RPM is done!

Yes, the RPM Challenge comes to an end again… and I’ve got another album.

This one is titled “Navasio” and features 5 songs which provide 36 minutes of music. And you know what, I’m pleased with it. I actually like listening to it, which I find amusing. Even if everyone else hates it, I think I’ll still listen to it, and enjoy it… so that’s cool.

I took a very different direction this year. In 2008 I was really just continuing the way I created music in 2007, which was… grab guitar and bass, plug them into my Mac, fire up GarageBand, find a beat, and start recording. Last year’s effort was pretty disjointed, but there were a few songs I really liked. It was a good learning experience, and that’s enough.

Since 2008 I’ve moved up to using Logic instead of GarageBand, and also upgraded to using a Firewire audio interface (the Behringer FCA202.) I know that some people think Behringer is crap, or it’s inexpensive for a reason, but it served my purposes quite well. I had no complaints, it just “worked” which was good.

Navasio I also realized my old Washburn sounds like… total crap. No matter what I did, it still sounded like crap. Keep in mind, it’s a cheap guitar, and I’ve had it for like 20 years, and it only has 5 strings, and… it’s crap. Old pal Milton loaned me an Ibanez he had on hand, and that was better (and I used it on the first song I recorded) but after the first few days of February my kids were kind enough to loan me their Fender (yes, they have a better guitar than I do) and the Fender sounded great! My old Ibanez bass still sounds fine, and while I’d love a Fender bass, I can’t justify that quite yet…

Ah yes, the process… So in 2008 I would write/record a song, and immediately upload it to and then post it on this blog. It was quite a process. The whole “making a song” was typically compressed into a few hours. At the end though, it was more like, I just did the last song… it didn’t feel like I completed an album, so this time, I worked on all the songs until the last day of February. That’s not to say I didn’t still record most of them in one sitting (some I did, some I didn’t) but I did a lot more listening, and spent more time mixing and engineering the tracks (but not enough!) I would have loved to have had another few days to do mixes, listen, and tweak things… but at some point, you gotta be done, and with RPM, that point is February 28th.

So by now you’re like… “Shut up already, let’s hear it!” and yes, yes… soon… I’ve got it out to a few people to get their opinions. People who also make music, or who I think might like it based on the genre it may inhabit. But rest assured, it will be available soon… online, for free, under a Creative Commons license… cuz that’s how we do it around here….


RPM Challenge 2009

Yup, I am all set to record another album… In the 28 days of February 2009 I will record an entire album consisting of either 10 songs or 35 minutes of material for the RPM Challenge 2009.

RPM Challenge 2009

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, but I don’t think I’m going to reveal anything until the album is completely done. Perhaps some snippets of songs, but I don’t plan on doing what I did last year. I basically started the process of writing and recording all at once, and finished each song within a few hours, and then uploaded it, calling it “done!” which turned into a really weird collection of songs… which is, you know, an album, but this time I am more interested in a cohesive piece of work.

I’m going to borrow a guitar (most likely from Milton Zorro of Trademark fame) as mine is just too much a total piece of crap that can’t be tuned properly. My bass sounds good, so that’s fine… as for drums, I actually do have my drums set up in the recording booth at work, but they need some loving (new heads, tuning) and they aren’t mic’d so I might not use them at all. I may end up using existing drum loops again. (Drums are always the hardest part!) I’ll be trying a Firewire audio interface to see if it works well for guitar and bass input, where last year I used the cheap “USB Guitar Plug” so hopefully things will sound a bit cleaner.

Ultimately I want to produce an album that I really like. If no one else likes it, that’s cool… Oh, it will also be released under a Creative Commons license, like most of my music, photos, and video…

Check back in February for updates, or in March for the conclusion. Rock on…

(Oh yeah, Matt Gauger is the guy who told me about RPM last year, but he didn’t get to participate. I’m really hoping he can do it this year.)


The 48 Hour Film Project

If you’re available for a whole weekend of production, and you love filmmaking, you might want to get involved with the The 48 Hour Film Project.

