My music career and record label would not be in the place they’re at without a lot of music. And I mean a lot. Thousands of releases in 5 years, and tens of millions of streams. So how is it that we have been able to finish songs quickly without sacrificing the quality?
Today, I’m going to cover 10 tips for finishing songs faster. I have learned these lessons over several years in music production. I truly believe the key to making better music, unleashing your creativity and turning music into your full time career is all made easier when you simply make more music. Let’s get into it.
1. Understand the 80/20 (Pareto) Principle in Music
The 80/20 rule, which is formally known as the pareto principle states the following:
80% of results come from 20% of causes.Indiemusicmoney.com
Sounds simple, and perhaps even untrue. But this principle is amazingly accurate throughout society and the natural world. A lot of the time, people who try to make use of the pareto principle are doing so in a business context. Often, 80% of a companies profit will come from 20% of their products, for instance Focussing on doing more of that 20% is where the more efficient route to success is.
Learning and improving on the 20% of actions that lead to 80% of the results is a powerful rule I use in music all the time. How can we practically use the pareto principle to finish our music faster though?
When you next work on a song from scratch, try to be conscious of how long it took you to get to the point where the song is nearly finished, versus how much time you spend on making minor mixing adjustments.
If you’re anything like me, I used to spend around 5-10 hours on a song. You could argue the song was pretty much complete within the first hour, with the last 9 being minor alterations which don’t really add much.
Try to cut down how long you spend on that last 20%, because it takes up a lot of your time yet doesn’t really make a huge difference to the quality, I promise you that.
To test this, make a song and get it to your 80% point and export it. Then, spend a load of time on minor tweaks in the reverb, EQ and whatever else. Then, compare your final result with the original. Ask yourself if it was worth doing that rather than producing another 5 songs in the same time.
If you’re an absolute perfectionist and have a huge audience of sound design nerds and mixing engineers, sure – creating an absolutely immaculate end product might be worth it. But if you don’t already have 500,000 monthly listeners and tour the world, perhaps think about just releasing more music. Your fans will probably prefer to hear more songs from their favourite artist than a single release which took months.
2. Organise Your Samples
I’m looking at you, electronic music producers. We all have tens of thousands of samples, presets, loops and plugins. How much time do you spend looking for the perfect snare, and ignoring the other 9000 snares you have?
Take some time whilst going along and make note of the most frequently used samples – you will probably find there are a small selection of sounds you use way more than anything else, so why not put them in a separate folder to have access to your favourite samples way quicker?
I’m being dead serious – I once finished a song, and then spent another hour just trying to get a perfect snare. We’ve definitely all done this. Once you find your 10-20 favourite one shots from each category, just keep them all in a single folder!
3. Make a Project Template
I don’t care how creative or unique all of your individual songs are, there’s a very high chance you use a similar range of plugins on each track. Make a base template which has a lot of the work done for you.
For example, I always cut my 808 at around 30Hz. It works for me, and I like it. On top of this I usually have a similar vocal chain on every song, and a handful of plugins I put on the master. If you have a few very commonly used plugins on tracks, just create a template to help save you a ton of time in redoing the same thing over and over again.
I have a template which I use for making a certain kind of trap beat, which is mainly for bass addicts – you know the guys who spend thousands of dollars on speaker systems in their cars that have subwoofers so big you could cook a stew in them?
They love songs with bass, of course. By having a template with a load of presets configured for maximum destruction, I’m able to make dozens and dozens of super bass heavy music that they’ve come to love.
4. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
Ableton has a load of really handy keyboard shortcuts. From Ctrl + D for duplicating, to Ctrl + Shift + R for exporting, it makes the process a lot quicker, and also has no difference on the overall quality of your music. It’s the same as learning to use any other software – keyboard shortcuts save you time.
Regardless of your DAW, make sure you learn them.
5. If You’re Stuck Creatively, Move On
If you just can’t find a lead which meshes well with your song, move on and come back to it. Rather that spending hours trying to get a single element to sound great when the rest of the track hasn’t even been made yet, focus on finishing the rest of the song and then go back and try again.
Creative ruts are super frustrating to deal with, when it just feels like nothing you are doing works. The best thing to do sometimes is make a coffee, give yourself a few minutes, and then come back and work on something different.
Bonus Tip – Use a Fast Distribution Service
One of the longest parts of releasing songs is the distribution process. With some distributors, not naming and shaming here, it can take hours to fill in their forms just for a five track EP, not to mention the week plus wait for the release to actually be on Spotify.
If you’re looking to make more music and get it out there faster, I have to recommend DistroKid. They are the absolute fastest distribution service of all of the platforms I have tried
Conclusion – Finishing Songs Quickly Is Easy With Discipline
The main focus of all of these tips is discipline. It’s easy to read this article, go back to making music and then get caught in the same endless loop of your song going nowhere. Try to become self aware of your behaviour and make some small changes to help you finish your songs quicker.
Whether you focus on the pareto principle to become happier with your output, or simply move your favourite samples into a single folder, there are a ton of easy to implement methods which can help you produce way more songs in the long run.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve found this useful if you’re often stuck in a loop when trying to finish tracks.