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Hi everyone.


I'm wondering if some of you feel the same about the following. Everytime I finish a fullblown composition and production that I'm proud of, I won't be proud of it for longer than, let's say, a week tops. Once the week is over I criticize everything so much it makes it even embarassing to listen to it again. It'll feel "old". Technically the production might be perfect, and you portrayed what you wanted to portray with the music. But somehow you just can't seem to keep any pride on what you've done, even if the feedback is fantastic.


It's come to a point where it's bothering and affecting my confidence as a composer/producer when I try to promote myself to a company or client.


Anyone dealt with this?

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I think the problem we all have to some extent, is the fact that we are working with multiple track computers or stand alones. It allows us to go back and continue to refine, which can take the life right out of a performance. I had an engineer record me while I was just trying out parts on a song to see what sounded best. When I said I was ready he said I already got it. I was shocked and appalled that he would take my messing around. His coment to me was "it's always good to have a little hair around it." He was right since it was somewhat buried in the mix with horns and vocals it really worked.


I find if I listen to something I have done enough times that the mistakes or the things I could have done better just glare out. We have to learn to let it lay. If it is good it will hold up the test of time. If it's not, well, nobody makes a hit every time.


Learn to except and move on is the best thing I can tell you.


Good Luck



Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho




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I agree with BlueKeys. I don't know that I would ever be satisfied for more than a few days with a song. After listening to it for a while, I start hearing things I want to tweak or I get ideas of things I might be able to do better. The one thing I've learned is this:


The majority of people who I know that listen to music don't scrutinize things anywhere near the way I do. The only comments I get are from other musician friends and even they say I go overboard sometimes. (I'm sure there being polite here too) I am a victim of being my own worst critic as we all probably are with our own music. The reverse is true for me as I have friends that let me listen to things and I think wow that sounds great, but they aren't satisfied with it. I have a good friend who is an artist and she makes incredible drawings. She goes back and fine tunes them. I never notice most of the time and they looked amazing when I first saw them. When I point things out to my friends in my own music, they look at me with a confused look. Too often when I changed things either no one noticed the changes or it wasn't for the better as I was trying to do too much. Many times often simple and your first finished composition is the best. Rambling now done. JMHO.

Begin the day with a friendly voice A companion, unobtrusive

- Rush

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I generally have two responses, at the same time.


I cringe at every mistake. And I'm pleased (sometimes amazed) that the overall result is as good as it is.


Recordings are brutal. In my mind's ear, I hear every passage played perfectly -- the best I ever did for every lick and phrase. In reality, I never get nearly that good, yet it's my standard for comparison, so I always fall short.


On the other hand, the overall result is a song I recorded and feel good about. I know it's way better than I was able to do on tape with limited tracks, thanks to being able to record 4 takes on every part and comp the phrases into the best result, and stuff like that.


Put the recordings away for a good long time; at least a year. Next time you hear them, chances are you'll have two simultaneous reactions -- especially if you're young enough or practicing hard enough to be getting much better as a musician in the meantime. You'll cringe at things you now can do better. And you'll find yourself amazed and impressed at things you didn't realize you'd done, or even what the heck you DID do. You might even (re)learn a chop or two from your old self.


And know that nobody else listens to the music with anywhere near the critical ear that you will, unless they way outclass you as a recording artist.


One of the great things about being a musician is that it's so easy to be humble. There are always those who are head and shoulders higher. No point competing with them, best to just be inspired by them. Use perfection as your standard and you'll get better, but you'll also always be disappointed. The key is knowing when to adopt different standards.

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Every songwriter's "best" song is always the one he or she is working on at the moment.


That's just the way we are. We get so caught up in whatever we're currently into, we think it's the greatest thing in the world. We have to, or else we lose interest and toss it aside. Everything else pales in comparison.


