We’re all in a tough place right now.
All over the world, we live through different experiences, speak different languages, fight different struggles, but one thing that we all have in common is the opportunity to collectively pull together for the greater good of global health.
Out here in California, we’ve been in shelter in place for a few weeks now, one thing I have a lot of is time… so I decided to start something to keep myself productive and my creative mind moving.
To promote a mindset to create one new idea per day and share it with someone or community in order to:
- Keep your creative mind moving
- Get your ideas on paper
- Open up to the idea of creative vulnerability
- I tried to stay away from what I’m comfortable with (guitar)
- I started using a new DAW that I’m not used to (Ableton) in order to get a fresh experience with a new tool
Our ask to you:
- Try this yourself, post and tag @kaizenmusicproject and #CreateKaizen so we can repost/feature your work
- Share this post with someone you think could use some support in their creative journey
I will update this post throughout each week to show progress and new posts, I encourage you to create your own Kaizen and share it with the world, we need some entertainment and positivity right now.
Approach: I stacked 2 slightly offtime drum patterns on top of each other and ended up with this jungle-ish (breakbeat-ish? I don’t know… let’s go with electronic…) beat, decided to put a wobbly bass over it and called it a day. I was actually happy with how quickly this came about so I called it a win and closed the book on day 1.
What I learned: Stepping outside of my comfort was oddly liberating. I didn’t have to operate within the confines of what I thought was good and bad, I just focused on creating something.
What I’d want to add next: Returning to this I think maybe some higher-end accents.
Approach: I was trying to go for a Drive / Tron vibe here. I knew that I wanted something slow, steady and driving. Started with drums on a simple kick/snare every half note, decided to add a little variation and honestly, don’t think it adds much.
What I learned: I should have just left it simple. I’ve found that I try to make things “interesting” (read: full and complicated) every step of the way instead of letting things breathe and adding color after the structure is in place.
’d want to add added next: I liked where this was going so I went back and added a high synth/guitar lead.
Genre: Alt Hip Hop
Approach: OK I made it 3 days without starting with what I’m comfortable on, a guitar… I was going for a Gorillaz type of vibe here, wanted to make things light sounding but kind of dreary, like some dream you weren’t sure was on the verge of nightmare territory.
What I learned: Things change, especially when you go from starting an idea on one instrument and transposing it to another to build upon your idea. That’s OK, the song you end up making is rarely the song you intend from the jump. I’ve found that most of the time, you’re better for it.
What I’d want to add next: Dissonant horns or vocals to give some grittier texture.
Approach: I let this one get driven from the key I was in. I’m comfortable in A minor playing guitar, so the chords and melody came easier here. I really liked this idea when I first wrote it, but as I sat with it more, it started to come off as a bit stale.
What I learned: Give things time to rest. Something may not sit well with you at first and you grow to love it. Something may sound awesome on the first pass and grows off of you (grows off of you? Really?) over time. It’s OK to ditch things that become stale over time.
What I’d want to add next: Rather than add something, I’d like to change the main melody. I like the washy base layer the organ provides and think it deserves a better melody.
Approach: I really wanted the melody to be at the forefront on this idea so I started with that and made sure anything I added was muted. I tried to create a bed of sounds the melody can cut through, rather than an assortment of equal parts.
What I learned: I’m not very good at drums… help me! Any and all tips welcome.
What I’d want to add next: Instead of improving upon this idea, I’d like to expand and create a new section. I like this piece enough to keep pushing and create a whole song.
Approach: I wasn’t really sure how to approach an ambient song so I started with a few washy pads and laid a simple chime melody over the top. Having messed around with swells on guitar this seemed like the best path.
What I learned: Creating something that’s not “rhythmic” is harder than it seems, I couldn’t quite get the timing down.
What I’d want to add next: I’d like to add some sort of drums to add a little structure.
Approach: I tried to learn from Day 2 and have another crack at a Synthwave type of song. This time I kept it simple from the get-go. Ultimately, I ended up liking how it turned out so I didn’t try to make things “more interesting”, just left it as is.
What I learned: Some genres are really difficult to create intriguing work without sounding mundane. This may be due to the fact that I’m not as familiar with Synthwave, but I found it quite tricky.
What I’d want to add next: I’d like to add in some vocoder to widen the dynamics.
Genre: Beach Goth
Approach: This is my comfort zone, some beachy guitar and colored textures. I honestly don’t really remember jotting this idea down, as is a lot of stuff in my comfort zone, it kind of just spills out onto the page and then I move on…
What I learned: I should probably take some extra time and care on the song ideas in my comfort zone. Also, I’ve learned that working in and out of my preferred genres leads to wildly different feelings about my writing style.
What I’d want to add next: Drums and vocals! I’d actually like to complete this song, maybe in CreateKaizen phase 2…
Genre: Hip Hop
Approach: So I tried to make something that sounded syncopated and this ended up just sounding… sloppy. I went to mess with some timing settings in Ableton, messed up somewhere and wasn’t able to revert back. So I give you… your (slightly off rhythm) beat!
What I learned: I still have some tool learning to do in Ableton. Spending a few weeks in this DAW, I’ve been able to navigate everything pretty well, but there is still a ton to learn and I’m sure doing so will unlock even more ideas.
What I’d want to add next: Quantization…
Approach: This time around I stopped thinking about my approach and just dove in. It was so much easier to not try and mimic someone else and just let the ideas flow. I was much happier with how this turned out so I’ll be trying it out with a few more genres.
What I learned: Letting go and not trying to fit exactly in a genre is extremely liberating. I can take away the anxiety of fitting in and just explore.
What I’d want to add next: A few different melodic flourishes and some variations on the baseline.
Approach: I’ve been writing songs with an unfamiliar instrument, in an unfamiliar genre on an unfamiliar DAW. This time I decided to return to comfort in one of those areas and make some guitar-based stuff.
What I learned: Pulling all the creativity levers can help you kick start your process if you’re in a rut, but they don’t all need to be engaged all the time, sometimes it helps to just mix up 1 or 2 things in your workflow.
What I’d want to add next: Since these types of songs usually sound pretty minimal, I’d like to move onto another part of the song or add some lyrics.
Genre: Drum and Bass
Approach: I honestly had no idea what I was doing with this one. I listened to some drum and bass tracks and tried to replicate what I heard. I hadn’t considered doing genre-specific YouTube tutorials but this may have been a good day to start…
What I learned: Sometimes it’s a bit tough to seek help, especially when you’re not proud of the thing you’re creating. It’s OK to look for help and, more importantly, it’s OK to accept it.
What I’d want to add next: I’d like to rework the instrumentation and apply some effects to the drum track, I think that’d be more improvement than adding anything at this point.
Approach: Most times I start writing a song I tend to start with what I know, same chords, same types of melodies within the same scales/modes. This time I just wanted to focus on new chord shapes and finding what sounded cool to me. This is it.
What I learned: You can still end up in a similar place by taking an uncomfortable start. The route may look different but you end up with a new perspective on the same destination.
What I’d want to add next: Maybe some drums and bass, always scared to add vocals so that’d be last