Warning: The article below is over five years old. It may be badly written, poorly considered, immature, obsolete, no longer my opinion, or simply flat-out wrong.

My FAWM 2013 experience

Earlier this year, a Hackspace member offered the mailing list a free MIDI controller. I'd been considering taking part in FAWM – February Album Writing Month – and this pushed me over the edge. I accepted the MIDI controller. I signed up for FAWM and announced my intentions. So how did I do?

Not well.

FAWM sets a simple goal: 14 songs, 28 days. People take part for all kinds of reasons and have different criteria for what constitutes a song. It's a challenge, not a competition: you're only accountable to yourself. Personally, I wanted to write chiptunes – 8-bit/retro computer game music. I've admired the genre for a long time, and I messed around with making some a couple of years ago. But I didn't manage more than a couple of 20-30 second snippets back then. It taught me how to use the software/hardware (I'm working on a separate article about that), but this would be the first "proper" music I've written since my GCSEs.

I wasn't expecting electronic music to be so time consuming. At full speed, with no blocks on inspiration, I could make one track a day. But that's an entire day of effort; 8-10 hours doing nothing else. More realistically, I could write 1 song every 2 days. I thought this would be enough, especially if I worked hard on weekends. But by February 10th I'd only managed 3 tracks and I knew I wasn't going to catch up. Between work, Valentine's day, & a friend's week-long visit from the USA I was never going to hit 14 songs. I intended to make a couple more songs with what was left of the month, but I wasn't enjoying it. So I gave up.

I've got a few half-written tracks left over, including one that's a "proper" chiptune (written with the Gameboy's hardware limitations in mind). One of my worries was that although I was using simple synths and tone generators, I wasn't making "real" chiptunes. The chiptune police would kick down my door, NES zappers drawn, shouting "Imposter!". Thus I tried sticking a bit closer to the original medium. I'd like to finish them off at some point, but I'm waiting for the desire to return.

So here they are: 3 songs that were meant to be chiptunes but probably count more as "chiptune inspired":

Would I do it again next year? Probably not. The FAWM community itself is amazing and I really appreciated the encouragement I received. But I don't think I can cram 14 chiptunes into one month without putting everything else on hold; even if I could, that doesn't seem like a fun activity. If I did take part again it would probably be something acoustic.