The Challenges of Writing Sleep Music

Sleep deprivation is a problem in contemporary society. The demands of today often call for long work hours that would stretch the strength and patience of anybody. What’s worse is that instead of being able to rest, some people couldn’t even sleep at all. This is where a variety of interventions come into play. You have the allopathic medical solution (drugs) and alternatives that include sleep music. As a musician, nothing can be more fulfilling than one person finding your music to be helpful. However, the ironic twist to that is making sleep music can be very challenging and tiring.

In my experience, composing sleep music gives me that dose of irony. I write music with the intent of inducing deep sleep yet sometimes I myself get sleep deprived working on it. This has to do with the fact that an 8-minute sleep music track can take around 16 hours to write, perform and record, mix and master. If you are a musician like me who does all of the music production processes, you know what I mean.

Melody is an important aspect of my music, and that’s why I try my best to introduce it in sleep music. However, composing a melody for sleep music is one heck of a challenge. It should be interesting enough to be appreciated yet it should be serene and calming to induce sleep. Put in the fact that prior to recording, I have to practice playing some of the instruments live myself. It can take up to an entire day to do just this.

When I get the chance to record the music, it’s all a mix of playing pre-composed written ideas and improvisation. Another challenge at this stage is to make an arrangement (or in many cases, improvise an arrangement) that would be serene and calming yet remain to be musically interesting.

As much as I love shredding on a guitar or playing runs like Chopin on the piano, you can’t do that in sleep music. At one point, I even tried to pull something out of Debussy’s book, a fast run that sounds smooth. My artist manager didn’t think that would fit in a sleep music context. What I learned here is another challenge to writing sleep music: restraint and control. While it may seem to be natural for players to insert fast runs into a seemingly slow piece of music, it takes a good amount of impulse control to prevent showing off while writing sleep music.

The last challenging thing I can think of at the top of my head when it comes to sleep music is mixing and mastering. These production processes also consume a lot of time. Imagine yourself having to listen to your track for 10 times or more, one segment at a time, in order to mix it. This is the equivalent of reading an embarrassing section of your diary over and over again. Mastering your own tracks is like that too except that you would be listening to two or more complete tracks over and over again to see if all of them fit well in an album. The repeating drone of a binaural beat, which is designed to make your brain shut down for sleep, doesn’t help much either in keeping your concentration up.

Writing sleep music shouldn’t be taken for granted. Just like playing prog, jazz fusion or modern classical music, sleep music has it’s own heavy set of challenges as well. It is good to know that one would easily reap the rewards of doing so.

Anyway, if you’re off to go to bed, check this latest easy sleep music track of mine from a7records:


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