As Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned," and I couldn't agree more.
As both a novelist and a music artist, the struggle is real when it comes to finally deciding that your creation is "done", and releasing it into the world.
When it comes to music, you can always add or re-do a section, or tweak your EQ and compression settings until you can't even hear what you're changing (or did you accidentally hit bypass?)
A song is finished when there are no cringe-inducing distractions, the track is well balanced, and enjoyable to listen to. If you hear any annoying clicks, pops, spikes, or certain instruments are getting lost in the mix, that's a sign you still have some work to do.
Or, perhaps a more honest answer to this question was provided by Reddit user, JockMctavishtheDog, who said, "I know the song is done once I've totally ruined it."
Yeah, that hits a little too close to home, doesn't it?
But let's see if we can avoid ruining our songs to the point where we just want to go home and rethink our lives by creating simple mixing and song-finishing checklist.
1. Free From Cringe-Inducing Distractions
Distractions are going to be the biggest sign that you need to keep working.
The biggest culprits are:
You're basically just looking to eliminate anything that causes pain. This is the "cringe test".
The cringe test is when you listen to every second of your song and every time you cringe, you fix it until you stop cringing and start smiling.
This requires being a critical listener and listening to a lot of music in general so that you know what sounds good, and what doesn't.
But if nothing is hurting or annoying you, then you can move on to the next test...
2. Well Balanced
Is your song well balanced?
You also want to listen for balance. How do all of your sounds compare to each other and to other songs in your genre?
If everything sounds good together, no instrument is poking out too much or getting lost, then you can comfortably say you have a good balance.
The next step is a big one...
3. Enjoyable To Listen To
Is your song enjoyable to listen to?
Music is a fascinating communication medium in that it's designed to communicate emotions, and influence how people feel.
If your song makes you feel something, then that's a good sign it will do the same for others.
4. Feedback Is Good
You also might want to get some outsider opinions.
Do you have a small group of people whom you can send your track to for feedback?
Do they hear any distractions, or do they lose a certain instrument in the mix when they listen?
When you've been working on a song for so long, it can be easy to lose perspective, so getting feedback from others can be helpful.
If the feedback is good, that's the final box checked!
5. The Deadline Has Arrived
One other thing to consider is deadlines.
In the professional recording world, often a song is sone simply when the deadline for its completion arrives.
Sure, you could rewrite and tweak your mix forever, but any improvement is marginal at best.
So I recommend setting deadlines for yourself and sticking to those deadlines.
This will help you to improve much faster, and you'll also get more songs finished and releases as a result.
Finishing more songs, faster, is vital for success in this new music industry.
People's attention spans are short, and they are constantly on the hunt for "what's next".
Releasing regularly is therefore one of the best things you can do to grow your indie artist career, whether that be original music, collaborations, covers, or all of the above.
That's why I put together my Rapid Song-Finishing Checklist.
This not only includes what I talked about in this article boiled down into a simple checklist, but it also contains a handy mixing and mastering checklist so you can make sure you've got everything covered as you go about finishing your tracks.
You can download the checklist for free by clicking below.
Create Better Songs, Faster
Click below to download my free song-finishing checklist to help you create radio-ready songs without taking months to complete them.
This checklist will ensure that you always have a starting point, and you'll never wonder what to do next ever again while mixing or mastering.
I hope you got value from this post on how to know when your song is done.
If so, I'd love for you to share and let me know in the comments below...