#72: Speed Writing Challenge: Record A Brand-New Demo After Every Session

#72: Speed Writing Challenge: Record A Brand-New Demo After Every Session

Today we have a challenge for you that will help you learn and grow faster than ever before:

Write a new song each jam. Record what you have at the end of the jam, no matter what. That's right: Schedule your next 5 practice/jam/writing sessions with your band or alone, then write a brand-new song after every session and record a demo version of it. 


Don't give yourself too much time to refine and overthink it.

Don't give yourself too much time to refine and overthink it. Keep the sessions short and force yourself to come up with something. The goal is not to write the best song ever, but to write and record five songs no matter what, set the foundation for a new writing and productivity routine and then reflect on the challenge to see what you have learned, what worked, what didn't work and how you can make writing and demoing a habit that sticks.

If there's any great stuff in those demos in the end that you can actually use: Great! If not: Absolutely no problem at all. Trust us, you'll benefit greatly from it, regardless of the immediate results.

Why all of that? 

  • It forces you to be creative. Creativity does not depend on inspiration or how you feel. It's a process and it's a conscious decision to show up and do the creative work, no matter what.
  • It helps you be more objective. You simply don't have enough time to get too attached to ideas. Just record it and come back to it later to see if you still like it. You're still gonna be objective enough to be able to trust your gut feeling.
  • It’s always better to have more options than you need. Want to make a 12 song album? Then write 50 songs and choose the 12 best ones.
  • You’ll become a better songwriter. Obviously, right?
  • You'll learn to just move on and keep the flow up. You'll stop focussing on the result too much and will start to focus on the process, instead. The results will follow automatically. And they will get much better, as you practice more.
  • If you show the results to other people, you'll also get good at engineering, fast. You'll get instant, regular feedback on your demos and people will point out the most important things that need to be fixed. You'll learn to focus on those things when you're producing, engineering and mixing.

Bonus points (and the best learning experience) if you do this:

Put the demos in an online folder and share your results with The Self-Recording Band Community and us.

Are you in?

This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Quotes From The Episode:

"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself." - Chuck Close

"I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." - Thomas Edison

"There's no such thing as writer's block. It just means you've stopped writing" - Greg Bennick

Rick Rubin's Podcast:

Broken Record Podcast

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 072 - Speed Writing Challenge: Record A Brand-New Demo After Every Session

[00:00:00] Benedikt: [00:00:00] Many of the greatest artists don't wait for inspiration. They just get to work. They just show up and do it every single day or every single time they, they schedule a session and they just document whatever they come up with. And then they move on and seems to for painters or musicians, this is the self recording band podcast.

The show where we help you make exciting records on your own, wherever you are, DIY stuff. Let's go.

Hello. The self recording band podcast. I am your host then at a time. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm Owen flood. How are you mark? 

Malcom: [00:00:38] Hello. I'm great, man. I am going on a documentary making trip this week and I am so excited. I can't wait. Yeah, we're going to be on a boat out in the Gulf islands.

It's pretty magical. What a great way to make a living. 

Benedikt: [00:00:50] Totally. It's been telling me about that. It's it's, it's really, really exciting. I don't know if you can. Probably not. You can probably not talk about details yet, 

Malcom: [00:00:57] but yeah, I'm just gonna play it safe. Cause I. [00:01:00] It's it's always better just to be like, there's a gig and then not saying anything else about it.

Benedikt: [00:01:06] Exactly what it's, it's really exciting. Cool. Um, other than that, how was your weekend? 

Malcom: [00:01:12] Uh, it was amazing. And honestly, mainly because we had our meetup, our, we, we did like a zoom Facebook. Uh, or not Facebook, but a zoom meet up with our members from our Facebook community. Um, anybody that's listening and doesn't know what we're talking about.

You are missing out. We have a free Facebook community where people have conversations about recording their own stuff. Um, and exactly what we do is it's all about this podcast, essentially, right? It's the same platform. And. Benny. And I got to meet up with about 20 of those people, I think. Uh, and it was so much fun.

