sorry for this but I have a very hard time focusing strictly on one topic, because there's so many things I'd like to "take to the next level" and they're sometimes not that easy to separate, and I guaranteed mix them up if tried creating several threads


(PS. Will be busy and probably gone the next couple of days and even though this thread doesn't need me to function, I'd just like to confirm to you that'll be reading all your answers and tips but maybe not answering due to lack of computer .DS)
Old 3rd February 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Too bad nobody replied yet... maybe we get your thread goin. When people say they are not motivated I always say "Move!" motion creates motivation.

When you get stuck - you mentioned why... you 'feel un-inspired' (thats a good thing to know that)

I would bet that after you have found that good phase or words... you are not matching up something EQUALLY inspired. I would not just go ahead and put a midi intro - unless it propels or makes the PHRASE SOAR! If you put something you do not 'love' all the air goes out. IMO I would never accept nothing but the best. And you shouldn't either.

You see if you compromise there its a snowball and never stops rolling and dragging a good idea down. EDIT CUT decision...! go back to the essence and try try again. If its something you want and worth fighting for you will do it.

Even 2 small inspired vignettes next to each other have synergy... get it goin and stoke that fire... gl
Old 3rd February 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by s wave View Post
If you put something you do not 'love' all the air goes out. IMO I would never accept nothing but the best. And you shouldn't either.

You see if you compromise there its a snowball and never stops rolling and dragging a good idea down.
I disagree. It's much more complex than that. Sure, in general, I agree with not just accepting anything, but if you never accept anything but "the best," you will end up with a very tiny body of work. In fact, "the best" by definition means there is other material around which isn't as good. The good news is that doesn't mean it's bad.

I guess my point is if someone feels like everything they write has to be so amazing, they're going to end up one seriously frustrated artist. Let that go. It isn't going to happen. The most talented musicians in the world don't write a gem every time, to say the least. Keep your expectations realistic. Hopefully at least some of the stuff you do will be great, but some might be just "pretty good" or "acceptable".......and that's OK. Some might even suck and you end up ditching it. That's OK too.

I don't have any particular thoughts on a "workflow" as I mostly just let it come in its own way to me; I don't push it much. For me that's contrary to the whole creative process. Fortunately I'm not trying to make a living at this, so I have that luxury. Sometimes it's tinkering on the keyboard, sometimes (much more often) it's an idea for lyrics....a topic, a few lines, maybe a stanza, and I build on that. As a writer, I have far more lyrics than music. Music is much harder for me.
Old 3rd February 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
I agree every purpose under the heaven... If you just want to finish a song for yourself or as cathartic therapy or musical diary... I agree - I have done it do do it and will do it.

My reply was mainly aimed at

"Sometimes I've got an idea about what the song should be about but usually no actual lyrics but I've got it pretty easy to write down a really good line, sometimes this is my second line and sometimes it's my first. Then I get stuck."

It was about how we can lose our drive and where the wheels come off. I still firmly believe that the focus should be on coming up with something as great as the inspirational seed of the song. Well we are allowed to differ and be different and disagree... people work differently.

I can finish 10 songs a day but if I did one a day it would be better than 50x better than the 10 half arse songs. So thats where my focus generally is. If the song is strictly for me - heck I never have to finish it. It served its purpose to me.

Songs can be very complex... Bach’s Ricercar à 6 from the Musical Offering... but I am into lyrics and popular conscious altering songs that spring from semantic rhetorical words that are generally not too complex to me.

There are not a lot of permutations in attacking and completing a song; for me the best ones come from not thinking and throwing stuff down.

I get lost most if I get so hung up on the words and the melody - making it harder to get a rhythm or beat that fits.

So I am very conscious of how I start. If I start right I tend to finish fast and strong. I, like you, enjoy lyrics... so I now take the phrase... find the inherent melody or beat right there. If I accomplish this its a pleasure and the song always writes itself. If I don't start this way... I usually have more problems. I do like working on 10 songs at once too - helps me alot... but that is me (I am always reading 10 books at once too) I get answers from studying away from the project. I am not a linear type worker... unless I have all the ducks on the table.
Old 4th February 2019
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for getting this thread going. Apprichiate it.

