Some songs you just don’t want to end. There’s something satisfying about songs that sink into a groove that slowly fade into oblivion, but relying too heavily on this technique is just plain lazy.
Musicians and producers have a plethora of options when it comes to song structure. The end of your song isn’t any exception to that.
Unfortunately, one of the hardest endings to pull off is the abrupt stop (where your song just immediately ends). In these hard stops, there’s no fade or ringing instruments. You could have plenty of reasons for wanting to do this:
· You want to catch your listener’s attention
· You want your song to sound “cut-off” by the next song on the album (great for continuity on the album, but rough if your song is being released as a single)
· You want to make your powerhouse ending the crescendo of the song
· Literally any other reason – or for no reason at all other than it sounds good
How To Treat Your Ending
The end of your song might not seem like it needs to be treated any differently than the rest, but mixers that are looking for that punchy, impactful finale will tell you otherwise. So much of your mix already relies on automation, but what kind of extra automation could bring your mix’s ending to the next level?
Ride The Volume
Just like in other peaks, you should be making a conscious effort to get the most dynamic range out of your song. Part of this means automating your volume up in louder parts, and backing off in other sections. For the grand finale, you may find yourself boosting the final snare hit or vocal to its peak.
If your mix is already maxed out, all hope is not lost. Using subgroups, you can back off other instruments in small increments leading up to the end of the song. Small adjustments (like 0.5 dB) won’t be heard by the human ear, but will give your ending a bit more breathing room if you need it.
Crank Up Those Plugins
If you’re all set on volume automation, another cool approach is to make your mix feel like it’s coming apart at the seams by tweaking your plugin settings. By automating more compression, saturation & gain into your track, you can add aggression and power to it.
These types of moves can sound exhausting when done too extremely, but in the right context, an already aggressive mix can achieve wild new heights when pushing your processing to the edge (just watch your meters & don’t clip)!
What To Do When Your Abrupt Ending Is Unwanted
Sometimes, you end up with an abrupt ending for no other reason than you ran out of ideas how to end the song. No matter how hard you try, writer’s block sank its teeth into this one, and its not letting go.
There’s no reason that should stop and otherwise fully fleshed out song from being released, but too often it does. Good mixers don’t let abrupt endings stop them from working though.
Abrupt endings can be softened using time-based effects. It’s actually been a common technique since the days of analog recording – the only difference is that now we can pump it into the song even after the musicians have left the live room.
One of favorite ways to get creative with abrupt endings is using a delay on one or two instruments at the end of a song. Fluff does a great job of demonstrating how tape delay can do that in the video below:
Have You Ever Had To Fix An Abrupt Ending?
Producers and engineers constantly have to find tweaks in the studio to make things work. Have you found a particular approach that works best for songs that just seem to end out of nowhere?
Come share your mixing stories with us and thousands of our closest friends over in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum. You might pick up on some new techniques while you’re there!