Ever stared blankly at your Ableton screen with a cluttered project file and writers block? Have no fear! Mix engineer Anthony Garvin is here to help you explores some ideas and solutions in the art of finishing a song.
I work with many artists and producers, who write great tracks and are a lot of fun to work for. However once in a while, an artist hits a stumbling block, where the song doesn’t get any ‘better’ and no amount of production or mixing can help.
This is a recurring problem that I’m compelled to write about…. and the solution has nothing to do with production or mixing – and more to do with perspective and perhaps a little psychology.
Perspective is key when it comes to making music, and when you’ve heard a track 1000 times, it’s rather hard to keep a clear head on how it really sounds. So how do you keep perspective?
My first thoughts are… try not to listen to the track 1000 times over. The best creativity often comes at the start, and in bursts, so harness that and try to work quickly while it’s there. To aide this, and in your downtime, organise your sounds, create templates and make your setup efficient, so when creativity strikes – you can hit it hard and get your best ideas down quickly!
Also, be wary about fussing over minor details. Particularly when the creativity is flowing, overly attending to the kick drum EQ might not be that important. Leave this stuff to the end. And when it does come time to tidying up the arrangement / sounds / mix, Perspective is still key! In this regard, I highly recommend using reference tracks to compare arrangements and mix. Imagine your song is being played in a club / on a radio show / or playlisted on Spotify – what songs might be played before – or after – yours? You want your track to sound better, and have more impact than those, right?! These should be your references.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to use the services of other producers and engineers to help you finish a track. Apart from the skills they bring to your production, they also add fresh perspective! Maybe you didn’t notice the bass is so boomy it will blow out on a big sound system. Perhaps the vocals are so quite the listener can’t understand the singer… etc. etc. After hearing something hundreds of times, everyone’s’ perspective is F’d up – and having someone help with this at the end only helps the track sound better and attract more listeners.
Read our last feature with Anthony Garvin on how to play a live set on Ableton right here.