What's keeping your band from finishing songs and how to fix it

Raffael
5
min Read

Phase 1 - Generating Ideas

The process of creating music starts with an idea. Sometimes you pick up your guitar and things come out like magic. You end up with rough song ideas, resulting in one or various riffs, or even start to form a part of multiple tracks or instruments.

What's important here:

  • get down your ideas as easy and as quickly as possible, to let things flow - perfection is bad at this point
  • store ideas for later so that you can find them and so that they don't get lost!
  • show it to your bandmates to get some feedback or to let them collaborate right away

Who's involved?

  • one person, sometimes more jamming
  • the whole band

Tools:

  • DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
  • Guitar Pro
  • Note Pads
  • Your Mind
  • Mobile Phones for rough recording
  • Storing your files locally/cloud/in your mind (props if you're one of them)
  • Communication Tools: Instant messaging, E-Mail

Common problems:

  • software/hardware can be a bitch, prohibiting you to get your great ideas on paper or recorded
  • good ideas end up hidden in DAW files or buried in folders, never to be found or listened to again
  • getting Feedback either happens the next time you see each other or requires good communication - IM messages get lost or mixed up with other stuff
  • proper storing requires very good file handling and management, especially when shared with others (there's always someone deleting the wrong files in a Dropbox...)

Phase 2 - Composing and drafting

At this point, things start to come together in forming some kind of "song". You start arranging your existing parts, edit them and compose new ones to fill the gaps. A lot of bands do this together, but anything that works best is fine here.

What's important here?

  • If you have a certain arrangement in mind, things need to work easily and quick to get a first listen
  • this is a testing phase, so you need to be able to work in a non-destructive way so that nothing good gets lost in the process
  • "filling the gaps" often results in tasks for each band member e.g. composing a bridge, adding a groove, adding a dynamic build-up that works well with the vocals...
  • playing, listening, testing, rearranging... - until it "feels right"
  • doing this together with others can sometimes skyrocket your creativity - and is a lot of fun

Tools:

  • Rehearsal with your band (not a tool, we know...)
  • Guitar Pro
  • DAW
  • Paper, Whiteboards...
  • Cloud Services
  • Communication Tools: Instant messaging, E-Mail

Who's involved?

  • one person arranging
  • one or two band members
  • the whole band

Common problems

  • Again, hardware and software can be a bitch, slowing your creative flow down or even crashing it completely
  • good arrangements get lost, because of poor file management
  • managing files correctly can be extremely challenging at this point - we all know things like "song 2 - with rhythm guitar_new breakdown_final_4"
  • it's hard for some band members to get involved in the process because they lack certain DAW skills or just don't have the newest files available
  • testing out a quick idea can be a pain in the ass because there's just not the right tool for this
  • sharing the current status is often done by providing mixdowns over and over again

Phase 3 - Fine tuning

The overall arrangement is done and some basic song version exists, that needs a final polish. Often playing it over and over again and tweaking it until it feels just right, is what's best. Some of it happens in the DAW while setting up a demo, by adding different voicings or instruments like synths or samples for example.

What's important here?

  • Demoing/Mixdown can be very helpful because you can focus on the song and not on your playing
  • While demoing you can add different elements like synths and other stuff
  • Give it a break!

Tools:

  • DAW
  • Mobile Phones
  • Guitar Pro
  • Communication Tools: Instant messaging, E-Mail

Who's involved?

  • one or more band members
  • the whole band

Common problems?

  • You've listened too many times to tell what's right and what's not - this is where some producers like to contribute
  • Reviewing the "result" together can be tricky - again proper communication and file management are very important at this point
  • Deciding when the song is done - not to over-engineer your song can be challenging, too. Deadlines can be helpful here.

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