A couple days ago I shared 3 ways to become a better engineer. In that video, I talked about the importance of finishing what you start.

My wife has a psychology degree, so she probably knows all those personality “letters,” but I don’t. I seem to remember taking some sort of personality test in high school, and I want to say the letter I landed on was “I“. I could be totally wrong.

Anyway, one of the descriptions for an I was “great at starting tasks, but poor at finishing them.”

I think all of us have a little bit of I in us. In the video I challenged you to look through your hard drive and “take inventory” of how many unfinished projects/songs you have…just sitting there…waiting to be finished.

Finishing My Album

A couple days ago I posted this on Twitter:

And while it’s true that I’m a little sad to be finished creating this album, I’m also stoked to be finished. Why? So I can get my music out there? Sure.

But I’m even more excited by how beneficial the process of finishing this album has been for me. As I mentioned in the video the other day, it takes more discipline to start something than to finish it.

Finishing this album required me to focus on all the smaller, seemingly mundane components of a record. It’s one thing to record a bunch of tracks. It’s another thing to plan the production of an entire album and make all those tracks fit cohesively together.

I’ve become a much better engineer because I forced myself to finish this record. I’m excited to mix the last song and send it off to be mastered.

What are you going to finish? When are you going to finish it? Give me a date.

I need 10 comments at least.

P.S. Need some practicing finishing an album? You can mix mine by joining MixWithUs.com.

[Photo by jayneandd]

  • Robin Vanmassenhove

    I’m currently working on my first full-length album, which features progressive- and electro-house. At the moment I am finishing the instrumental tracks… I’ve been at it for over a year now, and I want it to be absolutely perfect. I learned along the way to get rid of projects that aren’t going anywhere. This way I only keep the songs that I’m most interested in.

    • I wish you the best! But perfection isn’t possible. Don’t let your pursuit of perfection be a way of procrastinating on putting yourself and your music out there.

      • Robin Vanmassenhove

        Well off course perfection is not possible… By perfection (in this case) I mean when I’m absolutely satisfied… Because why would I share music that I am not happy with? How could I expect people to like my music then? Or is my striving for that kind of perfection also a contradiction to this article?

        • Of course you don’t want to release something you’re not proud of. But there’s a possibility that your pursuit of perfection could ruin the music.

          • Robin Vanmassenhove

            Ah, I think I understand… You mean going beyond a point where your music is actually quite allright and messing up more instead of fixing things?

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  • Kyle McComb

    I am really bad at finishing songs, but for me it’s due to two things:

    1. I write a song, begin recording, then a week goes by and I lose interest in that song and
    2. I tend to write music a lot faster than I can record it and prioritize the most recent songs.

    Any advice?

    • Hey Kyle. Some songs don’t need to be finished. Perhaps after the first round of recording you realize that the song isn’t as good as you thought it was. If it’s something you wouldn’t really want people to listen to, then it’s hard to be motivated to finish. I would recommend just recording a basic demo of the song, then don’t do any more recording until you’ve “lived” with the song a little bit. If you’re still excited about the song a week later, then maybe it’s good enough to start recording it. If not, then you don’t have to waste your time.

      Now, when you DO have a song you really like, make sure you actually finish it. Like I wrote in the article, you’ll learn more by actually finishing one song than you would be starting 50 songs. Finishing is powerful.

      • Kyle

        Wow, thanks. That makes a lot of sense, I’ll have to keep that in mind as I record. That will bring me a lot closer to having a good album, vs. just some mediocre songs too.

  • I finally finished a CD I started back in 2004 January of this year. Felt great to get the closure, but now I am kind of free falling trying to get started on the next one. I have remnants of ~ 7 songs that were started at the same time the finished CD songs were. But I have learned so much more about tracking, it is tempting to start them from the ground up. The thought of that makes me tired though. Definitely stuck without a clear goal right now…..

  • My album will be finihed… er… maybe in a month. To be honest, it’s only a few minor tweaks needed and it’s done as well as I can do it, but after doing the RPM challenge three years in a row (recording an entire album in febuary) I’m taking my time on this one…

  • Bernardo

    After 1 year and 2 months of hard working in my home studio, I’ve finelly have a date to finish: TODAY! I’ve been planned to record this album for years, but it was really hard to do it. The goal: Record 25 songs, to sing in clubs with a DJ playing the instrumental part. And also finish a release demo CD (with the lead vocals). Poor neighborhood.. the songs nedded to be fine in the monitor speakers and also in the P.A. system. What made me realize that it was finished? A hi and a lowpass filter. After this, my mixes got a minimum quality necessary to have courage to ask to play in bigger clubs. I don’t know how good it is, maybe could stihl get much better, but it is, no doubt zillions years better than before. thanks for the advices!

