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Knowing When to Move On to the Next Song

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Do you ever find yourself wondering when a song you’ve been working away on is actually finished?

What I mean is that there always seems to be something you can do to a song. For me, it seems possible to take any musical piece I’ve been working on and, regardless of whether or not I’ve declared it done, keep working on it.

I think practically anyone I know who writes music feels the same way. And I think it’s because every time we hear music (particularly our own music), the sounds we’ve written stimulate our imagination, and we can imagine even more!

But it’s actually an important question: How do we know when it’s time to stop working on a song, declare it finished, and move on to writing the next one? Because if you’re not careful you can waste a lot of time writing and rewriting the same song in a months-long struggle to get something to sound better.

Probably no one knows exactly how to answer this question, but here are some thoughts I hope might help if this is an issue for you.

  1. You can always move on. There’s no need to be stuck in the same song, even if you know it isn’t finished.
  2. You can perform songs that you feel aren’t finished. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with singing your song even if you think there’s more that you’d like to do to it.
  3. A collaboration can help complete a song that’s slow sounding finished. One of the best ways to get a song to the finish line is to play it for a fellow songwriter and see what they think. The influx of new ideas can be exciting.
  4. Changing something in a song can stimulate your musical brain to create new ideas that will find the path forward to completion. Let’s say your song is in G major; try switching the chords to imply the key of G minor. That one change can make things sound new, fresh, and encourage a new concept for the song.
  5. There is no definitive answer to the question. Knowing a song is finished is more a feeling than it is anything else. If it seems finished, it probably is.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

How to Harmonize a Melody, 2nd ed.If you’ve got a melody, but don’t know how to add chords to it, you need to read “How to Harmonize a Melody.” It will show you, with sound samples, a clear step-by-step for adding chords that will make your melody sound great.

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