Write a song in 24 hours
How long does it take you on average to make a song start to finish?
Do you have more unfinished loops and ideas than finished songs?
I certainly do. But I’m improving.
Often times, once we get into a habit of working a certain way, we start to believe that is just the way things are. If we take a long time, that’s just how we work. Now I am not knocking people who take a while to create something they are satisfied with, but I am challenging the thought that you couldn’t have created an equally impressive piece of work in a fraction of that time.
Being that I take longer than I like pretty often still, I created a challenge for myself that I would love for you to try as well.
So the goal was to create a 4 song E.P. derived from only songs that I spent 24 hours each on. Surprisingly, I came pretty damn close to reaching that goal. 3 of the songs were relatively finished within the set timeframe, while one just needs some arrangement tweaks.
I knew I had to approach my songwriting differently to successfully reach this time goal. I threw out 90% of the things that eat of time or create second guessing & mental blocks & focused on the 10% that was essential to working quickly & creatively. This isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t indulge in processes that take more time, but if you want to make a song in 24 hours, it’s important to set limits and guidelines.
I set up some rules that keep me from wasting time with the “too many options” syndrome. Here they are below:
1. No hardware of any kind. No hardware synths or effects. Everything was going to be done inside the box.
2. No soft synths, samplers, drum synths or any software instruments.
3. All content of the songs would come from other music or youtube/spotify content. Drums, bass, pads, fx, atmospherics etc.. No mind was paid to legality of use or even the quality of the sound. I just used what inspired me & tried to make it my own. I used screenflow to capture audio.
4. I allow myself to use internal effects to tweak the sounds, but nothing else (with Ableton, that’s plenty anyway). No max for live effects though.
5. All songs would be put together in the arrangement window using very basic tools: cut, copy, paste, duplicate, reverse, pitch shifting, half time, double time.
With these rules in place I went at creating music in 24 hours. I really didn’t take much time with the sampling. In some cases, I had some sampling ideas in my head, but most if it was pretty random. By not having a clear idea of what I wanted to create in my head, I could just focus on what was in front of me. All of this saved a tons of time that I would have spent trying to dick around looking for the perfect sound of instrument.
I would start creating the song in bed at night on my laptop & would give myself until the following night to complete the song. Working in bed with headphones on put me in a more relaxed state of mind & allowed me to take more risks & break some rules. I was usually a bit tired when I started, so that kept me from second guessing things. I wanted to approach this with a childlike spirit. Less structure, more curiosity.
Since I gave myself no musical rules, I felt no pressure to be neat about my approach. I wasn’t creating changes every 16 bars if I didn’t feel like it. I was strictly going on vibe & since I had no genre in mind, I had no template to work with. I basically just assumed I would create an intro part, a main element, perhaps a change or softer element & an outro.
The results were completely unexpected and like nothing I have created before. I don’t want to judge it on better or worse than other stuff I’ve made, but it seems an inspired and spontaneous body of work.
Now that I hear the potential of these songs, I am going to give myself 24 more hours on each song to dial things in more, but this wouldn’t have even happened if I hadn’t set the goal, so I plan to create this way more often.
Here’s the 1st tune I created in 24 hours:
In my next post, I’ll walk you through my process in more detail.