Um, so we had people submitting songs and we got to listen to them and kind of critique their engineering and mixing and songwriting and stuff like that. And go through it as, as a group, which was really valuable. Um, I thought everybody [00:02:00] chimed in with some really great thoughts as we went and it seemed like everybody had a blast.

And I totally did not expect there to be people from so many different parts of the world. So that, that really made my weekend. It was such a good time. Absolutely. 

Benedikt: [00:02:12] Yeah. The fact that they were from all over the world was awesome. And also. It wasn't just us talking. It was a conversation. Like people have feedback for each other and everybody was timed in and they were very respectful and kind, and like everybody was using the chat and then some of them were actually talking to us on zoom and to each other.

And it was just such a cool atmosphere because meetings like that, I was a little afraid that the more people we have, the more chaotic it could be, what it was far from that it was super helpful, respectful. Um, and they really valuable for everybody. And they, I think. Yeah, it, I, you could tell from the responses, but we also could tell because people told us in the comments in the chat and they literally 10 minutes ago, or so we got two more comments in the, in the Facebook community where, um, Joe for example says, [00:03:00] thank you, thank you both for making it happen and for the quality feedback or really useful session.

Great to meet some of you too. We're looking forward to the next one. Um, yeah. And Dan says, thank you so much for doing this. The feedback was so helpful and it was great to see the other members looking forward to the next one. Yeah, people really enjoyed it. And what we did was we listened to songs.

People submitted songs, 10 songs, we got through five of them, at least in two hours, two and a half hours, but people submit a 10 songs and we listened to them. We gave feedback. Um, yeah. And I think everybody could take away valuable lessons from that. And we, yeah, we definitely try our best to do the next, the remaining five songs as well in another session and see what they can take it from there and see what we can do with this.

Malcom: [00:03:44] Definitely. Yeah. Again, if you're listening to this, go on Facebook and Google. Or not Google go on Facebook and search the self recording band. You'll find the community on there. Um, or I actually been a, you have like a direct link cause you're smart and clever like that. Give them that. I 

[00:04:00] Benedikt: [00:04:00] assume I actually assumed that by now you would know the URL like that.

I've said it a hundred times or so 

Malcom: [00:04:06] it's a self recording band.com/community, right? Yes, exactly. Exactly. 

Benedikt: [00:04:09] It did it. That's where you go. And um, yeah, the self recording band.com/community. Or just Google as my sat, this recording band community on Facebook, I think Google is synonymous for search at this point.

So yeah, 

Malcom: [00:04:23] it totally is. 

Benedikt: [00:04:24] Yeah. Um, and then just meet us and say hello and, um, yeah. Share your knowledge and ask questions. So this today, what we're doing today. I think it's less of like, it's, it's not so much, there is obviously always education, of course, but it's less education than it is actually a challenge for you and a big call to action for you.

Because today we want to challenge you to be creative fast and to put your music [00:05:00] out there, or at least capture music, capture ideas as fast as possible and see what that does for you and see how that improves. Your, um, yeah. What, what you can take away from that, it might improve the quality of your recordings or your songs.

It might improve. Your workflow might improve both. You might learn valuable things about your process, about yourself, about the way you write and record and, uh, Malcolm. I think you should explain the challenge to people because you've done it with a client of yours in a similar way. 

Malcom: [00:05:31] Yeah. So first off, I think I want to give credit to Rick Rubin, uh, uh, for, for the idea of like even doing an episode like this, um, in that I heard that he was pitching challenges like this to get his clients, uh, developing their songwriting ahead of albums and stuff like that.

And I was like, you know what? We talk about how somebody needs to be the producer. On the records that are the people listening to this are, uh, are making. And that [00:06:00] can be a really hard job to do yourself, right. Especially if you're a one man person. So why don't Benny and I get in your corner and offer like some production where your virtual producers in this case.

