5 Tips for the RPM Challenge

RPM Challenge

Are you doing the RPM Challenge this year? Well, I’ve done it twice successfully, and once unsuccessfully, so I have a few tips for you…

  1. Have fun.
    Really. It should be fun. It will still be some work, but in the end, you’ll hopefully have enjoyed the time you spent doing it. I know that when you’re still mixing at 2am on the 28th you’ll question why you thought it would be fun, but really… try to have fun. That should be the #1 rule.

  2. Don’t get stressed out.
    Remember, it’s a “challenge” not a competition. It’s about you, and what you can do, so don’t worry about others, and how far along they are, or how much better their stuff sounds. You should be doing it to challenge your own creativity. If you’re getting stressed out, you’re probably not having fun. (See #1)

  3. Don’t get bogged down.
    If you get stuck, move on. You’ve got either 30 minutes of music, or 10 songs to make, so getting stuck trying to get “just the right sound” or the “perfect drum loop” is going to kill your productivity. Either finish what you are working on, or abandon it, move on, and if there’s time later, come back to it.

  4. Don’t expect perfection.
    You’re recording an album in 28 days. That’s a little insane. Especially if you work full time, have a family, or do anything else with your life. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It won’t be perfect. Deal with it. You’ll hear things when you’re done and think “If only I had…” but hey, you only had 28 days! Perfection takes time, and time, and more time. I’m still trying to find it, and I’m old.

  5. Have fun.
    Wait, didn’t I say that already? Yes… don’t forget it. Unless you’re some sort of masochist (and some would argue anyone trying to record an album in 28 days is a masochist) you should enjoy the experience. I just listened to my previous RPM Challenge albums last night, and while they are far from perfect, I completed the challenge, and I had fun doing it.

If you’d like to read my previous blog posts on the RPM Challenge, please do… I hope these tips help you to complete the challenge!


Just Say No RPM!

Sorry folks, No RPM Challenge this year. But honestly, saying “no” this year was more difficult than saying “yes” two years ago, and I didn’t actually officially say “no” until February 28th.

See, I was really looking forward to recording an album in February. I was looking forward to it months ago, and in December, and even in January, but once February hit, it wasn’t looking good.

2008 was easy, I’d just fire up GarageBand, find some drum loops, grab the guitar and bass, and a few hours later, I’d have a song done. I did 10 songs in 2008. 2009 was harder, and I wanted to set my standards a bit higher, but I did manage to do 5 songs, which came out to 35 minutes of music. I was happy with what I produced within the time limits. 2009 was a bit harder as far as getting the time to do it all as well. I think my final mixing session was like 5+ hours straight, and ended after 2am.

Still, I was looking forward to doing it again in 2010, especially since I wanted to dig into Logic 9 a bit more. (Amp Designer and Pedalboard!) But.. and everyone I know has a big but… it just couldn’t happen. Between work, work, work, and the Winter Olympics, and family time, and oh, more work, it just didn’t happen.

I did record a bit, but not enough. Last year I joked that for 2010 I’d just record 1 single 35 minute long song, along the lines of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, but even that couldn’t happen.

I also made the mistake of upgrading to Snow Leopard, which broke my FireWire audio input for two days. So I put in probably 3 or 4 hours fixing that so I could record, instead of actually recording, so by the time I got it working, I had no time to record. The whole month sort of went like that. Even though the Doctor (who doesn’t really appreciate the music I make, but supports me nonetheless) was very supportive. Still didn’t happen. I finally got down to the last weekend of the month, and thought “Hey, I’ve got 2 days, I can do it!” but I ended up spending Saturday driving all over Waukesha County, and the rest of Saturday meeting various deadlines. At that point, I knew all hope was lost. Just to top it off, I was at the office for about 5 hours on Sunday, because on Monday I was involved in probably the most important presentation of my life. That trumped it all, so I really don’t feel too bad about not finishing an album.

The sad thing is, now that I think maybe I’d have some time to record, I need to return the Fender to it’s rightful owner, so I’m out one good guitar. Damn…

Well, there’s always next year!



