Early this year Samuel Goodwin (who I first met when he gave us some help with our iOS app, back in the long-ago days when I was getting started with Objective C) posted a challenge: to record and publish a minute of musical performance, once a day for thirty days. A month ago we started, and Samuel has been posting daily roundups: today is the last day of that challenge, and I have an unbroken thirty-day streak. (In fact I have 32 videos including one blooper, which puzzles me. I guess I lost count somewhere and doubled up.)

I’ve got recordings of mandolin, mandocello, one of lavta, all three bouzouki-family instruments (tiny baglama, middle-sized tzouras, and the bouzouki itself), and one last-minute late-night recording in which I “sing” a west-African drum rhythm. My favourite is yesterday’s blooper, in which I realised I’d forgotten the first word to a Greek song only after starting to sing the word in question.

Some other folk have used the challenge to work up a single piece (e.g. Samuel has been working on Hysteria on bass and Ben Scheirman is learning a Stevie Ray Vaughn solo). In typically disorganised fashion, on the second-to-last day of the challenge I found a piece I want to give that kind of attention to (a Greek rebetika number); the rest of the month has mostly been material I’m already pretty comfortable with.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been challenging! The first thing this process has helped me with is overcoming my perfectionism: when I’m taking ten minutes out of my lunch break on a work day, I simply can’t afford to keep making new takes until I’m satisfied. (The one-minute limitation imposed by Instagram is quite helpful in this respect also.) The second big hurdle for me was starting from instrumental music (which I’ve been performing in public since I guess my early teens) and adding my voice: in the end (besides the dundun rhythm) I pulled together the courage to sing on a few tracks, from bluegrass and gospel to rebetika. Having other people working on the same challenge was key for me in overcoming this particular insecurity, so thanks all y’all other folk for stepping up!

Besides the “do you dare to put your voice on the internet?” and the “can you arrange recording time every day for a month?” aspects, I feel distinct technical improvement over the course of the month (especially on the bouzouki-family instruments over the last couple of weeks). I guess the half-hour per day that I ended up putting in is really significantly more string time than I’ve been taking until now. Without the daily recording of course this will ease back somewhat, but I intend to try to keep some of the momentum, with a regular string session after I finish work on weekdays (and maybe the occasional video, who knows?).

Having seen the power of doing something (even if something small) every day for a month, I intend to try to apply the same technique in a completely different arena. I’d love to be able to draw accurately the beautiful natural shapes I see around me (tree forms, leaves, insects, and so on) so I’m going to be posting a daily #JustDraw sketch (on instagram) for the next month to see what that does for me. For me #JustPlay was about taking technical skills I already have, and overcoming insecurities in showing them to the world. #JustDraw is the exact opposite: because I’m starting from no technical skill whatsoever I have no fear of failure, and I hope the daily repitition will help me achieve visible technical progress.

Thanks Samuel for kicking this whole thing off, and to all the other folk who participated (both the dedicated streak-fillers and the occasional drop-ins). It’s been great!