Supercoolmike

Too many projects in general

18 posts in this topic

     I probably have a dumb question, but How do you guys stay in track in a project regardless if it has deadlines or whether if you're even getting paid for it? I seem to always find myself totally motivated to always start a new project (especially if other people are involved) but than just start struggling to just get somewhere competently, let alone actually finishing it. Where do you guys find the motivation to keep the project going, to keep days,weeks,months, and possibly years of work from going under. Or having to come to the ultimate decision of just dropping the project all together due to very little progress or little to no more motivation to keep it alive.

     I ask all of this because I feel like this is just all I do now. No matter how motivated I am at the beginning, all I seem to do is just repeat this never ending cycle of just never completing a project. So now this has been happening for almost a decade for me and now I can't shake off this feeling if whether or not I'm even competent or capable enough to take on (or to be apart of) a real project where the responsibilities were to be pointing in my directions. 

     I guess an easy example from me currently is that I always wanted to work on my own Solo song album but treat it like it's going to be made for an old school JRPG, So of course I was excited to jump on it. fast forward a year or 2 later and I have 23 tracks so far, but only 5-6 of them even come close to a substantial wip AND are longer than a minute... Along with starting another 2-3 separate projects... and this is just recent shit, and just audio projects. :-(

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It's a common progression for creative people, even experienced ones.

You can read up on a what a lot of other people have done to break through the point of losing excitement to do a track and actually do the work of finishing it, but I think in general what you really need to be told is just to FINISH YOUR DAMN TRACKS. No tricks, no shortcuts, just sit down and get ready to go through the bog of working on it regardless if you feel interested or excited by it or not. I say there's not much good a lot of more specific advice can do for you because it's all as unique a process to you as your music style is. You won't know what the best way for you to get "motivation" to get through it until you do it. And do it again. And again. And again.

To be serious about doing an art means to employ a dedication to its discipline - in other words, get ready to sacrifice lots of time that won't be fun. Everyone here that ever got successful at music had to go through the same ritual and just accept it as part of what we do. I get the feeling what you're running into is just losing that OMG THIS IS AWESOME feeling we all get when starting something and getting the idea this could really be something and then just quitting it when that "high" runs out. Without experience in getting through the other end of it and going through the meticulous stages of making sure every single little fucking thing in it is perfect, you won't get through that barrier.

The encouragement part is, once you start getting experience in doing it, it can really build up quick. In fact, I personally make it a point in the soundtracks and albums and stuff I do now is to start a bunch at a time, work on them until I feel like I've got them at a good place, and then go back and do the "finishing" part for all of them in a "stage". I don't get obsessed with making sure I focus and start and finish one track at a time anymore because I've personally found that I work better in "batch bursts", what I call them. I'll get a bunch of tracks up to "nearly finished" stages, then one day I'll just burst right through and do the finishing stages for all of them in a single day because where my mind and energy at is "finish the job". No more "come up with something that could be something" or "ok, start getting some next parts going for this shit", it's "ok, the composition and arrangement is done, now to finish them off".

So, in actuality, you accidentally painted yourself into a good corner where now you can work on building a shitload of "finishing" experience. Start with one track, take as much time to make it perfect as you need, finish it and release it. Then do the same for another. Then the same for another. Then do 3 with a made up weekly schedule for each. Release. Then another 3. Release. And so on.

I tell you straight, few things in the world are as satisfying as finishing a song after you went through the not-fun part of doing it. It's like a non-gross orgasm that lasts all day. Then you realize you're quickly getting better and faster at doing it because the satisfaction of finishing a song is also a major EXP. POINTS burst. It really feels like you level up the first time you get an Ocremix posted, then your first whole album finished, then your first album published by a small label and so on. And those experience points don't go away as quickly as some other achievements.

So there's your motivation - sit your ass back in that chair and get to work and you'll get day-long orgasms you don't necessarily have to wipe off, and then find out you secretly jumped from Level 1 to Level 8 in just a few days and secretly picked up some "abilities" along the way, like being able to hear missing notes, missing instruments, wrong instruments and whole wrong sections just by listening to your own WIP a few times.

