The 2 hour compositional challenge

So every now and then I set myself little challenges to push myself. Generally, I usually set myself a 2 hour challenge and In that time I need to finish a piece from start to finish. Usually I’ve done this with slammer ensemble pieces but I’ve been getting to a stage where I wasn’t finding this was stretching me. So last night I challenged myself to see if I could get a hybrid orchestral trailer piece finished. I got 3 sections in but didn’t finish the sting. Blimey it was such a rollercoaster but I actually got all of the orchestral and percussion elements done in that time which is something of a miracle! So tonight I’m going to set myself the challenge of finishing the hybrid section which I hope will be on the same time restriction. 4 hours for a hybrid trailer track is mega quick, so generally I would say this isn’t something to do to get paid for but it’s definitely something that will stretch and challenge you. This is only my second time that I’ve done this but the difference in the amount I’ve got done is actually shocking. This time around I was 20 minutes faster and got a lot more done.

I was also wondering if anyone else does anything similar, or has good excercises like this they’d like to share?!


2HTC (2-Hour Track Challenge) seems to be a thing, and there are at least a bunch of Twitch streamers doing it in various genres.

Haven’t done that myself (and I’m not a streamer either), but I’ve been participating in a collective variant on the theme: 2HAC. It happens approximately quarterly, and keeps growing. Volume 9 had 45 entries.

Not sure if anyone’s doing symphonic or hybrid orchestral, though it’s certainly crossed my mind… I did ~1950’s style light music last time around, so maybe I’ll aim another century or two further back next time. :slight_smile:


Why then, do I keep spending 2 hours just on one 16 bar phrase, in one single instrument group! :stuck_out_tongue:

Damn perfectionism lol


yeah i seen they started this a little while back but i think ive been doing it for around 3 years now. i think they’re not doing it with hybrid orchestral because its near on impossible to do in 2 hours :sweat_smile:

lol, @Mikael i hear you. whenever i do anything that is remotely intricate i lose 2 hours with one blink of an eye! this is a really good exercise though if taken seriously. highly recommend doing it as you find out what you are actually struggling with which helps you focus on what you actually need to learn. i often make notes after a session like this. this time around iv’e realised that my key commands need to be memorised a little more so i can integrate them more efficiently.


[Sleep deprived rant ahead.]

Well, I do that too a lot. And then there’s synth programming… :smiley:

Though we all have natural tendencies in different directions, I think we could all benefit from practicing both extremes; working fast, and polishing things to perfection.

In this age of deadline hysteria, it’s tempting to dismiss all of it, forgetting that working fast is not the same thing as finishing quickly. Although there are jobs and situations where you need to do both (we all have bills to pay, etc), time limited challenges IMHO, are mostly about learning to work in an efficient and structured manner. Avoid wasting time overthinking, doing things in the wrong order etc… The goal is to get more time to try different ideas, to polish details, and to have a better chance of realizing your visions before too much of them fade from memory.

At the other end of the spectrum, honing things to perfection is not just time consuming work. It’s also necessary training, to push our limits, and get closer to actual perfection. It’s not as much about doing something within a particular amount of time, as it is about being able to get there at all, before giving up, or getting stuck, walking in circles.

To bring up my favorite instrument of all time again, the cello; without the countless hours of practicing bow control, intonation, shifts, vibrato etc, it doesn’t help much that I can record a hundred takes in the studio. One does not accidentally nail an expressive phrase, even in hundreds of attempts. Now, if I can get close enough within a dozen takes, I can work with that, especially since editing is now a viable, if time consuming, option. Still, a professional cellist, who can consistently nail much more advanced stuff with minimal practice time, still has a HUGE advantage, even in the studio.

This applies to composition, arrangement, mixing and other inherently “non real time” work as well. It only helps so much that one can edit and experiment for an eternity in the DAW, because somewhere around the limit of one’s skill, one starts to walk in circles, achieving virtually nothing. We need to be skilled and fast enough that we can arrive at an acceptable result with reasonable effort.


Totally agree, these exercises I find just show you what you need to improve on. I always find with these types of excercises that you really need to put the effort in afterwards with your shortcomings, otherwise you are just completing the same excercise without improvements.


2HAC 12 this weekend.
Hone your speed composing skills!
Support foster cats!

Thanks for the tip!
Would be cool but seems like it’s in the middle of the night here in Sweden

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Well, yes - but that’s just the theme reveal! It’s not a strict competition style challenge, so you can just do your approximately two hours any time during the weekend - or do multiple entries, for that matter.

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Ok, I see
It will be next time for me. We’re quite busy this weekend.
Do you where to find when next time is?
Maybe you just can let us know through this forum.
seems like a nice challenge.
Are you going to take part?


Dates are not fixed in advanced, but I think the idea is to run this every third month or so.
I’ll most likely be participating as usual. (Been doing it since Volume 5.)

I’ll keep you posted!

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Ok, thanks David!