#1
Hi,

So the topic of this thread is to ask you all, how often do you complete your songs? By completing, I mean that you get them into a point that you could release them and call them complete songs, even if they're only demos and need tweaking.

I'm asking this since I'd like to compare my progress to other people. I've been studying music for about 5 years now I think, and even though I have a lot of ideas I rarely make complete songs. I have probably made like 3 songs within these five years that could be considered complete, and all of those need serious tweaking before I could release them on an official album (and all miss lyrics by the way).

So I'd like to know how other people handle composition, and how they progressed along the years. Maybe there are other people like me how have a ton of ideas but a meager amount of even semi-complete tracks, and maybe there are people who find it really easy to write simple, safe music but lack those great, unique ideas.

And to clarify, I'm not here asking for advice. I'm here as a musician who'd like to discuss his habits and skills with other musicians. Of course, good advice is appreciated, and if someone wants I can try to help them. But equal discussion is the point here.
#3
That happens to me a lot too, sometimes I come up with a great part, and the next day it suddenly sounds hideous. But sometimes I'm really happy with what I've come up with, but everything that I try adding to it to make it more complete just doesn't feel right, and I end up burying it to my archives without ever completing it.
#4
I used to do the same as you. For me, I never finished my compositions because I never reaaaallly liked what I was doing. I guess I had like a "Well this isn't gonna sound good if I finish it anyway, why even bother?" kinda attitude about it. Eventually I did reach a point where I started really liking the music I was making, and since then I tend to work tirelessly until I finish it.

I still have a lot of stuff that I bury in my archives that I kinda forget about over time...I should actually go back and see if I don't have some diamonds in the rough in there, I hadn't even listened to that stuff in 4 years
#5
Quote by randomsaguy


I still have a lot of stuff that I bury in my archives that I kinda forget about over time...I should actually go back and see if I don't have some diamonds in the rough in there, I hadn't even listened to that stuff in 4 years


You should do exactly that, I sometimes run into some monstrosity that I came up with in middle school, which happens to have some riff, progression or just a feeling that I actually really like. Going through my GP5 folder every now and then is pretty fun, and occasionally I find something that I actually want to use.
#6
Recently I've had some songs that I completly finished (save solos and drums), and then there's songs where I get a verse and chorus done, and then can't get anything to follow it. So spmetimes I get entire songs done, more often I don't.
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#7
I find that I come up with ideas I like and I start writing a song, then because Im playing it for a while until I figure what to do next; I get bored of the sound of it and often dont complete them. Im guessing a lot of musicians do this.
#8
I work on most songs/pieces until they feel "complete" to me. That may mean I work on them for months or days, all depends. There's a few that I reworked much later.
#9
Looks at the track list from his debut album

Well, in my case, at least six times. I've got a few more I'm messing with now for my followup, and will have to write a few more to go with them, obvs.

On the other hand, like other folks here I have a bunch of stuff still waiting in the wings for more attention. One of the tunes I'm working on now is finally making use of a riff I wrote well over five years ago that I've just never found the right vehicle for.

If you never finish anything, that's a cause for concern. If it just takes you a while, then there's no real problem with that unless it's causing you to miss deadlines an' what-not.
#10
That's interesting, I've always thought that there's something wrong with my songwriting, but this seems to be a common thing. Except with Crazysam, but he kind of looks like Paul Waggoner anyway so I except nothing less

And I don't have a band or necessary equipment for a solo project, so I really have no drive or deadlines for my songwriting. I guess I'm doing fine then, I'd most likely get some songs done if I actually had a proper reason to do so.
#11
Quote by Elintasokas
Not often enough. I consider most of the stuff I make worthless for some reason.


There is a certain point where I decided that all my GP files were simply not good enough if I hadn't finished them already. It was refreshing to get out of that "back-burner" mentality and just start something fresh. You really just need a direction, or framework so you can judge your ideas one at a time to decide if you want to sound like that or not. From now on, all my new ideas either fit my solo project or they don't.


Quote by guitar/bass95
And I don't have a band or necessary equipment for a solo project, so I really have no drive or deadlines for my songwriting. I guess I'm doing fine then, I'd most likely get some songs done if I actually had a proper reason to do so.


Use a drum machine or some music software. I'm going this route as well, and it is always good idea to tab it all out in GP so you can play it back and hear it.
#12
Very thought provoking for me, maybe I'll do a post about it in my blog later that is more elaborate.....

From a music standpoint, Yes, I complete compositions, and quite frequently. I usually create a CD's worth a year, and prior to meeting my wife, I was recording a CD a month! And there's pages of history to that that I'll post in my blog later. My process is pretty cut-and-dry

1) Inspiration, which is either I think of a melody/rhythm section track and associate a feeling with it that begets the vision, or I am screwing around with something that makes noise or otherwise a musical instrument and something comes out that I like.

2) I record the basic rhythm guitar tracks and riff for my idea, then I lay down bass and drums, so we have a complete rhythm section.

3) Guitar solos, these take awhile because I'm VERY picky about feel and so fourth on my solos, though sometimes I kick something off that sounds just awesome in one take.

4) Synth/Embellishments/Sound Effects, and anything else. Sometimes I try out weird ideas that don't make it into the final cut.

5) Mixdown and Render, then share with band or squirrel away for future use. I"ve got a heaping ton of music stowed away. Sometimes something in a current project reminds me of one of those old pieces and I bring it out for re-interpretation and such.