I mean, we're not overseeing the project. We're not communicating directly, but we can offer a little prompts every once in a while, too. Just kind of forced creativity and, and push you to try new things. Um, and yeah, I thought this would be really fun to just try out and see how it goes. Um, I'm going to say this again, but at the end of this, we're going to ask you to post your results in the Facebook community and, you know, and share it with everybody.

So keep that in mind as we go here. Um, but yeah, essentially, We did something like this. I, I mean, my memory is pretty terrible, so it was probably a little bit different than this, but essentially what we're pitching here today is let me give the backstory. So a band called shed monkeys. I worked with, sorry, I'm rambling.

A van called shed monkeys. Uh, and if you're listening folks, you guys rock. We, they sent me some songs wanting to work on their follow-up to the first [00:07:00] couple of songs I did with them. And they were awesome. They're a really great band. Um, but I pitched them on the idea of just writing a whack more and just be like, let's just get too many songs and then cut backwards.

And they ended up going and like jamming, like every day of the week, it seemed like, and every jam they would send me a new song. They would just be like, this is what we came up with today. And it would, you know, oftentimes it would only be like 60 seconds long. Not fully like finished yet, but they would just get whatever they can get done in that time period and then send it.

And it was like every jam was a refresh. It was we're starting over again and writing a new song kind of thing. Doc, getting hung up on the details and the little transitions of each song. Just, just big picture. Big blocks kind of thing. Here's a verse, here's a riff, here's a course, you know, if they get a bridge, if it comes out naturally awesome.

But that was the most amazing thing ever. I don't know if we used any of the original songs when we went to the studio, actually, I would love to chat with them about that [00:08:00] refresh, like see if we can pull up the original batch and see, uh, where we landed with that. But yeah, it was fascinating and I think.

It's something that everybody should do is at least try it. If forces creativity is the big thing, you just have to do it, have to come up with something. And even if it's terrible, you just record it at the end. Yeah. Your jam and that's that day's work. Um, and then I think the other huge advantage is you kind of become less sacred and attached to what you previously had already written and put all this time.

It, it kind of separates this sunk cost fallacy thing where you're just like, oh, I've put so much work into this one, but you might find that once you've written like five more in these little short writing stints that you might, like one of them, even more than the one you put all this extra time into.

Right. So it kind of lets you be more objective. Um, yeah. So again, the challenge is schedule your jams. [00:09:00] Like you normally would. And write a new song each jam again, if it's only a part of a song like it doesn't have to be fully finished. That's actually the whole point is you're going to get like, uh, I mean, we've talked about 80 20 rule on this podcast before you're going to do.

The penny helped me here. I was trying to say, this is a Monday morning for me, everyone. Yeah, totally like 20% of the work that gives you 80% of the results, essentially. Right. Um, and not worry about everything else, yet kind of thing. Um, what we did is we had all these demos. We called it down to the ones we definitely wanted to do.

And then they just went back and kept workshopping those songs and then putting in the extra time that takes it to a hundred percent, you know? Um, and some of that happened in the studio as well. Um, but yeah. So your challenges write a new song east jam recorded at the end of the jam. No matter what, um, [00:10:00] now we've talked about why creativity or creatively and it gets better.

I'm going downhill, more coffee. Yeah. Uh, uh, Y there's a creative benefit to doing this, and obviously that's like huge, but there's also tying into our podcast and trying to get you to be better engineers and push yourself in that field. You're going to get instant feedback on your recording skills, doing this.

This requires you to kind of set up some kind of like live recording, set up more or less. Um, so you might be pretty limited in what you can do, especially if you just have like a two channel Mike set up in your full band or something. Um, but essentially at the end of the day, you're going to hear the demo you made for that day and then have the option of changing that setup for the next.

Time, you do this exercise, right? So if you were jamming Monday through Friday, which is a lot, obviously, um, and writing a new song each day, you'd have five opportunities to improve on your recording. And that instant feedback is really valid. [00:11:00] Um, I I'm sure Benny agrees with me on that. The sooner you get feedback, the better.


