January 20, 2007 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Calling all musicians: it's almost February - and you know what that means! The RPM Challenge, or "record an album in 28 days, just because you can." A kind of NaNoWriMo for music, indeed. Miko pulled it off, and so can you!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (34 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
*Drags out drumkit and digital sampler*

Please keep your opinions on Buddy Rich, et al., to yourselves.
And Mr. Sawka, there's a new sheriff in town.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:39 PM on January 20, 2007

Ah, so much time, so little to do. Stop. Reverse that.

Way to go Miko!

gnfti: thanks for posting this!
posted by snsranch at 4:43 PM on January 20, 2007

To commit or not to commit, that is the question...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:50 PM on January 20, 2007

Loved Miko's entry last year (especially the son "how it's done"), and considering the quality of the stuff posted to recently, I wouldn't be surprised if some mefites submitted some good albums this year.. .
posted by rpn at 5:21 PM on January 20, 2007

I think I might give it a shot...
posted by drezdn at 8:24 PM on January 20, 2007

Well, well, well...who could want more fame than this? What a great post, goodnewsfortheinsane! Even though I'm living in the midst of this, I wouldn't have thought to post it here, though, duh, this is exactly the kind of group it should be reaching!

I was really excited to hear the news that the RPM Challenge was going borderless this year. It can only be an amazing success. There are already 160+ entries, according to last week's Wire.

I heartily encourage all MeFi musicians with even an inkling of desire to take part. This was one of the most fun, energizing, creative experiences I've ever taken part of, and the best use of the month of February imaginable. The culminating event last year was a joyous, ecletic celebration of the accessibility of creativity to everybody, and as a result of the project I discovered bands, made friends, and met people I'd never have otherwise come across.

The most important thing I got from RPM was not the finished CD product - it was the lesson in disregarding the usual (and imagined) obstacles to creativity (level of quality, level of talent, amount of available time, degree of technology, blah blah), and just getting down to work.

Do it. You'll love it. You'll be proud. You'll make great music. The world will then be able to enjoy it. And the t-shirt is pretty great, too.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

OK, I signed up. Let's do this!
posted by drezdn at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2007

This is eponysterical, right?
posted by dhartung at 9:05 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's also NaSoAlMo and February Album Writing Month ...
posted by NemesisVex at 9:12 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm, disregard levels of quality and talent*, you say?

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:15 PM on January 20, 2007

This is for pussies. I've done an album a day before.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 9:33 PM on January 20, 2007

I did NaSoAlMo the first year it was run (I think it was the first year), but didn't have time last year.

Mostly it was a piece of crap, but I got one really great song out of it that's stuck around to this day (and will continue to stick around).

I'm not sure if I'll do this or not... I've got another week and a half to decide.
posted by sparkletone at 10:49 PM on January 20, 2007

I also did NaSoAlMo a couple years ago, and it was definitely fun. What surprised me is that it had a lasting effect on my working methods and overall sound.

I've decided though that I want to finish three albums this year if I can (between August '06 and August '07) with full attention to detail. (Two if I can't do three, what with R6:Vegas and Spore and Hellgate:London and so on... :D)
posted by Foosnark at 12:22 AM on January 21, 2007

Wow, this is so 4 AM........
posted by toma at 4:01 AM on January 21, 2007

I'm not gonna have enough material to put anything together for this year, but now that I know about this I'll be able to start thinking about next year.

I've only been playing guitar for about a year, and I can't really sing, so that's where I am right now.

Miko - I really enjoyed your stuff from last year. The first thing I noticed was how great the recording sounded, and then it dawned on me how talented you are.
posted by Clamwacker at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2007

Hmm, disregard levels of quality and talent*, you say?


Absolutely. Because a lot of people who do have talent will hold themselves back because they don't feel they measure up to some abstract standard. By making you complete the project within a month, you necessarily let go of your standard for perfection, which is a hindrance to creativity and productivity.

I'm not saying "make bad music" (though it's okay if you do), I'm just saying that one thing you learn is to set aside concerns about the ultimate quality of the work, or whether you're 'good enough', and just do it.
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on January 21, 2007


*strokes imaginary beard*
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:38 AM on January 21, 2007

and just getting down to work.

Exactly, exactly, exactly. Don't shit about worrying if you're going to ultimately do something as good as you'd like to—come up with a rough idea of what you think you can accomplish and jump in head goddam first. Write write write, record record record.

Spend more time trying to put the album together than trying to decide whether and how you should put the album together, and you will end up with an album at the end of the month. Worst case scenario: it's no better than you'd imagined it'd be when you were imagining it'd be bad. The world will not crumble, your parents will not disown you, and you'll have learned something.
posted by cortex at 8:18 AM on January 21, 2007

This fellow also managed it (the tracks starting with numbers 1-30 make up a month-done album called N'est-ce pas elemental).
posted by Drexen at 10:58 AM on January 21, 2007

I've only been playing guitar for about a year, and I can't really sing, so that's where I am right now.

