Identifying whats missing

Hey everyone,

I have been working on a specific track for probably way longer than I typically do, probably the most I’ve done since picking the hobby back up. Something I try to consciously think about is, what is the track missing? When I’ve asked myself this before and could not clearly see where the track needs to go, I’ve looked at similar music or maybe just blindly/arbitrarily do edits until something makes sense. I am wondering, is there a more conscientious way to do this? How do others deal with this while in the arrangement/composing phase for a track?

Maybe what I am also asking is, is there a way to listen to your track critically on your own?

Hopefully my rambling makes sense, thanks in advance,

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What works for me is NOT to try and look for what might be missing from a project / track, but to expand and grow what I already have. I usually start off with a simple melody or beat and let my imagination take it from there, using pre-picked sounds I want to use…or finding new ones that compliment what I’m working with at the time.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with comparing your work to that of others…it’s a important part of mixing a track…but I find it’s best to leave that until you have actually finished at least the “first draft” of your mix…then you have something to work with…but if you are still questioning the direction of your work or what it might be missing, then how can you honestly compare it with the work of another? It’s always going to sound faulty to your own ears if you do it that way. Well, that’s my take on it…but faik I could be doing it arse-ways. In the end it’s a case of finding a workflow that works for you and running with it.


This ^^^

Same here, when I’m “stuck” on a track, I just play around with various synths and sounds, see what would work with what’s already there.

Benefits of this approach:

  1. you’d be surprised the amount of times one sound finds the song - by that I mean, one sound you happen on just becomes “evident” to the song. After that, the melody & tweaks write themselves.

  2. it can take your song in a direction that you didn’t even imagine in the first place.

For example, my compilation song “this is our road” started as me making a “chill/happy/lofi” type song. It ended up being vastly different from what I had envisioned and just being the way it should be.


Hmm… I believe there is nothing wrong with continuously asking yourself that because that is how you make changes and learn from experience. But how could you know from theory what to do to make things sound better and where to take it? You could go listen or read some informations about mixing and mastering, but the composition is just something you can not learn by listening or watching how people do their track because you repeat what they did, and you do not get original ideas( except if you get them and you something on your own)

So - i deal with spotting “mistakes” and getting ideas by memorizing and analyzing(yiur ot other tracks) . You listen to your track, ask yourself what do you analyze and what do you feel. Can you place some sounds to make a track bussier? Can you do something way simpler? What soumds are you hearing simultaneously? What is their volume in comparisson to others, the textures, how is the rhytm section built? How melodic one? How does the author line the ideas he gets or has in the track?
Does a specific sample speak to you? How does it move you? Can you make it move you more? How could you make the next section of song better? Use for example, if you have in 3 minutes 20 samples, only the best ones and clean the trash out. But what if you have 4 samples in 3 minutes? Then you cannot filter the shit out, you can only add it. Get new samples. When you hear new samples ideas come. Reuse the samples you you previusly had in new ways. Oh, another thing is to listen to the track you are doing 4 of 8 semitones slower or faster. You can hear “new sounds” that way.
Then you do not make the changes on what you did already but build a new part of the track from scratch. In my experience when i went editing a track in a part where things were connected already i just fucked it up even if i had ok ideas ( and never managed to build it again) . It is better to copy what you did already in a new part, to have like two repeats of what you did and edit the second. You can then always decide which parts to leave or connect them together quicker.

Listen to a track critically? When i hear my track on the speakers i just feel it is shit even if i do not know how to repair it. Hehe. ( Sound ok on headphones)
And really it would be unfair to criticize any music even if it straight up mainstream pop or scarlxrd because that would be bragging about your own intelligence to yourelf… i thing listening to track critically is impossible , because you can not just shut down your feelings or parts of deduction. I mean, can anyone listen to a track just emotionally and then critically after 5 minutes? I do not imagine it. Listening critically just means that you have the imagination to imagine things that would work better than what you are hearing. For example, listen to the best track you know. You think it is brilliant, unbeatable. Now you go woodsheding for years until you make better music than what you thought is the best and suddenly you hear mistakes, …(a mistake is a very subjective thing) and people say you listen critically… Heh, i believe that is how this thing goes.

Maybe go listen to different music and not similar one.
And believe me you have ideas, everyone has them even idiots just the result is not so profound than genious ideas. Maybe you are dealing with something else emotionally.
And how to get better ideas? One must test them first in a daw and learn from mistakes( get new ideas from existing ones) . Testing the ideas in head is impossible, because music is not physics or mathematics and it does not follow a set of rules. You can not compute a track in head, learn from it and make a real track 100x times better.
If anyone can do it - hell, it is not something you learn by words, so that person can not teach you that.

Here is a real life situation :
. My friend is always doing his tracks with intro, drop and verse and then he says he runs out of ideas. I said to him why do not you make one longer track out of 5 simple tracks, and cross- use the samples , he could come with great stuff. Well, he feels it is more important to master the intro- drop section but he keeps doing that and not composing more creatively( he is a fan of dnb so i understand his need to sort of fit into the genre rules structurally and esthetically.(and he is losing the ideas that would come for some sort of perfection)) I would advise to look at a broader image, not wasting time on searching for improvement in what already is but in what there is to come.

I really hope you get something out of this text
Yes your rambling made sense haha

And this is painfully right.

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I didn’t bother reading the other responses (luv u guys) but honestly just don’t listen to it for like 6 months…I’ve never had more finished tracks that I’m actually proud of than when I started doing this…like any summer track I made this year…I started it in the spring or even maybe last summer…I just sit on shit for a while…come back and listen later when you don’t remember what it sounds like.

I appreciate the responses here,

This is something I have done in the past and still do, it does work as you say but sometimes it feels very hit or miss.

Yeah, I understand the lines to about what you are saying here, its why I am looking for another way to ask the question of where does this need to go/what element is missing from a track using information from the track and less from what’s out of it. I rather use internal information from the track as a way to develop the internal idea. I do know this is hard to answer since this is also a subjective answer, but even a subjective answer can be built on a reasonable observation I think.

I think this is essentially the topic here. it’s just a lot easier said than done.

well, I won’t bother reading the rest of your post then.

I’m kidding, yeah I’ve heard about the whole fresh ears, fresh eyes type of thing. I haven’t had it work for me before but I am familiar with the idea,

I think this definitely has helped a bit in finding the right words to describe the idea better,

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Mostly I try to pay attention to song structure, even though it’s my weak point. A good bridge, IMO can turn a song from mediocre into incredible if you play your cards right. Also, when a song lacks basic structure or refrain, it stops sounding like a song at all and more of a demo reel of ‘skills’. Nobody wants to hear that, but I find myself doing this more than I’d like. Sometimes the thing that’s ‘missing’ is direction, or even less ____.

Critically listening to your own tracks though, I don’t really believe in. I haven’t heard many good self-mastered releases for the same reason; I don’t think we can ever perceive our own work objectively, but that’s what makes art so unique anyway - you need other people. Whenever you see a credit like “Guitar guy: mixing and mastering” though, I guarantee you that guy can’t even hear the mix correctly. He can probably mix his buddies’ tunes all day and even play guitar in his band, but together something is going to fucking suck.

Tl;DR: No, you can try shelving it for a year or something but you won’t even be the same person by then. You’ll be making better music and it’s just not worth it.