What do to when it’s “not quite there”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “it’s almost there” means. Do you know what I’m talking about? When you’ve got everything checked off your list. 

Vocals – Check

Drums – Check

Guitar/Bass – Check/Check

Digeridoo – Checkeridoo

But something just doesn’t feel like it’s ready. Have you ever felt that way? Maybe some of it is fear of letting go out into the world. But more than that, I feel that it comes down to the fact that something is actually missing! So, when that happens, what do you do?

  • Leave it for a week.

I think the first step is to actually take a step away from your project for a week. Come back with some fresh ears. Does a week seem excessive? Maybe it is, but a week will surely clear up all the trouble around the song. Maybe it doesn’t need anything at all! That has happened to me often. Justin Timberlake has said that if he doesn’t remember the hook in the morning, it wasn’t good enough for the song. I think that might be a little extreme, but I like the idea! If you are sure that it has to have that 16th note run and you can’t imagine the song without it, then take it out for a week and see if the following Monday you still feel the same way. Maybe sexy doesn’t need to come back. Maybe it never left at all! 

  • Take Out The Excess

I recently interviewed my good friend Caleb Frieze, and he said something that stuck with me. 

“If the song isn’t good on just an acoustic guitar, it’s not for me.”

Bring the song back to its bare bones and build it up one track at a time. 

  • Review the Verb

Okay, not just the reverb. If you have a chorus effect on something, double-check that you actually like that effect. If I mess with the reverb a little, I find I like the part better, and it helps fix the song. 

I want to point out that I really don’t love the stock effects that come in Logic or Pro-tools. I think buying a package with the verb you’re looking for is really worth the splurge. You’ve heard the adage of polishing a turd. But putting a shit verb on your song is going to make a good song suck. It works both ways here.

  • Mess around with the EQ

I will go on record that 33% of the time, the problem is with the EQ of each of the tracks. Put the time in and find a nice balance in each of the tracks (especially the vocals)!

  • Add a simple hook

A “simple hook” is redundant, but I phrase it that way because I want to really hit home that it doesn’t have to be anything crazy! Just put the song on repeat and freestyle over the top of it a few times. 

  • Vocal Padding

These pads really sell me on a song. I’m not saying it’s always the answer, but I feel like it usually helps a song out a lot! A few oh’s and ah’s. Sometimes you just need to double up on a phrase on a song. Your voice is unique to you, how you approach this is also unique to you. I think that’s why it appeals to me so much! 

  • Production transitions 

A swell before the chorus can help a song feel cohesive. A website called splice has thousands (literally thousands) of different sounds that you can use! There’s a free version you can use first. This has been such a huge asset to me in recording my last album. Here’s a link to splice – https://splice.com

Trust that feeling you have, but remember that art is never complete. There has never been a perfect piece of art. It’s not meant to be perfect. After you’ve spent an adequate amount of time trying to find that missing piece, realize that your listener is probably not going to feel the same way you do. At some point, the best thing to do is release it and move to the next project. If you want to add something later, it’s a pain, but it is possible! So take comfort in that knowledge that something is never finished. 


Published by crazylegsdean

Self defined as: taste taster for the aspiring musician on the go.

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