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Hello guys,

 

I need some help.

 

Are any of you ever truly 100% satisfied with what you record or do you think you can always do even better?

 

If so, how can we ever finish a song and go on to the next one?

 

Do you think that no matter what famous song The Beatles, Hall and Oates, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Steely Dan, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, whoever..... did, that if they listen to it now they wish they would have changed a line, what notes they played, how they sang it, etc.?

 

Thanks :)

 

Jerry

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Well one of the things is that being the writer/preformer and sometimes mixer and masterer, you end up hearing your song so many times that it may lose some of the emotional value it had when you first started writing it

 

If I recall Steven Wilson says that the vast majority of vocal tracks on any of his works are the demo vocals because after recording, mixing, and mastering, there is no way he could sing with the same passion as he did when he was recording a simple demo

 

For the most part it is always easier to negatively judge your own work with the, "oh, I wish I did something different there" but easy for us to listen to someone else's work and say "wow! Flawless!"

 

I've had the "less than 100%" feel plenty of times but I finish and export it anyways and much later down the road I listen to it again and say "hey! This isn't all that bad!" I had some stuff from 2010-11 that I thought wouldn't be fantastic because I was just starting out in composing, but I was actually pretty happy with some of it (but not all of it ;) )

 

It's sort of the curse of writing but is also a motivator; we are constantly developing ourselves and our skill when we write so don't be concerned if you aren't "feeling" it as much as when you started. In fact, and I have fallen victim to it many times unfortunately, the worst thing you can probably do is just give up on a piece. I was feeling rather uninspired for about 3 weeks and made a little 16 bar loop, exported the audio anyways but didn't save the project...I regret it so much. I listened to it again couldn't believe I had done that.

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Lately, I am finding it almost impossible to enjoy really polished songs from the 70's to today. It seems to me that hyper polished productions were and are a style, and the style results from the desire to make money by getting radio play. I think history will look at it much the way it looks at Rococo. Steely Dan spending 150k so they could move the kick drum around on one tune seems ridiculous and it was. And some of the MTV stuff these days is impressive from an engineering point of view, but less than ever from an artistic point of view. Even overdubbing by top jazz guys annoys me anymore. These days, I prefer to listen to live recordings as much as possible.

 

As for songwriting, that is trickier. I wish a lot of songwriters had gone back and worked on their stuff more. Not so much the folks you mentioned, but stupid lyrics have always been a pet peeve of mine. "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time." Or: "I work down at the car wash where all it ever does is rain."

 

That said, I think it is best just to move on to the next tune and then record the best ones. Willie Nelson has written 3000 tunes. I think he does his best to capture the moment, and then he moves on, then he goes into his file cabinet and pulls out the good ones later. Of course you can take that approach to the extreme. Dylan basically told Joni Mitchell that he's been relying on old stuff from his file cabinet for a long time now. (See the 60 minutes interview I believe.)

 

Only thing I know for sure is that if you think you're a songwriter, you should like writing songs. I have a young aspiring friend and when I told her about Willie Nelson, her response was that people don't do that these days. In short, she wants to be a star but doesn't really seem to enjoy the craft. Seems to be an awful lot of that these days. Musicians already have an exaggerated sense of how hard they work relative to non-musicians. The wanna-be-a-star types are just intolerable.

 

In short, I would just say put a deadline and move on. It's a craft. Romanticism really needs to be put to rest.

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Best piece of advice I ever received: It will never be 'perfect', you need to know when good is good enough.

 

In answer to your question, I am never satisfied but I need to know when to leave something otherwise it would never get finished.

 

How to you get that? With practice (repetition).

 

HTH.

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Are any of you ever truly 100% satisfied with what you record or do you think you can always do even better? If so, how can we ever finish a song and go on to the next one?

 

You have thousands of variations on the mix, so pick something and move on.

 

Tupac would scribble down lyrics and yell at the mix engineer for not pressing the record button fast enough, as soon as he was finished rapping, he left. He never stayed around to listen to anything.

 

You tube is now full of bands like the Beatles and 29 different takes of a song. It makes you wonder how they got from point 'A' to point 'B' during the recording process (the answer is George Martin).