Benedikt: [00:11:05] totally agree with everything. And I have a couple of examples actually, where, where I know from, from experience that this really works. The first is the whole thing about writing more songs than you actually need for the record is always good. Um, you have more to choose from. You have, um, there will be a lot of crappy ideas, but they'll also, you need to have a couple of crappy ideas to get to a good one.

And I have some, like, one of the best records that I've ever made I've ever been part of was the last record that I did as a producer. It was at the beginning of this year. It's not out yet. And I can't tell you anything about it yet, but unfortunately, but it's really like a group. And to, um, or I don't know if it's the definite end, but for now it's the end of my production career sort of, because I've transitioned to mix the fully mixing.

Um, but it's a great end to that because it, it was one of the best records that I've ever been a part of and part of what made it so enjoyable for me and so awesome. Is that the [00:12:00] band didn't write the 12th songs on the full length, but they wrote, I don't know, 40, 50, 60 songs, something like that. And over the period of a year, they threw some ideas away.

They combined some song ideas together and created a new song out of that. They decided which parts were the best, which songs were the best. And they really kept it. Like they, they, it was sort of a, a challenging thing. To end up with like the 12 songs for the record. And you really end up with the 12 best songs or like a combination of all the best parts from all those 60 ideas that they had.

And that made the record so much better. If they would have stopped after 12 songs, the record would probably still be fun, but it would be not nearly as good as it is now because they didn't stop. After 12 songs, they wrote 50 of them. And that's only possible if you're fast and I'm sure the people in the band would agree with me that they didn't just record the super good ideas.

They recorded everything. They demoed out everything. They had an [00:13:00] idea, they wrote something, they recorded it and they didn't care at this point, if it was the best idea ever, they just captured it. They just documented it. And then after that, they said, Digging through the material and picking out the really good stuff.

And that's a proven way to come up with something really great. There are a lot of artists in different fields. We'll do it that way. There's plenty of authors, um, painters, artists in completely different fields who have, um, yeah, who have spoken about that, who have written books about the whole process, um, and, and, and work thing where you actually get to work and do it over and over again.

And eventually something cool will pop up. So many of the greatest artists don't wait for inspiration. They just get to work. They just show up and do it every single day or every single time they schedule a session. They just document whatever they come up with and then they move on. And after, I don't know, like Seth Godin, I think was the one who said like, you will write 99 crappy blog [00:14:00] posts, but then you will write one great one.

And then, you know, and then the same is true for painters or musicians. It just have to have a lot of shitty ideas before you have a really awesome idea. And there's actually one particular quote or a couple of particular quotes, but one that came to mind when we prepped this episode. Where, um, Chuck close, who's a painter, um, an American painter.

And I came, I think I read this quote in the Tim Ferriss book and he said, um, there is, he said, inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us, just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part in a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.

All the best ideas come out of the process. They come out of the work. And that is really something that I think is really 

Malcom: [00:14:47] cool. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. That is just fantastic. Yeah. Um, and, and it's just also true that most great artists are creating more work than they release. Right. They, it's a [00:15:00] totally normal thing to be prolific and then refine, um, just like.

It's funny because people that argue this, do the same thing on a smaller scale. So people that release like don't, aren't prolific and just write a song. And then that's the one that gets released. They end up spending so much time refining that one song. Um, so it's the same process of create refine, but you should just do it on a larger scale.

Right. Create a lot of songs for fine to a smaller amount of songs. Then keep refining those songs. Right. Um, totally common for successful artists and. Uh, a lot of great producers aren't expecting to be sent a whack of songs to, to look through. You might even find that you don't have the best idea of what a good song is either.

Um, that, yeah. Did you know that Elton John heard Bohemian Rhapsody before it came out and thought it was like the worst thing? Like he couldn't believe they were going to release it. And he did the same thing with a few of his [00:16:00] biggest songs as well. Like he, the guy had no idea what was, what, um, like, I mean, sure there were some drugs involved, but just seemed to like have no grasp for what a single was, uh, and, and self-admittedly as well.