I'll echo SDS's visual art analogy. My wife is a painter, and she's confided that the hardest part is knowing when a painting is "done". It's easy to go back and overwork a part you're not happy with. In the end you were probably better off letting it be, "hair and all" as BluesKeys mentions.


Also, think of your songs/compositions as snapshots, photographs that captured your heart and soul at one particular moment in time. We may not feel the same way at a later date. As our own photos reflect, we were happy with long hair and bell bottoms in the '70s, mohawk and all black in the '80s, etc. People change. That's just the way it is.


I've heard rumors that Geddy Lee from Rush refuses to perform songs from early in his career any more. It's kind of the same thing. He was a different person some 20-30 years ago than he is today. I understand. He's grown a lot since then, both as a person and as a musician. Yet his fans may not see things in quite the same way; they can equally like his music over the entire course of his career.


I have songs that were written up to 20 years ago that I'm just now recording, along with new ones. Sometimes I feel that the old ones aren't as good as the new ones, because they're not as sophisticated or something. Other times I feel the new ones are too contrived and lack the simplicity and emotion of the old ones. Most people that hear them for the first time aren't caught in that quandry. They may like some old and some new, and not be able to tell when they were originally written.


I have some old band practice tapes that are laughable now. Still, I can hear where I was at that point in my life as a musician, and take pride in knowing that I did the best I could with what I had.


Maybe something that has helped me put things in perspective is going out and listening to other local bands perform and listening to their CDs. Especially refreshing is listening to younger groups. At first I was overly critical of them, seeing only a lack of polish. Now I appreciate them for what they are and where they are in their life right now, rough edges and all.


If the feedback from clients is fantastic, take pride in a job well done and move on. If it's just family and friends patting you on the back, well, take it with a grain of salt. (It's their job to be supportive of you, regardless.)


It's nearly impossible to write timeless classics. Maybe if you don't expect this from your music you won't be so disappointed. Musical tastes are always evolving and moving on.


You could try:

taking a break, so when you come back to songwriting it will be fresh again

taking a class (assuming you don't already have a Ph.D. in music)

taking a journey, either by listening to new music or visiting foreign lands

taking part in a collaboration, to see things from a different perspective

taking part in a professional symposia, especially one with hands-on activities, to give you a chance to practice your art with others, instead of being "inside a vacuum" by yourself


Yes, I think we're all overly critical of our own art. You have to reach that point where you can let go. To be able to say the painting is finished, and let it be what it is. You made it, you did your best; take pride in that if nothing else.

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Part of the problem is that we have such access to anything we want. It's a fast food society. We can listen to unlimited songs on the internet and switch from thing to thing, be it television shows or web pages or music. We get bored with music we've produced the same way we'd get bored with most anything after an increasingly shorter amount of time.


Gavin DeGraw came out a few years ago with his album entitled "Chariot". It was a big seller, and he did the typical touring thing. Then, after the tour he decided he liked the songs played slightly differently, so he released "Chariot Stripped". These songs weren't just played with less amplification, but they sound different than the originals -- by design. He says in the liner notes that the tour made him realize he could play the songs better with certain changes. All I hear are two different songs, one not necessarily better than the other, and in many ways, I prefer the original versions. He just got bored with them as they were. Pretty typical.


I bet Stevie Wonder is bored with Superstition.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Some good points have been made here.


"Every songwriter's "best" song is always the one he or she is working on at the moment." This counts for me as well, for.. one week tops. After that, it could always have been better..


I think getting good feedback from clients is nice, but it will not "fix" me into taking pride of my work. It's a self-satisfaction thing, I'm guessing. I believe I'm evergrowing as a composer, with each passing day, untill the day I die. If I would compare myself now with that fantasy image of my full potential just before I die, then there is still a long way to go and my work will never be as good untill my last work right before I kick the bucket. Freaky. And at this point, we're only comparing ourselves to ourselves.