 

No rule that says you have to work on one song at a time.

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One of the best things about being in a band was that every song we write constantly evolves. Sometimes it's best to record a song early in it's life, so that you can listen back to it and critique (which is hard when you are part of the thing that you're creating).

 

Then after a few months of practising and playing the song live, you can adjust it from what you've learnt.

 

Remember a recording is just an interpretation of a tune at THAT point in time. Look at how David Bowie plays his music live, it's never the same as when it was recorded.

 

A recording is just a moment in time, and songs always evolve on the live circuit. As someone who enjoys going to watch live gigs, it's always great to see a band perform a song differently from how it was recorded too!

 

It's easy to get hung up on finishing a tune, but naturally you need to move on, you can always tweak a tune later-on anyway there's nothing stopping you!

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  • 2 months later...

Recordings (as productions) are a best attempt at capturing the essence of the song—fully fleshed out. Live performance is being "in the moment" and wonderful things can happen.

 

For the most part, record and produce what you deem your important work. Work through the walls which will appear during the process. Keep going. There is a kind of synergy which can happen via this process. Sometimes it makes for very good product. Sometimes not. The overarching idea is to finish each song, mix and master best you can, and because you have stuff on your DAW, you can revisit older material after it has "aged" a bit. I've recut lead vocals two years after "releasing" a song. I've remastered many times, but as Chuck Canon once told the seminar audience, "Kill your babies!" and move on.

 

The paint-art world is full of stories of canvases where the famous work is painted on top of an earler work. These great masters ad their "outtakes" too. You've got a DAW, no need to paint over something. Just keep being an artist.

 

From a lyric point of view, work those babies, and work 'em some more. Beware the convenient rhyme. Just because something DOES rhyme (even if it sounds ultra cool) do not settle on it until it definitely advances the storyline and has no unintended ambiguity. Always think of the lone guy (or gal) in their shower. They cannot sing, but do your song and lyric speak both TO them and FOR them? To me it's the biggest obstacle. Your lyric must connect with the deep part of their spirit and it must say things in a way that cannot be said easily by the listener.

 

I could spend days on this topic, but I'm currently rewriting a lyric released on a real record so long ago, I'd forgotten how to play the song. But there is more wisdom in me now and the song was a self-indulgent 5:15 in length. I don't know if I'll re-record it, but I'm gonna paint over that pre-DAW canvas.

 

Ciao!

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  • 1 month later...

I have terrible problems with self-doubt. It frequently paralyses me, but I eventually do get things finished. One thing I heard quite early in my songwriting adventures was a John Mayer quote. I do not like his music, but what he said about songwriting was very useful to me: "if you don't finish songs, you're not a songwriter." I take this to mean in order to consider yourself a songwriter, you must thrash yourself until there is something to show for it, and it may not always be pleasant.

 

As to being happy with the end result, I almost never am, or at least, I continually vacillate. If I am in a period of hating what I have done and someone I admire tells me they liked it, I usually swing violently back to loving it for the next few days, before gradually crumbling back into misery.

 

Most often, I love my song the most after I have JUST finished it.

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Songwriting uses left and right brain in eternal conflict. Chuck Cannon (darn good writer) once opined at a seminar I attended that you KNOW when you've written a good song and nobody can tell you otherwise. With everybody thinking music is a free internet thing now, it's nigh impossible to get paid for what you do... so you have to LOVE what you do. They're your children. Love them. Then dress them, send 'em off to school, PRODUCE and FINISH them. Then (as Cannon also said), "Kill Your Babies". In other words... move on.
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  • 1 month later...

When I create it is subjective.. I try to move along at a reasonable pace.. Towards the end of the session, I might record several takes..

Sometimes I loop and do 5 passes of a solo. etc..The next day after the endorphins have calmed down you hear the song differently.. What was so brilliant last nite.. is so-so now.. Occasionally what I thought wasn't that good, really sounds good on the next day..

