Things I Learned Making Music for 100 Days
One of the most important and inspiring books I’ve read in recent years is The Crossroads of Should and Must. The book was born from an article on Medium that gained incredible momentum for its powerful message.
The author, elle luna, helped to create The 100 Day Project: a commitment to show up every day for the sake of creating something that matters to you. I chose to make music for 100 days. Here’s what happened.
100 Days of Music
When I began the #100daysofmusic project, I was creating multi-tracked songs in Logic Pro X and filming the screen to share a short loop. For the first 16 days, that’s exactly what I did.
Then on day 17, my computer crashed big time and I took it in for a visit to the Apple hospital. Making midi tracks wasn’t an option, so I broke out my acoustic guitar and loop pedal to make a multi-layered guitar track. Initially too shy to be on camera, I filmed the amp against the background of my living room. Classy.
Day 18 I got a little more confident and put my hands in the frame.
Day 19 I said, “screw it”, and just filmed myself playing. That one got the most likes of any so far. Granted, 14 is nothing compared to what my wife will get for posting a photo of her breakfast, but it was reassuring.
I kept that up until day 24 when I decided to use my voice to make noises. Sang a couple of original songs on days 25 & 26, and then went back into hiding behind the computer screen upon the return of the Mac. (Good luck getting that one out of your head now.)
For awhile after that I returned to posting up midi tracks through day 36. Then we flew down to L.A. to watch my best friend’s wedding. (In real life, not the super lame movie).
Having not taken my guitar or computer on our trip, the 100 day project slipped into a four day pause. I felt badly about it, but gave myself a mulligan.
Once we got back I made looped instrumental guitar tracks based on however I was feeling that day, all the way through day 51, when I cranked out my first shaky cover of a George Ezra song. That tipped the like count record up to a healthy and impressive 15. *facepalm*
We rolled happily into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and were joined by family and friends. Some of whom made appearances in the foreground or background of the next few songs.
On day 57, I finally wrote something that I really liked:
On day 59, Jenn and I flew to Palm Springs for a 4 day combination yoga/comedy retreat. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We didn’t question our decision until pulling up at the hotel and agreeing to leave if it seemed too creepy or cheesy or kidney-stealy. Luckily it was super fun, though everyone was astonished that we flew/drove from further than L.A. to be there. (Friendly reminder there’s plenty of weird stuff going on close to Portland, but that’s what we get for subscribing to the L.A. LivingSocial.)
Since I was so bummed on missing 4 days earlier, I pre-recorded 5 days worth of songs and posted them in different colors so nobody would notice. You can’t even tell, right?
After that it was a straight mix of guitar-only songs the rest of the way. On day 7o I decided to use the video filters for a purpose, putting the songs with singing in color and the instrumental tracks in black & white. Sort of like how NW Portland is organized into alphabetical and numerical streets, but the rest of town is anyone’s guess. Wish I’d figured that one out earlier so the whole color scheme would make sense but that’s the problem with time only going forward at normal speed.
For the final 30 days, I challenged myself to come up with new and interesting chord progressions without the assistance of a loop pedal. Basically an analogy for my arc as a guitar player. The first few years were all about pedals and effects, then a slow evolution to a simple acoustic sound without all the hair metal hype.
I kept practicing singing and on day 89, finally got one I was happy about:
On day 93 I took my Breedlove over to The 12th Fret for a setup (and to fix some weird buzzing sound anytime I played an F# note). Luckily I still had the acoustic I bought when I was 18 stashed under the bed. Fun guitar.
Four of the final seven days were cover songs with singing, and I found myself more excited about playing than I’d been in years.
To wrap things up I chose the first song I ever learned to play (and the only one that guy by the campfire knows), Wonderwall by Oasis.
I really enjoyed the project and it felt strange not to post songs every day after it was done. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
The feeling of having to post every day was the only part I resisted. I always enjoyed the process and the end product, but I didn’t like the feeling of being obligated to do the same thing every day. Once I sat down to play, I lost all sense of time and would often play for an hour or more just to get 15 seconds of shareable material. The entire project was essentially just practice overcoming that feeling of resistance to creating.
I would never have found any of those songs if I hadn’t made myself sit down and look for them. Makes me wonder how much music has been lost to Netflix. Seek and you will find, I suppose. Playing every day also forced me to go outside of the familiar riffs and songs I typically run through every time I pick up my guitar.
My confidence increased over time, from hiding behind the computer screen to singing in front of the camera. Although I never really felt comfortable, it forced me to practice and just put it out there. The more risky it felt to me, the more positive feedback I got. When I phoned it in, nobody cared.
I learned to put things out there and let them go. Sharing is a now or never thing. Each day had its own song, and I was always most excited about whatever I’d just created. Then I’d forget about the last thing and be stoked about the newest thing. That, on repeat, for 100 days.
Sharing creative work creates energy, holding back diminishes it. I’ve noticed that with everything creative I do whether it’s making music, art, or writing, I get a boost of energy from having created and shared something, Over time the momentum builds on itself and I have more energy to create. On the other hand, when I start working on something and don’t finish it I tend to get discouraged because I didn’t complete it when I had the inspiration, and I’ll get excited about something else and lose the energy to finish the first thing.
Perfection is a process, and you are the product. Just like the point of living isn’t to retire, the point of the 100 day project isn’t to get to the end. The process of sitting down to create every day transformed me little by little, and I found more enjoyment and confidence as I went.
By pursuing what inspires you, you become a source of inspiration. If you’re interested in doing your own 100 Day Project, I can’t encourage you enough to just go for it. I was happy to have two friends (Stephen Landau and Erin Kurtz) start up their own projects alongside mine, and I was encouraged by their creations along the way. If you’re going to do it, you might as well be an instigator and challenge your friends to their own creative pursuits. Go for it!
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” —Joseph Campbell