As impossible as it may seem standing here on the precipice overlooking the nigh impossible, 30s30d will be over before you know it. This month—like the song you start writing today—moves at a frightful pace. To help give you a heads-up on some of the milestones and hazards we'll be flying past on our way to February 30th.
Which brings me to the subject at hand: Week One.
Ah, Week One. Whether you're a first-time song writer or a musical veteran, Week One is epic. We step onto its stage clutching a few mumbled melodies, and bearing only the haziest notions of lyrics. And, when the curtain closes on the seventh day, we'll be tugging a sack of seven songs behind us.
The keys to thriving in Week One are straightforward:
1) Surge early. Wake up thinking song. Make yourself notes to remember ideas, and write down lyrics the second they come to you. Beg, borrow,and steal as much of the first weekend as possible to work on songs. Build up a buffer of extra tracks for a future “no-song” day. You won't need to keep up this pace throughout the month, but nothing guarantees a 30s30d victory (and a fun month) like opening up a hefty lead in the first week.
2) Listen, steal! I don't have perfect pitch, my music-theory is hazy, and i have nothing close to a photographic memory. When i'm stuck, i listen to a favorite song, put it away, and try to mimic the melody.
Try to copy someone else's song?
Sure! The thing is, i always fail. I never get the rhythm or the melody right, and eventfully i realize, “hey, that gives me an idea!” When i compare my budding melody to the original, it sounds nothing alike and i'm inspired to add my own chords and instrumentation.
Black Francis, of The Pixies, once said,
“The Pixies are actually an Elvis cover band, we're just really really bad at it.”
It works for lyrics too.
3) Know that you're not doing any of this alone. As you dive into your double album, eleven other souls are going through the same ups and downs of Sleep-Deprived musical madness. Whenever you're feeling like hurling your microphone, computer, or kazoo out the window or setting fire to your guitar, send an email to 30s30d for encouragement and reassurance. Likewise, whenever you've had a ferociously productive day, celebrate by sending a pep talk or gold bars or box of expensive chocolates to another 30s30d'er in distress.
4) Embrace the fear. It's okay to be nervous. Nervous just means you're pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone—which is when great and magical things happen. Even if you have thirty great song ideas outlined for the month, it's still terrifying to be stepping into the frontier of your imagination. I blame this on a lifetime exposure to the perplexing idea that art should be made by artists, and albums left to professional musicians.
As someone who has made music for fifteen years now, I can tell you this: albums are not written by professional musicians. Albums are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write music. Whatever your experience, you have music in you that only you can make. And February is a beautiful month to get it made.
Have a great first week, everyone! I'll be making music like crazy until Tuesday the 6th, when I'll drop by your inbox again with some thoughts about the musical adventures awaiting us in Week Two.
30 songs in 30 days