For the last few days I’ve been on a creative crawl suffering from an acute case of post-demo depression. There were complications in the delivery – the little boxes where you snap audio to in Garageband disappeared in the home stretch meaning every audio file was in danger of moving if I just touched the track pad at the wrong moment. I have NO IDEA why that happened, but it is the third time Garageband has weirded out on me during a major project. Also my new Tascam audio interface was constantly crackling through the play back though thankfully the sound of a hot panful of digital bacon didn’t end up on the track.
There’s often a post-writing mood of “I will never write another song” to be battled through, but I was so mentally fried that I finished song 32 and felt like a complete failure.
I’ve been dipping my toe back in the water by sorting through some old files, digital and otherwise, with some interesting results.
I found 2 studio demos, pleased by how much my singing has improved. OK, before you flame me – I didn’t say my singing is any good now. I just said I’d improved.
Found early versions of More Than I Could Say and Brother – complete yet totally different tunes which I had little or no memory of. This is why it’s so important to use a system like GTD to keep track of all your ideas in a meaningful way. What’s the point of capturing all your ideas if you never revisit them?
My tapes dry up around 2000 and stop altogether around 2004. I was writing less then, but also I’d fallen in the digital analogue ditch. I was using CDs almost exclusively but had no way to record digitally. Result? No songs.
Done tapes 48-50. Just have to find tape 51…
You and Media
So, rather than files and folders, your media player is where it all happens. But how does it happen?
Through a creative use of playlists, albums and titles.
Getting back to GTD terminology, your playlists function as ‘next action lists’ You can have any number of lists but the three basic ones are
Raw ideas that might turn into a song
Which is the playlist you might use to share songs with any interested party, or just play to yourself when you need reminding that you’re not a talentless loser who can’t finish a song
This is your work bench for the things you’re working on right now
There doesn’t seem quite the same need for a dead/completed audio playlist as a physical song folder as the sum total of all your hard work just sits there in your media player anonymous but searchable and sortable.
I said this system was a work in progress – a bug in the system is that whenever I’ve backed up data and wiped my hard drive the playlists are the things that never quite come back properly. Loosing track of which rough ideas are worth working on would be a big problem…any ideas?
Albums are your key filing system component. What you do is create a separate album for each song. Eventually this one ‘album’ will contain all the versions of your song from initial riffs through various drafts and alternative versions to all the different mixes and the finished track. The advantage (other than having everything in a handy bucket) is that if the song title changes you only have to rename the album (a simple move in WMP and iTunes) not all the individual tracks. For example the album for my recent song Brother contains tracks called CivilSatrianiZepHel (the original riff), Not About The Pigs (the original title/concept) and Brother (the finished song).
I’ve been struggling with a song (Not About The Pigs aka Brother) that’s feeling more like a non starter each day I work on it. I’ve been persevering because it fits in with one of my goals for this year, which are
1 – Write some more emotionally honest songs
2 – Write some fast songs
3 – Write stronger melodies
and of course
4 – write more songs
this fits with goal one so I thought it was profitable to work on even if the finished song sucks. But it’s been heavy sledding and I was ready to give up. But today I broke through. I deliberately went to Shabby Road without my guitar, forcing me to sit down at the desk with a pen and paper and think through
What is this song about?
What am I trying to say?
What ideas are working and how do they fit together?
Being objective and stripping away that cool riff or nice drum beat made it easier to see the wood from the trees.
So, feeling more like a sculptor with a block of stone than a songwriter, I chipped away the chorus (lyrics, music and everything), the title, most of the harmony, all the drum patterns and reduced the chords to their simplest variations. I also slowed it down. I’ll have to tackle goal 2 another time. This song just doesn’t want to be a fast song.