Um, and 

Benedikt: [00:16:15] I think paranoid from, uh, from, uh, by black Sabbath was a B-side originally, it wasn't intended to. A single or over, not even like a really good song 

Malcom: [00:16:26] told the same things happened with bands. I've produced. It's like we're in the studio working on another song. And then they show me this other one that they never sent me.

And I'm like, what is wrong with you? People like the songs, like three times as good as what we're working on. So again, I mean, that just goes to the final point of this challenge. Is sharing it in the community, sharing your results and, and seeing what people like. Um, that's terrifying by the way, especially with something as unrefined, just what you're going to be submitting.

So get comfortable with that. It's good for you. Um, so a couple of tips on how to pull this [00:17:00] off because writing like forcing creativity, like that can be really tricky and I would recommend. Trying to mix up your writing style through this as well. I take advantage of this like kind of speed dating style of, of writing.

Um, so some just like prompts for you. You could start writing the song with a different instrument than you normally do. So if all your songs start from a guitar, riff, pick up something else, start with a drum beat, or start with a vocal melody. Uh, you could find a lyric idea first with, even without a melody, you know, and see where that takes you.

And then. Finally, my favorite is maybe right in the style of another artist. So you're like intentionally trying to write a song that sounds like another band. You won't sound like them. So don't worry. It's, it's totally unlikely that you'll sound anything like them, but you will end up writing something totally different than you normally would as part of the 

Benedikt: [00:17:49] regroup and challenge as well.

I think, right. He, he basically challenged people to do that, like right as the song and the style of XYZ. And then, um, what happens. They never end up sounding like that band. 

[00:18:00] Malcom: [00:18:00] Yeah. Yeah. So he worded it at least. I'm sure he's got all sorts of stuff then that's amazing. But, uh, he, when I heard it, it was write a song as if you were going to like sell it to that artist.

Like, so you're like writing the song for Taylor swift and Taylor, Swift's gonna release it as a Taylor swift song. You know, it's like, you're trying to create something for them. And, uh, and that, I mean, that's going to change it a little bit as well. So that's a great idea. Um, and again, because you're making so many, nothing sacred, so if it's talks, it doesn't matter.

It's okay. They'll never see the light of day outside of who you share it with in our community. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:18:34] I really liked the idea of writing a song for a different band, because I think I bet it totally changes the way you approach writing. And it probably makes it easier at least to start with, because I know that sometimes you just sit there and you just don't know where to start.

You don't know what you're. The cow. What, what, what is your style? What, what, what do you even want to write? Like what's the song going to be about, but if you think about your favorite band and what their song sound like, and then you, you [00:19:00] just, um, put yourself in their shoes and try to write a song for them.

I bet it's going to be easier to at least find a starting point or to at least have a vibe in your head or whatever. And then when you follow that, Right. Like play and write and capture ideas. I think it will still end up sounding, not like that band, but the, to the start is easier probably. 

Malcom: [00:19:22] Yeah, totally.

Yeah. You're absolutely right. It's again, it's like whenever I meet a great songwriter and have the chance to work with one, or even just like talk to them, they're doing this stuff already. It's totally. Um, and I, I feel like a lot of people think that it's the opposite of being creative, right? Like trying to write a song like another person, but it's just not the case.

You don't limit yourself and try anything, see what works and it's, um, 

Benedikt: [00:19:50] it's really so important to know also that all these great songwriters that imagine, like, if you have to write songs for the, to make a living, if that is your job, you [00:20:00] can't rely on inspiration or. Um, only having good ideas because you have to deliver like, those people need to have a process and the system, because that's the day job, that's what they do.

They, they wake up and they write songs and they are not feeling awesome every single day and creative, but they, nevertheless they show up and just do it. And so there is, there there's really truth to that. And there is no such thing as like, Yeah. I don't know who the, to set it, but I have to pee. I had two people on my other podcast, Greg bannock and showy Cape till he capes the singer of leg wagon.