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I agree with all of the above. I usually take months to finish a project. I will shelve it for a few weeks and try to listen to it with a fresh ear. However after tweaking and adding I have to force myself to stop and declare it finished, otherwise nothing will ever get finished.
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This is a great thread, full of insights and thoughtful comments. I'd like to add a few considerations on the practical side:


- I've learned to respect the fact that when a piece or project is finished, you have to leave it alone. It's done. On to the next one! Deadlines are great for learning to not get obsessed with refining things to death.


- Also, refining a piece of music too much could mean to ruin it sometimes. A particular passage can sound weak by itself and in need of improving, but it could convey the general idea of the tune much better when taken in context. In my experience, it gets particularly bad when you let some time ensue without touching the project, then you return to it and find every kind of 'defects', and you want to 'fix' them.

In fact, you've probably lost the original idea by then, so are just trying to turn something into something different, and this usually won't work.


- One very important delail that I've learned, is that once I have a general idea of the 'sound' I want to achieve with a piece, I like to spend some time just 'thinking' about it, before even writing a note. This helps me translating the ariginal abstract idea to one (or several) possible practical realization, in terms of instrumentation, actual themes, etc.

In general, this is my way too retain the original idea for a longer time, thus allowing more time to work on the actual tune without losing the initial momentum.


- As for the original topic, being proud of one's own work... I think I'm proud of maybe 10% of what I've done in music, and that's because I'm a hopeless megalomaniac! :freak::D

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I agree with Carlo. Learn to let go and move on. Most of the music that I write is for advertisements these days. I have no idea how this happened, but it did. I was getting sick of being a cocktail guy and one day I made up my mind not to renew any dates for the following year playing here. At first I tried to make it as a studio owner and producing tracks for singers and bands, but after about six months of that I landed a job as a writer for a jingle house. It's a weird gig sometimes, but at least it's writing and I'd rather be doing that than listening to me play standards while people talk and eat.


Carlo's right. Nothing like deadlines to make you move on. Like today..I did two. A bridal shop and a home improvement store. I'm waiting for singers to get here. Two hours from now these turkeys are baked and the TV goes on...I'll wake up tomorrow and do it again. Like Groundhog's Day. Next!!....I don't dwell on this stuff at all. Sometimes I'll do something for an agency and I've spent days on it and I know it's really good and they hate it. Sometimes I'll do something in an hour or two that I know is crap and they're spitin' wooden nickels they're so happy with it. I've learned to throw a lot at the wall. The more you sling, the more that sticks = your paycheck. I do hope at some point I can do better stuff, but I write for the mule on the other end of the phone, at this point in my career.

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A really great thread.


After reading the remarks I too have the same issues and despair as some of you do. I am not a structured person but listen to structure in music. I have done many, many songs over the years around 1000+ on cassettes and probably 200+ on DAT, and just of my own compositions. As a young buck, I even recorded myself on reel-to-reel tapes. Still have them.........what a joke!!


A lot of the stuff I produced years ago was not as good as the quality I am doing presently, and probably will not be as good as the stuff I plan on doing in the future (I hope). Equipment, time, experience, listening to other professionals, self discipline, knowing when to stop trying to fix things on the recording and being able to say "IT'S DONE!!!..............isn't it?" is just a part of an artist dilemma.


There have been many days where I have tracked and thought it was perfect only to find out the next day that all of the time I had spent on the tune till 2:00 in the morning was crap, and what seemed to be a waste of my time! I would try to fix it and to no avail made it worse. Bummed out, I would just leave the studio, and go cut the grass, paint a room, go to a movie, or take the wife out to dinner.(Which happened a lot by the way!)


I can really relate to this because it has happened to me many times. You think that your work is junk, but other folks like it a lot, go figure.


I believe these times in the development process is only that, leave it and come back another day.....purge the brain on something that is 180 degrees different and out of phase.


