Here’s the one piece of advice I wish someone had told me early in my 17 year solo music production career…
I figured it out about 10 years in! (Yep I’m a tad slow.)
And it would have saved me a TON of studio time and heartache…
First, think about a song which took you AGES to finish. The track you’ve worked on for the longest. Maybe even something you’ve still not finished.
Now, make a rough guess for each of these questions:
1. Over how long have you listened to this track?
A week? A month? Longer?
2. How many times did you listen to it from beginning to end?
100s? 1000s?? More?
3. How many hours you spent listening to tiny sections of it looping on repeat?
10s? 100s?? More?
4. How long have you spent listening to your track feeling:
Got your answers? Great.
Now, think of one of your favourite pieces of music (not by you.)
A song that changed your life. A track that couldn’t be any better. A piece of music you LOVE.
Now imagine listening to this “perfect” piece of music:
1. For as long as you listened to your track…
2. As many times as you listened to your track…
3. For as many hours looping tiny sections as you did your track…
4. Feeling uncertain / confused / overwhelmed / frustrated / anxious / angry / scared / bored of or about it.
Really imagine the emotions you felt while making your track (and so started to associate with it) linked to your favourite piece of music.
Done all that? 🙂
Now answer this:
If you’d listened to your favourite piece of music for as long, as many times, in as much detail and in the same mental state as your track…
What would you think of it? How would you feel about it? Would you still love it?
No way! You’d probably hate it. Maybe even loathe it. You might never want to listen to it again!
Would you still be 100% sure it’s one of the best pieces of music ever written? In fact, would you have any clue about it’s objective quality?
You’d have virtually no idea.
Despite the fact that now – you objectively know it is a brilliant piece of music.
So let’s think about this for a second…
How does this VERY popular assumption:
“more time spent always leads to higher quality”
..fit with what I’ve asked you to think about?
After going through an extended, hellish, tortuous creative process, how can you know how good it is?
Is going around in circles, banging your head against a brick wall, forcing it out likely to result in a quality piece of music?
Or are you more likely to ruin it?
Why put yourself through that pain? Because one thing’s for darn sure.
If you’re a solo producer – it is a TERRIBLE way to make quality music.
(I know. I tried the long, painful, tortured method. A LOT. Until I figured this out.) 😉
So here’s a great way to think about it…
To make great music you’re in a race – to the DEATH.
This race is against BOREDOM.
Boredom with the track you’re working on.
Thing is about boredom – he’s patient. Committed. He’s got stamina and won’t give up!
He’s always there, just waiting for his moment to pounce. No matter how great the music, no matter how excited you are, no matter the 1000s of ideas you have now. If you keep in the race too long…
HE WILL WIN.
And you already know, once boredom’s winning? It’s so much harder to finish! Most often you’ve either got to ditch it or wait for months to get some distance from it.
Bottom line: you’ve got to do everything you can to BEAT BOREDOM.
Here’s My 5 Boredom Beating Rules
1. DO finish it as FAST as possible.
I’m not suggesting you become careless.
My number 1 mission is to help you finish much better music, not make bad music.
But you’ve got to ask yourself – what is the best way to achieve that aim? It probably isn’t tweaking that track into the grave!
So certainly when you’re working alone – after a certain point you are extremely likely to be making it worse.
(This “point” is usually later when you’re collaborating – because then there’s someone else who has another perspective.)
2. DO take regular breaks.
Many people (for years – myself included) have this idea that they have to “get into the vibe” and stay there for hour upon hour. Sure, you can make great music this way (and if you’re totally vibing – keep at it), but as human beings this isn’t how we best work.
If you can – work more regularly (daily is best) for shorter sessions. And certainly:
STOP your session while you’re still excited!
(Not when your eyes are on stalks…)
NOTE: If you’ve been big on mammoth sessions, this might take some getting used to!
3. DO NOT try every possible sound & part “in case there’s a better one”.
Yep – sometimes you’ve just got to go with what’s “good enough” FOR NOW.
Put your creative momentum over and above every single element having to be earth shatteringly brilliant at every moment during your process.
Remember – you’re in A RACE.
Don’t force it. Just let it come out as it does.
(You can always come back to it.) 🙂
4. DO NOT listen to it looping on repeat in the background for no reason.
When you’re making a cup of tea, checking Facebook (in fact – turn off the internet while creating), flicking through sounds, even editing parts (unless you have to hear it in context).
STOP IT PLAYING!
Obviously sometimes it has to be playing, but you’ll be amazed HOW OFTEN IT DOESN’T.
So stop it. Do what needs to be done. Then press play to check what you have done.
(Just this rule alone can give you a big head start against the boredom.)
5. DO use proven methods and strategies to cut down your options and keep up your momentum.
There are loads of ways of doing this.
You could decide what you need to do to the track outside your studio, at a different time in a different place…
You could use this process to avoid the endless loop, and have a ready made arrangement to write your parts into…
You could limit yourself to a certain number of plugins or synths…
Just remember – the human brain has a very limited and constantly depleting daily capacity to make good decisions. The more tired it gets, the longer each decision will take (and greater chance it’s a bad decision!)
So the more decisions you can make beforehand, the more you can limit your options – the quicker (and better) your creative decisions will tend to be.
And the more progress you will make in those short sessions – so you leave boredom in the dust! 🙂
But even if you follow these rules…
I get it. Sometimes you’re still gonna lose the race. Sometimes the sheer volume of stuff you’ve gotta do means boredom beats you.
So then you have 2 choices…
- Call in the undertakers. Put it down to experience and bury it on your “graveyard” hard drive – along with all those other unfinished tracks…
- JUST GET IT DONE. Remember you loved it once and do what needs to be done to finish it.
Remember – precisely no one will listen to your track for as long, in the same way, with the same perspective as you. In fact the majority of listeners (by far) will be listening to it for the first time!
So you have to do everything you can to finish your track using “ears which haven’t listened”…
But this is very hard to do…
Because once you’ve lost this race – you’ll never get back that delicious excitement you felt when you first started the track.
Once boredom has won – you can’t rely on that initial momentum to get it done. But that doesn’t mean all is lost!
You’ve simply got to get more systematic about it. Which is why I started using this simple method for finishing those tracks you’re stuck on…
It’s called “The Magic Track Re-Animator”, and it’s a foolproof 9 step process for finishing those tracks you’re bored of.