 

The good thing about computers, is you can keep all the versions.. I too tons of alterations.. I make reference mixes as I go. Each take has a consecutively higher number.. I have learnt not to listen to my music on a bad day.. Cause the music sounds 'bad' to me.. One of the greatest teachers is to play your songs for friends and note how you feel about it.. Are you cringing when that tom roll at bar 32 is coming.. Gotta fix it.. Sometimes just the act of posting it on a site and going there and listening gives you a different perspective..

 

For us that work alone on projects, we are subject to the winds of emotions.. on a good day the music sounds great, on a bad day, you feel like you should hang it up.. I remember when some of the first Beatle bootlegs came out in 80's.. The raw demo's sounded like a garage band.. I would have been ashamed for people to hear it.. Luckily they had George Martin.. He was an excellent counter part to their raw talent.. Listening to the Beatle's anthology albums is interesting, cause you hear versions with parts they later abandoned.. They were notorious for doing multiple takes, different keys, tempos, instruments used, arrangements.. They also isolated each section of a song, and polished it after basic takes.. The final piano at the end of a day in the life came days after.. It's actually 8 pianos all hitting the final chord..

 

I often have issues with songs.. Most of the time I finish them.. even if I'm not satisfied.. At a later date it might trigger an idea..

Sometimes I drop them.. The 2nd side of Abbey Road consisted of some of Johns 'bits' as he called them.. He never got them into complete songs.. just a part.

 

"Without You" made famous by Harry Nilson was written by BadFinger.. It actually was two different songs.. The verse was written by one member, and the chorus was contributed by another member.. Made a perfect song..

 

I often work on a song for quite a number of days.. sometimes totally rewriting.. sometimes re-doing a lot of parts to fit with the new bass part I made.. (which is what Prince used to do.. He kept overdubbing and replacing parts, he ended up with a different song)..

So even if you do a song, which is less than stellar, it might be just the kernel to use in a song you write 6 months from now..

 

Learn to evaluate your emotions before you listen.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have this problem too. I have been sitting on an unfinished album started by a band I used to have for years and years because I just want it to be as great as possible. I also could have made many solo albums at home by now but I just feel like my home setup isn't good enough, or I'm not a good enough mixer, etc. It really paralyzes me.

 

And yet my all time favorite recording I have ever made was done in one night at 3 AM, took me about an hour and a half, and I wouldn't change a single thing.

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Hi Jordo:

 

I complete get your situation... I feel it often also. The best thing is to finish it, and move on.. At least post it on Facebook or Youtube.. Try to sell it if you can.. See the problem with computers, and home studio, there is nothing to force you to finish it.. If you were booking studio time, you would be forced to finish it. I often have reluctance to 'finish' a song.. In fact my favorite time, is somewhere in the middle of working on it.

 

Earlier in my career, I did sell my music... Mostly industrial films, a handful of records etc. My output at this time is a post on Facebook, and a mass mailing to a bunch of friends.. Just the act of putting it out there is enough to call it 'finished'.. My cousin's husband, as been working on his 'album' for about 7 years now.. He's never played it for anyone.. He makes mixes,, and goes outside and listens on his car stereo .. He's shared them with no one, not even his wife.. He is 'stuck'..

 

Lennon was once quoted as saying . if he had his way, he redo, all but one of his songs. He didn't feel that they were right.. Luckily the Beatles were somewhat of a democracy, and everyone had to at least not 'hate' the song'. They came to an agreement of what was the A side/ B side. What cuts went on albums.. (they're were a lot that didn't go on albums, but were saved, reworked and later released..

 

You must for your own growth as a musician is let them go.. Songs are like our 'children'.. We as parents, are usually never ready to liberate them, lest they get hurt, or are too fragile.

 

There's a famous rock band.. Who've been making records for 45 or more years.. I've only ever liked two of their songs.. They were a rock arena band... Not too many top 40 radio songs.. They recently celebrated some anniversary.. I jokingly referred to them of 'over 40 years of 'garbage'.. Which of course is only my opinion.. And they've made so much in royalties. so it's obviously my own prejudice..

