The AABA Challenge: Let’s Make Bad Music!

I’m a firm believer that in order to make any good music, you have to make a lot of bad music. And in order to make a lot of music—good or bad—you have to be willing to call a track done and move onto the next one.

In that spirit, I’ve been challenging myself to crank out 2 or 3 finished tracks a week. I’m not trying to make bad music; I just know it’s not what I want it to be yet, so I am focusing on finishing and learning, and to make it easier I’m sticking to a fairly generic song template:

  1. Intro (2–4 bars)
  2. A1 Section (8 bars)
  3. Chorus 1 (4 bars)
  4. A2 Section
  5. Chorus 2
  6. Bridge (8 bars)
  7. A3 section
  8. Chorus 3
  9. Outro (2–4 bars)

I’m putting my tracks on SoundCloud because uploading a song is a way of declaring this is done so I can move on. I think the first one is decent but forgettable while the fifth one sounds like a demented Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas carol, and the rest are pretty bad. But I’m learning from each one.

Join me!

  1. Set a goal for yourself (mine is 2–3 finished tracks per week). Using a template like mine might help.
  2. Upload your tracks somewhere and post your playlist here.

Kind, constructive criticism is also welcome. We’re posting here because we know our music isn’t great and we want to get better.

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I liked the 2nd one a lot! The 3rd gave me Ratatat vibes, which was nice!

Oh wow, 5 is very sweet, best samples so far. Keep it up! :clap: Thanks for the inspiration.

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Awesome initiative, I might join in :slight_smile:

I don’t like you calling it bad music though, I get it that it can be very liberating for your purpose here, but why don’t you find another term? ‘Simple’, maybe?

I listened to it all and I really liked it. Good beats, nice synths and guitars, good feelings.

I don’t think the first one is my favourite, maybe the second one is? You should get a mate to put some lyrics in it!
I really like the 3rd and 4th as well.

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Maybe careless music? As in I’m trying not to care if it’s good or bad.

I’m working on finding a rapper who also needs to get some careless music out of the way. That would be awesome.

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2 little kids to look after makes it difficult to either set or achieve goals, but I’ve had a lucky week and have managed about an hour a night for the last few nights.
I don’t have too many problems with finishing tracks. I pretty much spend 45 mins to an hour setting things up and getting the mix right, then bang it out live in one take. That’s it, finished, move on. I have neither the time or the headspace right now to spend a lot of time on my tracks, so I just get it done quick. Some weeks I’m lucky and can get a few done, but then I might not make anything for a few weeks in-between, depends on a mixture of family and tiredness/inspiration.

Anyway, here’s the 4 tracks I’ve made this week, complete with some pretty awful homemade visuals.

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Asimov: fucking banger.
MModal: reminds me of being a teenager again. Very 4AD.
Collisions. Krautrock fucker! Nice. Right up my street. Needs to be a whole album of this, on vinyl.

Basically, I dont think your tracks qualify as bad music. You’ve moved way beyond that now.

It doesnt matter how or when you make art, it doesnt matter what methods or equipment you use. All that matters for the listener, is the end result.

There’s a definite sound and identity you have developed while I’ve been following your stuff. Keep them coming mate.

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I feel you. I’m a night owl, so most of my music making happens after I get the kids in bed, or else on the weekends when they are on their screens.

Thanks for playing along!

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Thought you were ragging on ABBA for a moment there and saw nothing but red.

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Thanks for the compliment.
I’m inclined to agree.

I guess I’m on the same path that the OP is talking about, just a bit further down it.
I’ve been banging out tracks at speed for over a year now and I can definitely say that it’s made me a much better musician.
It’s also massively changed both what gear I’m using and how I use it, as I’ve changed my mindset to prioritise performance.

The thing is, I never really got on with the whole DAW, tinkering with arrangements, mixing things after the event etc. I’ve simply found a technique that works for me. Believe me, though, I’ve churned out a few stinkers over the last couple of years, but like uncle knobhead used to say, better out than in…

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nothing wrong with a bit of ABBA! i had a revelation last year listening to their visitors album before taking it to the charity shop, thinking i’d hate it. it’s still on my shelf…

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Cant quite remember the circumstances of when I finally saw the light - but it was around 5-10 years ago and I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing for so long!

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best thread ever.
considering joining (but i’m a bit too busy with my regular job these days)

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I need to follow this approach. When you set up like this, typically how many bits of gear do you hook up together?

good stuff, yo. i enjoyed your tunes. this is pretty much my approach all the time. my musical background began as a baby, listening to my dad’s records and 8 tracks. at 12, i started and stopped piano lessons, which i still regret. but music has been a big part of my life forever. it’s been very gratifying learning how to make music again this past year. in spare moments, i’ve been getting back to piano lessons and learning to read music. it’s challenging at any age.

i see stuff like this as points in time, ideas that might work, but maybe not. if anyone enjoys them, it’s a bonus. thanks for suggesting this framework. having a prompt has been helpful for me to churn out some tunes in those rare times when obligations aren’t upon me. music doesn’t have to be perfect or precious.

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For techno bangers, never more than 3 sound generators, which for me at the minute is Model:Cycles through Heat for drums, Erica Bassline for bass and Lyra 8 for textures. I’ve started using my Octatrack as a mixer/effects unit, if I use samples with it, I’d probably drop the Lyra, keep it simple. I’m trying to keep my techno setup as small and portable as possible as I’d like to start playing live once circumstances allow it.

For the more ambient/krautrocky stuff it’s the same setup as for techno, but with Digitone and Cobalt8M (burning the Quadraverb on an Aux send) and maybe a couple of samples on the Octatrack, which I’m still also using as a mixer for M:C, Erica Bassline and Lyra.

The advantage is that I can pretty seamlessly change my style without having to change my setup and I’ve got my little Zoom H4n to record straight off the mixer.

The aim of the game is that I can just sit down, switch on and start banging out the tunes without pissing about.

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3-4 tracks a week?!? I kinda have the same approach to finish a song a month :slight_smile: And did that last year with 12+1 tracks… Nothing special but it was really fun. Just to get to the the point of “done, next” and don’t look back, don’t keep track of samples or synth patches. Different parts of the song created on hardware and then arranged in Ableton.

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OP, I really dig a couple of your tracks, number 2 especially. It’s like 2 or 3 vocal samples short of a prefuse 73 track.

You have pretty high standards if you think they’re bad.

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Aw, shucks!

I see a lot of room for improvement, at least. I have this nebulous sort of idea of the music I want to make, and I can’t seem to get it to come out the other end when I sit down to create a track. I feel like the music makes itself, and while sometimes I’m happy with the result it’s pretty rare that it comes out like I hoped it would.

I’ve probably just come out of this phase and into a phase of tracks actually sounding sort of how I heard them in my imagination.
Your approach here is probably the best way of getting to where you want to go. It’s the best way to get to know your gear, streamline your workflow and practice the shit out of it without putting too much pressure on yourself to achieve anything other than more content created and lessons learned. Eventually, things will come together the way you want them to.

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Cool idea :slight_smile: