Lessons learned?

Now that we’re most of the way through the month, what (if anything) do you feel like you’ve learned from the experience?

I’m definitely used to making music quickly, and not spending too long finishing any individual track, and I’m pretty prolific in general. But committing to recording and sharing something on a daily basis is different. There’s less room to reject tracks that don’t feel like they’re working out, or give up in frustration if a session just isn’t going smoothly. On the other hand, I feel like there’s a built-in excuse for a lack of perfection :slight_smile: That also kind of equates to having more freedom to experiment, maybe get gimmicky or step outside my usual practices a bit… which has been useful.

Since I’m planning to release a “best of” album from Jamuary, I’ve been going back and listening to my work so far, rating tracks as “yes”, “probably”, “maybe”, “doubtful” or “no” and trying to identify why. What I’ve taken away from the experience has been:

  • The weakest of my tracks are the ones that feel a little too random. With improvised lines, I am responding to other elements in the music or I naturally create a melody or a sort of story arc. But with generative sequencing, or an ostinato sort of sequence that doesn’t have a good contour to it, there’s not really that feeling of tension and release, or resolution. The same can be true on the song level rather than a phrase level; if the improv just doesn’t work out or I bring elements in and out in the wrong way, it can feel like it doesn’t go anywhere. (This tended to be more of a problem with my Jamuary efforts than usual, where I might take a little more care to craft melodic lines as well as being open to rejecting something that doesn’t work out.)

  • Reinforcing my feeling that I’m personally best with drones and abstract “scenery” pieces, more so than rhythm-oriented tracks. The latter tend to feel less genuine, and like I could have used some collaboration with someone else to lean on their judgement and contribute something else to make it whole. It doesn’t matter that I’m a former taiko drummer… this is just how it is with my electronic music.

  • I feel like my mixes are usually pretty good, given that I do them live as part of the performance/recording session… but sometimes I go a little too harsh or too complex/busy with sound design and it doesn’t work as well in the context of the piece. Distortion is easier to add than remove. There were a couple of tracks I think would have worked much better if I’d been gentler with them.

  • Especially when working at a faster pace for Jamuary, I need to slow down with my endings… don’t fade out so fast, or have some reverb or delay on standby to bring in. I’ve often found my fadeouts are a little too abrupt and need some doctoring, but this has been even more true with my Jamuary stuff.

  • I dug out my Thingamagoop 3000 from the drawer it was consigned to years ago, and I found that wow, it is really great for drones; it suits the music I’m making now much better than it fit what I was trying to do back when I first got it.

  • For the last year, I’ve been in the process of figuring out how I want to integrate bass guitar with my synth playing. In a couple of Jamuary tracks I gave myself more permission than usual to use extreme processing instead of feeling like it still has to sound like a bass. That worked out great and is probably the right approach.

  • On the other hand, extreme granular effects / slow attack reverbs which add a lot of latency to playing just don’t work well when you’re trying to keep up with a rhythm established by another part. This is a disadvantage with the live recording method I use. If I’d tracked the part separately without the effect, I could apply it afterward and adjust the time to compensate. I don’t know if I’m willing to change my workflow that much though :slight_smile:

  • One track gave me all kinds of technical issues, when I was trying to use multiple MIDI clips in Bitwig and switch between them live but one of my controllers or automation or something was causing it to switch on its own. It was super frustrating and I almost gave up – but the resulting track turned out to be one of my stronger ones despite everything.

  • I used the Note Grid in Bitwig for sequencing more than I ever have before, both for simple rhythmic patterns and ostinato parts and some things that were a bit more generative. While it’s not quite as nice as a simple analog sequencer like 0-Ctrl, it still suits the way I like to make music, and this is an area I want to explore a bit more.

  • Ambient and drone music can be slow without necessarily going on for too long. Sometimes I feel like my own recordings are improved by being shorter, so I cut out a few minutes. There were a few posts from others where I thought they had a strong start and felt great for 5 minutes but they went on for 20… to be fair some of those were livestreams, and it’s harder to develop a sense for that kind of thing when really performing live (that part of the realization was part of what I learned too).

  • I can do it! I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to overcome laziness, fatigue and various other challenges every single day, but as of the 27th I’m still at 100%. Despite an almost 11 hour drive on January 1st, illness that had me take a day off work, technical issues, and sometimes really just wanting to play video games instead. This might be the best of the lessons :slight_smile:


I enjoyed your deep textured drones, the best of is going to be great to have.


I am still processing what it all means for me. I’ve long been musical on a daily basis but this was the first time I recorded something (almost) daily. I am not sure of the difference, but at random times during the day I would actually hear musical ideas in my head – like actual music that doesn’t exist that I could make. That’s occasionally happened in the past but it’s become like a daily thing for me. Absolutely wild.

I suspect more people listened to my latest electronic experiments than at any other time in perhaps the past decade, so I have also gotten valuable feedback about what my tiny audience reacts to.

I notice sometimes I get impatient and want to do something when I should just be letting it unfold. Conversely, sometimes I take too long at the beginning of setting something up, so I guess it’s more like “chill in the middle”?

This for sure. Ambient doesn’t have to be long, though in some cases, it’s changes over a long time that make the piece. I am thinking about this for the drone album I want to make (or whether I just aggregate some of the pieces from this month). In a couple cases, only a couple minutes of a much longer session worked, so that’s what wound up on Soundcloud.

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I had the same - bits of music started floating into my head throughout the day.

What really helped me was turning my system on when I got home and then going about my day/night. When I had a free moment I would just start hitting buttons and recording.

Digitakt is 8 tracks. Syntakt is 12 tracks. The reason I bought the Syntakt was to open up the Digitakt for more sampling. One thing I learn is the Syntakt is great for bass or ambience/texture or little melodies.

Posting in 3 places was new for me (Jamuary, Youtube, Instagram). I’d do a long and a short version of most of the tracks. It felt better to showcase the best 1-2 min of each jam but I think overall it’s better to just release the whole jam. Let people see how you got to the best 1-2 mins.

And of course - I could not do a jam every day but I produced 31 jams. This is always the goal and my third year doing it. Hoping I can take some of these tracks and expand on them since I actually multitracked most of the tracks this year!

Congratulations to all who showed up even for a day!