You know when your song is finished when you’ve completely ruined it, right? Jokes aside, here are a few tips that made “finishing songs” and knowing when the song is ready without needing to abandon it to avoid overthinking it. Let’s dive in…
4 THOUGHTS FROM ME
1. Compare your songs with reference tracks to understand how well your songs hold up against industry-leading tracks. The first thing you should do to make sure your song is ready is to compare the key moments of your songs (start of the drops, end of the drops, breaks) with a reference track. When listening to your track and A/Bing with a reference, first make sure to LOUDNESS match and compare it. Is the bass too loud or too low? Is the kick too loud or too low? Are the mids too loud? Do you have the same ambiance? Do you need more FX or Ear Candy? All these are questions that you can check with your ears and also using a spectrum analyser or plugins like Match EQ by iZotope, available on the Ozone Standard and above bundle, that will help you understand if your song is lacking anything or is too overdone. “But how?” After loudness matching, you can compare and check if the kick is hitting at the same loudness with a spectrum analyser, then the bass, and then using an EQ Match to check the overall tonal balance control and make sure they are similar to your references. However, it’s important to compare Apples to Apples. Therefore, make sure to (1) compare songs that are similar to what you want to achieve; (2) compare songs that have similar elements to yours, or moments from that song that have similar elements; (3) ideally, compare the start of the drop from your track and the reference together. “But, why?” You can see more of how I do this in this video or in this mix and master from start to finish, and this is what will give you the safety that you’re ‘up to par’ with tracks you love by instantly showing you if your track is lacking something noticeable compared to others, which then means that you need to go back to work. If don’t feel it’s lacking anything, then move to step #2.
2. Ask for feedback to understand if others think you need to do anything else in your song. After doing this comparison with reference tracks, it’s time to check what the world thinks about your song. Asking for feedback it’s like doing a beta test of your new songs with possible listeners and seeing what they think about it. Now, they will be comparing your track to other tracks they have listened to, and they might end up picking up on issues that you might have missed in step #1. Of course, it’s important to ask for feedback from people whom you respect and that can help you with feedback (and you can ask us for feedback over here), but also remember to not ask a lot of people otherwise this can also halt you with too many opinions. Ask 2-3 people you respect and check what they think about the song. If they all think it’s ready, it’s time for step #3. However, if 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 5 (essentially 50%+) give you the same comment, then I’d recommend checking this issue. If only one person says that your song needs XXX, then ask other people if they specifically feel the track needs XXX as it might be a personal opinion. Lastly, after you gather all the feedback, correct it and ask for another round if possible. Checking with other people will help you understand possible issues that you may have overlooked, and that will help you make your song better. In addition, when most of the feedback is positive, it will give you confidence to understand that you need to stop working and you’re ready to release.
3. Listen to the song with your eyes closed and check if anything bothers you. After making changes to your mixing or to your song, listen to it with your eyes closed and just feel it. Feel the song if you’re still developing the song, or feel its balance if you’re already mixing and mastering. Don’t pay attention to the song’s specific elements, but listen to the song as a listener and feel it. Is it lacking anything? Is there something bothering you? If yes, stop, make a note, and get back to listening until you finish the song. It’s impossible to sound 100% the same as a reference track or please everyone you’re getting feedback from, but when you listen to the song and you don’t feel there’s anything else to change, you’re done with it. “But Leo, that never happens to me”. Well, sometimes that happens because we are still developing our skills, and this is another skill that you’ll have to master by finishing multiple tracks. The more songs you work on, the more you’ll understand when you’re done with them, and also if you’ve overdone it. In addition, the more you rely on steps #1 and #2, the more they will help you start feeling confident that there’s nothing to be done. Lastly, and most importantly, we often tend to overthink our mix because we put too much pressure on ourselves thinking this is THE SONG that will make us explode. However, this will only add pressure to you and that is terrible to finish a song. Instead, look at it as just another step in the road, and the less pressure you put on making it perfect, the easier it will be to be happy with the finished result.
4. Create a streamlined mixing workflow to be able to understand when your song is ready. When you develop a workflow that you always go through to make sure that your tracks are ready, it will become easier and faster to understand when your song is ready. For example, my mixing process is fully reliant on referencing and I reference almost every element of my mix, and every mix that I do. After that, it’s feedback time and then I do 2-4 last listens to make sure all is correct. In addition, I always start my mixes in the same way, and I always end them in the same way because I’ve developed a workflow and a checklist that I have to go through to make sure that I’m ticking all the boxes, and after I’ve done that, it’s done and there’s no other reason to work on it. Essentially, that’s how I know when my song is ready to be released. Therefore, start developing your workflow to finish your songs and include some KPIs (key performance indicators) that once they are satisfied, you’ll feel comfortable saying it’s finished. Not only this will help you by making you finish your songs faster, but it will also help you understand when there’s nothing else to be done, and that will help you avoid overthinking and keep on making awesome tracks.
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
How else can you know when your song is ready for release?
1. Test your song in different environments: If you feel the song is ready on your speakers, but then you do the car test and it sucks, there are two lessons to learn here: (1) the song is not ready yet; (2) you need to understand your speakers better… The car test should be a reassurance that the song is ready, but it shouldn’t be a required step for it because your car’s speakers are likely worse than your studio’s. Therefore, make sure to learn your speakers as they are also key to understanding when your song is ready.
2. Leave it for two days and listen again: When you finish your song, leave it for 2 days, or one day if you can, and listen to it again. If there’s still nothing bothering you, then you’re ready to go.
3. Force yourself to get it ready with a deadline: When you have limited time, you’ll have to finish it whether you like it or not. In this case, working on remix competitions is AMAZING since it forces you to follow a deadline that you can’t change and it’s a great way to get into this mentality of finishing tracks and not overthinking the end result.