One of the biggest problems with a creative artist is going in circles. This means that the artist has so many good ideas that the production is never finished. As soon as a version is complete, the artist thinks, “I think the middle 8 should have a ska feel.” Then after that’s recorded he thinks, “Maybe the entire song should have a ska feel.” Before you know it there are versions in 6/8, speed metal and reggae (and maybe more), with each one just sounding different, not necessarily better.
If this is what's happening to you, there are two words to keep in mind to help you out of your rut.
Instinct - Usually, the very first inspiration is the right one, especially if you’ve gone through more than a couple of different versions. You’ve got to repress the urge to keep changing things and learn to follow your initial instinct. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tweak or perfect what you’re doing; it means that you shouldn’t make a right turn in a direction that goes against your initial inspiration.
The exception to this is if you think it might be cool to have multiple different versions of the song available so you can give the alternate versions to your core fans as an exclusive gift. Then, a wholesale change in direction can actually be particularly useful.
Deadline - One of the biggest problems with producing yourself is the fact that your project is usually open-ended time-wise. As a result, you end up with the “project that wouldn’t end” that keeps going for years (no exaggeration here).
The surest way to keep that from happening and to actually accomplish something is to set a deadline for the project’s completion. Many people do their best work on deadlines because they don’t have a chance to second guess themselves. The final product may not be 100% of what you want, but remember that it seldom ever is, even with all the time in the world available to finish the project. Save yourself some heartache and impose a deadline on yourself.
If you're interested in some more production tips, check out The Music Producer's Handbook. You can read a few excerpts here.
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