Sup y’all? =) Brandon here taking a month off from interviewing folk to provide an interim article regarding ‘Chiptunes = WIN: Volume 6‘! For any of y’all living under a rock, this year’s annual Volume competition opened up a couple months back and has a submission deadline of July 2nd this year. To possibly assist, I’ve once again collected thoughts from the year’s judging panel to share with y’all in hopes that maybe they’ll come in handy. And hey, this year I actually did it far enough ahead of time to potentially be useful. Not bad, huh? ;)
For those curious, read on below the hella nifty judges’ profile pic collage!
Stemage: Too much of a good thing is a bad, bad thing. The three-minute song structure dates back to the days of the 45. Songs could be no longer than three minutes if you wanted something on the radio. Similarly, if your song was too short, you couldn’t force that thought across. Along comes repetition, hooks, refrains, verses, and bridges. Even though no one is telling us to repeat our ideas a certain number of times, it’s a part of our song-writing DNA. We write a riff, and we repeat it. We make a beat, and we loop it. It doesn’t matter how amazing that riff or beat is – if you stick with it for too long, our brains get used to it and start looking for other ways to latch onto the song. Keep that in mind when putting together your track. Don’t feel forced to repeat something to fill out those three minutes. But also don’t get too comfortable with allowing an idea to hang out too long. Let your songs evolve, and take us on a journey. Tell us a story – not just an idea.
Shirobon: Don’t be afraid to sound different! Instead of jumping onto trends and such sit back and try a new angle. The best songs come from happy accidents and experimentation! Remember, rules were made to be broken. ;)
FLOOR BABA: Take a chance and stick the landing. That’s what I’m asking for, and I’ll know it when I hear it.
Ap0c: I guess this is more advice to newer chiptunes peeps who want to make this compilation and/or start doing the chiptune thing in general… but here goes:
When I was younger, I used to attend tons of basketball camps and stuff. At one of them, Coach Bobby Knight (yes, that guy – the angry chair throwing guy) spoke at length about what it means to be ‘talented’ and ‘the best’. Basically, he said that right now, somewhere out there, the next Michael Jordan is practicing. He’s there in front of the net, shooting, honing his skills, and working hard… and everyone here is sitting on the floor listening to this speech. He said that in order to be better than the best, you have to work harder than the best. If Jordan is waking up at 6 AM to shoot 5,000 shots before the day starts, you need to wake up at 5:30 AM and shoot 5,500 shoots if you want to be better than him.
So, is someone ‘more talented’ than you or did they just ‘work harder’? Are you putting in the work or just sulking about ‘not being good enough’ and sitting on the floor listening to coach? If you don’t make the volume, is it because the process/scene is ‘rigged’ and ‘unfair’ or is it because you didn’t put in the same amount of effort as others? If you really put in the effort, you should be able to say to yourself ‘I tried my best’ – and if you can’t say that, then you know there’s more work to do. Think about that when submitting your entry but also in your approach to your music. Define what you consider to be quality and do not release anything that doesn’t meet that standard. Then constantly raise your standards. The more time spent writing music, the better you’ll get – trust me on that.
Lastly, don’t let yourself be intimidated by the ‘established artists’ who submit to these things – you’re just an ‘established artist’ in the making – but it’s going to take a lot of work. My first track ever released (period) was on Volume II and it changed so much for me. This entry COULD be your big chance… so go out there and grab it. The opportunity is right there – just gotta get off the floor and take those extra shots.
Sam Mulligan: Make music that you like. Don’t worry if anybody else will like it or not. Make the music you want to hear. Work on it until you are genuinely excited about it because you can’t lose if you love what you have created. As soon as I start making music for someone else, it sucks. Don’t suck!
Cheapshot: I have to admit, unlike some of the other judges, I’m not a musician. But I know what I like. I’ll be on the look out for those banging EDM, and more specifically techno tunes. Once my head starts bobbing you know you’ve got me right where you want me :D Good luck everyone!
President Hoodie: If you’re new to this competition (and maybe even if you’re not!), listen to our previous Volume compilations before beginning work on your submission. Not to influence what style, genre, and/or chip medium to utilize (do what you love), but simply so that you can observe what level of track we’re looking for on this compilation. Essentially, you need to give 101%. If you don’t you won’t stand a chance.
Granted, there’s nothing wrong with not making it, especially if you give it your all. The competition is furiously tough and there’s only so many slots. There’s zero chance of making the cut if you don’t give it a shot, however. And either way, feel free to submit a CC (constructive criticism) request once the form for such opens so that you can learn from the process. Make the most of it!
DO NOT be afraid to experiment with new chord combinations, keys, modes, time signatures, production techniques, lead writing development with good harmony work, varied instrumentation, etc; the last thing any of us want to hear is another uninspired, 4 chord, 4-to-the-floor track that lasts 83 minutes and bores us all to literal sleep. Not to knock conventional songwriting structures (you can do such and make it work, although you still will benefit from being creative!) or greater than average song length (if you’re gonna make it long, keep it interesting!), but dull versions of either of those will receive no mercy from any of us.
Of especially important note to artists recording live instruments and vocals, don’t halfass the tracking & mixing. I’m a huge fan of properly implemented additional instrumentation in chipmusic, but am especially harsh when the sources are poorly recorded and mixed in badly. Badly recorded, out of tune vocals in particular will inspire flaming waves of hate from me (just don’t). Frankly, “It’s chiptune/DIY,” is not an acceptable excuse for lazy production in any form or fashion. Spend the time on your tracking and mixing, do it well (maybe even ask a capable friend for help if it’s not your strong point!), or consider forgoing such entirely.
All this tough advice aside, have as much fun writing for this competition as you possibly can. When it comes down to it, enjoyment is still the most important aspect.
Once again, good luck to all competitors! Can’t wait to hear the final results!
Brandon L Hood aka “President Hoodie”
Founder & Project Manager of Chiptunes = WIN