 

When you finish the music and move on. . There will always be a new piece of gear you get, or some new tidbit of knowledge which would make the music better.. Music is an entity into itself.. It is a product of the moment.. To me, I genuinely like studio albums better, because of the more controlled situation.. Playing live,, especifically if it's a staple of your repertoire. you have a tendency to take liberties with it.. Most of the changes I hear I don't like.. Each artist is different.. I had a singer with a great natural talent, but absolutely, no training or discipline. He never sang the same way twice.. Not even the whole melody.. It used to infuriate me.. Firstly because he was so undisciplined he was incapable of remembering what he did.. Yet seeing him live, and perform my songs.. was a rush, cause it would often, get highly motivated by the audience, and sing amazing variations, he could never do alone in a room with only a mike.. It was the magic of the audience energy..

 

Get un paralyzed, move on, and call it finished.. There's so much more great music to come out...I have an old song i wrote 36 year ago.. I have re done three times, each quite dfifferent because of the singer's talents... each one is so different.. obviously some people prefer one over the other..

 

I have friends two brothers,, they release music every week. Just guitar and voice,, live, one mike. they asked me to put some strings etc onto one.. I listened to it closely.. they are all poorly written.. They are the first ideas they came up with.. No knowledge, of different types of rhymes, consonance, perfect, assonance, family etc.. No idea of the power point of where to put the title.. No relation of the imagery they conjure up.. No 'prosody'.. (I've taken a number of Berklee Online songwriting courses)

 

When I started to mention ideas,or changes, they got highly defensive. I quickly retracted my suggestions, cause I realized they did not want to hear them. In their mind the songs were complete and should not be touched..They are good musicians and excellent singers.. but the lack of discipline, and the 'wandering all over the place'. leave you with nothing.. Five seconds after the song is over,, you cannot remember one aspect of the song..

 

I'm not going to go to task with them, because they are unwilling to listen. I may add strings, to their song, or just pass. cause the song has so many other problems.. dressing it up, is not going to help it.. At least to me.. Yet, I am not going to offend them, because they are not ready or willing to any criticism..

 

Look at Brian Wilson, it took him 40 years to realize his 'Smile' album.. the band back in the 60's couldn't get into into, mainly because Van Dyke Parks did the lyrics, instead of Mike Love.. It also was a huge leap of what the rest of the band considered 'their sound'.. this drove Brian Wilson into a nosedive of depression, more drug addiction etc.. It's taken all these years, for it to get realized. and without the Beachboys...Imagine the pain of Brian,who was used to aways getting his way until the Smlle album..

 

Go for it, finish the album, and move on..

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Interesting stuff. To be specific with my story about my album:

 

Basically it WAS getting done in a studio, and moving alone nicely, but I basically ran out of money and decided to do the rest at home by myself. But now I have been stuck because I'm worried I can't give myself the same results as the producer did in his fancier studio. So I have just been sitting on it.

 

Also the fact that the specific band has been long dead so I have a lot of "what is the point of releasing this album?"...it would really only be for myself, just to finally get it done.

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Albert Camus in his famous "The Plague" novel has a main character (also an author) who is working on a novel. Camus cites the opening sentence and it's wonderful. It's glorious! Throughout the book, the main character revises his opening line—each one truly wonderful, too—but slightly different. At first, each one seems better than the one before, but soon it dawn on us readers... "They're all essentially the same".

 

Guess what! Our fancy-sentence author dies! No novel! Just a single sentence which never says anything more, just says the same thing over and over in what eventually becomes a boring refrain.

 

So I live it this way: Get on with it. Quit making excuses. Just do it!

 

And if I'm not perfect, or "big production" worthy, no big deal. Music as a business is dead anyway, so just do it for love and say your piece.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Taking a course of the Rolling Stones Music..

 

Keith Richards wrote Satisfaction in his sleep..He was dreaming it.. He woke up,, turned on the cassette deck always by his bed.. Played the signature riff, laid down a few ideas about lyrics.. then there is an hour of him snoring..

 

When they got around to recording the song.. The song sounded just too bland..They sent a roady to a local music store, and told him to buy all the guitar boxes they had.. Keith tried the fuzz tone, on what would turn out to be one of the most played guitar riffs in music history..Keith was insistent that that guitar part be played by horns..the rest of the band argued it, out,and finally Keith consented to leave the guitar fuzz tone on the riff..

