The Incredible Joys of Amateur Music-Making

Making music is one of the few creative tasks that in my mind is both reserved for fun, and is actually really fun. I also like making silly video games a lot, but that’s a lot of work since you might need programming, art, music, game design, and 3D modeling, plus some basic knowledge of how game engines do their thing. Making games is a ton of work.

Creative writing, on the other hand, is relatively easy (in the sense that all you need to do is spew out words), but since I do so much writing in other contexts, whether working or just in day-to-day communication, it’s hard to make it feel like pure joy. Creating bad music though….

So much of this might just come down to my lowered expectations. If I don’t really care how good something is, I’m more likely to mess around until I find something kind-of cool, and then not bother putting in all the hard work to make it actually sound good. It’s a win for both my laziness and my creativity.

I’ve made three “albums” in the past 6 months (but really they’re just collections of songs (but really they’re just short ideas, not full-length songs (but really who needs a B section anyways?)))

All three are on SoundCloud.

I’ll also always have a special place in my heart for my first composition: Waiting for the Space Elevator. It’s also the only one I worked out totally on the piano before deciding that it could sound cool on the computer (and then pouring in hours trying to make that happen). But that was five years ago, and I really only got back into the hobby in the past few months.

One of the most important things I learned from this new spurt of activity was that making something that sounds good is both really easy and really hard. You can make it trivial by using the right few chords, and sticking to only a few notes in the melody which sound really good together. That’s no fun though, and making something that sounds good, and contains more than one good idea (and the two-plus ideas fit nicely together) is really tough. It’s kind of like writing a great essay; it’s easier to hammer down one solid point than to come up with two and connect them elegantly.

Most of this stuff isn’t too far from “select preset sounds, pick a few chords, and put them together”. I did a little bit of sound design, but most of it was just tweaking so things fit together a little better. There’s definitely no set genre, although I did stick to kind-of-weird bouncy electronic sounds.

Each album’s name reflects the kind of work that went into it. “One Week From Now” was an experiment to write a song per day for a week, and see how much I could improve in that time. The namesake “Hypothesis” is that I could write a range of songs from super-happy to super-scary and have them somehow flow together. (I’ll let you judge how I did.) And of course, “Half Baked” is a million different ideas, but none of them too well-developed.

I had a ton of fun making all this music, final quality notwithstanding. It was a lot of learning, and I’m sure I’m gonna want to mess around with composition in the future. By far the highest display of actual skill on offer here is the album art—I spent way too much time messing with Photoshop in high school. The level of skill isn’t the point though. Sometimes it’s more enjoyable to not know what you’re doing.


❮ Malevolent Ackermann
Non-primitive-recursive functions and fork bombs
Cultural Affordances ❯
Redesigning everyday interactions