You'll be surprised how accurate I am here. :D

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After reading it I came into a couple of realizations when I was reflecting on myself. I don't think It wast a "high" thing whenever I would go get a fix of doing a project, for me It was more about just being a part of something. I'm just so used to doing shit solo that I jump the gun whenever the opportunity rises to meet new people. Hell that would explain my sudden urge to join 6 different community albums here in one day when I first came across this site even before I gained way more confidence in making music. 

on the other points you made. I have noticed that working on a track in those batch bursts does make you realize what's missing or what's wrong with the track, so this definitely solidifies that I should be doing that more often. Also as far as feeling what that satisfaction of having something completed is, for me that would have to be Remixer of the year for PRC a few years back that bundeslang hosts. I don't have a remix posted yet but that's always the next goal, but I know it's definitely achievable because of how much I have grown in just the 2-3 years I have came across this site. Just got to keep up the grind and push myself.

Thx for the advice. It will probably still be a cool minute for me to get out of this rust but at least I know more about it that I can start trying to fix certain things/situations one problem at a time, instead of the tradition of just relying on luck to get past or to get something done. 

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Another important thing to realize is that it's impossible to actually 'finish' a track. Music is a never-ending process, and as you progress in it your standards keep rising along with your art. Once you accept the fact that the things that you're going to make are not going to be perfect it immediately becomes easier to follow Meteo Xaviers advice to just finish your damn track because the hurdle isn't as high and the expectations for yourself are more realistic. 

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5 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

Another important thing to realize is that it's impossible to actually 'finish' a track.


Not quite true. If you've ever tried going back later to a track you did finish and "remaster" it or try to and more stuff to it only to figure it wasn't worth the effort and didn't improve the song, you find out you did have it finished all along.

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Don't be too down on yourself, Supercoolmike. There's nothing wrong with hopping from song to song if you have a bunch of ideas. But at some point, you need to focus. It's fine to play with melodies or a set of harmonies to get a feel for them and see if they could go somewhere, seeing as that's where so many song's start. And of course, getting ideas down so you don't forget them is important. But you need to return to those ideas for them to get anywhere. Don't just focus on the part you thought was cool sounding, because that's only one piece of the puzzle.

As someone who draws, writes and composes, I can tell you first hand that in any art, there's going to be a time when you have to work on something that's going to feel tedious; that's not the part you really want to work on. Maybe it's a scene that has nothing to do with a plot point that you can't want to get to, maybe it's redrawing a minor character's facial design for the 20 time, maybe it's EQing a new set of instruments that'll be used for one small part of a song... it's always going to be something. The thing is, you have to prime the canvas before you can use it. You have to mix the paints before you get the color you're after. And that kind of "feels like I'm not making progress" work will always be there at some point to varying degrees. But if you don't get past that hump, nothing you do will ever reach the proverbial finish line.

It's great to have those bursts of inspiration and get a bit down, but the inspiration is just the "Wow! This sounds cool!" part. It's the character reveal behind who killed who, or the physical trait that makes your character look interesting. The real work comes afterward, when you have to build the song sections that come before, are around, and that come after the "cool" part. You need to build the small plot points that lead up to the murder and chose the settings/quirks/background that would cause your character to have that physical trait. You can't avoid it. But here's the thing. As you work on your song/drawing/story, you'll find more bits of inspiration. You'll compose that new musical hook, create that bit of backstory, or design a facial trait that pulls you back into what got started with the initial burst of inspiration. But that can't happen unless you go back to what you did.

It sounds like you've got the bits and pieces in place; the seeds of songs, so to speak. Now you need to pick one and listen to that bit repeatedly to get it into your head and start your mind focusing on it. Pick it apart, shuffle parts of it around, play with the harmonies and melody... hone in and see where your thoughts take it. Even if what you're doing winds up not working after two hours, you're still staying focused and trying to get it to work. You're still trying to pull more ideas out of what you've already done to make progress.

So my advice pretty much mirrors what Meteo said. Sit down, pick a track and focus on it. I had musical and story ideas sitting around on paper, tape and PC quite literally for decades that just went nowhere because I didn't put in the effort to push them past that "this sounds cool" phase. So don't be like me and sit on ideas for years. Get your ass in gear, hunker down and push through the workload that's ahead of you with your music. Don't let it become a "what if...", because that shit will haunt you.

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I definitely understand the struggle pushing past the 8-16bar "this sounds cool" phase. I'll often sit down to continue writing something and then realise that 3 hours have gone by and i've listened to the "cool loop" so many times i can't imagine it sounding any different. Usually within that time i'll have accidentally come up with a new 8-16 bar section for a completely different project, and so the cycle continues...

I will say though, the only thing that has worked for me, even if i don't 100% have a direction or know what i'm doing in general, is to just plonk my arse at the computer at 8am and absorb myself in it for the next 12 hours. Something eventually clicks within that timeframe that makes me say "Yes! I know what i want to do next!". I find that listening to similar music as a reference often makes new ideas pop up.

