7 Tips to Help You Finish Your Tracks
When I first got into music production, I had the bad habit of starting a new project before finishing the one that I was working on. The result? Tons of unfinished tracks and nothing to show.
I think we all can agree that starting a new track is a lot easier than crossing the finish line. Today I want to share 7 tips that will help you finish your tracks in the studio.
1. Finish the arrangement before you start editing
When you’re trying to compose a track, it’s easy to start tweaking your reverb, compressor, or delay settings. Mixing and sound design are important, but if you only have a 16-bar loop, it’s not going to help you reach the finish line. It’s so easy to get lost and lose focus on what actually matters.
So how do you prevent this from happening? You focus on either writing or editing. Never both during the same session. Write your intro, verse, chorus, and outro. When you have your complete arrangement mapped out in your DAW, you can spend those hours of tweaking and fine-tuning your sound.
2. Limit your choices
There are tons of great VSTs and sample libraries available at your disposal. Do you need all of them? Nope.
Choose your sample libraries and plugins of choice, and stick to them. Having too much choice is killing your creativity. Pick one of the compressors you like to work with and learn all the ins and outs. You can also find sounds from your previous projects that you know worked great. Export them, and reuse them.
Before I start working on a new track, I always create a sonic palette to work with. I usually pick 10 sounds that I know work well together and that I know can help me achieve the overall feeling I’m looking for. This helps me get away from scrolling through endless kick-samples, which gets me nowhere. Also, saving presets and bouncing samples will help you start building your signature sound and identity as a producer.
3. Use reference tracks
Reference tracks are important because they give you an indication of which direction you should take. It helps you make important choices during the mixing process, which can save you countless hours when approaching the finish line. When using a reference track, you know you haven’t backed yourself into a corner where you have to start all over again because you’re completely off.
There are great options for referencing, and I use a tool called MetricAB. This plugin lets me compare my mix to any reference with a click of a button.
4. Use a MIDI controller
Drawing notes on the piano roll with your mouse and keyboard is quite uninspiring. When you connect a MIDI controller to your DAW, you get a completely enhanced workflow.
Another beauty of MIDI is that it can be tailored to your needs. You can map it to pretty much anything in your DAW. Not only can you play notes, but you can assign your knobs and faders on your MIDI keyboard to control filters, tweak delays or adjust volumes. Being able to adjust the sound from the controller itself makes the whole music creation process much easier and enjoyable.
5. Commit to your track and render to audio
If you’re working with MIDI, you know how great and flexible it is. This is great when you’re starting a project and building the arrangement. However, when you’re done with songwriting, you should render all your tracks to audio. Why? It limits your choices, and you’re committing to your tracks. This will also help you finish the track because you have fewer parameters you can tweak. You’re making progress rather than being stuck in the mud.
Another benefit of rendering your MIDI tracks to audio is that it frees up CPU resources and makes the whole process of working in a DAW more pleasurable.
6. Don’t play around – be productive
As mentioned earlier, there are tons of plugins and VSTs available, and you can spend hours playing around with a new synth and testing different presets. Is that productive when you’re trying to push a new track out? No.
Don’t get me wrong. Experimenting and testing new things is important when you’re developing your sound. Almost all my initial ideas originate from saving presets and bouncing samples. However, you have to differentiate between writing and “playing around.” Never combine both during the same studio session.
7. Set deadlines and tell everyone
Being your own boss is great and gives you a lot of freedom, but it can also be counterproductive. My last tip for today is to set deadlines. Why? Because you’re putting some pressure on yourself. Notify your fans, family members, and friends that you’re working on something great, and it will be released on a specific date. Get them psyched about your new track, and don’t let them down. Again, you’re committing to your tracks.
Martin Kristiansen is the founder of HomeStudioIdeas.com. He’s been playing and recording music for the last 10 years. His goal? To share his knowledge and experience within music gear!