Is Your Song Good Enough to Release?
We've all been there. You want your song to sound as good as possible. You keep tweaking, ironing out it's flaws and seeking perfection until you get to a point where you don't know if you're making it better or worse. You've spent so long listening so closely to the minuscule details, that you've totally lost sense of the bigger picture. Is this lyric any good? Is the bass too loud? Is this line out of tune? It's impossible to tell. Then, you either give up and put it out, or you keep tweaking and find that you're never finishing a project.
This is a totally normal problem to have and all creatives and all skill levels go through it. I've felt it many times! However, if you're going to progress and grow as an artist, you need to learn to work through it and know when your song is good enough to release. Today, I want to help with that, so here are four ways to tell when your song is finished...
1. When there are no more distractions
The first way to tell that your song is finished, is when there are no more distractions. By this I mean there's nothing that grabs your attention (in a negative way) when you sit back and listen to the track. There are no ringing guitar frequencies, no annoying breaths in the vocal and nothing appears too loud or too quiet. Obviously you are your own worst critic, so there are bound to be things that you would pick up that might not necessarily be an issue to the consumer, so be gracious with yourself. It's also possible that where you've been listening to your song non-stop, you may have become blind to a problem that's staring you right in the face. If you think your song is nearing completion, schedule a session where you can sit down and listen back with a fresh perspective. Don't touch the track. Simply note down anything you pick up on and keep listening. This way you'll have a clear, concise list of things to sort out before the track is finished.
2. When it competes with your reference
Another great way to tell when your track is finished, is to compare it to your reference tracks. Make sure they're level matched (you'll probably need to turn them down to match the volume of your mix) and make notes of anything that's wildly missing the mark on your track or anything you like in the references that you could bring into your own work. Comparing your track to professionally produced, mixed and mastered material is a really good way to get it sounding complete and "radio-ready", just don't take it too seriously. Remember that you recorded using different mics, different instruments, a different voice, in a different space with a different set of ears. Your art is totally unique; draw inspiration but don't get bogged down in making everything sound the exact same as your reference track.
3. When the feedback is good
If your judgement is clouded, feedback from a casual listener could be all you need to find what's wrong, or just give you reassurance that you're done. Find somebody that you trust to be totally unbiased and ask them "What do you think of this song?". It's important that you're open ended, if you start specifying your concerns you could swing their judgement. This works well because they're listening to the song as a whole, not each little element that's gone into the production. The things you're worried about, the consumer isn't, but they will soon pick up on anything that sounds out of the ordinary.
4. When your deadline has arrived
Nothing gets things finished like a deadline. If there's not one set for you, you absolutely must set your own. Otherwise, it's all too easy to procrastinate or get caught up in a cycle of "fixing" problems and changing your mind. It's amazing how much more creative and objective a deadline can make you. Orson Welles once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations”.
With this in mind, next time you start work on a track, put a realistic release date in your calendar and work towards it. Do not move it for any reason. Parkinson's Law states that an amount of work will expand to fill the time allotted for it. If you give yourself a year to finish one song, it will take you a year, but if you give yourself one month, it will only take you a month.
My final piece of advice is simply to make sure that you finish and release every project you start. You will listen back at a later date and hear something you want to change. That's normal. But you need to accept that you're learning and changing everyday. They way you improve is by executing things, finishing things and moving on.
Artists spend so much time asking "could this be better?" But you need to let the consumer be the judge. If not, it becomes a crippling excuse not to move forward and progress. Everything you put out is a timestamp, a milestone and a memory and you should be proud of it all!