30 songs in 30 days : day 1

I'm up to my ears in my first song!

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.

Rock on!

30 songs in 30 days

5 days till 30 songs in 30 days!

Ready to do something amazing?

One week till 30 songs in 30 days!

There are 10 of us so far, that's 300 new songs birthed by the end of February.

At the beginning of the second week of February i'll set up a podcast. Amongst other things, i'm going to play snippets of songs.

As the week descends on us, it might be useful to make a working plan for the coming days. I don't know about you, but i have a day job. When
we talk about writing a song a day, i might be literally talking about one to five hours a day on weekdays.

Impossible? No way! But we probably aren't going for perfectionism this coming month. I encourage you to see this as an exercise in creativity.

Imagine we're in a Mountain Dew commercial, “Creativity Extreme Dude!”

Again to quote Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo:
“The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.”

We'll churn out 30 raw goofy messy songs in February, we can polish them over the rest of the year.

As an example, my working plan is to start on melody or lyrics in the morning, before i get caught up in other work. Maybe get in a few breaks during the day to get some ideas down, and then start recording in the evening.

If i'm lucky, maybe i'll have a few two-song days, otherwise i'll have to see if i can knock out extra songs on the weekends. I think, for me, an essential part of this will be to build a small buffer of songs for the days that i just don't have a few hours for songwriting. As with all things, i figure my plan will change and adapt with the challenges and successes of the month.

Some advice from alistar on the NaNoWriMo forums:

Don't write a song about the same thing every day, it gets really hard to think of yet another verse about the girl you like, or feeling sad, or whatever, once you've been going for a few days. Songs about noodles and bands that you like are recommended. 😉

Don't sit down intending to record a perfect take of any of your song's parts, or you'll be there for hours. If your song's four minutes long and has four parts, that's approaching twenty minutes' recording already. Even if you only do three takes of each part, you're getting up towards an hour of recording.

Everything takes longer than you expect it to. Start getting some lines down while you're eating breakfast, wherever possible.

Don't worry about using the same chord sequence over and over again. It didn't bother chuck berry, so don't let it bother you!

I have to teach this weekend, but i told everyone else to spend the next week aligning their chi, kiss their loved ones goodbye, and dig in for some song writing!

See you in a week!


Posted by ON in Dear Diary

Yesterday i led a memorial service for my friend Shawna's cat, Ingemar. He was 19.

We buried him next to J and i's cat, Miel. Shawna's boyfriend, Steve, played mbira. I read a couple poems and we all cried for awhile and then went in for tea.

Here's one of the poems; it's by St. John of the Cross

I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.

An animal noticed my condition and
came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times–

to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don't

they just gaze with
marvelous understanding.