Top 5 Tips For Finishing Your Musical Arrangements
Published on: October 07, 2019
Top 5 Tips For Finishing Your Musical ArrangementsSometimes an Idea for a song can come easily. You may get inspired by listening to new music or after reading an artist interview, like one of SoundShocks recent interviews with Snavs.After you get this initial inspiration, you fire up your DAW and start laying down ideas. Hours pass and you finally get to the point where you have laid down an epic 8 bar drop.Great!You've done all the heavy lifting first.You've got the initial idea down, so now stretching out your idea into a full song will be easy, right?Unfortunately, this 8 bar loop is as far as many producers get when working on an idea.Soon enough, your 8 bar loop projects begin to pile up on your hard drive.We are all guilty of having amassed a huge amount of unfinished projects and throwing them into a folder that ends up being a pile of tracks that never gets finished.However, we can prevent this from happening.There are certain techniques we can use to avoid having our projects lost forever.Here are the top 5 tips for finishing your musical arrangements!By the time you have laid down your initial ideas, you will probably have heard the same loop at least 50 times.No matter how good your initial idea was, if you listen to it over and over, it will begin to sound stale.A simple fix to this is to just take a break.Then, after a few minutes or an hour, revisit the project and you will have a fresh new perspective on your composition.Doing this will ensure that you are producing with a creative mind and also tell you whether your initial idea is actually worth finishing.Here are a few things you can do when taking a break:
- Listen to new music on SoundShock's monthly playlists.
- Discover something new on StumbleUpon
- Ask for advice, feedback, or collaboration opportunities in the SoundShock community.
- Submit your music to [email protected] for feedback on your song during SoundShock's weekly live stream on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. Los Angeles Time.
- Download FREE plugins, Kontakt instruments, samples, loops, and presets HERE
- Try going on a quick run or doing something physical. This will change your mental state and give you a fresh perspective on your music.
- Meditate for a few minutes. You'd be surprised how effective this can be.
- Find out how cinematic producer Tony Anderson approaches the music creation process. It is a bit of a long read, but I guarantee that you will have a new perspective on music making after reading it!
One effective method for finishing your arrangements is to reference your favorite songs. Studying the structure of your favorite songs will make expanding your ideas a lot less of a guessing game. An easy way of analyzing your tracks is to drop your favorite track in your DAW and set time markers on the different parts of the song (bridge, chorus, verse, etc.) After you remove the song, you will have markers set up for the skeleton of a successful song. Here are other ways you can use your favorite songs to keep your arrangement flowing.
- Select some of your favorite tracks that have different arrangements, map out their arrangements, and save them as templates, so you have multiple song skeletons to choose from. This allows you to sketch ideas fast and keep the arranging process flowing.
- Make a new midi track for each element in the song you are analyzing and name the track accordingly. Then when each sound plays, put in a blank midi clip for the duration of the sound. While this may be a time consuming process, you will now have a layout of your favorite track. Studying this layout is like having a cheat sheet to a hit song. You will gain an understanding of what elements work together and where they work together in the arrangement. The more songs you map out and study, the more ideas you will have when you arrange your own song, so don't be lazy with this tip!
* Bonus Tip
Don't just stop there with the template. Having a template means you can save anything and recall it later. Take advantage of this and load in your favorite drum hits, go-to synths, commonly used sends (Ex. Reverb, Delay, Distortion) and even some basic processing like limiters and compressors.
When you are expanding your initial idea, usually a lot of copy-pasting is involved. This is a good way to lay down the foundation of your song and keep the original theme intact, but it may lead to uninteresting results at times.One way to arrange your tracks is to copy and paste, then layer and automate.This is a very simple but highly effective technique.Automate & Layer Arranging Technique1.Copy and paste your four or eight bar loop.2. Automate a parameter on at least one of your elements so it changes the loop significantly (cutoff automation, reverb automation, etc.)3. Layer one of the elements in your loop with a sound that adds a unique character on top of the sound.4. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times, but use the latest version of the loop each time you make automation changes and layer up your sounds.This will ensure that you have plenty of variations for your arrangement that keep the listener's attention instead of just copying and pasting your already existing loop.Often, this arranging technique will trigger new ideas that you may not have thought of without these incremental changes.This may even lead to the creation of a brand new section of your song. So every time you get stuck on your arrangement repeat steps one through four.At a certain point, we usually find ourselves spending way too much time on one particular element in the track.With all the powerful software that is available, it is all to easy to get lost in an endless tweaking mode in search of the perfect sound.This hunt for perfection eventually leads to procrastination.As Hans Zimmer said,"Technology doesn't make things faster, it makes it slower if anything, because it opens up endless possibilities. Plus you have to learn how to deal with it, so it doesn't drive you."To avoid this endless tweaking and keep your song from being stuck on your hard drive forever you can:
- Resample: Once the main shape of your sound has been constructed, convert whatever sound you have to audio and move on to the next sound. Whether you had an audio clip or a midi instrument playing, convert the track to audio so you are not tempted to continue tweaking the sound.
- Limit your plugin use: Stick to only 3 or 4 main plugins when you are writing your track. Having too many options often hurts creativity rather than helping it. Using a limited set of tools will actually force you to be more creative.
- Give yourself a time limit: We've all started working on a track in the early evening and then looked out our window to see the sunrise. Putting in such long hours often isn't productive. Setting a time limit for you to finish certain sections of your song, pushes you to the finish line and prevents procrastination. For each section of your song(verse, intro, chorus, etc.), give yourself a reasonable time limit for the completion of of that section and then move on to the next section once the time is up. While it may not seem like it, collaborating with another producer who shares your musical taste is a very effective way to finish your arrangements in a shorter period of time.Both parties can keep each other in check, ideas can be combined, and creative decisions can be discussed, often resulting in more tracks being finished in a shorter period of timeWhile this may seem like an obvious tip, many producers still turn down the opportunity to collaborate with other artists and/or don't make the effort to reach out and start a collaboration.Don't be this producer.Don't be shy.Drop the ego.Music was meant to be a collaborative process.Open your creative mind to another artist and get to producing.Looking for artists to collaborate with?Put up a post in the SoundShock community!