Do you find you’re much better at getting started than to finish writing a song? You’re not alone. Beginning and ending can be the trickiest parts of songwriting.
While it’s a great starter for ten, it’s not enough just to have the raw material. Your track has to stand out and sound amazing to be in with a chance of getting noticed. Discover top tips on how to finish your songs and you’ll get better and faster results.
In this article, we’ll have lots of helpful advice to give your numbers that final polish that’ll take them further.
Top tips on how to finish your songs
It’s one of the most frustrating things you’ll experience as a songwriter. You just can’t seem to finish a number. You might be stuck on a particular line, or the chorus, or just can’t nail that hook. If you’re short on time this can turn into a major issue. And you can’t move on to the next step, of releasing and promoting your song, until it’s complete. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prevent – and remedy – this annoying situation. Here are 19 top tips on how to finish your songs.
What to do when stuck on a song
This is totally normal. Writer’s block is a standard part of the process, so don’t panic. It may be time to take a break if you’ve been going at it day and night. But if not, see if you can push through the block and keep working.
#1 Identify what it is that’s missing or not working
This is the most obvious point, but sometimes you don’t quite know what ingredient isn’t present. Different genres of music have slightly different components that are typically found in a song. So compare yours to others by similar artists and drill down to identify the missing link.
#2 Try throwing in some structural elements
Songs have structure. The format varies, but the parts of a song may include:
- Bridge or Middle 8
If your song is lacking, check you have all or some of these. Then try adding any ingredients that aren’t present, into the mix. You can also try elements such as a key change on the last chorus (classic boy band technique) or some dynamic chord progressions.
#3 Set a goal
To help yourself to push through, you need an aim and you need to stick to it. It’s proven that setting goals helps us to achieve more. Tell someone about your goal and get them to hold you accountable to it. You’re more likely to keep to it if you do this. You can also add a reminder in your calendar, put up a post-it note, or create another visual prompt.
How to finish my song
#4 Don’t skip the mastering
If you’re trying to keep costs down, it can be tempting to go without mastering altogether. But if you plan to release your track for streaming and download, and you want it to sound professional, you need professional mastering. Your song may sound finished without it and it will certainly be a complete song. However, it won’t be as perfect as it could be with some final polishing. Mastering is the very final step before your song is made public. You must be totally happy with your tune, lyrics and structure before getting it mastered.
#5 Focus on your strengths
Your USP (unique selling point) may be your route to finishing your song. What is it that makes you and your music unique? Hone in on that and see where it leads. It could just be that you haven’t yet put your own stamp on the song. This may be a beat, a chord progression or some lyrics.
How to finish a beat
Whether you just create beats to sell or are creating a beat as part of your song, getting them completed can be tricky. Here are some tips for beats in particular.
#6 Take a break
With beats, in particular, it can be easy to develop what’s referred to as listening fatigue. This is where your ear is so overwhelmed, it stops being able to hear and identify what works. If you’re experimenting with different beats they can all start to sound the same. So cool off, do something else for a bit and return with a fresh ear. A break every twenty minutes to recalibrate is a good rule of thumb. This applies more to beats, mixing and mastering than other elements of song finishing though. When writing lyrics or a melody, it may be counterproductive to stop so frequently if you’re in the flow of it.
#7 Set a limit
These days there are almost too many options. We become overwhelmed. And nowhere is this more true in music than with beats. Listening to lots of them can be mesmerising. So, narrow down what kind of beat you want, be it in genre or tempo and stick to it. Many genres have their own standard bpm (beats per minute). This helps guide you as to what might work for your tempo. Here are some to work from:
Grime – 140 BPM (with 2-step, 4/4 breakbeats)
Hip Hop – 85–95 BPM
Glitch Hop – 105–115 BPM
Techno – 120–125 BPM
House – 115–130 BPM
Electro – 128 BPM
Dubstep – 140 BPM (with half time, 70 BPM feel)
Drum and Bass – 174 BPM
Reggae – 60-90 BPM
Down-tempo – 70-100 BPM
Chill-out – 90-120 BPM
Jazz and Funk – 120-125 BPM
Pop – 100-130 BPM
R&B – 60-80 BPM
Rock – 110-140 BPM
Metal – 100-160 BPM
#8 Consider combining
If you have lots of unfinished tracks that just never seem to pull together, see if you can combine some of them to create a whole. This could be the route to a really interesting mix.
