The RPM Challenge

In an effort to continue to re-ignite my musical creativity, I undertook a project this year called the RPM Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to write either 10 songs or 35 minutes worth of music in the month of February. I went into the whole thing skeptical I would come anywhere close to succeeding, telling myself that if it got me to push myself through to finish even one song I would consider it a win. Given that I’ve always been really good at starting songs, and really bad at finishing them, this seemed like a good goal.

So, how did I do?

I met the 35 minute goal with 7 songs by February 19th, and opted to keep going and shoot for the 10 song goal. I met that goal on the 26th, and ended the month with 10 songs and about 50 minutes worth of music. These songs are currently what I would consider demos, they’re written and arranged, but still need a little bit of polish and final mix down/mastering before they can be released.

As an aside, I’m really glad I did keep going. Those last three songs I wrote in “overtime” were three of my favorites from the month, and if I’d just quit when I hit 35 minutes they’d have never existed!

What’s next?

Now, it’s time to start finalizing and releasing all these! I’ve decided to release all 10 songs, even though a couple of them are perhaps not that great, just so there’s a full document of the whole month’s work. I’m hoping to have all that done by the end of April, but it may stretch into May as I’ll be a little time constrained while I plan for my wedding in June.

What did I learn?

Overall, it was a very rewarding and challenging experience. I got to be much better at not getting hung up on trying to make everything perfect every time, every song I write doesn’t have to be a flawless masterpiece. I mean, I’m a pretty mediocre songwriter to begin with, so that was a silly thing to get hung up on anyway! This is not to say there weren’t a few songs in there that I’m actually pretty proud of, because there are. But there were definitely some real duds in there too.

But that’s kinda the lesson to be learned here. It’s better to just crank through and finish the stuff that’s not quite going where I want it to and move on, rather than beating my head against it forever and never finishing anything as a result. Some of the best stuff came right after some of the worst stuff, and if I’d stayed obsessed over perfecting the bad stuff I would never have gotten to go on and write the good stuff.

Would I do it again?

So long as the timing allows it, I will definitely try it again next February. I can’t promise anything, of course, as you never know where things might take me and what could be going on next year, but it’s my intention to hit it again in 2019.

One thing I’ll do differently next time, is try and actually finish the production and mix on as many of the songs as I can as I go. People were really interested in hearing what I was doing while I was doing it, and I really should have been getting things out there while the interest was piqued. At the very least, if time becomes constrained and I’m struggling with keeping things on pace, I think I’d release the unfinished “demo” versions of the tracks with the appropriate caveats.