From a lyrics standpoint, hardly. I write tons of lyrics a year, and while the subjects change every so often, most of the time I just write from whatever is pissing me off, or whatever I feel strongly about. I am also a comedy writer at times and go in a more Tim Wilson/Al Yankovich/Ray Steven's direction depending on my mood and what inspired me to write the song, but most of the time I'm in a dark, negative, moody, angry, and somewhat diabolical mood with my lyrics, though I have written ballands and such before. I usually have them paired with an instrumental, and in some wacky way, I"m able to keep track of what went with what, though sometimes I forget I wrote lyrics for this or that and end up with 4 different versions of one song spread out across my computer, the cloud, and random notebooks.
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#13
Thanks for the tips, cjohnson

And I agree with the first point in your process Mike, that's pretty much exactly how all of my ideas begin. I practically never think that "I wish to write ska in A major" or anything like that, I just either play something with the guitar or try to convey a feeling with the music.

But I rarely give any thoughts to lyrics. Maybe I'll try to brush my skills up in the future, but for now I'd like to concentrate on actually finishing the instrumental parts.
#14
Well, I've been playing for about 8 years and by now it takes me around a week to finish a composition. Usually I start with a single riff I feel strongly about and built the song around that. Most of the time after that week the song isn't "100% complete", I'll add or change a riff here and there, or a drum part. Kinda just touch and go. But overall yeah, about a week per song. Sometimes longer or shorter depending on the length of the song.
#16
I'm trying a new approach. Instead of using a DAW (piano roll), I will use a notation software, Presonus Notion 5, which I just bought. Maybe that will help me be more productive and have a better workflow.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Jul 30, 2014,
#17
People really seem to fall off into two categories, those who complete very few songs and those who complete a ton of them. And I wrote a lot of stuff in a notation program a few years ago, but today I find it boring. I think a lot better with my guitar on my lap
#18
Honestly I think that during the time that you are actively learning to write songs you should be firing them out in quick succession. Write multiple new songs every day. There is no point pouring your heart and soul into writing your first song, because it WILL be shit without question. Write a song in 30 minutes, 10 minutes, bang them up in a stream of consciousness style one after the other. You are practicing your trade/hobbie, and you don't get better by mulling of the same shit song for 6 months.
#19
Quote by MapOfYourHead
Honestly I think that during the time that you are actively learning to write songs you should be firing them out in quick succession. Write multiple new songs every day. There is no point pouring your heart and soul into writing your first song, because it WILL be shit without question. Write a song in 30 minutes, 10 minutes, bang them up in a stream of consciousness style one after the other. You are practicing your trade/hobbie, and you don't get better by mulling of the same shit song for 6 months.



Well, even if I may say so myself, my WIP compositions are actually good in my opinion. It's not a matter of finishing a shitty song, that's something I have done a lot. Maybe I should have clarified it in the OP, I'm talking about songs that I'm really proud of and consider them good, complete tracks, and those are songs that I don't want to rush.

And I do agree with you completely, you have to start with the shitty ones before you can make the good ones. But trust me, I have my fair share of toilet material
#20
Quote by guitar/bass95
And I wrote a lot of stuff in a notation program a few years ago, but today I find it boring. I think a lot better with my guitar on my lap

Yeah, for guitar music I would definitely agree. But since I want to write for orchestra, notation makes more sense imo.
#21
I totally get what you are saying about the complex songs taking longer. I find I can belt out a safe acoustic song with vocals in a day or two and it will sound cool. But some of my more ambitious projects can take months to complete.

I am ok with spending a ton of time on one song but I understand that you can get bored of a song you are making especially if it is taking a while. The trick to avoid boredom and have a drive to finish the song is to listen to it as little as possible during recording/production. I realized I had a problem a few years ago where I would work on a recording the whole day and then once good progress was made I would sit and listen to the track over and over again, sometimes for hours.

This is not a good thing because you are killing the song for yourself, now when I write I consciously tell myself to stop listening and carry one working. Only once the song is finished will I permit myself to listen to it on repeat the whole day.
#22
That's an interesting tip, I should try that. I too have the habit tho listen to the parts I've made a lot, and that might actually wear them out as you said.

Right now, I plan on recording some ambient/post/atmospheric/instrumental stuff, just take my guitar and improvise some verby, ethereal soundscapes. Since I don't have good recording gear yet, doing some simple and partially improvised music with just a guitar and maybe some synth programming might be an interesting thing to try.
#23
only after doing many songs did i realize it was a bad thing. Not to mention that you are wasting a lot of time by just sitting and listing. Also as a sound engineer an important skill is to be able to hear something once, make a decision and execute. If you are recording professionally you have deadlines and you can't afford to linger on one piece.

I have even started a new habit in the mixing phase to start by listening to the whole song a couple times while writing in a notepad all the things that need to be tweaked, it will be a long list, I won't listen to the full song again until I have checked off everything on the list. Then I repeat the process a couple times until it is done. This allows me to finish all the mixing in 2 days rather than a week or more previously.

Still, at this point I have a few songs lined up that I am only 95% happy with and I want to record a music video for each song before release, which is making the whole process take longer since I can only work on music in between my normal work.

sigh, the journey of a musician...
#24
I've also thought about writing up notes about the parts I'd like to tweak, but I haven't gotten around to do it.

I have to say that we view music in a very different way. I don't believe in deadlines, especially if it means that I have to scrap a possibly good song. I also hate most music videos, they are a distracting waste of time from the actual music, but that is of course just my opinion.

So, I don't really agree on the whole scrapping a song because of the lack of time thing, but I do realize that it might become a genuine problem. I'll still try to avoid deadlining my music as much as possible.