One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in writing and recording music is that you don’t just write a song, you capture a moment.
It holds true for music, conversation and even the written word. It’s not often thought about while you are doing it but when you step away you will find that it is absolutely true.
Case in point: I recorded a song which I was writing on the spot. I put together the rhythm, laid down a backing track with some drum loops, added some layers and a short couple of hours later…voila!
In that moment, I could play back the song repeatedly and never miss the mark. While I could come back in a day or two and revisit additional parts and layers, it really is just putting icing on the readily prepared cake.
Why I bring this up is that two weeks later my hard drive decided that it had enough with digital life and it spun its final spindle. I was able to recover all of my system thanks to the magic of Time Machine (thank you Apple!), however the last backup was 3 weeks old.
So it doesn’t require breaking out a calendar or a calculator to know that I was in trouble. I’d totally neglected my backups and I had started and finished an entire project which now was only a memory.
Luckily of course I knew how to play my song. I did write it after all so how hard can it be to just re-record? The answer is that it is surprisingly difficult. It isn’t difficult to put down the base and track some layers and overdubs and harmony lines but what I had now was something interesting.
The song I now had on my computer was like a fraternal twin of the previous song. It was effectively the same song, but it had a number of different sounds inside it.
Because I had now recorded the same song in a different moment, it was essentially a different song. It’s not that the first song was better or worse, but it was just that this one was both the same and different.
My lessons that I learned from this experience were key lessons I’ve carried into almost everything I do:
- Always back up your systems
- No seriously, always back up your systems
- Always check your backups!
- When the idea strikes, commit to it
Even if you are only able to lay out the framework, it is absolutely key that you capture the moment. You can add embellishment and detail later but the core of your idea should be captured.
This holds true for music, writing, blogging or even something as simple as a conversation. The moment is more important than you may think.