I've written 9 different songs over the past 4 months or so, and have always been more or less satisfied with what comes out in the end.

I've been working on a new song for a couple weeks getting chords and lyrics worked out and everytime I record the whole thing it just doesn't sound good (the first clip I did to figure out the concept sounded cool but translating this into a full song has been very tough).

First time I've had this happen and wondering if the song is just plain bad and I should forget it, or if I should keep working and eventually it will end up something I like. I mean usually once I've got a chord prog. I like and lyrics the song is done - I record the parts with reaper and then just play with adding some embellishments/effects and voila. This time though its taking a while and I'm not sure the song is any good.

If you think its a dud do you just try to finish it anyways? It seems like a waste to just leave the thing abandoned/unifnished - but maybe that's part of songwriting? Knowing when something just isn't working and saying screw it?
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I've never actually finished a song, I have a good few lying around i'm happy with and other people might class them as finished but i know they aren't.

I often find the same thing you do, the initial idea sounds great but the more you try and develop it it turns to poo in your hands. What I do in that case is move onto something else until I either have another idea to put into it or else gain more experience with theory and try to turn it into something.
I'm sure everyone is different, but I always abandon idea's. I'll often come back to them later when I'm more experienced and pick apart what is bad about them and create something good.
Most bands actually go into studio with demos of more than double of what they actually can fit on a record (unless you're Dream Theater and plan everything perfect from the start ), and usually scrap more than half of what they've written. And sometimes those demos and riff just lie around for some time and can eventually turn into other songs, like say, after a year of more, when you re-listen to it, and rethink it a bit.
Don't throw it away, but don't waste energy trying to make something you don't like. Maybe you can use parts of it someday.
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i wouldnt say i abandon a song but i have dozens of songs that i have music and no lyrics or a whole song worth a lyrics but cant think of any music that sounds decent. or i have a few lines or a verse or a chorus or something like that that ill eventually come back to
There's a lot to do with songs that aren't working out. You don't have to scrap them entirely, you can put them on the shelf for a while. If something just doesn't feel cohesive for me, I'll often set it aside and cannibalize it's different parts later: taking part of the chord progression or riff for one song, the lyrical theme for another, mix of instruments for another, etc.

It's also perfectly ok to just throw something out. I wrote and recorded a whole album of songs two years ago that I will probably never play again. They suck, I know they suck, I'm glad I wrote them because I'm a better songwriter for the experience; odds are I'll steal material from them at some point and include it in a song that doesn't suck so much, but if some are completely abandoned I sure won't regret it.

Option 3--just set the crappy song aside, and come back and heavily revise it later. You've written 9 songs over the last 4 months--well my songs aren't usually finalized within 4 months. Many musicians think that the authenticity of their songs is threatened by revision, but that's pretty stupid. Let the song sits, and you'll be inspired later to change something it's ok if the main riff or the entire lyrical theme does a complete 180, you're still making a good song, just a different song.
i always write down every single lyric i ever come up with(this might happen while taking a shower or beeing in school),because it might be useful. also,when fooling around on the guitar or any other instrument, i write down everything that sounds "fresh" or "cool" in tabs. This is very useful when writing music, because if you run out of inspiration when working, just check your little book!

Also, i always think about how i would make a song from anything, like a movie, a picture or a story (one of my "best" songs, Century Child, is actually about a man turning one hundred and regretting his bad desicions)

So, people wonder how i can come up with so many songs so fast, but im no supertalent, its just my main hobby. And if you prepare yourself well, its not that complicated.

And dont be afraid to play your song for a buddy, they might think its better than you do
Thanks for the comments, they are insightful and helpful. I might just try to get a finished recording of the song as is, let someone listen to it and see if they think its bad too then leave it for a while. If its total ass nobody else will be made to listen to it and it'll be my first "unreleased" song :p

I always think I'll go back and "fix" my songs to make them better with the experience I've gained, but whenever I try I feel like I'm making them worse or being inauthentic. A lot of times there will be a lyric here or there that I know isn't all it should be, but after I've listened to the song a lot it becomes like "well that's the song" and changing the lyrics at that point feels wrong (same for chord prog or song structure). I keep telling myself though that someday I'll go re-record all of them and fix the things I know are wrong, based on comments and my own listening.

It's just frustrating after how easily every song has come together in the past - can't quite put my finger on what's wrong with this one; if the verses are too short, the chord prog too boring, the lyrics too lame or sung too quickly or low or whatever.
My Gear
Epi Les Paul
Roland Microcube
Boss DS-1 pedal
Shure SM57
M-Audio Fasttrack
Make sure you find good listeners though---almost all of my friends praise my lyrical work no matter how bad it is. I've only recently found a good group of guys that are willing to critique properly.

As for the authenticity thing: I used to feel that way but now I don't think of it as ruining the authenticity of one song. I just think, "well, I've changed that phrase, now it is a new song. It doesn't mean or speak in the same way as the last one, but it still has its own message and mode which is equally valid and worth having" It's ok to lose the idea captured in that old song. It might come around again later in a completely new composition, it might disapear. But you weren't going to get to share it with people anyway if the song was poo as written.

I know it's easy to say these things but hard to seemingly "throw out" your hard work, or to change what seems to be a cohesive whole into something else. Just try to get in the mindset I suggested. Hope it helps a bit.
I used to horde every song and riff i ever wrote and insisted on using them regardless of how crap they were, nowadays i might sit down to record some ideas and then afterwards might not even bother saving it at all. i find that now i'm not being all anal about everything, that the creativity flows easier, then occasionally a great tune just drops out, fully formed.

Many electronic producers i know adhere to the rule-of-thumb that if after about 20 minutes, the tune isn't working, scrap it and start a new one.

a lot of musicians need to loosen up and stop being so "precious" with their music, its a song not a crystal vase or something.
I used to write down every idea. Now, its more like i keep 4 ideas out of 10 i come up with. I still keep lots of old song ideas that i never completed. Never know, when they could be useful. Or i could go back to those ideas, if i'm having a dry spell and not coming up with anything.
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Last edited by perry589 at Nov 12, 2008,
I have a bad habit of writing music but not writing lyrics to match or lyrics without music to match. I only have a few actually completed songs now. I usuall save my uncompleted songs someplace then come back to them later when i'm feeling creative. Or sometimes a good idea pops into my head and I run and try to put it in the song. Or, I often go to the other members of my band and ask them to help out. Sometimes someone else can think of the one piece of a song you've been missing. Or, they can tell you it's crap and don't bother with it.