Every February, a group of folks who can be described as ambitious, crazy, or some combination of the two undertake a challenge that few of us have ever considered. The challenge itself, at least in description, is simple. In twenty-eight days, or twenty-nine in this case, an album must be written and recorded in its entirety. Pre-existing material is not considered eligible, nor are covers. Yet despite this seemingly insurmountable workload, this challenge grows in participation by the year.
The challenge in question is known as the RPM Challenge. Created by the New Hampshire alternative newspaper The Wire in 2006, the RPM Challenge has proven year after year to be an irresistible hurdle for an ever-growing number of songwriters. After giving them some time to rest, we spoke with some SONAR users who participated in the 2016 edition of the challenge to get their take on the experience.
Matt O’Grady participated with his project, The Wasted Miracles. Citing an immense amount of support from the RPM community via their forums and blogs, Matt has actually participated in multiple RPM Challenges. He finds the process to be exhausting (fair enough) but also incredibly rewarding. “Even the years in which I haven’t completed the challenge, I’ve walked away with one or two more songs than I normally would have,” he added.
Gary Fox also took part, and as someone who thrives under pressure he particularly enjoyed the tail end of the process. “I enjoy the marathon recording sessions of the very end. This tends be when the random moments of inspiration happen, where an idea for a part of song just kind of occurs that make the entire song,” he said, adding that after conferring with fellow RPM participants that this is a common experience.
Both participants above used SONAR to create their expedited masterpieces, and we asked them how SONAR helped them in the rushed process. “The included features—the bundled plug-ins, the soft synths, the ProChannel modules—all played a big part in the way my album sounds,” Matt explained. He acknowledged that he used third party plug-ins as well before adding “But I really didn’t have to; all of those things actually come with SONAR.”
Gary also had some specific reasoning for his choice of DAW. “SONAR is intuitive and the way it automatically sets up separate folders, the mix recall features, the simplicity of adding tracks, creating separate folders, the Pro-Channel strip; it all helps me keep a fairly demanding and chaotic process organized. In short, I can start out with a creative mindset, then organize things when I am ready to do that. It appeals to both sides of my brain.”
On the technical end of things, Matt elaborated on his use of DSP effects. “I almost exclusively use BREVERB and SONAR’s console EQ and compressor. One thing I like to do is set up a stereo bus and add a BREVERB instance to it and route the Session Drummer drums, acoustic instruments and vocals to that. It gives a ‘recorded in the same room at the same time’ feel to those tracks.”
In addition to Matt and Gary, Cakewalk employees Jon Sasor, Seth Kellogg, and Christopher Brown all collaborated for the challenge with a one-off project called “Ease Into the Noise” with some friends. As the group worked between multiple recording setups, Jon appreciated the efficiency of SONAR. “SONAR’s comping feature made it easy to just hit record a bunch of times and keep the takes I wanted,” He said. “It really helped keep focus on what you’re recording. That way you can work efficiently under a deadline.”
After a month of noses to the creative grindstone, what is the end result? All of the aforementioned participants were kind enough to allow us to share some of their results. To be honest? We’re impressed, even if all of these recordings were made with the help of SONAR.