I’ve long been a fan of the RPM Challenge, a NaNoWriMo-style challenge for musicians to record an album in February, and this year, I’ll be attempting the challenge myself! The rules are fairly simple: record at least 10 tracks or at least 35 minutes of original music by March 1st. I’ll be writing everything from scratch in February, too, but pre-written tracks are okay as long as you haven’t previously recorded or released them.
I actually attempted it back in 2008, but that was before I’d really started making music again, and it was a bit of a disaster — I didn’t manage to record anything. I fully expect to have more done by the end of my first day than I managed in that attempt.
What are my goals? I’d like to try a few different tracks — some downtempo stuff, some more melodic chiptune-ish stuff, and likely some droney ambient stuff — and while I expect it all to be quite rough, I hope there are some ideas in there that I can polish in to complete tracks after the challenge.
More importantly, though, I’d like to learn to be more spontaneous and to get my ideas recorded more quickly. I spend a lot of time working on each track, and if I can learn ways to reduce that workload, and hence increase my output, I’ll be very happy.
I’ll try to post some updates here throughout the month, but if you want to track my progress more closely, I’ll be posting to Twitter, too. Wish me luck!
If you enjoyed yesterday’s sketch, you really should check out this great remix by ioflow. He took my original loops and rearranged them in Renoise, mixing things up to great effect with some micro-edits (the little reversed bits sound awesome) and some low-key, distorted beats. Unfortunately I forgot to save the final set of loops, so he had to make do without the melody part, but it definitely hasn’t hurt things.
I very nearly neglected to post yesterday’s sketch, since the timing was rough and the whole thing was musically very simple. Needless to say, I’m glad I did post it now — chalk this up as a win for online collaboration and Creative Commons!
I’m starting the new year the right way this year — with a sketch! It’s just a rough, simple, improvised jam, captured using SooperLooper, but I love the mood that the sound of the Rhodes imparts, especially as more note sustain over the top of each other and intermingle. I put the Rhodes sound through a rotary speaker emulation (Calf’s, in this case), and the melody part went my VM1 delay pedal, but it’s otherwise free of processing. It doesn’t really need much, anyway — those high notes sustaining that are left at the end are just magic.
SooperLooper is great for capturing new track ideas, especially for the kind of music I make, which is often driven by repeating patterns. In the past I’ve started with a drum beat and recorded loops on top of that, but this time I went freestyle. The nanoKONTROL is great for controlling it — I was able to add a bunch of empty loops, and map a separate fader and record button to each of them, making it easy to both record your loops and control their playback afterward. Once I had some appropriate loops I just played them all at the same time, using the faders to control their relative volumes while recording the output straight in to JACK Timemachine.
I don’t know if this sketch will go any further than this, but with some glitchy drums, some additional synth parts, and a bit more complexity (like, more than two chords), I think it could work as a track.
Looking back on 2011, I can’t help but feel a little slack — in 2010 I released four new original tracks, but 2011 saw just two — but I think I’d be doing myself a disservice to judge my productivity based solely on numbers. Both of those tracks, move along and Texel, took a lot of work, and I’m very proud of how they both turned out. I also spent a lot of time working with pre-release and often quite buggy software, filing bugs as I ran in to problems, and while that slowed me down I’m glad I was able to do it.
So far this year, I definitely have been slack; I spent half of December in the US on a working holiday, and combined with the usual holiday season shenanigans on my return, I’ve been spending more of my downtime gaming (Jamestown and Gratuitous Space Battles have been particular favourites) rather than making music (or blogging, for that matter!). Now that things are calmer, I’m looking forward to getting some music happening.
The plan is still to work on some more tracks in the same lo-fi downtempo vein as Texel and push out an EP of tracks that’ll hopefully sound like they belong together. Realistically, that might take all year, but if the tools continue to improve at their current rate, there’s a good chance I’ll be done sooner. Either way, I plan to stick with it!