How to finish writing lyrics
Like beats, lyrics maybe your full focus, or you might create them as part of your wider song. Words have more importance in some genres than others. Uptempo frothy pop and dance music often have very simple lyrics. While rap, love ballads and numbers with a message place more significance on what the artist is singing or saying.
#9 Use a rhyming tool
Especially if you’re writing rap, this can be super handy and speed up the lyric writing. While you may search your mind for some time before coming up with a rhyme, these rhyming search engines will offer you a host of options in seconds.
#10 Try freewriting
If you’re stuck in your head, this will help you break the blockage and access your subconscious, which can be full of juicy ideas and lyrics. Take five minutes with a blank page and pen, set a time and write for that time – anything and everything. Don’t analyse and don’t stop. It’ll mostly be utter rubbish, but some themes, phrases or words may appear that prove useful. As a lyric writer, this can be a useful exercise with which to begin each writing session.
How to finish songs faster
Perhaps you have a deadline to get your song finished. Or you find you take forever to get any of your numbers ready to go. If time is of the essence, try these ideas.
Say what?! It seems counter-intuitive when you’re in a hurry, to take time out to do something else. But if you want the inspiration and creativity to flow fast and free, you need to have a clear and lucid mind. The quickest and best route to this can be a short time spent on mindfulness and meditation. Commit to it and you’ll find new ideas appear from nowhere.
#12 Find a writing partner
If you want to get some traction on your work, find someone else to do it with you. The caveat here is that it has to be the right person. If your collab has no synthesis and you have wildly different views that just aren’t compatible, this method will slow you down and make it harder. But find someone who gets you and your music and you can fly. Sometimes separating out tasks can help – such as lyrics, melody, beats or chorus.
#13 Outsource tasks
Maybe you don’t want to share the creative process with a partner. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. You can buy pre-made beats to overlay on your track. Or hire someone to just write your topline. They will need to be credited and will be entitled to some royalties. But if it makes your song great, it’s well worth sharing a bit of the glory.
How long should it take to finish a song?
How long is a piece of string? It’s impossible to give a set time for how long it should take to finish a song. The time can vary from a few minutes to many years. In terms of the editing, mixing and mastering specifically, you could be looking at between a few hours and a few days, depending on how complex the track is.
How to know when a song is finished
#14 Listen to your gut
No, not the sound of your stomach rumbling after too long a writing session without a break. The part of you that instinctively knows whether you’ve done all that you can with it.
#15 Learn to let go
Sometimes it’s hard to just leave it. You keep tweaking and making changes that are neither necessary nor helpful. Learning to let go of your song is hard, especially if you hand it over to a label, or for licensing. But it is a part of the process. So if you know in your heart that it’s done, walk away and move on to the next stage (getting your song out there).
How do you know when a song is finished?
#16 Get feedback
Because if you don’t know, someone else will. Ask a seasoned songwriter to take a listen and ket you know if they think you’re done.
I need help finishing a song
You’re not alone. Few writers can do everything themselves from start to finish as some of the tasks involve require specialist skills.
#17 Hire a specialist
You may be up for editing, mixing and mastering your track yourself, but a specialist will make a better job of it. If you don’t know where to go for these services, check out a good local recording studio.
I can’t finish a song
#18 Think positive
Yes, you can. There’s help out there if you need services or collaborations. Believe in yourself and your song.
#19 Reward yourself
Design your own incentive system. If you don’ have a deadline, it can be easy to let it drag on and on. So dangle a carrot and give yourself a nice reward in return for completing the project.
These are our top tips on how to finish your songs. Now it’s over to you. Try them out and see how you fare. They might just be the difference between a tune that lies dormant and one that ends up polished and played. When you’ve got your finished product, it’s time to start promoting and marketing it, so the world can hear just how fantastic it is.
How do you finish more songs?
First, you have to write more songs. If you want to increase your output, set yourself some deadlines and create some goals. Aim to complete a certain number of tracks in a time period. Get others on board to help, if you’re stuck.
How can I make my songs better?
Use good quality equipment to write and record your work. Develop your vocals so your song sounds amazing when it’s performed. Invest in great editing, mixing and mastering services. Make sure you have an ear-pleasing chorus and a hook that draws in the listener.
Do you have any advice for fellow songwriters? What are your methods and how have they worked out? Let us know in the comments below.