ONOTE and OTONE - A musical project

Written by Barry Warsaw in music on Wed 20 July 2011. Tags: music, otone, onote,

I'm starting a new musical project, which I'm calling OTONE and/or ONOTE. Actually, I've been working on this project for several years without realizing what I wanted to do with it. It coalesced in my mind when I thought of the acronyms above. Here's what they stand for:

  • The One Tune One Night Experiment (OTONE)
  • The One Night One Tune Experiment (ONOTE)

I'm not yet sure what the difference between the two are yet (though see below), but here's the idea behind the project.

If you're like me, you can easily sweat over a song and its recording forever, tweaking the mix, or hearing another melody, or (worst of all) agonizing over every word of a lyric that was like pulling teeth in the first place. Sometimes you think if you just do one more take of the guitar, you can get it perfect, or oh! it just needs a little bit of tamborine right there. Sometimes the arrangement just doesn't sit quite right, or you know in your gut that lurking out there somewhere there's a better way to get from the bridge to the last chorus.

Well, I'm kind of frustrated with that because it can lead to never actually finishing a song and getting it out there for folks to hear. At some point you reach diminishing returns, where the little tweaks don't really improve the song enough. Probably most importantly, the whole thing can put the brakes on the creative process. I liken it to software maintenance vs. creating a new project from scratch.

Software maintenance is important, useful, and can be fun, but the juices really get flowing when you're starting a new project. You get this rush of an idea and your fingers can't type fast enough to translate them into code. It's this latter feeling that I want to better capture with music.

A brilliant friend and awesome drummer once said, "you have to get the crappy songs out in order to get to the good ones." A similar thought is "let 1000 flowers bloom." The more you write the easier it gets, and the more likely that out will come some cool songs. Thus OTONE/ONOTE.

The idea is to produce one song in one evening, and not sweat the details (too much). I have a small backlog of tunes that I've written using this approach (without realizing it) and plan on posting them to my website and social media over the next few weeks. Going forward, I'm going to set aside one night a week or fortnight, and see what happens. I'll post those too. I'll very likely put them under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, but I haven't yet decided whether to allow derivative works or not (I'm leaning toward "yes").

I encourage my other artistic friends to take a similar approach with their music, writing, art, etc. Feel free to use the #onote or #otone tags, but if you could link back to this article as your original impetus, I'd really appreciate it.

I should mention that some of the songs were not written in one night, but all were produced in one night. I'm trying to keep it under check, but sometimes I just can't help but twiddle the chorus now and then. :) Maybe that's the distinction though. OTONE can mean a song I wrote in one night, while ONOTE can be one evening devoted to producing just one song.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • The songs will be rough. The whole point is not to cut and paste that one early bass note into the right place because that just slows you down. Unless it doesn't and you can still finish in one night. :)
  • Part of the reason for doing this is to better learn other software. I'm fairly proficient at Cubase 4 (but despise the dongle), and GarageBand is easy to get started (but much more difficult to do advanced stuff like arrange), Logic 9 is cool but I don't know it that well, and there are lots of free and alternative DAWs to experiment with. Doing quick one-night projects gives me some time to explore these.
  • Give me feedback and maybe I'll flesh out the good ones. There's no rule against coming back around to the ones you like and obsessing over the details later.
  • Remember: just because the sun's come up doesn't mean the night's over.

Now, go out and create!


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