Check out these tips to help you finish off those stubborn tracks that you're stuck with
Try to finish your tune before you get sick of it
If you’re sick of hearing something that you’re working on then nothing is harder than finishing it. When you’re feeling creative, try to do as much as possible in the one sitting. When you start a project you tend to work quickly and efficiently because you’re feeling it. Get as much done as you can while you’re still buzzing off the fact that you’re making new music. Get ideas down quickly. What you end up with might need polished up, but once you’ve nailed the main parts of the track it’s a lot easier to make small fixes than it is to recapture the way you were feeling when you got started on it.
Schedule in time to finish it/set goals
Sometimes getting to the computer to work on a project you’ve been struggling with is half the battle. Schedule in some time and set yourself realistic goals for during that time period. Could you get your track ready for mastering over a few hours if you really went for it? Could you write that missing melody, or find that missing sound? Great. Do it then. We’re all guilty of putting off projects that we hit a wall on, but you usually find that if you dedicate a good bit of time to working on it and you’re trying to achieve a target that you’ve set, you can be a lot more productive and driven.
Mix down and listen to your track
If you’ve been working on a track for a while and find yourself struggling with it, mix down what you have and stick it on your phone or on a CD for the car. Listen to it a few times in with other finished tracks and other people’s music. What’s it missing? What does this track lack that others don’t? What parts need work? Hearing it outside of the studio, along with other tunes, will give you an impression of how it would feel to your average music listener and make it easier to pinpoint what you need to work on.
Mess about with some hardware, or an instrument or vocal
If you have any hardware lying about and your track is sounding a bit empty, why not get it involved? It allows you to be creative in a different way and can lead to interesting results. As advanced as studio software is getting, nothing beats getting hands on and it can be a great way to fill gaps in your music. The same goes for instruments that you might have lying around such as guitars, which can add some really unique textures to tracks. Even if you don’t end up using the part that you record, try messing about with it, chopping it up and using FX to manipulate it. This’ll give you a distinctive and unique sound that you can work in. The same technique works great with vocals, which can take up a lot of space in your track and help to expand the stereo width if used correctly. Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if it doesn’t always sound like what everyone else is doing.
Work through your track bit by bit
Listen through your track from the start and listen out for small changes you can make. Try to think of what would make it better, or what would make it stand out from other tunes. Really scrutinize what you’ve done and try to make it sound as smooth and as natural as possible. Small fills and edits can bring a track to life and working through it this way allows you to make sure that every part of your tune is up to standard. Working in 32 bar sections can be a good way to start. Be sure to listen out for any lulls or parts where the track loses momentum and pay particular attention to them by adding fills/bringing in other parts of the track etc.
Don’t be scared to abandon it or to make drastic changes
Not every track is going to be a masterpiece. If you’ve exhausted all options and it still doesn’t sound anywhere near finished. It may be time to give up and work on something else. Don’t delete it by any means as you may be able to use parts from it in another project. Just be careful you fall into the trap of recreating the tune you’d already made.
You could also save it under a new file name and then delete some of the less crucial parts. Try experimenting with different basslines, drum grooves and lead melodies to see if you can come up with something new. Work something in around the parts that you like best, you’ll be surprised how different the final outcome can end up sounding.