 

Now how would that be for regret.. If you get stuck..Set up a time frame. I tend to spend days, weeks on a song, trying all kinds of ideas..

 

Then I tried an experiment, that would finish the song in one day.. That meant maybe 3 takes, deciding which idea to use, and jettison the other ideas,, (but those ideas are like your children, they are too precious) Laying down a part, copy pasting it. etc.. I did pretty good..Not all songs were totally finished, but there was a finished idea..

 

I sometimes get torn, about what kind of instrument or patch to use for a part.. After a certain amount of time, I just pick one..Often first ideas are the best..There have been so many times the singers first take is the best..

 

Don't be afraid to dump parts, if you have a better idea, don;t go crazy trying to fit them all in..

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Taking a course of the Rolling Stones Music..

 

Keith Richards wrote Satisfaction in his sleep..He was dreaming it.. He woke up,, turned on the cassette deck always by his bed.. Played the signature riff, laid down a few ideas about lyrics.. then there is an hour of him snoring..

 

When they got around to recording the song.. The song sounded just too bland..They sent a roady to a local music store, and told him to buy all the guitar boxes they had.. Keith tried the fuzz tone, on what would turn out to be one of the most played guitar riffs in music history..Keith was insistent that that guitar part be played by horns..the rest of the band argued it, out,and finally Keith consented to leave the guitar fuzz tone on the riff..

 

Now how would that be for regret.. If you get stuck..Set up a time frame. I tend to spend days, weeks on a song, trying all kinds of ideas..

 

Then I tried an experiment, that I would finish the song in one day.. That meant maybe 3 takes, deciding which idea to use, and jettison the other ideas,, (but those ideas are like your children, they are too precious) Laying down a part, copy pasting it. etc.. I did pretty good..Not all songs were totally finished, but there was a finished idea.. And I did complete some songs in a day

 

I sometimes get torn, about what kind of instrument or patch to use for a part.. After a certain amount of time, I just pick one..Often first ideas are the best..There have been so many times the singers first take is the best..

 

Don't be afraid to dump parts, if you have a better idea, don;t go crazy trying to fit them all in..

 

The Beatles wrote and record Birthday in 8 hours from nothing to finished..John Lennon even wrote a song, recorded it, and it was in the record store in 5 days... No time for 2nd guessing..

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  • 1 month later...

Now I need some emotional support. Really curious what you guys think.

 

I have been struggling both financially and technically to finish this album I started years ago with a band I no longer even have. This past weekend I tried getting some guitar tracks for one of the final songs, it's supposed to be a kind of folk-punk song (maybe more punk/pop than folk though), and I just wanted a power pop punk guitar tone.

 

I was unable to achieve this with my limited home studio (I don't have a decent amp) using guitar rig, logic amps, etc. Everything felt weak and like a demo, not the kind of nice production I envision for this song. This song is meant to be the show stopper. The climax of the album.

 

I went to a friend's studio yesterday and after hours and $$$$ being spent we seemed to finally get a decent sound. We record tons of takes, etc.

 

I get home and it sounds terrible. Just...terrible. The guitar sounds muffled, like its behind a wall. It is all bass. It doesn't sound exciting or punk, it sounds like it is drowning.

 

This is the 2nd studio I have gone to who can not give me the sound I want. A sound that I would describe as "generic punk." I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I have no idea why this is so beyond the producers I have worked with.

 

Anyone ever have this situation?? I am stressing out about it because I can not afford to pay this much money on a stupid punk rhythm guitar track that should have been done 5 sessions ago.

 

Here is the latest version of the song:

 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/sallyband/01-everyone-believes-me-import-1[/soundcloud]

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  • 3 weeks later...
a lot of 'home' studios are not eq'd properly, or have structural impediments which hamper the sound.. If I was going to mix at someone elses studio, I'd probably bring my own speakers, and Cd's of reference material to hear what the room is doing.. it's a crapshoot sometimes..
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