Navasio March has been a crazy busy month. It’s taken me this long to actually write a post about my new album. Sure, I mentioned that RPM was done weeks ago, but never got to follow up with details on Navasio.

Navasio features 5 songs which provide 36 minutes of music. I recorded all of the guitars, bass, and vocals myself, and some of the cymbals. I used a variety of drum loops and samples as well.

So now it’s out there. You can find a page for the album at There are various links there, which I will outline below:

  • CD Baby: You can buy an actual CD (with a cover, and case and everything) from CD Baby. Great for people who like physical media, or really want to support what I’ve done with a cash money contribution. I have no idea if I will ever sell one, but it will be interesting to see what happens. Interesting enough, the album seems to get at least a few hits every day there. That may just be because it’s still new. The real reason to put it on CD Baby is because you can get it distributed to Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, and the iTunes store. CD Baby is a great company, so putting there is a neat thing to do.

  • Amie Street: Currently you can “buy” the album for $0.00 – what a deal! Amie Street has an interesting business model. As more people discover your music and download/purchase it, the price goes up. The idea is that the artist is rewarded proportionately by how popular their music is. (My 2008 album is available for 27 cents, which should tell you the concept works quite well.)

  • Jamendo: These guys are a community of free, legal and unlimited music published under Creative Commons licenses. Yes, Navasio is published under a Creative Commons license. Jamendo has all sorts of “partner programs” which could help your music get used in other ways. Background music, ringtones, webradio play… Weird stuff, but hey, I like promoting Creative Commons, so it’s all good.

  • RPM Challenge: The whole reason I record an album in Frbruary is because of the RPM Challenge. They provide a jukebox where people can hear (and possibly download) your music. Works for me…

  • It’s interesting to see how many people might “scrobble” my songs, but it’s also possible to put songs on for people to download, so I did. I’m guessing 95% of the “scrobbles” there are from me, but that’s ok.

  • Facebook: Now, if any of my 4 fans even want the inside scoop, this is the place to get it! You too can become a fan of “Pete Prodoehl” on Facebook, which honestly sounds a little silly to me, but hey, it’s all part of the grand experiment.

What’s that? No… you won’t find it on Myspace, because I pretty much hate Myspace. I know, if I was in a real band who had to promote themselves, I’m sure it would be added to the list. And I’m sure there are other places as well, but I mainly chose my favorites to use.

Making music is pretty much just a “hobby” of mine (though I have also done it professionally) and I like to share it with others, and make it available for people at no cost, but also provide the option of people being able to pay for it if they wish to. That’s what this is all about. So feel free to visit and find a place you can get Navasio from…

(TO DO: I really need a post about how things have changed compared to 20 years ago for indie bands putting out a release…)


Web414: Creativity Challenges

Creativity Challenges

For the Web414 March 2009 Meeting we’ll be discussing Creativity Challenges on the web.

Have you taken part in National Novel Writing Month, or the RPM Challenge (record an entire album in a month) or maybe taken a photo every single day for a year for the 365 Days Project?

These are challenges (not contests) and there isn’t a winner or a loser (unless you beat yourself up about not finishing) but if all goes well, attempting to “meet the challenge” will force you to be creative when it’s so easy not to be. It’s too simple to come home from work, plop down on the couch and consume the latest piece of “entertainment” that someone else created, but if you like writing, making music, or photography, why not step it up and see what you can really do by giving yourself a challenge to be met?

It can be difficult… most of the people I know involved in these challenges have day jobs, friends and family, and other responsibilities. And often, things just “get in the way” or go haywire and you just can’t do it. Equipment breaks, computers crash, files get lost. I saw a post in the RPM Challenge forums from a guy who said he couldn’t finish due to the fact that he had to get divorced. Life can get in the way of things, and that’s all part of the challenge.

If everything goes right, you complete the challenge, you’re proud of what you’ve created, and hopefully you’ve learned something in the process, had some fun, and make plans to continue creating things and being creative.

If discussing this further sounds interesting, please stop by Bucketworks Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 7pm and join in


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….