I remember a song that I did once that I thought was hot. The next day.....WOW it sounded like crap. The sound was good, but my playing thoughts were in left field. I was trying to figure out what the heck was I thinking at the time. I copied the song to a cassette tape and removed it from the DA88's, and went on. A year later when I was going through the cassettes to find a song that I could revive, came across that same tune. WOW, I played it over and over again because it was HOT!!! Now ticked off because I had removed the digital form and couldn't remember how I put it together, or what equipment that I used to create it.


I still have the song on cassette, but never had taken the time to re-do it. Probably if I listened to it today, I would think it was still crap! :D


Jazzman :cool:

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This is a great thread indeed - something all artists can relate to. I watched an interview with a literary writer years ago (I can't remember who it was), and he summed it up beautifully by saying something to the affect of "for an artist, the process of creating is excruciating, and the process of not creating is equally excruciating. The only peace you have is during the brief period of just having created."


I couldn't agree more!!



Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Good insights - and tips! My problem is that I'm a chronic non-finisher. I've got so many incomplete songs on the back-burner that I sometimes despair. The main reason is I'm not the most creative arranger, so I tend to fall back on stock arrangement angles for many of the tracks I do, which then diminish my initial enthusiasm for the project.


Once I've got the basics of drums, bass, main keys, and (synthesized) guitar, I often run into a wall. And then I try and work it out in my head for a while, with results not consistently 'original' enough for me to be happy with.


As some have said previously, my best song is the one I'm working on at that moment, but I'm becoming increasingly paranoid - even while working on new songs - as to whether I'll have the 'arrangement creativity' slip into gear when I need it most. This in turn stifles my basic creativity.

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I dont have this problem and desire to be perfect

in aspect of performance, since usually that we think we could improve. But imperfect performance during recording is part of the

composition sometimes. I enjoy listening today to my early composition (over 25 years ago) even theyre not ideal technically and recording is very bad, but they tell the some story and thats important. Marino is right when you done with piece its done, like a painting, you cannot add more layers and corrections all the time because youd destroy it eventually.

You can however improvise on theme of your piece and thats what I do.


But artist's creativity works all the time, that's why we many think we could do better then that,

but it's not the case...


Well, unless our composition is not a result of inspiration/talent but normal, mechanical work,

and I know musicians like that too. Remember Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus?

In that case you can correct your piece at will, it will never be good.

♫♫♫ motif XS6, RD700GX
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You may find talking to a shrink useful. I sure did. What he'll help you do is assess what you have really achieved and to make a rational assesment, and then he'll help you enjoy that assessment emotionally.


Emotional is a loaded word. Its really just a bunch of chemicals roiling around. The basis of your problem is you are not getting the same chemical rush when you play the work back a week later that you did when you were working on it. And you are interpreting that as disgust - which of course then triggers that set of chemicals so you feel disgust.


Just understanding this helps, but its possible with a little practice to also recover the feeling.

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Originally posted by cliffk:

Good insights - and tips! My problem is that I'm a chronic non-finisher. I've got so many incomplete songs on the back-burner that I sometimes despair. The main reason is I'm not the most creative arranger, so I tend to fall back on stock arrangement angles for many of the tracks I do, which then diminish my initial enthusiasm for the project.


Once I've got the basics of drums, bass, main keys, and (synthesized) guitar, I often run into a wall. And then I try and work it out in my head for a while, with results not consistently 'original' enough for me to be happy with.


As some have said previously, my best song is the one I'm working on at that moment, but I'm becoming increasingly paranoid - even while working on new songs - as to whether I'll have the 'arrangement creativity' slip into gear when I need it most. This in turn stifles my basic creativity.

Part of me totally understand where you're coming from, and the other part wants me to encourage you to just go ahead and finish what you have.


Keeping a song unfinished means that when the perfect arrangement finally does strike you, the song will sound its best. This also means you keep a lot of things on the back burner, as you say.


Finishing everything on your plate means you'll have room for more new projects. If all the arrangements sound predictable to you, consider it a phase, like a visual artist's "blue phase" or whatever.