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At the end of the day, remember there's an immense reward and kick in actually finishing something. Doesn't matter if it's music or something else. Starting something new is easy, seeing it through to the end is a different thing. Stick with it, see it through. It's worth it, and it gets easier the more you do it. The reward of actually finishing a piece of music, and getting it out there is a very powerful motive.

Meteo has it right, there's always this goal that you can chase and aim for. Doesn't matter if it's the first track you upload to your own channel, getting your first track posted here on OCR, doing something cool with an album. Having a goal is a big help, and one of my things I already have in mind before I start. I am not one for aimless noodling, I guess :) 

For me, I usually have a broad outline of what I think I want to do when creating a piece of music before I fire up the DAW. Part of that outline is a genre/style and some vague hints about instrumentation I might want to try. That outline also has a checkbox on it to add an intro and an ending. It keeps things focused, but it's also not set in stone so if inspiration strikes or something interesting happens along the way, I make changes. But I do keep the outline in mind I created (and write down in some cases) before I start.

A good trick is also to have a deadline, either an external one or an internal one. Joining a compo here will help you do that, or an album project with a steep deadline (I happen to be collab'ing on a Chrono Cross remix that we started on Monday and will probably be finished somewhere in the next few days).

Having said that, having multiple projects going on is not a bad thing. Apart from the aforementioned Chrono Cross track I have 2 other tracks in progress right now, and that's pretty common. That way, I can shift easily to one of the other tracks in case I get stuck in one, am waiting for recordings to come in or are just not inspired right now to keep working on the same track again. But it's crucial that you want to finish what you start, and the only way to do that is... well, to just do it. It's not always easy, but worth it, and it gets easier.

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Not sure if this tidbit of advice will help, but here's how I finished American Pixels. That was a 5+ year project, tons of excitement at the front-end, and then it turned into... work. And here's the problem, I have a family and a full-time job, so I kept hitting the snag where I'd work all day, spend time with the family, have a pocket of free time at night, and then... not have any energy left. That, or there'd be this sense of "yay, I have time to work on music... and oh no, I feel obligated to work on that project and I'm really not in the mood..."

So, that happened over and over, and occasionally I'd have a magic day off (holiday, whatever) where I'd get a wonderful 4 hours in a row to myself... and during those moments, I could tap into the creative juices and get it going again... but man, those little magical windows were rare. Like, once every few months rare. It got really frustrating seeing an album inch to completion in those sporadic bursts.

The answer for me: wake up earlier. I'd set my alarm for 4:30am, be in my studio by 5am, and get in a solid hour, hour and a half every morning. My brain wasn't yet tired from the day job, I was rested and fresh, and the stuff that seemed like work before now seemed fun again. And, it actually helped my happiness level, so even though I was sleepy, I was giddy at work considering the progress I made in the early morning hours. And then I just had to ride and chase that feeling until things were done. It was tough to get started, but then it became strangely addicting.

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8 hours ago, Mazedude said:

The answer for me: wake up earlier. I'd set my alarm for 4:30am, be in my studio by 5am, and get in a solid hour, hour and a half every morning. My brain wasn't yet tired from the day job, I was rested and fresh, and the stuff that seemed like work before now seemed fun again. And, it actually helped my happiness level, so even though I was sleepy, I was giddy at work considering the progress I made in the early morning hours. And then I just had to ride and chase that feeling until things were done. It was tough to get started, but then it became strangely addicting.

Agreed 100%. I find it's easiest to get shit done first thing in the morning.

There are also studies out there that show people tend to be most productive for the first few hours in the morning.

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Definitely feel this thread on an intimate level. Have somewhere close to a dozen projects being cycled through on a weekly basis, and have only, maybe, completed one full track in that span.

For me, taking a step away from a track and listening to other music and looking through online tutorials helps me approach my track with an extra level of inspiration. For instance: there's a Star Fox remix I've been working on for awhile. When I hit a massive creative block spanning a couple months, listening to some of DDRKirby's remixes and the Network Transmission soundtrack inspired me to completely upend the tea table on my project, start from scratch, and pump out a more polished composition. Taking a step away and finding creative sparks through other music and resources may help you with your own work.

Mazedude's advice is also golden. In my own recent work those early 6am-7am hours have been some of the best times to push through a creative block and come up with some interesting compositional pieces. 

