If you're looking to finish more music and stop abandoning projects, you've come to the right place. As fun as producing music in Ableton Live can be, a lot of times, it feels like straight-up work. Producers who lack a 'Finisher's Mindset' slow their momentum in the critical moments of the production phase. Lacking the right mindset to finish tracks leads to tens, hundreds, and even thousands of unfinished project files taking up space on hard drives. And constant frustration.
Getting into the habit of finishing music as often as possible can be a defining characteristic that separates the professional producers from the hobbyists. So let us talk about five of the best ways to revisit the inactive project files cluttering your hard drive, and take a step forward towards finishing those tracks.
1. Join Two Projects Together
Producers develop 'their sound' by falling into unique habits they develop over years of perfecting their craft. So you might be surprised how often your musical ideas from different projects blend well when brought together. Remember that Ableton allows you to save entire channels, which will enable you to move automation and notation between projects very quickly.
Bringing two projects together is a simple approach to reviving old projects that can be taken to the next level when paired with genre-specific project templates. Replace a melody or chord progression enclosed within a project file with the ones you know have potential from an old track you are revisiting. Use the template's established arrangement, layout, and other elements as a checklist, slowly replacing the enclosed bits with original parts to fast track the route to finishing more music.
2. Delete What Isn't Working
One of the most exciting parts of music is creating the first ideas. You start with a fantastic chord progression that you know could turn into a great track! Then you begin adding more rhythmic elements. Then you add a bassline synth and a funky melody. Now all of a sudden, the chord progression no longer has the magic it used to. Working in Ableton suddenly feels like a job, and you ditch the project file again to start something fresh.
Hidden within your dead project files are small musical gems, buried beneath the layers of ideas that don't work.
It can be best to listen to the different layers of old project files in solo as a way to reawaken the creative spark that the idea once gave you. Chip away at the remainder of the file by deleting all the extra layers you added. You now have a much smaller but more manageable Ableton project that contains a few choice ideas that you are excited about returning to and finishing.
3. Same Track, New Sounds
It's interesting listening to how much the timbre and movement of sound affect the direction that it takes the track. If you have a melody or chord progression from an abandoned project file that isn't working in its current form, change the context of the sound by trying different synths and sounds. Switch dramatic, sustained piano chords to an emotional pad progression and discover your brand new track. Changing up sounds is done quickly and easily by scrolling through professionally crafted sound packs.
4. Find Inspiration Elsewhere
It is common for producers to fall into their habits when starting with an empty project file. I, for one, always start by composing chords on Ableton's stock Grande Piano, which closes as many creative doors as it opens. One reason why you lose motivation on a track you were once excited about is that the underlying process has grown stale. Growing stale can happen even if the music itself excites us.
Try returning to your musical ideas, and look for new and exciting ways to breathe new life into them. Using Ableton's tools in unexpected ways of discovering new approaches online are great ways to break out of any creative ruts you may find yourself in. But inspiration doesn't come by itself. You must work to find it. Our Instant Inspiration course gives you effortless inspiration without the work. Just follow along our inspiration amplifying structure to discover and apply new sound techniques in minutes.
5. Start With Your Strongpoints
Even after trying the approaches above, finding the creative spark you know is hiding in an abandoned project file can be difficult. Start with what you are best at when you are trying to get the creativity moving again. Handcrafting a new patch from the ground up around an old melody is an excellent way for the sound-design focused producers to become enthusiastic about a dormant project. Programming drums behind a slow pad progression will similarly excite the rhythm addicts out there. Do whatever you can to get excited about returning to the track, and you will quickly find it is closer to being finished than you expected!
Leaving music unfinished is a natural habit all producers can fall into. Even professional producers who do this for a living are likely to have a hard drive filled with projects they plan to return to later on, but then never do. So spend a studio day revisiting that graveyard of project files to find the ones that truly have potential. With the tools and tricks we have offered above, you might be surprised how close you are to release a new track, EP, or even an entire album.
If you don't have problems generating ideas, but don't seem to be able to lay it out as a full track, we highly recommend taking a look at our Arrangement Course. It helps you get out of the Loop and finish more music faster.
Better Arrangements Course
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