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niki's avatar

How to really finish up all musical ideas in head, without getting discouraged,overwhelmed,or procrastinate?

Asked by niki (714points) May 25th, 2009

what do you do when you’re a kind of a “person of ideas” , but totally suck at finishing-up ur ideas one-by-one until it’s 100% completly done, in the most ‘professional’ way?

for example,
I am often frustrated with how almost everyday, I could often come up with 4–5 ideas of new songs, from the melody down to the tiniest arrangement of music (whether it’s symphony, rock, pop, trance, New-Age, etc) , but then I always have serious problem to really ‘polish’ and finish-up all my ideas down to the details.
As a musician, I often still struggle very hard in lyrics, it doesn’t come so naturally to me . but on the other hand, musical ideas often come very easily & quickly to me.
but i am always so frustrated whenever I got ‘stuck’ in finishing-up writing a lyrics in ONE song idea, while ANOTHER new ideas of tunes suddenly just come-up in my mind again!

Likewise, I also often suck at the ‘technicalities’ of operating the music sequencer software(program) like Cubase , Fruity Loops (FL), Reason, etc.
stuff like , for example, balancing EQ, reverb, ‘envelope’ , all the ‘wiring-up’ from here to there , finding nice VST instruments, and most frequently, when I’ve made a single tiny little mistake while recording! I am currently only quite good at recording in WAV/Audio form, not MIDI, hence, the ‘problem’ with WAV is that I have to try to record it perfectlly, if there’s a tiny little mistake, I have to ‘fix’ the mistakes in minute 1:28, for example, and that require ‘technical’ thing/detail again like: using Cross Fade , and then Fade In, Fade Out, until the “new” parts get well-balanced with the “old” parts…..something like that.
But bottom-line is, very often I just can’t stand all those ‘technicalities’ to finish-up 100% on EACH song (or idea) , in order to sound “professional” !

and this has always been my problem, that recently it just made me kinda frustrated & depressed, because right now, I have probably like 100 ideas of good tunes (even i’m confident to say: great tunes & musical ideas) , but yet, when other people ask me how many songs I’ve COMPOSED, I usually say : “currently only 5 of them are 100% finished. the rest is still just an ‘ideas’ ”

How could you work-through this “finishing-up details” problem ?
especially when those fresh new ideas keep coming like crazy inside your head that you just can’t switch it down , ...yet you KNOW that you probably is going to have a hard time to really really sit-down & finish up those damn ideas ONE by ONE ?

Please, I need advice from those of you artists, who’ve been in this kind of situation, and have managed to work their way through this ‘stuck’ problem, or i’d rather say, “too-full of ideas, but lack follow-through” problem.

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10 Answers

dynamicduo's avatar

I’m an artist, I’m an audio creator and editor, and I’m also a perfectionist, so here’s my thoughts.

I think you need to take it slowly, instead of finishing all the songs, finish one song a day (and even that is dedication). Furthermore, realize and acknowledge that it will never be perfect until you’ve had years of audio editing experience (even my audio is not perfect). But you can treat each audio recording and editing sessions as lessons, learn something from each of them and become gradually better over time. Even make an audio journal blog, post the song and your thoughts on how to improve, then the next time you record you’ll learn and not make these mistakes. In my experience with all technology, this is the best approach in lieu of waiting and striving to make that one attempt perfect. This is coming from experience in my learnings in many fields.

Reducing the burden of creativity is the first thing I would try though. I simply think you are biting off way more than you can chew. Or, maybe instead of forcing yourself to create songs with lyrics, simply work on the melodies. My family are musicians, and we all work in different ways. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to write music. If the tune comes to you, capture that thought, don’t force yourself to conform to the requirements of needing lyrics. Plus, sometimes you’ll be walking around and pop there’s a little ditty! (For what it’s worth, I’m the opposite, I can lay out a mad word rhyme but find it hard to create that beat).

You should never resent your expressions, your craft, no matter what form it is. I learned this lesson about one year ago when I was feeling guilty for not playing the guitar for a long time, for not finishing a certain craft, etc. I was feeling sad and regretful, but then it suddenly connected in my mind and I took a look at what I was doing. I was wasting time being sad and regretful when I could really be spending that time doing something, playing the guitar, finishing the craft, anything but being sad! I’ve never been the same since I realized that. Now, when I catch myself heading in that direction, I channel it back to creating something.

Perhaps you can do a similar thing, if you are feeling resentful about finishing a track in editing, go on to record a new song, and when you are tired of recording, go on to edit. But I do think that focusing on the creme de la creme, picking out only one song from your mind and working hard on that, would be a good start for you. I also think that if you allow yourself the freedom to work however you want to, that is to say not compose a song linearly but express melodies first and let lyrics come to you second, you will feel less stress in your craft.

Kayak8's avatar

I totally “get” the question because I have some of the same challenges. I also really appreciated @dynamicduo for the answer above.

