Who said it was easy to create an albums worth of material? No one I hope. Project Zodiac Temple has come to an end and it was an interesting exercise in music creation. The goal was to create twelve songs in the downtempo style of EDM, each representing the personalities of the zodiac by using the twelve major keys along with their relative minors. I put a lot of limitations on myself to help squeeze as much creativity out of these songs without get too bogged down with perfection. Was I successful. I don’t know, but I say with absolute confidence that I learned a lot about creating emotions through music.
Below is a list of the lessons I learned from working on this project.
Constraints breed creativity – by putting limitations on the whole project it allowed me to think creatively. Time limits forced me to think quickly and minimize over-thinking also known as paralysis by analysis. Limitations in the number of tracks and sounds forced me to be better organized and be more creative in my decision making. I also figured out a work flow that was efficient and consistent.
Go big or go home – most producers work on one song at a time. Many release only a few or even just one. I decided to push for twelve, no matter what I needed to get all twelve out in one big project. This allowed me to experiment not only with different music keys but also different structures and tempos and discover how those effect the songs emotion. It also created a lot of repetitiveness during the mixdown phase which helped in understanding sound shaping.
Cutting corners isn’t always bad – discovering ways to be more efficient helped me see this project to the end. For example, even though I’m a competent drummer I decided to use samples to save time. Setting up a recording session for each track would have been problematic since I needed to have drum tracks ready to go in real time. Also, relying on mostly virtual instruments using MIDI tracks allowed me to test a combination of sounds. I realized I’m not proficient in mastering a final track so thank the music gods we live in a time where there are cost efficient and easy methods to get a great polished sound.
Stay focused and organized – if you’re not well organized then you’re not going to complete a project. You need to think about what you’re about to do before you execute. Every step needs to be documented and scheduled out. Lists and timelines are essential. Forcing yourself to work on something even if you’re not inspired is the only way to move ahead.
Be resourceful – use every tool at your disposal. Work on a laptop to be mobile. Lunch breaks at work was one of the best times to construct the three parts of each track. Late nights at the dining room table were great for constructing structures. Using old samples and software gave me more sounds and flexibility. Learning the ins and outs of a DAW before tackling the project made the work flow go smoother. Creating mixes and listening to them on the long commute to and from work allowed me to fine tune the mixes. Listening to the tracks with headphones on a computer or cell phone, in the car, on a home stereo, home studio monitors, and even a large PA system helped with the mixes. Use whatever you can, whenever you can.
This project was an amazing learning tool. I probably won’t market this to the masses. It’s out there for anyone to listen to and use if they would like but it was created as something to put in my portfolio. Now I can’t wait to tackle the next project.
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.