It's always possible to re-arrange a song at a later date. Consider all of the unplugged (acoustic) arrangements of previously recorded works.


Another angle is to collaborate with someone who has a strong sense for arrangements.


In general it's better to release songs quickly before they become dated.

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If you're having issues with finishing and arrangement, maybe you should seek out a writing partner. I've found that partnering with someone who compliments your strengths is not only inspiring, but very efficient and leads to more interesting tunes.


For instance, in my jazz trio, I am usually the "spur of the moment" guy. I think fast on my feet musically and I'm heavily influenced by rhythm. My guitarist, however, is less visceral, tends to really think about things, and is influenced by melody and harmony.


I'll usually come up with an idea during a rehearsal, something rhythmic, with basic chord outlines and song structure, and he'll take it home and flesh out an interesting melody, re-harmonized parts of it, etc. Or sometimes I'll have something almost fully formed, just needing a B section or something, and he'll help me there. Likewise for his tunes. If you look at our CDs, almost every song is written by the two of us together.


In the last year, the same thing has happened with my other band, which is a blues/soul group. I've never been a lyricist, but our new guitarist has a way with words and the two of us get together and ping-pong ideas back and forth. It's great fun!


As for "learning to leave things alone", that is something that gets lost in the age of home studios and digital recording. Limitations are a GOOD thing. Limit yourself to fleshing out an entire song on ONE instrument, instead of instantly adding a drum part, horns, strings, etc. Lately I've been writing a lot of stuff on my Rhodes, which is different for me since I consider myself an organist.


Limit yourself to a certain time limit on the tune. Could be 3 minutes, could be 4, etc. Limit yourself to a certain number of tracks. Limit your CD to 60 minutes. Limit your recording time to a week. Just some ideas. When we don't have limits, we get lost. We have to have some boundaries, some which are broken, some which are not.


I like recording in a real studio because I'm under the gun and it brings out the best in my playing. I know I've only got four days to do the basic tracking, so I better be mentally and physically prepared to pull it off. And it always leads to decisions being made of keeping a take that I might not be totally happy with, but later it's just what the track needed. It's also imperitive to have that outside voice of reason, which in my case is the engineer.


Just some thoughts.

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Indeed, great points made throughout this thread.


Having been through the various writing phases that synths have allowed over the past 20 years or so in my case, nowadays, I compose tunes using a piano, rhodes or organ sound.


I arrange with a band in mind rather than throwing every cool sound in there. I limit the keyboard parts to what I can actually play with two hands and a foot. ;)


The best thing to do as a writer/composer is to hit and quit it. Don't force yourself to complete a tune. It is okay to step away for a minute or two and come back fresh. Also, collaborate with others.


Working solo in your own studio is great. However, jamming with other musicians is rewarding on another level in terms of opening fresh ideas, options and possibilities.


Very few composers are completely satisfied with their work. While you may not be satisfied with a tune, CD or whatever, take comfort in knowing you are able to do something that many others can only wish they could. :cool:



"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I'm a bit of a perfectionist; on the other hand, I also like to go with the flow. I sometimes like to "make a few mistakes" while practicing/jamming/recording. I've happily stumbled into several, nice grooves that way.


I think sometimes that, which might sound kind of off in that moment, will sound good--or even great--at any other time. So, record it--mistakes and all, and then learn to roll with the punches.


Hank Marr, one of my jazz mentors, used to tell us, "if you make a mistake, [then] make it so good that no one else--but you--knows that it was a mistake." I suspect that all of those half-valve techniques--that most of just jazz trumpeters love to play--came from someone just playing through a gig with gummed up valves and no oil.

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Imagine . . . years from now, some cats coming along who dig one of your recordings, trying to learn how to play that "mistake" just the way you played it.


The first time my mother heard Cameo play some funk, she just couldn't get over their "screwed up harmony". My father, on the other hand, got it immediately. Awhile later, they both were down with it, and they played enough of it to hook me on it too. :)

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