Ultralearning Experiment

Ultralearning Experiment

I am embarking on one of the biggest and most-important challenges of my life (check out this post to learn more).

To kick this project off, I am dedicating three months to an ultralearning project and this page will document my progress.

If you don’t know what ultralearning is, check out this podcast episode before proceeding.

Click here to skip to the most-recent progress update.

Initial Plan

Project Scope

My ultimate goal is to release a 10-song album that I’ve written and produced myself (this goal can be broken down into smaller goals of releasing a 7-song album, 4-song EP, or 1-song single).

That’s not my goal for this ultralearning project though…

The goal for this project is to just accelerate down the path I’m already on.

After years of feeling like I was stumbling around in the dark and bouncing off walls, I finally feel like I’m out of the darkness and am moving slowly in the right direction.

The problem is though, I feel like I’m only moving at 5mph so progress is slow and it isn’t as enjoyable as it could be yet.

My goal with the ultralearning project is to simply bump up my speed from 5mph to 15mph so that I at least can experience a cool breeze on my face and feel like I’m making more progress (so that I enjoy the journey a lot more).

Writing, recording, and releasing music is something I hope to do for the rest of my life, so this is not something that I plan to stop once the ultralearning project finishes or I release my first album, but it would be nice to start progressing faster than I currently am.

Timeline

I have blocked off all of September, October, and November of 2019 for this project and since I don’t have a full-time job or any other obligations, I should be able to devote a lot of time over those months to this.

Primary Resources

I’ve already started working with a local producer so that I can improve my skills on the recording/production side of things.

I plan to immerse myself in the music I want to create and will be dissecting works from my favorite artists to see what I can learn from them.

I also plan on using YouTube and other online resources to pick up recording/mixing skills, as needed.

The primary driver of this project though will be directness – I will write and produce as many songs as I can, while getting corrective feedback on what I produce.

Concepts/Facts/Procedures

  • Melody
  • Harmony
  • Rhythm
  • Lyrics
  • Sound Design
  • Mixing
  • Mastering

Direct Practice Activities

Write, record, and mix my own songs (I have someone who can master my recordings for me so that’s a skillset I’m not even going to worry about at this stage).

Backup Resources

  • Syntorial – Synthesizer software that helps you become better at sound design
  • Audible Genius – Software that teaches skills useful for music creation
  • YouTube
  • Lynda
  • Skillshare

Drills

  • Analyze and rerecord favorite songs
  • Complete unheard songs by favorite artists (e.g. listen to the verse and try to write a chorus for the song before hearing the actual chorus)
  • Write melodies for favorite instrumental songs
  • Write sonnets (supposedly good practice for writing lyrics)
  • Recreate favorite synth patches
  • Pay a professional to mix and master one of my songs while sitting in on the session to see how they do it
  • Take a weekend course on mixing/mastering at a local recording studio

Updates to Plan

After speaking with Scott, I realized that I didn’t really define my scope properly so here’s my new one…

Scope

Write a dancy, uptempo, synth-based song with minor tonality.

Spend five hours per day, five days a week on the project.

