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Andrew Huang’s Top 5 Song Challenges

Toronto wunderkind Andrew Huang has about a thousand tricks up his sleeve. Every time you think he couldn’t possibly one-up himself, he pulls out yet another rabbit wearing a top hat.

Most of us first found out about his spectacular ability to turn mundane household sounds into captivating beats and complicated tracks with his video covering “99 Red Balloons” using nothing but sounds made from an actual red balloon. Cute, I know, but he also challenges himself to create original songs using a number of constricting limitations.

+ Find more examples of songwriting constraints in our course, The New Songwriter’s Workshop.

We also reached out to Andrew to ask him to come up with a special Soundfly Song Challenge to YOU. Check it out below and share your work in the comments below… if you dare!

5) Apple Music

Unlike Andrew’s SONY-sponsored Song Challenge where he makes music only using sounds generated by tapping and banging hi-fidelity stereo equipment, this video is not sponsored by Apple, nor anyone for that matter. And that’s why I like it. He goes out on a limb, admitting “I sat down to eat breakfast and noticed this apple has a seed loose in it, it makes a little noise… Let’s see what other sounds we can get from it!”

His explorations into the sounds of an apple (biting, poking, waving, banging, and squeaking it) are intriguing, and then he freestyle raps at the end about only then realizing that Apple Music was “a thing.” Its pretty good. Props.

4) Alphabetical 26-Genre Song

This is both Andrew’s most entertaining video and song at the same time. He works with a partner on this one, Dave, and together they nail every single musical genre they choose to explore organized by the letters of the alphabet. The video changes production style each time to reflect some idealized tropes within the genres and I absolutely love it. Some highlights: E for Emo, I for IDM, and the Reggae into Ska transition is priceless!

3) BANANA

I doubt there was an actual challenge here, but you know what, if the challenge was to keep my attention unfettered for the full 3 minutes that this mesmerizing video lasts, well, consider it a winner. I’m not sure what it is that makes this song so delicious, exotic and high in potassium, but whatever it is, I’ll have some of what he’s having!

2) Radio Pop Song in 5/4 Time

I love this challenge because of how difficult every aspect of it is, and how well he nails it. Anyone, including seasoned songwriters, would have a hard time writing an entire song in 5/4, but then to make it sound radio friendly (ie. masking the confusing beat structure and complex rhythmic drive and singing memorable hooks over it) is an even harder feat. He does manage to accomplish this challenge with flying colors, but… part of how he achieves radio-friendly status is to dumb down the lyrics a bit. They’re pretty, well, cheesy. And that’s okay, but it’s also why this Song Challenge sits at #2 behind the magnum opus #1 below — a track in which lyrical complexity and, responding triumphantly to the immense task at hand, trumps all else…

1) Rapping Without the Letter “E”

This, in my humble opinion, was the challenge that broke the bank vault and ran away with the loot. Coincidentally, the challenge itself was very one-dimensional; focus only on the lyrics, remove any words that contain a single letter. But this goes to prove my theory that as musicians, composers and songwriters, the more we challenge ourselves to write within constraints, the more freely we can let pure creativity flow through us. Andrew’s Song Challenges are a constant reminder to me of this, and as entertaining as they are, they are also proof of the validity of this exercise in craft.

Oh yeah, and he doesn’t even break the rules to mention the letter “E”, yet he continually references the challenge throughout the song. Psschaoooww!!

Andrew Huang’s Soundfly Song Challenge

We asked Andrew to come up with a challenge just for YOU. Here it is, direct from the apple-eater’s mouth:

“My challenge to you is to create a song using sounds from pots and pans. There are endless tonal possibilities living in your kitchen. Explore, experiment, conquer! ~Good luck, Andrew”

Need some help getting started? Check out Andrew’s free Soundfly course, Making Music from Everyday Items!

 

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Jeremy Young

Jeremy is a music business guru and loves giving advice to young, emerging bands on how to make their tours more effective. He also plays guitar, publishes audiobooks, runs a record label, and is an artist working in sound media. He has performed and released material throughout Europe, Asia, the US, UK and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.

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