You’ve come up with a cool guitar lick and… that’s about it. It’s just sitting there, waiting for you to turn it into a song or a composition. Does this sound familiar?
We’re great at beginnings, less so with endings - that’s what I’ve realized from my own experience. My voice memo library is full of under-ne-minute ideas which, if I don’t take action, will most likely remain in that format. Similarly, my guitar students frequently create great starting points, but usually struggle to finalize their tracks.
It may seem like a chore getting to that finish line and releasing what we’ve written into the world. It often feels like a weight we bear on our shoulders that we need to lift, so we can move on to the next project. Why does this happen? I can think of a few reasons:
Perfectionism - There is always something to improve or to correct. If you consider yourself a perfectionist, I guess you are rarely satisfied with the current state of your track.
Procrastination - If you’re a procrastinator (who isn’t?), you think that a better variation is right around the corner, and when it arrives you realise there’s another one coming and another…
Time constraints - Yes, life is super busy. Work, family, studies… Who has time to release a single, let alone a whole album?
Lack of support - Maybe you have writer's block or you just don’t know what to do next, and you could probably use some professional or musical advice.
Self-criticism - Perhaps you think that the music is not good enough and it’s not worth investing your time in. Or you may wonder; ‘why bother? There are so many great guitarists out there already.
Personally, I’ve experienced all of the above on some level. So here are some possible solutions that I’ve found helpful:
1. Remind yourself you’re only human
Yes, you can always improve your writing and recordings, but you may get stuck in a never-ending cycle that might affect your productivity. So the vast amount of work you put in can result in just a few releases. Also, no one’s perfect, and all the greatest have some cool little imperfections. Take, for example, the tiny mistake in Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption (1:06):
2. Set a deadline
It could be anything from a special occasion like a birthday or a random nice-looking date (10/10/2020 maybe?). Even if you won’t meet the deadline, your progress will bring you much closer to completion by that date. Also, we all know how hard we work, including all-nighters, to complete a task with a hard deadline.
3. Get perspective
Sometimes we’re so engaged in what we’re trying to accomplish that we forget why we started doing it in the first place.
Especially in our unique times, don’t forget to interact with those around you and elsewhere, and let people you trust listen to your tracks to get fresh points of view, particularly if they’re not musicians themselves as they can offer feedback that is free of the critique that naturally comes with a professional ear. Yet, while taking comments onboard, always trust your own instincts.
4. Write new material
If you have more music in the pipeline, this will hopefully create a positive pressure and push you to work on finalizing and releasing your unfinished tracks.
5. Get professional help
I don’t mean therapy (although this may be needed in some cases), but rather finding a producer, a manager or even a guitar teacher to guide you. Over time, I’ve accepted that my role as a guitar tutor is to serve as a mentor or coach, as well as just teaching.
I hope this helps! My passion is to create original music and to help others to do so as well. Personally, I’ve released a guitar album very recently, facing all of the aforementioned issues, and the satisfaction it gave me has fueled my motivation to carry on releasing mine and my students’ music more frequently.
Udi Glaser is a guitarist, composer and guitar teacher who specializes in creativity. Listen to his new guitar album Love Blue Electric (opens in new tab).