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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

My new SAD (song-a-day) diet

I started a new thing, what I call my SAD (song-a-day) diet.

Last week, I started a practice of writing and recording a song everyday. In the ideal, that would be all 7 days a week. Practically, I've got time blocked out on Monday–Thursday, so it may be more like 4 days a week.

On Monday last week, I ended up using my block of time to finish some rearranging and setup in HereJam studio. Then, Tuesday–Thursday, I wrote and recorded three new songs. Friday–Sunday, I also wrote a song / piece each day, but didn't recorded anything. And, today, I wrote and recorded another song / piece.

Given the constraints of this practice, one of the things I now find myself doing is remembering ideas for musical things I want to try—and writing and recording with those. So far, I've recorded a psychedelic pop song, a surf punk instrumental, a goofy pastoral with banjo and tuba, and an electronic funk piece based around the samples of dying audio chip's last sounds.

Here's some more background on why I started doing this, and what I've learned so far:

Over the years (since I was a kid, really) I've had a lot of days where I've written new music for hours and not recorded any of it. And—especially more recently, I've had a lot of other days where I spent hours fiddling with the same recording, over and over.

Between the time that I completed Err or Man and the beginning of this year, as I started preparing to record the next Ear Reverends' album, I realized that I was spending a lot of time waiting for big chunks of free time to write and record. And, then when I finally got those chunks, I felt a lot of pressure to get a lot done. And, so to relieve that unnecessary pressure, sometimes, I just wouldn't try to get anything done and would "goof off" and have fun in the studio (which worked temporarily to relieve the pressure).

So, I came to appreciate that all of this was a pretty extreme way of working, that was not really what I wanted. But, I was stuck in that pattern for a while and not sure what to do differently.

I know of a number of authors who write for a specific period of time everyday—either a set number of words, or a number of pages, or a number of hours. My cousin Lisa does this, and talking with her about it has been helpful. I also found Cory Doctorow's description of his practice, and the idea of leaving a rough edge, to be useful.


When I original started Wrong Notes, and recorded the Wrong Notes Music in 2004–2007, I thought I would use the blog format and ideal of posting daily to drive myself to write and record and post more music. But, I found that publishing / releasing creates its own pressures. And, altogether, the blog format doesn't encourage the kind of editing / curating that tends to become an essential differentiator between a "work" and a "practice."

So, with this current song-a-day practice, I'll release some things at some points, but I am not in any way thinking of each song / piece as "the next blog post."


A couple other observations:

Getting up in the morning and getting immediately into writing and recording is just really great. I don't get online or deal with stuff until after the morning session.

Stopping is hard. It's too much fun to stop in the middle of a creative moment. I am trying to stop "on time" everyday. Still working on that a bit.

Having a fixed time to work changes what I write and how I record it. My definition of "recording" for the SAD diet is pretty loose. I've been doing multitrack recordings everyday so far, but I am sure I'll write some stuff on paper or do a quick demo on days when I am writing something with more depth. So far, the songs / pieces I've written are simple in some ways—but, even so, the time limit forces me "marry" simplicity when I might otherwise tend to "fool around" with more elaborate options.

I don't usually write lyrics in the morning, unless they are carrying over from something in a dream. I've only recorded lyrics on one day so far (started in a dream). I'll probably start using lyrics written at other times (which times, I realize now, are generally at night).

All of the songs I've recorded so far are now "almost done." I know from past experience that there's potentially a big difference between almost done and done. I am not sure yet whether or when I'll finish these. Sometimes I think it's good to just leave them as is and keep moving forward—right now, that's the point in some sense: no going back and getting bogged down in something from the past / always being open to the next new thing. But, I'll see in a few weeks what's what.


If you've ever done something like this and/or if you have some practices that you find useful, I'd love to hear more about your experience.


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