What You Learn From A Speed Writing Challenge
Updated: Jan 13
In 2021 I set myself the task of writing 100 pieces of 8-bit style music for music libraries. I didn't want this to be a year long project so I decided to set myself some rules and I ended up making all 100 in 21 hours! This is how I did it and what I learned.
To write so many pieces so quickly I first needed a template and all I had on this was 4 instrument tracks (later on I upped this to 5) using the free Kontakt library Super Audio Boy. This is an instrument that pretty accurately emulates the sound of a Gameboy and is complete with some drum kits.
My next rule was setting a 15 minute timer to write each track! This might sound insane to some but I had done some tests and if I blanked my mind, set the time and just let what happened , happen, then there would be a piece of music at the end of it. Obviously this was not going to be my best work but, I thought, these pieces would be perfect for someone starting out making video games.
Finally, I set the rule for the structure of the songs. For the 80 looped tracks, I would make each track have two sections and then loop them and do some variations... if I had the time! This meant the tracks would usually be around 2 minutes long, which was a good length for level music in a game. The other 20 tracks were short non loopable stings for gameovers and level complete jingles, and these I did within an hour. And if my math is correct, that's where we get to the 21 hours it took to write 100 tracks.
What I Learned
This challenge was both fun and educational, though I did have a bit of burnout around the halfway mark. I found my tolerance for writing so much music in a day topped out around the two hour mark, though I did do one 4 hour day. This was too much and I had a week off after this 16 track day. So the first lesson was knowing my limits and when burnout sets in. These days I set a timer for 2 hours and that is my composing time (the only exception is if a client has a tight deadline).
I learned to get in "the flow state." For those who don't know, the flow state is when your thinking mind completey shuts off and you become one with the task you are doing. I would say this would be the number 1 reason I'd suggest you take on a challenge like this. Since doing this, roughly 2 years ago, I find it so much easier to get writing. I can now load up Logic Pro X and start writing straight away, two hours will pass and I lose all sense of time. And 9 times out of 10 I have composed a piece of music that the client loves. Breaking this barrier down massively helped me and I hope it helps you too.
So what does the result sound like? In my opinion, pretty good for 15 minutes a track! Have a listen and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading and I will see you in the next one!