Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Outliers,” says that to be a master at something you need 10,000 hours of practice. I have found this to be true on my own journey. Between 2015 and 2018, I have created 1,000 songs and counting.
I started making music the summer after my senior year in high school. I would make roughly three to four songs each day, working 8-10 hours at a time. Granted, a lot of the songs I made weren’t the best, but during this time I started piecing together certain sounds that I liked.
At the start of my freshman year in college, my production began to slow down due to school and sports. These demanded more attention if I ever wanted a passing grade. Still, I found time to create my music.
It was at this time that I began to incorporate my guitar. In the past, I heavily used synthesizers and samples that I chopped from random songs I found. I began to bring a new sound that not only changed how my music sounded but how it was made.
The summer after freshman year I started to work on my first true project. It was based around the basic journey of losing one’s self and coming back. The whole project was inspired by working at Camp Friedenswald. The project would go on to have seven songs that were all based on my life experiences.
My song “Waterfront” is the turn around point. The verse paints how I view hip-hop and materialism as well as painting reality. In it I say, “Not too many people wanna walk they talk about embodying deep desires, they need to cease fire, the way that they venture out only brings satire, the way they venture out only brings back back fire.”
By the end of that summer I had made over 500 songs. Only 17 made it onto my SoundCloud. I only chose songs that I felt represented me well. I loved the other songs but they never made me feel the same way those 17 songs made me feel. I looked for songs that made me feel something. This would go on to be a valuable lesson.
Coming into sophomore year, I signed up for an independent study to work on another project. The title was “J.O.Y,” short for “Just Over Yonder.” Here I sampled more and focused on adding more visuals. It was interesting but nonetheless, I felt it lacked feeling and meaning. I created 40 tracks that semester. Only 5 ended up being on the project.
I kept creating more and more songs. With each new one, I began to develop a sound that was very much my own. You couldn’t deny it when you heard the instruments or the vocals.
Then I had my external hard drive stolen. With it, my first 500 songs. I was devastated. I shook it off knowing that even though I lost a lot of my songs, I now had a chance to just restart.
My junior year of college I left to study abroad. I experimented more with photos and videos. I was also working on creating a new sound that was outside of my guitar. I was hoping to come out with a brand new sound and project to work on once I got back.
I worked on a few final touches and new tracks to make it feel complete. The project took longer than expected, and by the time that I felt it was getting better, my computer screen broke.
I sent my laptop to Apple to get fixed and the tech guy told me that they had to send it to Texas for a further analysis. He told that he expected it to be a quick fix and if anything drastic action is needed that they notify tell me. I agreed to the terms and walked away.
My laptop came in finally and I was eager to finish my projects. When I opened my laptop, I was greeted by a freshly wiped computer. All of what I was working on—my songs, videos, photos—was gone. I assured myself that starting all over wasn’t the end of the world.
I saw this as an opportunity for having a blank sheet on making music.
With this being my last year at Goshen College, I am aware that this is just the surface level of it all. There is more that goes into what I want to do with music. There is marketing, quality sounds and networking.
These all go hand in hand and I am seeing that everything I do has to be balanced. I am being more critical on what I release. This was something that definitely took time and patience.
I am now in the midst of working with a close friend of mine. We keep each other accountable, and found that we work well together. We identify our strengths and weaknesses and play to those. We know that what we want to accomplish and establish isn’t easy, but that isn’t pushing us away.
My end goal is being able to look into the eyes of my children one day and tell them that they can chase their dreams because I did.