Join 9K+ Subscribers

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join over 9,000 artists who already receive my weekly newsletter featuring short, actionable pieces of experience to improve your compositions/productions; no algorithms - straight to your inbox.

How do I know when my music is FINISHED?

Apr 06, 2024
When to Push Through and When to Pivot
One question I get pretty often is "how do I know when my music is finished?"
Or, "when do you know when you've hit that point where you start overthinking and making your piece worse."
Great questions.
In my own experience, "good enough" is a moving target. As I've gotten better at certain skills, my standards and expectations have changed.
If you find yourself listening to your old work and thinking, "I wish I had done that differently," that's good. That's a sign that you've grown.
But it can be tough for us to tell in the moment whether our labors are improving our music or diluting what made it special in the first place.
Do we push through, or do we pivot when something just isn't working?
There’s nothing else I can do to make this better...
I often find myself in this situation. I like to simplify my decision with one question.
If I had another hour to work on this, what could I do to make it better?
Often, this narrows my focus to any glaring issues that I can address right away. Other times, I have no idea where I would even start.
If the latter is true, it might be time to set that idea to the side.
If I liked the initial idea and anything else I do only seems to make it worse, I may reset things to the way they were and release it as it was initially. (always save a new version when you make major changes to a project)
Focus on building a growing, improving catalog...
We often get so hung up on a specific piece of music that we end up with "masterpiece syndrome."
"This is my one shot."
"This one HAS to be perfect."
"This is my GRAND OPUS."
Instead, we could focus on building a grand catalog of work.
The the well-known parable about a pottery assignment comes to mind:
A class was divided into two groups. Both groups were given a simple end goal: produce one vase which would be graded on its quality.
But, Group A could only make one vase. They would have to spend their time studying and theorizing - focusing on the best approach and methods for making a high-quality vase.
Group B was simply told to produce one vase per week until the end of the term. Then they would present their best one for the grade.
When the final work was presented, Group B was the clear winner. They won because they had made many mistakes and learned by trying again.
I've found this to be true for myself so many times. I struggle with perfectionism and am often overly analytical of my own work.
When I push through and FINISH more music, I've noticed the biggest creative breakthroughs and periods of growth as an artist.
Practicing "Performing"
This intentionality about finishing things reminds me of being a young piano student preparing for recitals and competitions.
Pianists have to memorize the music they perform (gee thanks, Liszt). With this in mind, my teacher would emphasize the act of what she called "performance practice."
This was very different than the kind of practice I would do when first learning a piece and trying to get the notes and rhythms right.
This was not the time to go back and fix mistakes as they happened. This was all about being able to continue THROUGH mistakes and finish the piece no matter what happened.
This was a separate skill entirely that also had to be developed.
It took reps - and not only reps, but reps in front of an audience.
That experience helped me take action when it came to releasing my early works as an artist.
I had to do some private preparation and learning (production, mixing, etc.). But, then came a time when I had to get in front of an "audience" and put my stuff out there.
This way, I learned to finish and release music by doing it.
I could build a catalog of work while always trying to improve in some way with each release.
Find trustworthy people for feedback...
One of the best things I stumbled upon early in my career was a group of people who were into the same things I was.
Back then, it happened on Instagram. There were a lot of artists like me who were also in the early parts of their journey but were very talented. Some were already more established but were very open and welcoming.
Many of those people remain friends to this day, and are people with whom I can share ideas and get feedback I trust.
Find people whose ears you trust for feedback. Look for people who are close to your level or just a bit ahead of you.
Don't approach people with an immediate ask for a favor. Treat them like a person and be a friend to them. This way, you'll build genuine relationships that will last a lifetime.
P.S. In a few weeks I'll be offering 1-on-1 Coaching to a few artists. There will be a brief application process and If it's a good fit, we'll take 3 months and work on YOUR music together.
I'll help you produce a track you've been working on, get it release-ready, and help show you how to get it out into the world.
I'll only have 8 spots available, and I'm offering the opportunity to people on this WAITING LIST first.
Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

1. Composition Concepts for Artists - an in-depth look at the process of composition with step-by-step examples SHOWING how and WHY I make decisions. You'll learn to take an initial idea and DEVELOP it into a finished project.

2. Understanding Synthesis - learn to design your own sounds starting with the basics of subtractive synthesis and progressing to more advanced sound design  with semi-modular and various forms of digital synthesis.

3. YouTube Membership - monthly livestreams featuring music making and sound design in real time. Q&As and exclusive videos only available to channel members.

4. One to One Coaching (coming soon) - work with me on YOUR own music. I'll help you take your track from idea to finished product, so you'll come out with a polished track or EP and any knowledge gained from walking through the process with me.