Well, I just wrapped up putting together a track a day, no matter how good or bad, and posting *something* daily over the month of December. My goal was to do all of the production on the MPC Live mk2, and just push content to a coherent enough thought or conclusion without necessarily worrying about all of the bells and whistles. Sampling sources, expansion packs, completing old incomplete tracks, that was all on the table for me throughout December.
Here are all of the tracks that I put together:
I tried to write up a blog post for each day, and attached it to each track. Some days I provided a bit more detail than others, but overall there’s some level of detail for each track there or in the blog if you are interested. Instead, I wanted to put this post together to put down some thoughts about why I did this, what I wanted to accomplish, lessons learned, and what I might do differently in the future, and suggestions for others who might take a similar challenge.
Why Make a Track a Day?
For starters, I was looking to do something different to push myself outside of my musical comfort zone. The hundreds of directories of half started projects on my MPC Live alone can attest to that. Quite a bit of this old content is suspect, and probably doesn’t warrant completion, but there’s also a fair bit of projects that aren’t too bad and just needed a push to put them into some kind of song structure.
There is also an appeal to just constantly fiddling with a track to make it ‘perfect’ when it is well passed done and at least for me, I start making it worse. Usually this is where working with another person can help because they can talk some sense into me, but I didn’t find anybody who was particularly interested in trying to bounce MPC Projects around and get a track done a day. I get it, there’s certainly a commitment level there that is hard to coordinate cooperation on. So this became a solo show, and was something I wanted to spend one to two hours a day on.
Finally, I have fallen into some bad habits, nothing serious mind you, but milling through web pages, watching nonsense YouTube videos, playing video games, well… it can eat up a lot of time and you have nothing to show for it. I figured I could easily pull back an hour a day from my time and get myself more focussed on something creative and no matter how good or bad, just putting it out into the universe.
What Did I Learn Making a Track a Day?
Possibly the most important thing that I learned was that I can do it, period. It seemed like a daunting task at the start, and I did consider just throwing in the towel near the end, but there’s also a certain reward in just completing something you set out to do that you never quite get if you’re willing to say “good enough”. Plus, it isn’t like I was aiming for perfection, it was more an act of just doing something, anything.
Putting a track down, you can actually do an awful lot on the MPC in an hour. I wouldn’t suggest that you can get a properly finished track, though I do feel that a few I did are super close, but it is entirely possible to get a near complete idea down. Now I know I say this and I skipped tons of mechanical bits intentionally, but having a game plan is very important when doing this. For me, I had the safety net of incomplete tracks to lean on and scramble together, so I was not worried that I would have a lack of content, just a possible lack of drive and will of character.
I’m also going to state for a fact, that after going through thirty one tracks, it is clearly entirely possible for somebody to do an entire production on the MPC Live nearly from start to finish. Between the synths, fx, and inputs, you can really put together something solid. From time to time people throw mud at the MPC Live, and while some of it is warranted, this is still a beast of a machine and absolutely a worthy successor to previous pedigree MPCs. It isn’t going to work magic, so garbage in is garbage out… as can be seen from some of the tracks I made 😀
I will end on the fact that there is a certain freedom of just doing a track a day and being able to give a problem the middle finger and move on. There are tons of warts on the daily tracks I have done, but also feels impressive to have knocked them out at all. Usually I take a week or two to get a track done, and looking back, if I’m honest… a number of them didn’t have that much more to show for putting in what probably amounts to an extra hour or two. I was able to set aside around fifty or sixty hours for the month and I’m allowing myself to be proud about that.
What Would I Change?
Oh boy, I suppose getting more hours in a day would be tough… or at least adding more hours to a 24 hour day, and getting 25 or 26. Yeah no, that’s not happening.
For me, I had a pretty good idea that I could set aside an hour to two a day on average. This meant for me that if I had a good run on a track, and still had an hour left, I considered prepping for the next day. This was especially handy on a few days where we had holiday stuff going on and I wasn’t sure that I was going to have enough sober time to think properly and get a track wrapped up with a bow on it. Predominantly I did most of the work on the day of though, so it worked out quite well. If I did this in the future, I do think I would be more conscious of prepping for a day, or possibly taking every few days to prepare for a three day chunk at a time.
I have the MPC Live, and it is portable, I do feel like I should have taken advantage of different locations. At the very least instead of sitting in the same room in the house, just move to someplace different for a change of scenery. It could have given me some different perspective and something to focus on in addition to the music.
Looking back I would have liked to get a bit more closed loop feedback. I could have asked family members what they thought and possibly tweaked some of the tracks a bit. There is however a bit of a double edged sword though in that it is possible that getting the feedback would have been too time consuming to address and would have pushed me into not wanting to complete this exercise. Maybe know yourself and who you are getting feedback from, so that you know if it is valuable to take in or not.
Any Suggestions For the Future?
Probably my biggest suggestion for somebody who wanted to attempt a track a day, no matter the platform would be to have a pretty good understanding of your gear. You’re not going to have too much time to experiment or dig through the manual, instead you’ll want to be laser focussed on the easy stuff, and know how to get yourself out of the mud if you get stuck.
When you do want to play around, be very thoughtful about how much time you want to experiment or try new processes and techniques. If it is working then great, but if it doesn’t work, just know when it is time to abort. One thing I was doing to keep myself sane was just plugging out the basics for a track frequently so I could at least have a scaffold to build around, kind of like giving myself the playground to work on.
This goes for life in general, but I also found myself having to know how to balance a proper level of commitment to content I made, so that I wasn’t over committed because I invested too much time in something that wasn’t working, but also not under committing and not developing an idea enough. Honestly, for a track a day, you’ll be under committing a *lot* (especially if you also have a family, job, and other commitments), but there is a danger in either… so just pay attention to yourself and don’t be afraid to be self reflective.
Speaking of self reflection, for me personally, I had a very loose roadmap of what I wanted to do between completing tracks, pushing the MPC, messing with canned loops, producing my own content, and that roughly fell out into about one week long chunks. This was something I did subconsciously though, and just had a feeling it was time to move on and try something different, rather than having written it down on the calendar. I bounced around here and there, but overall, whatever you set out to do, I suggest having a game plan so when you get bored you have a good idea what to move on to, or go back to, so you’re not struggling to determine what to do for the day.