    • Bernardo

      Joe – I’ve been reading your articles and I definitely agree when you say that the only way to have something to show is finishing it. For several months, I’ve almost never showed no one of my mixes for nobody except for my brother and 3 more friends (and one month ago I sended 2 songs for you).. but now finally I have something that I think have minimum quality to send to everybody hear. But also I hear details in the mix that could be better, like a HI MID frequency of the hihats that is a little loud.. I tryed to turn it down, but it changed all the balance of the mix, so I turned it back.. ——And— some of the things I’ve done with the plugins in my project I don’t really know exacly why it works better. One of them is a hipass and a lowpass in the master channel. It seems to don’t make sense to cut the sub of the bass and kick, but it incredible made a big diference. Made easyer to hear in the car and with headphones withou having a headake. After this, a de-esser and after, a little multiband compress. Again, it would never make sense for me, but it works. Without the de-esser, the mix sounds too much agressive in mid freqs. I don’t know if its common, but I decided to mix the 25 songs in the same project, to all the songs sound balanced one another. One problem I’ve found – there is a part of one song that have only the lead vocals, and it turns louder then in the rest of the song (just a little). Well, comparing with the mix troubles I had 2 weeks ago, I decided to don’t be sad about it and burn a ton of CDs and start selling my show. Because next week I’ll find another way to do it, and other and other and will never have something done. Very nice to realize that. thank you again, Joe. Good luck with your excellent songs.

  • bobby

    Yes, particularly because the effort u need between 90% to 100% equal to the effort u need to do the work between 0% to 90%. The remaining percentage is what separate the boy from the man.

    • The remaining percentage is what separate the boy from the man.

      Nice.

  • Ciao Joe!
    Nothing is better then finishing something: all the best for your new album! 😀

  • I have 4 songs I’m fleshing out, but I would bounce between each one and so they’ve kind of each landed at the same incomplete spot. So I’ve taken a step back and given each one individual attention, just finishing one up now (the song in my studio tour from last year). Then I have a punky acoustic think I’m going to finish after that, hopefully this will all end up being around 4-5 songs for some kind of EP together by fall so I can have something done.
    I started out with bigger ideas and plans but soon realized, in addition to the gear I bought, the songs needed to breathe and be finished and I was giving the studio setup hobby more time than the songs. That’s a baaaaad combination…
    At any rate, the starting has begun and I’ve always got ideas…the finishing is the heavy-lifting part, and I can’t wait to get these done.

  • I’ve got a gazillion different things to finish, mostly held back whilst I finish my college degree course and get better at actually singing!

    However, I did go ahead, so some amateur mastering and went and finished something! Its not to everybody’s taste, but it is free (unless you’re feeling generous!)

    http://dreamsilentproductions.bandcamp.com/

    And yes, it felt good to close the project, upload the tracks and start seeing what people thought. Every time I listen back there are a million things I’d change, but damnit – its done!

  • Bob Sorace

    I have at least 10 unfinished songs on my HDD right now. I’ve got the “ooh look, a pretty butterfly!” syndrome. I’ll sit down ready to get started and then decide I should rearrange my studio. I’m known as Mr. 90%, this of coarse goes for everything in my life, everything I’ve done around the house is about 90% complete.

    I love starting projects and then the pretty butterfly shows up and takes my attention to something else.

    I remember reading an interview with Eddie Van Halen years ago where he stated that they had to bring in Ted Templeman at the end of a project because he and Andy Johns would never finish anything.

    Maybe it’s inherent of being creative or too much right brain not enough left brain.

  • ThomasN

    I start alot of material, some pretty good. But I have a hard time finnishing it off because,(besides being inept at programing drum parts) there’s a fear that it will turn out like crap. (Pardon the strong verbage). Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thomas

    • Kevin

      I am also not too great with programming drum parts. I’ve heard that getting at least a cheap MIDI drum pad can do wonders to adding realism to the drum parts since you are actually hitting something. I’m currently saving my dough to buy a Roland TD-4S MIDI drum set.
      If you have existing songs that you feel are good but have lame drum parts, you might want to contact my brother-in-law Craig Sowby at myonlinedrummer.com. He can provide professionally recorded drum tracks to your pieces for a price. Let me know if you’d like to hear a sample of his work and I’ll send you and mp3 of what he did for me.
      As for your fear that it will turn out like crap, get something started and send it out to friends to have them offer critique. You gotta be thick skinned but you may learn some valuable stuff.

      • christopher [chrisw92]

        to be honest I think drum pads are pointless (unless live on stage). you can easily use a midi keyboard or the computers keyboard (if you use garageband or logic pro)

        • Kevin

          My suggestion of using a drum pads or an e-kit was meant as a way to input MIDI information in a more drum-like manner. Rolls and flams which are used all over the place in real drumming are quite difficult to pull off convincingly using a keyboard or mouse but quite easy when you are actually using sticks on a decent triggering pad. The variation of note velocity is also more realistic if you are hitting a trigger and not clicking a mouse and assigning velocities randomly. Having said that, the one thing that does give away a good e-kit to my ears is a rapid single stroke roll. If you check out Roland’s V-Kit demo videos you might see/hear what I mean. The single stroke rolls take on a “too precise” sound. (as if the sixteenths were added via mouse with no attention to the altering of note to note velocity and variations in tempo fluctuations.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    nothing at the moment, I need some inspiration.

    I hate not being able to do any mixing or recording just because I can’t think anything to record.

  • Tom

    Why the comment requirement?

    • ViscoelasticMan

      Because otherwise you wouldn’t have commented. 🙂

      • HA! Tom, the comment requirement is to ensure that HSC remains a community, rather than a quiet…lonely…place…

        🙂

  • Finishing up an EP of 5 songs (demos uploaded on MySpace). Hope to be completely done by 4th of July weekend.