Progress Updates

  • Oct 15 – Halfway through the ultralearning experiment and things are going well. This project has definitely forced me to put a lot more time in and I can see that I’m progressing faster because I’m working at it more. Looking back, it’s now obvious why I felt like I was progressing very slowly before…because I was hardly putting any time/work in! Going forward, I need to worry less about creating the perfect song and more on just finishing as many songs as I can. A musician I really respect told me that the best way to write a great song is to write 100 songs so I need to put that advice into practice.
  • Oct 11 – Got inspired by a song I heard so going to attempt to recreate synth sounds and make a similar original song from scratch. Currently exceeding my hours for the month so at least I’m putting in the time and am making progress. I uploaded the cover song to DistroKid so I’m excited for that to be processed so that I can take down the old version.
  • Oct 10 – Getting more specific with my tasks for the next day so that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking and instead just get straight to work.
  • Oct 09 – Cover song is done and is so much better than the original. I became obsessed with it and it took over my week (I even worked more than eleven hours on it one day)! Now that it’s done, I’m not sure what to work on next so I took stock of my existing songs that aren’t finished and started planning rest of the month (need to make it fun because confidence still isn’t there yet).
  • Oct 01 – Had my final production lesson today so I got to watch him master the cover song we’ve been working on. Although I plan to pay a professional to master any music I create in the future, it was still great to watch someone do it. The song is sounding fantastic so I can’t wait to release it and replace the version that is already out there. First though, I’m going to try to master it myself and see how closely I can get to the version he created.
  • Sep 30 – Didn’t hit my 5 hours per day for 5 days a week but exceeded 4 hours per day so not too far off. Building momentum so I’ll hopefully make up for that time in month two.
  • Sep 27 – I decided to forget about my 5-day week and instead will spread my hours over the entire week. I want this to be a daily practice so spreading the hours out over the week has been useful and has taken the pressure off a bit, since I don’t have to hit as many hours in a single day. I’ve been putting in a lot of hours though and have been feeling more confident. Going to adjust my plan for month two to focus more on the specific goal of creating a single, uptempo song. Need to put together drum sounds, synth patches, etc. and make as many songs with those tools as possible (plan to take sound design out of my list of tasks for month three so that I can focus on the songwriting). Need to focus all effort on the specific type of music I want to make and since I already did a fair amount of drills, need to now focus more on direct practice.
  • Sep 26 – After doing a lot of work on the cover song, I’ve got things sounding really good again so happy to learn I had the skills to fix the issues I heard and excited to get the song mastered next week.
  • Sep 24 – My second production lesson was today but I wasn’t as happy with how the changes sounded. Good news is, I came home and started making my own adjustments, using my ears, and started moving things back in the right direction.
  • Sep 17 – The production lesson today was incredibly helpful! When I’ve been producing music, I’ve been in my head 100% thinking about everything I’ve read/watched/learned/etc. and am using my brain to come up with what I should do but when I watched him mixing my track, he just used his ears and tweaked things until they sounded great. It seems obviously I should use my ears instead of my brain but it took seeing him do it to realize that! The track is already sounding so much better so I’m excited for our next two-hour session to hopefully finish the entire mix.
  • Sep 16 – Great biproduct of this ultralearning project is I’m getting more accomplished in other areas of my life. Since I feel like time is scarce again, I’m using my non-music time much more efficiently and effectively.
  • Sep 14 – Scheduled a lesson with a local producer for next week. Going to get him to remix and remaster a cover song I did a while ago that I’m happy with from a songwriting standpoint but I’m still not happy with production-wise (sounds muddy on some speakers and isn’t as crisp and powerful as I know it can be). The plan is to let him mix and master it while I’m in the room with him. Then, I’m going to go home and try to mix and master it myself, using the notes I took while watching him, and see how closely I can get my mix to sound like his.
  • Sep 11 – Made good progress over a few days but a few things came up (need to buy a new car) so I haven’t been hitting my hours. Feel like I’m progressing though so now I just need to start increasing the amount of time I’m spending doing it.
  • Sep 02 – Realized how long 5 hours is yesterday so woke up really overwhelmed this morning. Luckily just got to work with my coffee, like normal. Started working on a cover song but came up with something interesting and unique so decided to scrap the cover and write an original instead. Song has a lot of feeling and melody-writing is easier than normal for this one, thankfully.
  • Sep 01 – Excited to start, really happy about limiting scope, and time logging seems like it’s going to be motivating. I have a bunch of different activities lined up so I’ll try to do the hard stuff first but will fill in the time with easier stuff when I lose motivation.
  • Aug 31 – Created time log spreadsheet for project, listing out all the types of tasks I can complete.
  • Aug 30 – Talked to Scott and clarified some misconceptions. Really excited about project now (instead of dreading it).
  • Aug 28 – Finished plan and sent to Scott prior to interview.

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