Song-A-Thon, a terrible name for a great music-writing exercise

Not long after I decided to really dive into making music as a lifetime project, and in between learning music theory and piano, I somehow managed to start and finish Love Story (now on Chromatic T-Rex) in one week. I was so impressed with the quality of something I was able to make in so little time that I turned it into a challenge: could I keep making a good track every week?
So I gave this idea the fairly stupid name of Song-A-Thon and vowed to make a finished, album-worthy piece of music every week for three months. I was amazed at the results.

This was what the studio looked like at the time. Apart from the monitors, I use an entirely different set of equipment now.

Giant Step, Electric Mountain, Artificial Fire, Love Story and Hades all came from that three-month, twelve-track marathon. Not everything I made was fantastic, but the amount of good stuff that came from it was just astounding. My production skills and ability to quickly put something together went up by orders of magnitude.
Each time I finished a track I posted it on my website and Facebook, and I told all my friends about it. This helped keep me accountable, because I hate it when I say I’m going to do something and then don’t follow through. Making sure everyone knew about it helped keep me in line when I was feeling lazy.
I’m really glad I did it and it was one of the things that shaped me into the musician I am now.
So here’s what you do:
  • Write a new, complete piece of music every week for a set amount of time (like twelve weeks, like I did). Feel free to modify this to fit your schedule. Need two weeks for each track? Only need two days? Whatever works, but keep it tight and challenging. You want some amount of tension.
  • Tell everyone you know that you’ll be doing it, and post each track online when it’s done. This will keep you accountable and it’ll be very satisfying to see the list of tracks grow as you keep adding more. I don’t use it but I hear Soundcloud is great for this kind of thing.
Try to make something distinct for each track. Try a different genre each week, if you can, but don’t be afraid to fall back on familiar stuff if you’re really stumped. Aim for album-worthy, but don’t worry if it doesn’t quite make it there. This is all about speed and training yourself to get stuff done.  When your due-date gets closer and your track isn’t near-finished, just make the call and adapt what you already have into a complete piece. Finishing up one thing, shipping it and moving on to another thing is a key part of the experience.
One of the things I learned from the exercise was how to get around writer’s block. There were several weeks where I just couldn’t think of anything. But then I rooted around my older, unfinished stuff (every creative person has a giant backlog of unfinished ideas) and BAM! New ideas to work with. Maybe it won’t turn into the greatest thing ever, but who cares? You’ll be working on something different next week.
Try it out. Have fun. Don’t sweat it too much. You’ll be surprised at how much cool stuff you can make. Be sure to send me a link to the tracks!