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'Perfect Is The Enemy Of Good'... So How Do I Know If My Song Is Done?


Finishing a song can sometimes feel like a monumental task that never ends...

There is no clear indication that a song is finished, instead, there is often a compulsion to continually make changes and tweaks until a song feels 'perfect'. This feeling of perfection may come along once in a lifetime, as artists can be self-critical and over analyse their work.


I think Leonardo Da Vinci had it right, 'art is never finished, only abandoned'. To be slightly less pessimistic, perhaps we'll replace abandoned with finished. Knowing when to stop adding to a song and pronouncing it finished is a skill within itself. Many areas of the industry such as sync work, brief work and topline writing don't lend themselves to being precious about perfection, placing value only on tangible finished ideas, and discarding those that don't lend themselves to the task at hand.


This numerical approach may seem barbaric to the pure artist inside every songwriter, but there are definite lessons to take from this industrial approach. Getting an idea out and developed quickly and then moving on can enable perspective to remain untarnished by the amount of time spent refining an idea, which can lead to a higher rate of efficiency in song craft.

Take time away to gain fresh perspective

Staying objective when being creative can be difficult, the more time spent on the song, the less objective we become. Listening to music that inspires you can lead to inspiration and new ideas being formed.


Taking time away from your song in progress can add clarity to your decisions, since your mind shifts away from the short-term, making some changes appear obvious that weren't before. Showing your work to trusted peers, friends or mentors can help add opinions and perspective to your song, from an unbiased perspective (if the person giving feedback has your best interest at heart).


Not every song needs to be a masterpiece, or even released for that matter.

The more songs you write, the better you will become as a songwriter. Having the experience of seeing a song from conception through to completion will reinforce your identity as a musician that finishes the ideas that you start. Being in the positive habit of finishing songs will benefit your future writing sessions and collaborations with other artists.


There is nothing wrong with writing a song through to completion, for it to not be released or heard by many. Gaining experience and understanding of how you want your music to sound through finished songs can allow you to show a potential collaborator your work in progress.

More songs in your repertoire can only be a positive thing

Having more original material enables you to have more songs to perform live or even to revamp in the future. I remember hearing great advice when in a class with Elliott Randall (guitarist in Steely Dan and writer of incredibly iconic 'Reelin' In The Years' guitar solo), which was to never throw away an idea as it could always be useful later down the line. I couldn't tell you how many times I've been thankful I didn't put a 'useless' idea into my trash folder as it became useful later down the line. The same logic could be applied to your songs, which may transform into a creative piece you feel brings a lot of value.


Songs have more value than being released as an artist, there are earning opportunities as an artist through synchronisation work, live performance and writing to briefs. Having a more developed portfolio of songs can lead to potential work in the future.


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