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One thing I've noticed to trick myself into being productive in audio things is not to sit down with a block of schedule or even mindset of doing audio work, I've found that even just opening FL Studio and a project file, any project file, and I'll start working and fixing it up compulsively. Like, barely even thinking about it, I'll just naturally start gravitating over and fix stuff that sounds off.

The downside to this is that it's obviously a huge distraction if I'm supposed to be doing work for something or someone else, but for getting work done whether I feel like it or not, I can't believe how effective it is.

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I might need to take Mazedude's excellent advice. I especially relate because I also have a family and a full-time job, so my only time to work on music is at night (usually after 8-9 PM) and pockets of time on the weekends. So, I've been doing the opposite - staying up late. And it works okay, because I am generally NOT an early riser. However, I think it could be worth a shot to see if I feel more energized and productive by getting up earlier as opposed to staying up until after midnight.

The whole idea of finishing something I've started as opposed to cycling through different projects without completing anything is something I've been continuously working on, and something I really was never any good at until well into adulthood. Interestingly enough (and this is just how it worked out for me), taking a break from music for a few years and raising my son has actually re-energized me, so I'm a much more disciplined and focused person than I ever was before. So while I have less time than I used to for noodling around on instruments or working on projects, I'm much more efficient and productive with the time I do have. I finally figured out that the joy of finishing a project helps carry me through the day-to-day challenges of actually keeping my commitments and doing the not-so-fun stuff sometimes. It's a wonderful feeling!

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finishing a project of any kind is a skill. it's one that takes repetition and focus to improve at. the best advice is just to buckle up and finish your stuff. i make a point to always finish every track i ever work on, simply because i don't have the time to goof around with stuff i don't care about. if i'm working on it, it's gonna get done, or else it was nothing more than a waste of time.

if you're not motivated enough to finish your music, ask yourself what's getting in the way? is it desire? i've been there - if something else is more important, then it's more important, and you should treat it as such. is it skill? put in the time and improve. find the impingement and correct it, the same way you'd correct a wrong note or a wonky freq in your render.

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Based on what you just told me, it sounds like you're being quite ambitious. Why are you making a 23 track album? Why are they over 1 minute each? 

Change the rules to fit your workflow. Unless you're doing it for someone else, then let it flow naturally. YES - make your plans but if it doesn't go to that plan thats ok. Plan on making a 10 minute epic? Its ended up 3 minutes long? Ok fine, NEXT TRACK. 

You say you have an album of 23 wips. Ok. You don't need to use half of them. You could finish off 5 of them and call it an EP? How long are said tracks? Well they could be 2 minutes each if you so desired. Take it where it is heading naturally. Trying to beat out a preconceived idea is not the way to go I find. Try just... letting an idea flow and don't worry about sticking to a brief so rigidly and just see what happens. You might find you finish more stuff and you enjoy yourself more to boot. Guidelines are great... but don't let them hold you back.

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Biggest problem I face is if I listen to the original or remix too much during its infancy, rather than after I've completely produced it.  Apparently it's a very common trap that a lot of creatives face.  I bet it was already mentioned here, but DL ; DR :D

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25 minutes ago, HoboKa said:

Biggest problem I face is if I listen to the original or remix too much during its infancy, rather than after I've completely produced it.  Apparently it's a very common trap that a lot of creatives face.  I bet it was already mentioned here, but DL ; DR :D

This pretty much resonates with what i was saying about hearing underdeveloped sections too many times and not being able to imagine them any other way.

@Mazedude definitely has the right idea and it's been working for me as well. I'll wake up at 6am, get the usual morning habits done and by 7am i'm at my desk for a dedicated 2 hour period where i will concentrate on music production. Than when 9am hits i'll start to work on my more essential things like University work. That way i know i got two hours done and even if the progress i made was little, i know that i still made progress and i'm being consistent. I find i have a lot less anxiety by starting work in the morning since i've still got the whole day ahead of me, which free's my mind a lot because i'm not feeling pressure from the hours in the day running out. I hate doing anything that requires deep thought in the evening and would rather just read or watch Netflix. Now i don't feel guilty about having chill evenings.

Actually getting up at 6am is horrible though.

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One thing that helps me, is the idea that TV composer Ron Jones talks about: Limiting yourself to "the main thing" and "the other thing" with the "other thing" being optional.

If you just limit yourself to focusing on something like writing the melodies for the entire piece before doing ANYTHING else, all that's left is to harmonize it, add percussion, etc.

It's why a lot of composers still start from just a piano sketch; no distractions or VSTs or anything like that to play around with.

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