I'm not entirely sure if I'm describing my situation or my goals entirely right.

But I'm guessing I'm making music for myself but I still have a feeling that I'd want to make music for other to enjoy and I know I've been focusing more and more on actually accomplishing something instead of just having fun, which if course takes a lot of fun out of it. But in the long run I think it's a good thing for me to actually push myself a bit.

But I would like to stop feeling that om gonna make the greatest song every time I get into a flow because there's no such thing as the greatest song. Doesn't mean what I do need to be crap but I would take a couple of crappy and awkward songs now just to have something breaking my dry period.

I would like to know how you guys do it. I've done it myself in the past but back then I was really just doing without any goal taking what came to me and turned it into a song.

But I can't seem to do it anymore. Maybe I'm just not as inspired as I used to be? Maybe om too inspired? I've got a note book with houndreds of one - two lines that would make a great lyric but I can't seem to go into it and collecting ideas, like they're saved for another time or another song. Like I need to come up with something fresh every time I open up a new project and get somewhere. I have no idea why I feel like that.

Should get some guide on like "10 ways to actually finish that song" and just try every one of these steps and see whatever works. Though guides like that has never been my thing before.
Old 4th February 2019
  #6
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
I feel what you say. We are all in it together. I learn from everything I can. I learn from you. Then ancient word for teach was defined as 'learn/teach' or 'teach/learn' profound stuff here. What I always say is THAT is your inspiration. Why not write on that feeling? of not being able to complete a song. You almost have it all written. (listening yo Twenty One Pilots 'Stressed Out" might be added fire for you YouTube ) No one knows that better than you. There are no rules. Your honest mind set is perfect for writing songs. Try reading the great short novella written on writers block: 'If on a Winters Night a Traveller...' amazing stuff. Or Ambrose Bearses "Psychological Shipwreck" 5 minute read - Short Stories: A Psychological Shipwreck by Ambrose Bierce

I always go back to minimalism. If I am going to write a stupid kids song ditty then by golly I am going to write the STUPIDEST kids song ditty! And if I fail - well I am going to fail hard.

When I get too into myself - my best cure is to do the opposite. I write something that is ridiculous and makes me laugh at myself for writing such a stupid song.

Art is the expression of emotions. You have to convey that emotion to yourself. When you like it - its good. Whether it is about frustrations of digging a ditch - the idea of frustration is universal... and that will come across... the better you convey that frustration the better the song it is.

I try to not pre-form an experience that hasn't happened yet. That is keeping fresh and energetic for me. Often I will just put a phrase that talks to me - and put it in front of my mind asking as well as juxtaposing ideas next to it. You know whats funny? If I say man I just want to finish a short song,,, a few seconds long... I end up getting into it... and then I look at a song that is toooo long. 8 minutes how did that happen... crud now I have to cut it down... happy writing ... get into it. Another phrase I like is "it doesn't have a choice!"

That note book you have is gold. Keep the thread going...
Old 4th February 2019
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks. Your post is really inspiring.

Hopefully I'll be able to handle the anxiety I get from my block and make something creative of it but it's really paralyzing, especially when om used to writing music at night and now can't because neighbour's "needs" sleep and apparently their needs is more important than mine even though I'm sure my body screams louder for it's need than their bodies do for sleep...
Old 4th February 2019
  #8
Gear Head
 

I usually try to have the entire song mapped out, verses and chorus at least, roughly before I even open my DAW. I say usually, because like you I'll often come up with an idea and want to get it down right away, so I'll open up Ableton and start laying scratch tracks. I think doing it this way takes me out of songwriting mode and into "producer" mode, if you will, and I always end up with like two verses and chorus and the tune just kind of trails off.

As that probably isn't very helpful for you, here is some writing advice that I have found useful in my career as a hired geek (journalist) and my hobby as a songwriter.

1. "Don't stop to think of words, but to see the picture better."- J. Kerouac. This is Jack's big advice, in my opinion, and what he means is just get it down and don't get hung up on punctuation, spelling or anything thing like that. Just get it down on page, because unlike recording you can fix it "in the mix" so to speak. This is the frame of mind I use when I write anything, whether it be for work or this post. To illustrate this idea, Dylan said Like A Rolling Stone started out as a “long piece of vomit, 20 pages long.” I think he found a real gem in there somewhere.

