Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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sporkles
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Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2007 8:43 pm
Location: Schmocation

Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by sporkles » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:36 am

We all know that it's easier than ever to capture ideas - the challenge is really making them into proper musical pieces. Some, probably most, of the gazillion ideas that vanish into our ever expanding "ideas" folders could probably be discarded completely, while others seem like they truly have a potential. Personally, I feel that I had two "golden" periods where ideas - and *good* ideas - came to me all the time - I wasn't as critical of my own efforts, I finished tunes and didn't get caught up with minute EQ adjustments and stereo placement. Now the finished tunes from those periods are utter rubbish from a production perspective, but I still like the ideas.

I've always wanted to make a collection of tracks - let's call it an "album" - which would have those old ideas at its core, but with better production and mixed with new ideas. At the same time, I want to capture and develop new ideas, because it feels more rewarding to tap in some notes and chords than always returning to old material. The problem is that at some point or other when I'm working on new material, I start thinking: "what if I grab that hook from that old tune and use it here?" or "this sounds a bit boring and repetitive - maybe it needs the melody line from that old tune?"

Then I'll either just play in that melody or grab it directly from one of my old projects, spend some time blending it into the new set, and then, eventually, realise that by dropping that old stuff in there, I've effectively killed the entire set. I'm completely drained of creativity and cannot come up with anything beyond that point that will result in a finished track.

Rinse and repeat.

Does this seem familiar to anyone? :x

Another thing is that, back in the days, I wasn't too concerned with sounds - I'd litter my tracks with 303-style arpeggios and all kinds of melodic cheese, whereas these days, I always start out with a more rhythm-based and minimalist mindset - percussion and rhythmical hi-tech sounds. Ideally, I'd like a kind of mix of those two styles, but I never seem to pull it out. Yet another thing, of course, is that I've got a much more eclectic musical taste these days, and I want to create everything from grandiose orchestral pieces to ambient and dance music, so basically I never get anything done, because I can't even focus on one thing. But this last paragraph is kind of a digression.

oblique strategies
Posts: 3577
Joined: Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:57 pm
Location: Another Green World

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by oblique strategies » Sun Feb 14, 2016 1:10 pm

Interesting issues you bring up.

Using old material
I like the idea that I have "themes", compositions that I return to.
What exactly is is about recycling your material "drains the creativity"? Maybe you could commit to "finishing them" with greater production values & then lay them to rest.

"Back in the day..."
Indeed, back when I had less sophisticated gear there were times when I was more productive. Limiting choices often results in greater productivity.

Producing a wide variety of material
Easy to lose focus & momentum. I envy anyone who is doing only one primary musical style or goal! They will surely get down their particular road much quicker than those of us who constantly change paths.

Food for thought
Deadlines, even arbitrary or artificial, are your friend!

ikeaboy
Posts: 1684
Joined: Sat Jun 05, 2004 9:38 pm
Location: Ireland

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by ikeaboy » Sun Feb 14, 2016 2:48 pm

I've always been in the habit of revisiting old unfinished tracks and melodies and I'm starting to think it's a bad idea and probably routed in the fear that new ideas are going to dry up (which is just a confidence thing and the inability to imagine the result of work before the work is put in)The advantage of making a track from 100% new cloth is it all relates to itself (well not always there's always the situation where you have to choose between different competing or incompatible directions). Resurrecting old bits especially melodies can pull you out of whatever dream you have for a new track, I think this working is more often a case of good luck rather than anything.

synthcom
Posts: 63
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Location: Hessen Germany

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by synthcom » Sun Feb 14, 2016 4:04 pm

I know exactly what you mean

It has to do with the streamlined integrated process of production today
There was a time when artist made demos and the production process was apart from this composition phase

Example
If you google for the depeche mode tracks enjoy the silence and walking in my shoes as DEMO
and then listen to the produced version....worlds between them!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GRyDzc4FF0E

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P7Un7rL1vNc

The songwriter is a class on his own, and wasnt interested in the production stage of this song, they were made by the others.

Conclusion
1. When it is a classical song structure, the composition matters a lot
2. There were professionals for every production stage, today we do all as one person in our bedroom studios

I have a lot unfinished material with potential but dont manage enough to focus on producing them more to the end, too.

H20nly
Posts: 15836
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 9:15 pm
Location: The Wild West

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by H20nly » Sun Feb 14, 2016 6:21 pm

I have the same problem... but the closest thing I can come up with to a solution is a collab. I have someone determining for me now if a couple of my old tracks need to finally be deleted...

LFO8
Posts: 333
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 7:12 pm

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by LFO8 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 7:31 pm

synthcom wrote:I know exactly what you mean

It has to do with the streamlined integrated process of production today
There was a time when artist made demos and the production process was apart from this composition phase

Example
If you google for the depeche mode tracks enjoy the silence and walking in my shoes as DEMO
and then listen to the produced version....worlds between them!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GRyDzc4FF0E

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P7Un7rL1vNc

The songwriter is a class on his own, and wasnt interested in the production stage of this song, they were made by the others.

Conclusion
1. When it is a classical song structure, the composition matters a lot
2. There were professionals for every production stage, today we do all as one person in our bedroom studios

I have a lot unfinished material with potential but dont manage enough to focus on producing them more to the end, too.

Quoted for truth.