The 48 Hour Film Project is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie—write, shoot, edit and score it—in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it will show at a local theater, usually in the next week.

It’s a neat idea, and a cool project that forces a burst of creativity in a short amount of time. While it is happening in Milwaukee the weekend of June 20th, 2008, I sadly, cannot take part… at least not for the entire weekend.


RPM Challenge: Lessons Learned

I did it. I completed the 2008 RPM Challenge. I created an entire album in one month. 10 songs, written, recorded, and released in February 2008. And I had fun doing it!

But it wasn’t all fun. It was hard at times, and there was frustration, and while I always knew I could easily record 10 songs, I wasn’t entirely sure the quality would be where I wanted it.

RPM Challenge First, the frustration. I use a USB adapter to plug my guitar and bass into my Mac. GarageBand recognizes it. Usually. In the first or second day into the process, GarageBand went nuts and stopped working. I spent like 3 hours fixing it, including a re-install, and creating a new user and copying files between accounts. Eventually it all worked, but through the month GarageBand dumped on me a few other times in various ways. It’s frustrating when your equipment won’t even work right.

Then there was the creative frustration. Last year when I started recording on my own, I would just plug in the guitar when I felt like it and bang something out. For this album, there was the pressure of must record a song on an almost daily basis. Luckily since I only needed 10 songs in 29 days, I didn’t have to record every single day, I skipped some, like the day I worked for 14 hours, or the Sunday I did a video shoot on location for 12 hours. Yeah, it was a busy month.

Typically it would take me about 3 hours to do a song. When I say “3 hours” that is me sitting down with the instruments, playing a bit, recording, and then assembling the song. I didn’t write anything ahead of time, it was all done as I was recording. I don’t know how many people do it this way, but it worked for me. In the future I’d like to spend a lot more time on songs. Mainly because I think I can make them better. So even though I had 29 days to do this, I probably spent less than 30 hours total actually recording music.

Speaking of quality… am I happy with the quality of the album? Yes and no. There are some songs I actually really like. But then, there are bits and pieces I know I could have done much better, and some songs I really don’t like at all now. I think spending more than a few hours in the evening on a song would be worthwhile to get a better perspective on it.

I followed the same workflow I usually do with songs, once I record them and mix them (and yeah, I need to improve my audio engineering skills) I bounce to an MP3 and upload it right away. This is good because I get it out there immediately, but bad because I should spend more time tweaking the little things until is it just right. Release Early isn’t always the best idea. Also, I put everything up on Ourmedia and the Internet Archive right away, which again, is good and bad. SpinXpress totally broke for me at one point and I could not upload anything. I then started putting everything on as well for good measure. Next time I might wait until I am actually happy with a song before I upload to a permanent place the the archive.

Snowbound album by Pete Prodoehl

Even the whole packaging and cover art, I liked, but was not 100% pleased with. I had other ideas of how it would look, but I hit a time crunch, and finished it up on February 29th, just in time. The photos were taken by me in January. I really wanted to do a shoot in February, and I had a great idea, but could not execute it in time. I just thought it would be cool if the photos as well as the songs, were all produced in the month of February.

There was only one song I recorded in Logic. I was hoping to do more, but again, time constraints prevented it. Not a huge deal I guess. Oh, as far as collaboration, I wanted to do more… I did get to work with Emma and Maddy a little bit, but no one else really. Next year, Milt and I might work together though. And drum sequencing is not easy! I have no problem playing guitar and bass, but I can’t really record my own drums easily with the recording equipment I have, and I have not found good, cheap, drum sequencing software yet.

Wow, this post is way longer than I expected, so I’ll cut it here, but not before giving you direct download links to all the songs:

  1. Stress Test
  2. Attention
  3. Nashotah Falls
  4. Pressure Cooker
  5. Watertown
  6. Small Hands
  7. Shipwrecked Crew
  8. FAIL!
  9. Empty Pockets
  10. Mother Sink

All of these songs are released under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which means you can use them in many ways without even asking me, as long as you credit me as the creator. If you need some other license, let me know.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think…