2. "Take an ax to your first draft, not a fine comb. The latter is for lice."- Henry Miller. Pretty self-explanatory, and I think fits in well with the advice from Kerouac.

3. "Cement a little every day rather than add more fertilizer." - H Miller (again). Set that solid foundation and try not to get distracted by a bunch of different ideas. Once the foundation is set things will come together much quicker.

4. "Count on me, you are saying to the forces below: I will be there to write." - Norman Mailer. Set a time to write and only write during that time. No playing the guitar or checking your phone, just write and stick to that schedule. Set an egg timer if you have to and focus on nothing but writing, even if for just 15 minutes. Don't worry about how much output you have, like Miller said "a line without effort is worth a chapter of push and pull." Ol' Hank had a lot of good advice.

5. "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson. RE: your "stop with the drugs" comment. Find what works, and what doesn't work, for you and go with it.

6. "Don't try/Writing a poem is as easy as beating your meat or drinking a bottle of beer." - Bukowski. Don't over think it, just do it for the sake of doing it and for no other reason. You have these songs in you trying to kick their way out, step aside and let them through.

As for some practical advice, why not take the lines you do have written and see if they can be grouped together. Do they support a similar idea, do they juxtapose each other in an interesting way? You could also give William Burroughs cut-up technique a go with them, a number of songwriters have used the method to success. Here is a video if you aren't familiar with it: YouTube

A final suggestion, when you are listening on the way to store try freestyling in your head over the tune. Obviously this works better for genres like rap, but I feel a lot of songwriters do the same. The lyrics for Beck’s Loser was largely improvised and I’m fairly certain James Hetfield just kind of hums/mumbles over a track until he finds the melody and a few words that work. What's the worst that could happen, you walked to the store and came up with nothing, which is what you had to begin with.
Old 4th February 2019
  #9
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paratriplel View Post
Thanks. Your post is really inspiring.

Hopefully I'll be able to handle the anxiety I get from my block and make something creative of it but it's really paralyzing, especially when om used to writing music at night and now can't because neighbour's "needs" sleep and apparently their needs is more important than mine even though I'm sure my body screams louder for it's need than their bodies do for sleep...
Sleep is over rated... lol I just get 8 hours of sleep in 2 mins of lucid dreaming... there are work arounds.., having neighbors sux for musician.

nice title - My Bodys Screaming Stop the Paralysis! I would listen to it...lol You have inspired me too. I always ask myself how bad do I want it. And the sun will come up tomorrow.

for your neighbor--------------------------------------------->
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paratriplel View Post
Hopefully I'll be able to handle the anxiety I get from my block and make something creative of it but it's really paralyzing
somebody somewhere wrote that it's fear of failing that paralyzes people from finishing. i don't know if that's true, but it sure ain't writer's block

i stopped worrying about coming up with new material. everytime i play an instrument, real or virtual, something new comes out if i start improvising (sometimes i just want to play repertoire)

it's the same with lyrics. life happens and suddenly a phrase strikes. if i sit down and start typing, that phrase typically becomes a complete song lyric in one sitting

stop worrying. we're all full of endless ideas and it's just a matter of sitting down and recording them

writer's block is just another way of saying procrastination
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
"anxiety I get from my block"

Once you understand and get clarity on this "block" it will go away. Sometimes people even unconciously self sabotage themselves for not understanding (or understanding the changes) that success will/might bring on their lives.

"Success is nothing more than being able to see the exchange"

You lose something.... (what is it?) and you gain something (what is it?) if its good exchange go for it... success!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks got the wise words.

Since this thread (not necessarily because of this thread) I've started coming really much closer to finishing my songs at least coming away from the bad habit of starting one making an intro and a verse or making an intro, verse and chorus and moving on to the next one.

I feel that what really helped me was that I really just focused on making what would be the "good stuff" of that part of the song instead of every note that needs to be there in the end and then not playing it over and over so that my brain is not sick to its knees and therefore I'm looking forward to put my studio back together as soon as possible to continue working on my last one and hopefully it will be my first finished song, maybe not, and I feel I might not really care because it feels like I'm moving in the right direction.

Thanks for the tips everyone!
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