Being a frequent lurker on music production forums, I’ve noticed that one of the most commonly discussed problems people have, is the inability to finish songs.
I’m here to show you how to beat writer’s block and get out of that rut!
If any of the following statements describes issues you face then this article may be able to help you!
- I’ve got a great drop but I’m stuck on making an intro.
- I’ve got a great intro but struggling to make a drop.
- I keep making 8 bar loops but don’t know what to do from there.
- I compare my WIPs to other professionally produced tracks and feel unmotivated to continue working on them.
- All my music sounds the same which causes me to get fed up and close my DAW 5 minutes into writing a track.
Over the past year I’ve written and finished 32 songs, some of which have been signed to labels such as AIA and Vibes Records, they get sold commercially on royalty-free platforms like Audiojungle and they all have one thing in common, I wrote and finished them each in a matter of days. In fact, the core idea of all of my songs usually gets done in one sitting.
In this article, I’m going to go over 3 problems, in which I will describe methods and mindsets that I use which allow me to defeat them.
- High expectations.
- 8 Bar Loop-Of-Death.
- All my music sounds the same.
And lastly, go over a little exercise I like to do to practice finishing songs.
Far too often I go into a writing session with unrealistic expectations, I’ve been in my car and heard some mind-blowing song that gets me all hyped up to jump into the studio and make something just as mind-blowing.
What’s happened here is my brain has associated the music with a very positive emotion. Now, when I sit down in front of my DAW, what I am expecting to feel is the same exact emotion when I begin writing. But this never happens, and when I don’t feel that emotion, I get frustrated and start to doubt myself.
Being inspired by a song is not the problem. Anything that motivates you to hop in front of the DAW is great! The issue is that your expectations are set too high. And the solution is obvious, don’t have any expectations. You need to understand that nothing you compose within 10 min is going to sound remotely as impressive as the masterpiece you just heard. That masterpiece probably sounded just as unimpressive as your 10 min WIP when it was first conceived.
8 Bar Loop-Of-Death
You’ve got an 8-16 bar loop and cannot find a way to come up with a new section. Anything you put before or after the loop just sounds bad to you, you lose motivation and open another incognito tab.
I believe this once again boils down to expectations, your 8 bar loop sounds great and gives you an emotion, you want this emotion to continue into the next section but it doesn’t.
We need to let go of these expectations, just continue writing and accept whatever comes out, even if it sucks. The goal here is to turn this loop into a full song.
So what I do in this situation is take the 8 bar loop. Duplicate it 4 times, there’s drop one. Duplicate it another 2 times, remove the bass and the drums there’s our breakdown. Copy drop one and paste it after the breakdown, that’s the second drop done, copy the breakdown and put it in front of the first drop, and that’s our intro.
We are now looking at a full structure, kind of like a naked mannequin, ready to be dressed and fleshed out.
There are no new ideas here, all we’ve done is copy paste the same loop out, how do we work with this? How does this solve the issue?
What we’ve done is created space and opportunity for our creativity to work with. You’ve got a structure to work within and suddenly making a full track doesn’t feel like such a big task. Trust me, building a swimming pool is a lot less daunting once you’ve dug the hole.
I’d maybe start with the breakdown, have we got a high energy instrument like a supersaw in the drop? Maybe let’s replace it with a piano or guitar, or a pad, let’s grab the MIDI and edit that a bit, try inverting the chords for example.
All we’re really doing now is editing loops, which is actually really fun! Once the pressure of creating a full track is gone, that’s when our creative flow starts to thrive.
All my music sounds the same
Everything you write seems to sound the same. You’re bored of this sound but it’s all you’ve ever done, and you seem to constantly get sucked into the same patterns.
This becomes a problem when it causes you to lose motivation. Sounding the same isn’t a bad thing if it’s a specific style you developed and it’s working for you. But when it stops you from writing music becuase you’ve grown tired of it – well then its time to make a change.
“Change the process, change the outcome.” – Mick Gordon
I love this quote. This simple quote I heard while watching this video with Doom Composer, Mick Gordon, really stuck with me. And ended up solving this very issue I was having.
Every time I opened my DAW, I’d reach for one of a handful of common VSTs I always use, I’d start by working on the same element, the chords for example, then load up the same compressors, same reverbs, same EQs and to no surprise, started writing a very similar song to the last.
The simple act of choosing to work on a different element drastically changed the outcome of my next song.Instead of opening a grand piano and writing some chords, I’d go through some samples and try to find things in the same key that I could soak in reverb and other effects to create a nice atmospheric bed to work from. This led me in a completely different direction that felt new and exciting and made composing the rest of the song fun and effortless!
My advice is to pick one process that you seem to always follow when starting a new song and change that for something completely new.
This is something I started doing a few years ago and I strongly believe it has trained my brain to be able to quickly force itself into a creative flow and stay there for a number of hours.
The exercise is to sit down and produce a track in 2 hours. Finished, mixed and mastered. The goal isn’t to write a masterpiece, it’s just to get yourself into a creative flow where you’re writing and accepting everything you create. Do this once a week/month. Sometimes I even record them and upload them to YouTube.
Doing this has worked wonders for me and I’m sure it can help you too!
And that’s it for this article. Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment and let me know if there are any methods you like to use to get out of a creative rut.