One of the hardest and most frustrating battles for songwriters is not being able to finish a song. We asked a few Soundreef songwriters to give us some reasons as to why this may be happening to you, along with some handy tips on how to overcome them.
Here’s what they had to say:
Jamie Sparks – Nova Scotia, CANADA
“I have this problem…all the time!! As creative types, we don’t always create in a linear fashion. Society says things must go in order, in a straight line, a-b-c-d-e, 1-2-3-4-5, etc.
However, we like to create whenever/wherever inspiration strikes, for as long – or as little – as it lasts. Our songs are emotional experiences. If the mood is not right, the inspiration will fade. If it fades quickly, the result can be a lot of unfinished songs. But that’s ok because there’s a fix!
First, do whatever you can to get yourself in a good mood, with minimal distractions. Then, if you go back to one of those unfinished songs, and listen to it for a while, not always, but sometimes, the inspiration will come back. And often you will pick up almost exactly where you left off. This has happened to me too many times to count.
One song I have called “Real” from my last album, I hadn’t worked on in maybe 10 years. In 2017, I gave it a listen again. Not only did I pick up where I left off, but I also came up with new ideas I never imagined for the song.
So, my advice? Don’t give up on those old tracks. Sometimes you may have to hit the delete button. Sometimes, but not always. Just have another listen. You never know what magic can happen!”
Neon NiteClub – Florida, USA
“All artists go through times of half-finished songs where songwriting feels less like ‘dynamic inspiration’ and feels more like ‘tedious work’. It’s important to see your ideas through. Artists are always their own harshest critic, so we shut down these half idea songs before they are realized.
I would encourage artists to embrace the ‘work’ phase of songwriting, whether or not they think what they are writing is any good. See your songs through, and let your listeners be the ones to decide.
Many songs I have written where I felt the second half feel more tedious, have been well received by fans. It’s important to shift that mindset and trust your talent to see your songs through. You will usually be pleasantly surprised at the reception of your songs, and that will, in turn, give you more confidence as you write more tunes.”
Stefano Bif – Campania, ITALY
Like all songwriters, I have a binder full of incomplete songs. It used to be something that really terrified and upset me; I was scared of my own elusive thoughts and of not being able to express the way I was feeling.
It’s not like that anymore. It’s just a matter of being aware of your own creative process. Creativity is always there, and it feeds off different emotions and stimuli: they feel elusive, but in reality, they’re fermenting inside of you all the time. Eventually, you will burst, and it will give you the strength to complete those half-written lyrics.
I have a good relationship with writing. I have my own method which works best for me: I usually try and outline what I want to write about first and then I try to jot down some ideas (I call this ‘preparation’); then, except for those very rare occasions in which I’m just overwhelmed with inspiration, I wait (I call this ‘incubation’); lastly, I leave the city and retire to my home town in Cilento so I can work in complete isolation for a few days. Dead silence helps me focus and shape songs the way I had pictured them in the previous weeks/months. I usually test the songs and rehearse them at gigs. If something doesn’t feel right, I go back and work at them until the lyrics, melodies, and harmonies are exactly the way I had pictured them. Hope this helps all the creative people out there! I’ll be waiting for you in the beautiful Cilento: satisfaction guaranteed!”
Federico Leo – Apulia, ITALY
I’ve never really thought of myself as a songwriter. I’m more of a “behind the scenes” type of guy; this, however, has allowed me to see vast amounts of songs dying in the hands of talented authors.
What even is a song? Lyrics, melodies, and chords all put together? If this were the case, it would be much easier to deal with them. I think songs are much more than that: they are intimacy and expectation. That’s why I think that all you need to finish a song is to look at yourself from the outside, as if the songs weren’t yours, and try to assess their market potential. Easier said than done, I know, but it really is possible. Or, you could find someone like me! Someone who doesn’t write but can act as your mirror. I’ve had the possibility to experience this with 2 artists.
Sebastiano, lead singer of TU, is both a songwriter and composer, but I doubt he’s ever had any problems finishing a song. He usually starts from a random word and then builds a castle around it… and I demolish it (on most occasions). On other ones, I suggest changes looking at the song from the outside so we can work together and perfect it, but this technique is not for the faint of heart.
On the other hand, Leila, one of the most talented artists I’ve ever worked with, has written like 100 songs in the past 2 years. Her songs are usually words that have a sound but don’t have notes. They have the potential of becoming anything, and they do because the song is usually rearranged in like 4 different styles. The lyrics change, but the “song” stays the same. We have a whole cemetery of songs, both finished and unfinished. But we’re 100% confident of the songs we actually have, and this wouldn’t have been possible without sacrificing a few.
Usually, I think that if you’re not able to finish a song it’s either because you’re not fully confident, or because you’re scared of finishing it because it would mean you’re abandoning a piece of yourself and you’re scared it will just end up in a pile. So maybe, the problem isn’t that you can’t finish the song. Rather, its because you’ve taken a wrong turn and you need to go back, or you’re too scared to go forward. But you must go on, with strength and courage.”