Song Jam 1 – 5 songs in 7 hours

The Plan

Inspired by some of my musical friends, I set out one Saturday with the aim of writing 12 songs in 12 hours. Get as far as you can, and then each hour you stop, and move on to another one. I prepped my instruments, and I’ve got a load of “shower thoughts” that I keep on Trello, that I want to write things about, and these would be my go-to starting ideas for song themes.

I only managed 7 hours, and only 5 songs within that time. They’re not even complete songs, they’re just stubs, but that’s enough.

The Experience

This was really…really hard to do. I’ve always found it pretty easy to come up with musical ideas to support someone else’s brief (e.g. a game in a game jam), but I find it so difficult writing just for me. The self-doubt is overwhelming. My friend even told me that everyone always gets this crushing depression several hours in, which you just need to push through.

I definitely hit that wall. Spent quite a while just lying on my bed staring at the ceiling, wondering why I was even trying to get better at writing music. It was one the way out from this that I wrote song 5, about something that was pretty fresh in my mind. Probably the most personal song I’ve ever written. I haven’t written many lyrics in my life, so this was pretty new territory. I feel so exposed if I ever write anything even vaguely personal.

There’s also the matter of my voice. I have a fairly powerful voice for speaking, but singing is still pretty new to me. I’m trying to find all the musical capabilities of my voice, and there are certainly more times when it’s “Eww, that sounds horrible.” than when it’s “Hey, this actually works!” But this is how you find out. I’m also just doing this at home, and while I want to experiment with loud, shouty vocals, I’m still too chicken to go full throttle in case someone hears me. It’s a big part of why I think song 4 sounds so naff, because I can’t/won’t actually deliver the power I’m trying to use.

But these are exactly the fears I wanted to get past. This was a fairly painful experience, but painful in that same way that therapy is painful. You feel the growth after facing the insecurities head on. It’s also why I’m putting these out there in public, so that I can get less insecure about people hearing me, which is kind of important when you want to sing more.

On Reflection

At first I thought I hated all the songs. I had planned to upload them as I have, and this was making me really quite nervous, because I didn’t want this out there.

After sleeping on it, and listening through again it occurred to me that it’s not the songs I hate, it’s the performances (guitar and vocal in particular). I actually think with some time and development I would be pleased with the resulting songs if I made efforts to complete them, and get them performed properly. It’s my songwriting that I wanted to work on, so this realisation is very uplifting. I’m looking for more opportunities to improve my singing, because I want my voice as a tool, but there’s definitely a long way to go.

I think that if I do this again, I need to focus a bit more. My music tastes vary a lot, and thus the music I want to make varies from moment to moment, so I need an anchor. The easiest thing will be to jam with another person, so the music becomes focused on our common ground. My friend tells me this also helps with self-esteem throughout.

Another key thing is that I’ll try and focus on the heart of the song. I lost a lot of time to working on the drums and backing instruments, when what I really want is to work through the chords, structure and lyrics. Song 5 came together this way, and it feels much more complete and satisfying because of this.

The songs

“What if he didn’t know?” refers to a casual wonder of mine along the lines of “What if there was a god that programmed the laws of physics, but who didn’t really know what was going to happen?” Includes a very short experiment for harmonising my own voice. It’s odd having such a low voice, the options are pretty limited.

The first instrument is my 8-string bass, which is hard to find a musical home for. It was quite fun putting the heavy section together at the end, although it probably ate more time than it needed to.

“Back to back” refers to building trust over time. I think I should use the piano more in my songwriting; it’s good for exploring harmony and rhythm all at once. Also I’m not really a guitarist.

I find the chorus-type bit very cringey to listen to, largely because it’s rhythmically messy and rushed, and the “we are gonna make it” should have been loud and bombastic butm, as mentioned above, I’m still getting over the nerves of someone hearing me actually expressing myself. Maybe I’ll be able to do this with conviction one day…

This one was actually a lot of fun. It was basically just a jam with instruments in my room…something I should have done so long ago. I even found an excuse to use my rainstick!

“Sometimes it just rains” is a line I use to cope with depressive episodes; they come without cause, you can’t stop them and you can’t get rid of them, but they do pass with time. Also probably the best use of my voice so far.

This one feels like throwing up on the internet. It feels very “teenage angst-y”. Also I think the weird villainy voice at the start is just because I can’t face doing it in my normal voice. I’ve clearly still got a way to go before I can live without masks.

I saw Rammstein in Milton Keynes recently, and had so much fun going wild in the pit. It got me thinking about how much I’m holding back day-to-day, and how much I miss the feeling of being able to throw off all the limits in a mosh pit, and be the massive roaring monster that I want to be.

This felt like being a songwriter for the first time in my life. I also feel sure that I’ve ripped off another song, but I’m not sure what. (Let me know if you figure it out!)

This song is the easily the most personal of the bunch. Since I was young I have so often had experiences where I’m the only person in the room that “doesn’t get it”. Parties where people were desperately trying to drag me up to songs that I didn’t like, or where everyone’s singing along to pop songs that I just don’t know. It’s weird putting it into a song, but it kind of felt good as well. I also don’t hate my voice quite as much in this one.