Finish More Songs With These 3 Game Changing Tips
Write More, Struggle Less
Do you wish that you were finishing more songs? In 2011 I was the musician with dozens of project files but no complete songs to post. I would come home from work and spend 4 hours in front of my computer fixating on the same 8-bar loop only to realize that I had no clue how to expand it into a song. I had a blast exploring all the sounds I could make with synths and drum machines, but I wanted something to show for my experimentation.
My goal was to be a songwriter, not a sound designer.
To finish more songs, I needed to figure a few things out.
I needed to figure out how to have a coherent idea.
I needed to figure out how to focus on a single goal.
And I needed to figure out how to maintain momentum.
If you've been struggling to finish songs, let me save you some time and share the strategies helped me complete songs and avoid getting stuck with snippets.
Having the Coherent Idea
First, I needed to learn how to have a complete idea.
Having a coherent idea doesn't mean knowing every decision in advance but having a solid concept. A concept can be a melody or lyrical motif you want to iterate on within your song. You can develop melodic ideas by suggesting them in the verses and playing the whole idea in the chorus.
Once I realized that a complete melodic idea could generate all of the subsequent sections of a song, I could start imagining how sections would flow into one another.
Focusing on a Single Goal
I looked up to many songwriters who did everything, and I had the unreasonable expectation that I should be able to do everything all the time.
It's inspirational to hear about people like Prince, Kevin Barnes, or Mac Demarco, that can play every instrument and be their own engineers. The reality is that these types of artists are outliers, and we didn't see all the time they spent developing one thing before moving on to the next. Even if we are capable of doing it all, we should treat each song as an opportunity to focus on and develop a single component of the music-making process.
Narrowing the focus of a song allowed me to see the entire song as an exercise rather than the magnum opus that could make or break my career.
Once my ideas and focus aligned, I learned to maintain momentum by reducing decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue sets in when we spend too much time contemplating our songwriting options. The best way to combat decision fatigue is by avoiding decisions altogether. Creating a basic song structure template that allows you to fill in the parts will allow you to focus on more creative decisions in line with your song's focus.
The benefit of having these templates is that they allowed me to explore different song forms and orchestration without wasting hours flipping through presets.
When I implemented these strategies, I immediately became a more productive songwriter.
And I learned I had to write more songs to arrive at the good ones.
Writing great songs is a byproduct of writing songs. Period.
If you focus on volume, the process will feel like an adventure rather than a struggle.