In late January I decided to spring for a Novation Launchkey Mini. I couldn’t tell you why, but I had the sudden urge to finally follow through on something I thought I’d never be able to do: making music.
I figured I could do something simple if I put my mind to it. I looked up a tutorial on how to do a lo-fi beat. I ended up watching about 3 hours of Logic Pro X tutorials, as I struggled to understand how samples worked, how to use stems, and how to keep everything in a beat on rhythm. By the end of the day I was able to finish my first ever track, a lo-fi version of the theme of the Sultana from FFXIV.
It’s pretty wild listening back on this track. It’s basically the same drum line for about 3 minutes. You can hear the hesitation in each note, and how I was completely unsure about what I was doing. Because I had no idea what I was doing!
I pressed on, though, and made a few more lo-fi beats, which culminated in the “””album””” I already linked above, with cover art courtesy of pocketghost. By the final track, I think you can tell two things. The first is that I learned a ton, with the last three tracks feeling like they could be part of an entirely different album as far as improved quality. The second thing you’ll notice, if you listen very closely, is that you can tell I had an absolute blast making these tracks.
It’s harder to recognize that second point if you don’t know what I'm like, but if you do, then you’ll know that besides my fiery passion for Gravity Rush, I’m best known as being a ridiculous over-thinker - it's half the reason I keep a blog. This is especially true when it comes to creative endeavors. I’m constantly questioning whether what I’m doing is good enough, whether it’s worth making, whether it’ll be accepted by my audience, if I even have an audience...I’ve mentioned before that making things makes me happy, but that doesn't mean that I'm not constantly critical of my own work.
That’s not the case with my music. I know! I’m just as baffled as you are, but that incessant pressure just isn’t there for me, and it feels like a 400 pound weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. When I listen to the stuff I made a few months ago, I don’t cringe at the inconsistency or a perceived lack of quality. And when I listen to the stuff I make now, I feel genuinely excited about what I’ve come up with. I’m constantly learning something with each new track, and it gets me even more pumped. And while I’m sure I’ll hit a plateau for a while as far as skill goes eventually, I don’t get that same nagging feeling to just give up because I’m not going to sound like the next Daft Punk, or whatever.
Music is the most creatively freeing thing I’ve done in ages. I still love to write, obviously, which you can tell because I’m needlessly wordy in all of my bandcamp releases, but music is the first time I’ve gotten to create something and not feel like I’m being tested, or performing for the unknown and very judgmental audience that lives pretty much exclusively in my head.
I think there are two reasons as to why this is. The first is that it’s very hard to make music that sounds objectively bad, especially when it’s all done on a computer that calculates everything down to the finest step in a sequence. If I can nod my head to it then I've done a passable job at the very least, even if the mastering could be better or a particular loop goes on for too long. I have all the time in the world to make sure everything sounds the way I like it. And I don't feel like I need permission to feel like I'm the musician I've started to become – as evidenced by the fact that I've officially put "Musician" in my bio.
The second and probably most important reason is that up to this point, I literally never thought I could make music. For the longest time the concept of making a song felt like an inscrutable secret, magic that required you to be a certain kind of person to have any kind of access to. But the reality is that all of the knowledu ge to get started was just a few tutorials away. This is probably obvious if you're not a dumbass, but I am, sorry. At least I know now!
Now, in about 10 hours, my first ever official album is coming out. It’s even going to get released on streaming services in the near future, if everything gets approved. It’s not going to take the world by storm or get me a record deal. Hell, it probably won’t even be in your top 5 albums this year. But I made it, and I’m proud of it, and for once — for real for real — that’s all that matters.
Plus, it may be in your top 10. And if not, the next one definitely will be!