It can seriously work against us, having to wear all the hats at the same time with no real distinction between the writing, production and mixing stage.
ImageAsylum Sound Music and Sound Design

bigmuz7
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:31 pm

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by bigmuz7 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 8:58 pm

I'm an old returner to DAW use and started with 9.5 because I liked Push 2 .. I feel somewhat conned by Abelton .. by the lack of useability of push 2 without live, and also by the lack of some essential things about live such as VST 3 support, and multichannel playback. .. But despite some of its undoubted good things, taking lots of excellent creations Ive made and making them into and arranged 'piece' is a bit daunting, so I agree with the OP very strongly, and its partly because arrange mode is so unintuitive .. it really annoys me that I will have to get my head around yet another 'aspect' of this software. I am certain if it were easier to use, I'd have finished many more songs, rather than have file after file of good ideas

mrgrim3
Posts: 118
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:04 am

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by mrgrim3 » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:02 pm

sporkles wrote:
Does this seem familiar to anyone? :x
no i just delete old stuff i feel burnt out on

miekwave
Posts: 752
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:49 pm
Location: Austin, TX
Contact:

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by miekwave » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:37 pm

sporkles wrote:We all know that it's easier than ever to capture ideas - the challenge is really making them into proper musical pieces. Some, probably most, of the gazillion ideas that vanish into our ever expanding "ideas" folders could probably be discarded completely, while others seem like they truly have a potential. Personally, I feel that I had two "golden" periods where ideas - and *good* ideas - came to me all the time - I wasn't as critical of my own efforts, I finished tunes and didn't get caught up with minute EQ adjustments and stereo placement. Now the finished tunes from those periods are utter rubbish from a production perspective, but I still like the ideas.

I've always wanted to make a collection of tracks - let's call it an "album" - which would have those old ideas at its core, but with better production and mixed with new ideas. At the same time, I want to capture and develop new ideas, because it feels more rewarding to tap in some notes and chords than always returning to old material. The problem is that at some point or other when I'm working on new material, I start thinking: "what if I grab that hook from that old tune and use it here?" or "this sounds a bit boring and repetitive - maybe it needs the melody line from that old tune?"

Then I'll either just play in that melody or grab it directly from one of my old projects, spend some time blending it into the new set, and then, eventually, realise that by dropping that old stuff in there, I've effectively killed the entire set. I'm completely drained of creativity and cannot come up with anything beyond that point that will result in a finished track.

Rinse and repeat.

Does this seem familiar to anyone? :x

Another thing is that, back in the days, I wasn't too concerned with sounds - I'd litter my tracks with 303-style arpeggios and all kinds of melodic cheese, whereas these days, I always start out with a more rhythm-based and minimalist mindset - percussion and rhythmical hi-tech sounds. Ideally, I'd like a kind of mix of those two styles, but I never seem to pull it out. Yet another thing, of course, is that I've got a much more eclectic musical taste these days, and I want to create everything from grandiose orchestral pieces to ambient and dance music, so basically I never get anything done, because I can't even focus on one thing. But this last paragraph is kind of a digression.
a. Create Basic Master Scene (A) 'Bass | Drums | Lead | Pads', usually 8 or 16 bars
b. Mute parts for Intro Scene (B) 'Bass | Drums | Lead | Pads', will have fewer notes, lighter velocities, more emphasis on the pad' part fewer drum hits
c. Change up Master Scene (A) >> (B) 'Bass | Drums | Lead | Pads' - change effect, change octaves, double 5ths, change 1/4ths to 1/8ths change 1/8ths to 1/4ths, change acending to decending, add crescendos, add decredendos, modulate from ppp (soft) and fff (hard) dynamics and vice versa
d. Add live instruments - plug your guitar in, play roots, 5ths and base chords around that, come up with some riffs
e. Keep playing PIANO patch with groove, follow the bass and/or lead parts while playing piano patch, and you will instantly come up with dozens of melodic ideas, convert those melodic ideas into new leads or double lead instrument tracks
f. Sing parts into (A) main groove, even if you are not a singer like playing piano or guitar with the loops you will instantly come up
g. If you're a bad singer use melodyne/autotune/vocoder and layer it with bass
h. Play String Ensemble Patch with groove - strings ensemble can go with almost anything all styles
i. Study Video Game music, lots of good musical growth to be had try remixing a few Video Game songs note for note midi for example I remixed a 16 bit song into a Swing/Jazzy/Trip-Hop track https://soundcloud.com/michae-thompson/ ... wave-remix

etc... there are dozens of ways to get reinspired to finish a track
Check out some of my soundtracks. Also Ableton Live Performance video.

ImageImage

sowhoso
Posts: 835
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2007 1:14 am

Re: Ideas you keep returning to, but can't seem to finish

Post by sowhoso » Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:00 am

golden periods? bah... we either create or we don't. period!

if you're working by yourself (sans producer, partner etc) you can spin your wheels and get nowhere for a long time before realizing you need to move on to something else and maybe trash that dead end idea. (albeit i've read this has happened to bands with producers too)

i believe we all know in our gut when something needs to be abandoned, but too often we refuse to listen

the source of ideas is infinite as long as we stay open, so why sweat it. let it go and move on. save it for another day, delete it forever...whatever, just move on

the most important skill an artist can develop is knowing when an idea is crap so that he/she stops wasting time on it

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