How To Escape The 8 Bar Loop & Finish Your Arrangement

So you've been stuck in that same 8 bar loop for the past few hours, or even days and can't finish your track huh?  Join the club.  It's one of the most frustrating things ever. 

To make things worse you open up Facebook and one of your friends just posted about finishing a new track in an hour....Why does this happen?  WHY?!

To be honest I'm not sure why.  It could be lack of inspiration.  Maybe you didn't get enough sleep.  Maybe you just need to go out and have a good time then come back with a fresh mindset. 

Whatever the reason, let me show you how to never get stuck in the 8-bar loop again and even finish your next track tonite.

1.  use a reference track

A reference track is any song that you can use as a guide for your mixing, mastering, sound design or arrangement. Reference tracks can be used for inspiration or as learning tools to help you improve your EDM production skills.

Using them is the fastest and easiest way to improve.

If you know me at all you know how much I love reference tracks.  They're a gift from the heavens.  Use them! Find a song that you really like that sounds similar to what you're trying to produce and use it as a guide!

The arrangement is done and there for you to use as a guide for your arrangement.  There are ideas for drops, buildups and breakdowns.  You can even get ideas for sound design and what samples to use.

If you're ever stuck staring at a blank project with no idea how to start, or need inspiration, this is the best way to get inspired and spark ideas.

escape the 8 bar loop and finish your arrangement in 2 easy steps

1.  Find and download or purchase a track on Beatport, Soundcloud or your favourite platform that is in a similar style or genre as the music you produce.

Find a song that immediately catches your attention and makes you want to listen to it over and over again.  You'll want to use it as a guide to finish your own track.

Find your style and genre on Beatport

Beatport's navigation menu is a great starting point to find reference tracks.  You can also use to determine your own style and genre if that's something you're having trouble with.

Knowing your genre is also super important when submitting songs to record labels and marketing yourself and your music.

2.  Import the reference track into your DAW and follow along.

Listen to it from start to finish and take note of the difference section, transitions, break downs and buildups in the reference track.  Add labels to the different sections and start drawing in what you hear.

Now what you have is an arrangement blueprint to follow.  

If you've already started your arrangement but are stuck in an 8-bar loop, this is the perfect way to escape it and fill out your arrangement.  

If you're starting out with a blank screen, then you can follow along and create a complete arrangement from scratch.  It doesn't get any easier to start and finish a song.

Now, I know what you might be thinking...isn't this just copying someone else's work?

The answer to that question depends on you.  You could use a reference track as a starting point or a way to get unstuck. Once you have a basic arrangement, you can go back and make it your own.  You can change things up and move things around however you want.  

You don't need to reinvent the wheel.  There's no shame in inspiration, and using this approach will kick start the creative process and probably even help you make and finish more tracks.

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escape the 8 bar loop and finish your track in 2 hours.

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2.  limit your options

Using a reference track as a guide is the first and easiest way to finish more tracks.  But, what if you're like me and spend hours messing around with samples, presets, plugins and settings?

We all fall into that trap from time to time so it's important to be aware when it happens.  Stop worrying about sample packs, plugins and gear and start making more music. because that's what really matters.

Here are a some great tips to get you finishing your arrangement even faster.

  • Use your DAW's stock plugins.  Just doing this will save you tons.  Your DAW already has all the plugins you need so don't worry about what anybody says.  You don't need to buy any more plugins.
  • Forget analog vs. digital. That debate is pointless.  No listener or fan will EVER care what equipment you used or if you used an expensive tube compressor on your mixbus.  Use whatever you're comfortable with.
  • Use one sample pack per song. This one was huge for me.  Allowing myself to only use one sample pack means I don't have to overthink things.
  • Take frequent breaks.  I suggest walking away every hour.  Go for a walk or listen to someone else's music to reset your brain and your ears.

3.  feel the music

It's almost too easy to get lost in all the plugins, synths, hardware, software and toys that come with producing electronic dance music.  Don't get me wrong I'm a huge sound nerd.  But sometimes you need to take a step back and just enjoy your own creation.  Listen to your music.  Feel the groove and let your ears and body guide you through your arrangement.

You know how sometimes you hum along to a song and your brain starts to fill parts in with melodies and harmonies?  Has that ever happened to you?

I do it all the time, and I think you should do it with your own music.

If you're stuck in an 8-bar loop or can't seem to find the best melodies, lead sections or harmonies, then this is a great way to get things going.

Here's how you can do it.  Listen to your song from start to finish without any expectations or judgement.  Just relax and listen as if you were not the one who made the song, pretend it's from your favorite producer.

As you're listening, let your brain do all the work.  Let it create harmonies and melodies, imagine transitions and effects, breakdowns, buildups or anything else.  

Pretend like the song you're working on is just something that came on the radio and hum along with it and imagine what the next section should sound like, or what sound should come in, or what effect you would use for the drop.

I can't stress this enough -  this is music.  It's meant to be a home for your creativity and inspiration and something that brings you joy and happiness.  Don't let it be a source of frustration.

Follow these tips and I guarantee you won't be stuck in any more 8 bar loops and you'll be able to finish your arrangements so much quicker. 

If you have any other ideas or tips please leave them in the comments for everyone to enjoy.  Also, if you've enjoyed reading this article please share it!  You would be doing me a huge favor and also maybe helping someone else finish their song.

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