The Weekly Takeaway is a short weekly digest sent to subscribers every Sunday about the biggest learning of my week. It's as much an internal log as it is public facing. Though, often I feel the process is something everyone can learn from — no matter the endeavor — so sharing here on the interwebs, as well.
Photo Credit: Woody Kelly, Upslash The Weekly Takeaway: Room for the unstructured and time for the weird can often be useful, if not essential
“Play is the highest form of research.”
— Albert Einstein
I've been surprised in my songwriting and production endeavors, it's often the "happy accidents" that become core pieces of the song. For example, I dropped a guitar pic when recording a chord progression, which instead of being another ruined take, actually created a percussion sound I couldn't get enough of. I ended up using it as a driving rhythm piece, and it gave the song a uniqueness I never would have found following traditional methods. In another context, I mixed up a vocal track with a piano track and added production tweaks to the piano track that were typically meant for vocals. It ended up creating a super unique piano sound I ultimately built the song around.
This is also evident in many of your favorite modern inventions. Constantine Fahlberg, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, forgot to wash his hands after experiments in the lab, and as a result noticed his bread tasted very sweet. Realizing his "happy accident," he requested a patent and mass-produced his product which is now known as Saccharin (an artificial sweetener). Spencer Silver, a researcher in 3M Laboratories, in an attempt to make a super strong adhesive, accidentally made one that was far too weak. In fact, it could be stuck to objects and then pulled off easily without leaving a mark. Eventually they realized how useful this could be on small bits of paper, which they called Post-it Notes.
Of course, this doesn't always work. In fact, most of the time it doesn't. That's why we spend countless hours looking up the "proper" way of how to do something. But when it does, it's often something far more unique and different than just following the standard way; and having something no one else does often counts for a lot more at the end of the day.
So I figure, why not make time for it? I plan to set aside one day in the studio which is not dedicated to any goal, task, song or need. Can I used production tools in ways they're not traditionally supposed to be used? Can I mess around with music theory in ways that make no sense? Can I make the weirdest sounds possible on my mic? And just maybe, in the act of making something "wrong," I can find where it might make something else "right." I would think we could use this concept in many of our endeavors, whether it be at work, on a hobby, in the kitchen or just on some routine of day-to-day life. Maybe taking the wrong way home might reveal a new favorite restaurant you never noticed before. Maybe using a strange combination of spices will reveal a new favorite blend you can use for future meals. Maybe setting aside an hour to write the weirdest work-related memo you can will reveal a new way of doing things you hadn't thought about before.
My last thought on this, is that of course you can't spend all your time finding happy accidents, as you'll never reach any of your goals that way. Structure and direction is largely a good thing (freeing, in some ways, as it gives you the tools to get where you want to go). But, if you can make even just a little time to get a little weird, to mess around with the controls in new ways, to keep an eye out for something that might work in a new context, you might just get that much further.
More Inspiration On This Subject:
Lyric Of The Week That Stuck In My Head:
" I wanna sing a song, that'd be just ours
But I sang 'em all to another heart
And I wanna cry, I wanna fall in love
But all my tears have been used up"
Song - Another Love by Tom Odell