And Greg bannock is the singer of trial and between earth and sky two amazing legendary hardcore bands. And both of them gave really valuable advice on writing lyrics, meaningful lyrics and writing songs in general. And I think both of them said something along the lines of, there is no such thing as writer's block, because that just means you stopped writing and.

That's all it is like, you just have to continue and yeah. So you're totally right. The great, the great songwriters. 

[00:21:00] Malcom: [00:21:00] Yep. That's all day. All right. Yeah. So then finally, just the conclusion was like the first is the challenge writing a new song each jam again, no matter what, try some of those creative prompts, um, Record it that's really important.

You can't just write it and then forget about it. You have to like grab it, even if it's terrible and just a voice memo on your cell phone, just grab it. That's fine. Um, and then put it all in like a shared folder. Um, and then I would strongly encourage you to share it with the community. Um, the self recording band, Facebook community.

You don't have to, like, if you want to just keep those cells, and this is just an exercise for you and your collaborators, that's totally cool. Um, or your producers or whoever you're working with. I mean, that's awesome as well. I think this was a good idea, no matter what, but I think if you share this in the Facebook community, they're going to find a lot more value than you thought.


Benedikt: [00:21:53] Two reasons, because the first of all, first of all, you're going to get feedback hopefully, and even if you don't get feedback or if the [00:22:00] feedback doesn't really help you. Forces you not only to be creative, but it also forces you to hit publish or to put it out that at least to a small group of people, because that takes courage as well.

And that is also something we need to get used to as artists and producers and like creative people in general, that we need to overcome that fear of putting something out there. And you never know what's going to be a hit, as we said, like there have been huge successes, huge singles, huge hits where the artists themselves or others didn't believe that it, it was a hit then turned out to be one.

So just the practice of not only creating it and documenting it, but also sharing it with others is really helpful. And. Um, we'll make sure to keep the, the whole conversation and the feedback positive. So we never, we will never tolerate like bullying or mean comments or whatever. Like we will encourage people to leave helpful comments and feedback, but you don't need to be afraid to share it in the community.

This is a safe place and we'll take care of that and [00:23:00] we'll make sure that it stays like that. So no need to worry. Definitely. 

Malcom: [00:23:03] All right. Well, I hope you have fun with that as well. 

Benedikt: [00:23:07] Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's all about having fun. That's that's also such, just a great exercise. Um, it of course should be fun. And I bet you'll discover things that you haven't liked that you didn't think of before, and that will surprise you.

And it's, it's definitely a fun exercise. All right. I think that's enough for today. This is a great challenge. Um, write these songs, put it in the folder, shared with the community and by the way, if you are. A solo musician, if you are not a band and you don't have like a jam or rehearsal schedule or anything like that, just schedule, I don't know, five days, um, on your own five evenings where you, you block out two hours or whatever.

And on each of those evenings, you just record a song idea 

Malcom: [00:23:48] on your own. I would say we should aim for a minimum of three songs, kind of thing. Five is probably better, but three would be enough to test this idea and see how this works for you. I think. Um, and then anywhere from. [00:24:00] 30 minutes to two hours is your window of time.

No longer than, yeah. Uh, yeah. If you, whatever you get, I mean, you decide what you want, like how strict you want to force yourself to be. Um, but, uh, it's one of those things where honestly, I think the less time you have available the better yeah, yeah. Set a timer. So you can't go over it. 

Benedikt: [00:24:20] Totally. So I'm going to finish it with another quote just because I prepared it.

And that is, um, Thomas Edison said, when he was asked, how did it feel to fail a thousand times? He apparently replied. I didn't fail a thousand times the light bulb was in, it was an invention with a thousand steps. Uh there's that that's awesome. Right. So we're curious to hear the results of your next five steps at least 

Malcom: [00:24:46] what a bad ass thing to say.

Bye. Right?

Benedikt: [00:24:52] Take care. See you next week. Thank you for listening. [00:25:00] .

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