That was about where I was when I did the first NaSoAlMo. I didn't even really have any recording equipment. At that time, I did everything by playing guitar at my iBook and its tiny mic, and then singing over the guitar track.

And the whole thing was just these two track, frequently crappy demos.

But I did get that one awesome song out of it.

Even if you don't play the results for anyone else, I'd totally recommend at least trying.
posted by sparkletone at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2007

To commit or not to commit, that is the question...

If I send 'em any songs they'll end up having me committed for sure.
posted by micayetoca at 1:15 PM on January 21, 2007

this needs to be 28 albums in 28 days if it wants to match the intensity of NaMoWriMo

even if you write the worst novel of all time, you end up working your ass off

with writing an album, you dont have to worry about plot development or any level of cohesiveness

you could write ten songs about bellybutton lint and Green Lantern in one stoned night

i kinda figured part of the joy of NaMo is that you HAVE to put something into it everyday

not that everyone is gonna take it lightly and go the easy way out -- but part of the beauty of NaMoWriMo is that you cant really fluff it in a few days of work even if you tried
posted by Satapher at 8:13 PM on January 21, 2007

The problem with that idea, Satapher, is that putting that kind of burden (35 minutes of music per day) encourages precisely the kind of cop out you describe. With a couple hours a day in Feb., I could turn in a pretty decent 35 minutes.

But if I had to churn out at the rate your talking about? You bet your ass I'd be resorting to songs about belly button lint, the Green Lantern, and a whole load of stuff whose lyrics resemble I Zimbra. Or I could just hack up a couple quick loops in Live, and let it repeat the same damn thing for 35 mintues.

Churning out the whole thing in one night like you describe feels like kind of a cop out. It'd be like turning in a paper I'd written the few hours before it's due without doing any of the required research. It technically satisifes the requirements, but it's not really what I was supposed to do.

What you're asking for is novel-in-a-week level work in terms of polish. There is an Album In A Day thing though, if you're into that.
posted by sparkletone at 9:02 PM on January 21, 2007

Satapher, I guarantee it's every bit as intense.

It's just as easy to churn out a bad novel in 30 days as bad music in 28. But that is not what has happened (listen to last year's entries - most are very well developed!)

Think about the process of musical composition: you have not just songwriting; you also have melody making, instrumentation, and often arranging for several instruments and vocal tracks, maybe including harmony; you have an incredible amount of revision and redevelopment; you have recording, which can be quick but can also be very complex; and you may have to do a lot of this with a partner or band, which requires you to coordinate schedules. You also have to run around finding and buying and borrowing and waiting to use equipment of various sorts, and getting it all to work right when you need it to.

And though you don't have to choose a theme or develop an idea in your album, many people do, and those are certainly the better albums.

It's a different art form, and I'd say the commitment is absolutely equal to novel-in-a-month, if not greater.
posted by Miko at 9:50 PM on January 21, 2007

Nothing stimulates the creative juices quite like intense pressure. Look what happens when no time limits are imposed: Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours".
posted by rhodri at 1:41 AM on January 22, 2007

Thanks for the post goodnewsfortheinsane - this is probably crazy, but I think I'll give it a go!

How does the RPM Challenge compare with the February Album Writing Month? Is one better or more worth joining

than the other?

(Miko, I'm listening to your music from RPM '06 as I type this - it's wonderful!)
posted by Ira.metafilter at 1:58 AM on January 22, 2007

Ach, sorry for the triple post - forearm rested on carriage return...
posted by Ira.metafilter at 2:00 AM on January 22, 2007

Something I would be remiss if I did not mention: Miko on the Metafilter Compilation Album.
posted by cortex at 7:14 AM on January 22, 2007

with writing an album, you dont have to worry about plot development or any level of cohesiveness

no, you just have to worry about arranging, performing, recording, engineering, producing, mixing and mastering

if you think it's easy, well, i guess you know the link to sign up

To commit or not to commit, that is the question...

yeah, do i want to veg through feb or drive myself nuts? ... decisions, decisions
posted by pyramid termite at 9:05 PM on January 22, 2007

well, ok, i've signed up under the name of vampire deer
posted by pyramid termite at 9:26 PM on January 22, 2007

Vampire Deer returns!
posted by cortex at 9:33 PM on January 22, 2007

Actually, I think too much time is a huge part of the problem

Songwriters need to write. Musicians need to make music. You'd be amazed how often creative people make excuses or procrastinate about their projects.

Particularly for people with day jobs, something that creates the strong incentive of a deadline helps make work happen where it otherwise wouldn't.

In addition, once you've spent a month concentrating intently on music, you've made breakthroughs, polished your physical playing abilities to greater heights, and realized that there's nothing to it but just to do it. It catapulted a lot of people to a new level of skill and better approach to work.

Need proof? I'm glad there was a new comment in the post, because I wanted to come back and post this week's cover story by the Wire (RPM sponsor): "How RPM Changed My Life."
posted by Miko at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2007

This is going to be fun.

- Cruise Elroy
posted by danb at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2007

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2007

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