I may have the inspiration for a million songs or paintings or whatever and walk around feeling “creatively pregnant” most days. The quality of my work suffers if I rush things just as it would if I tried to deliver a baby in 2 months instead of the requisite gestation time.

Creative ideas require gestation time just like babies (they can be very similar in a lot of different ways). I will do a sketch or a quick painting to capture my idea and will then set it aside, taking time to think about the elements that go into it, I may make some additional sketches (notes to myself if you will) as I re-evaluate the idea.

I have to be very careful not to blame the amount of creative inspiration I get for my failure to complete individual creations. All the creative ideas in the world are nothing, if they are still in my head.

The challenge for me has become when to “share” a creative piece of work. In my mind, once I share it, it can become cast in cement and I get stuck. Whereas, if I keep the sketches to myself, I find ways to take elements from this one to add to that one, etc. until the end product is superior to either of the two prelimary sketches.

Above all, I can get so stuck on painting (or writing music) that I forget to cut the grass, take out the trash, etc. When I remember to physically do these other tasks, the creative idea percolating in my head gets a chance to swirl about and take on new elements that improve the ultimate piece. So for me, stopping active creation and sitting quietly (or cutting the grass) allows me to be more productive.

Simply put, if I am in my studio and look out and see the cut grass, I see that I can get things done and my artwork benefits from my confidence.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Wow, replace ‘words’ with ‘music’ in this question, and you have described me perfectly. I too have a hard time finishing things. I have hundreds of story ideas that have never gotten farther than a handful of notes on various scraps of paper, so I understand your frustration. Some of them are over ten years old.

Recently, I purchased Wave Pad and Mix Pad from I am not a musician by any stretch of the imagination, but I have used those programs to create horror stories not with words, but with sounds. Sounds like you might need to explore a new medium, to kind of get away from the medium that is frustrating you. I wish I had even one of the programs you are using, but being non-musical, it probably wouldn’t do me any good. ;-)

I hope you get your groove back, because I have nothing but the utmost respect for a person that can create great music.

augustlan's avatar

I have the same problem, with ideas in general. So. Damn. Many. So little willpower to do anything about them! In your specific situation, maybe you could buy yourself a small recorder, and carry it with you. Hum your musical ideas into it, so they can get out of your head (like @Kayak8‘s sketches… notes to yourself). Once you’ve got your daily ideas out of your brain, maybe you’ll be able to focus on completing older ones.

Darwin's avatar

Approach them one at a time. It is okay to let something lie fallow for a while until inspiration strikes, as long as you are finishing something along the way. Some composers have literally taken decades to finish one particular piece.

Do you need a partner? Some people write music best with someone else. For example, you say you are overflowing with tunes but having a hard time with lyrics, but someone else might be great with words but has a hard time creating the right tune to go with them. Working together the two of you might be incredibly productive.

There are many great songwriting teams out there, from Broadway to rock. Think Lennon/McCartney, Boyce/Hart, Jagger/Richards, Strummer/Jones, John/Taupin, Marr/Morrissey, Becker/Fagen, Garcia/Hunter, Waits/Brennan, David/Bacharach, Lieber/Stoller, Rodgers/Hammerstein, Lerner/Lowe, Rodgers/Hart, and many, many others.

Play to your strengths.

wundayatta's avatar

Yup. As I thought. If I remember correctly, either all, or almost all of the people who have answered this question are bipolar or something similar.

We’ve all experienced that racing mind full of ideas, and had no way to capture them.

Here’s my suggestion, and I’m really not being tongue-in-cheek, because it has worked for me.

Find someone who is ADD, and team with them. You come up with the ideas, and they obsessively nail down all the details. They love it because otherwise they have no idea what they are supposed to do, and we love it because we have no patience for details.

I actually have a theory that bipolar folk often end up with either ADD or OCD folk. Except when they end up with other bipolar folk. The first is a great partnership because your abilities complement each other. The second can be problematic. On the one hand, you really understand each other. On the other, if you’re both having some kind of episode or another at the same time, it’ll be disaster. Especially if you have kids.

Anyway, this probably isn’t a helpful idea, but it might be something to keep your eye out for, in case you ever do find a partner—either a work partner or a romantic partner.

Darwin's avatar

Hey! I’m not bipolar, just depressed and possibly mildly ADD with a touch of OCD.

wundayatta's avatar

@Darwin There you go! You’re the perfect person for @niki to partner with! ;-)

Notice how your answer differs from those preceding it. Everyone else empathizes and talks about their similar experiences first, and you start with the solution—a very good solution, at that!.

Darwin's avatar

@daloon – Sorry. At the moment I am partnered with my bipolar son and that takes up all of my time.

wundayatta's avatar

@Darwin I know. I was just being silly. I appreciate your struggles to bring up your son, and I wish you luck whenever I think about it.

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