Getting “Nothing Done” Isn’t Always UnProductive

I just finished up a recording session on the piano, so with my instruments instead of recording vocals, and got seemingly absolutely nothing done.  I say seemingly, because a lot of us creatives think that if you’ve recorded nothing, written nothing, drawn nothing, in a session of creativity, you think you’ve done absolutely nothing and it was a waste of time.  It’s discouraging, and sometimes it makes you want to give up on whatever you’re working on and get frustrated.
I thought it was important to write this experience, and this post for other creatives, because in “getting nothing done” this recording session, I hashed out some arrangement plans. In fact, I figured out what I wanted to do for the track wasn’t working at all, and that the other idea I had for it was far better for the entirety of the track.  I originally wanted to start out with a capella vocals, then bring in some slight strings and have other vocal layers as a choral sort of thing for this.  Trying to record strings for it, it just wasn’t working, and I decided to just go fully a cappella with this track like the good old days of me arranging things XD but in hashing that out, I realized that maybe I’ll do all my Christmas covers as a cappella arrangements, because I’ve never done that before!  I’m confident in that choice, and now am re-energized, re-motivated, and already getting so many ideas bouncing around in my head and am thinking of other Christmas songs to do, perhaps make a series of a cappella Christmas for this year.

 

And I would have never come to that conclusion, if not for “botching” recording the strings for my original arrangement plans.

 

I have another arrangement I’m working on that just wasn’t coming together, and instead of trying to push it, I decided to move on to making my Christmas tracks, and push the release date of the album I was working on to January so it can truly make it the best I can before release.  Same with the Christmas tracks:  I want to polish them, and make them the best they possibly can for release, and wouldn’t have figured out how to do so without a few sessions of trying to figure out how I initially wanted to arrange this, which for me is brainstorming sessions – which, once again, I wouldn’t have realized that’s how I brainstorm if I didn’t just sit down and try things at my keyboard!
Like I said, I’m writing this because I think it’s an important lessons for us creatives to learn.  Sure, sometimes we’ll get discouraged with our music, with our blogs, with whatever we do, but it’s important to take something away from your creative sessions – even if it’s “This isn’t working, how can I fix it so it does”.  People are such crazy perfectionists nowadays, I’m also very guilty of perfectionism stopping me from taking steps forward every now and again, but it’s so so so so important to know  how to problem solve yurself out of slumps like that:  Maybe you need to add more chords to a section of music?  Maybe add an extra scene to the post or story you’re writing.  You’ll never realize that unless you initially try to do something and figure out the way you’re doing it isn’t working.
So don’t let bad creative sessions get you down, go out there and create!  Whether it’s good or bad, it’s something you can learn and grow from, and be a better artist for it!  I for one, can’t wait to get to re-arranging said track I was working on today, and mix my first a cappella tracks in Reaper:  It’s going to be loads of fun!

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Forest Harmony – New Original!

I’m going to make an active effort to start posting more frequently on here because the fact that I was so consistent  with posting for years and just sort of fell off the past few months has been bothering me.  I usually write up my posts in a word document then copy/paste them, but I literally have a few posts waiting in the wings I just haven’t posted so that system hasn’t been working for me lately it seems.  So instead, going to try just writing straight In WordPress, and hope that not having to take the extra step to post something will motivate me to post more frequently again!

 

I was planning to post something else more talky, but I spontaneously decided to just make a quick stock footage video for an original I made a few weeks ago.  I finally got to one of the melodies I liked a lot from that 21 Days of Video Game Music composing challenge in July, and finally sat down to work on another original!  Gotta say, it’s been nice to write something original again, even though I do love making covers.  Not gonna lie either:  I think this is probably the best original I’ve done!  This is also teh first thing I’ve fully mixed in Reaper, and you can be the judge of this, but I really do think something as small as mixing with better stock plug ins that Reaper has makes a huge difference in the quality of my tracks.  It’s also really nice to be able to monitor my effects going on in realtime without the program crashing on me all the time, because that was a chronic problem in audacity for me.

 

Going to go into more detail about my Reaper journey so far, and other music updates in another post, but until then, enjoy this original track!

 

Going to Try and Write a Lot of Music in November!

I did my first mix in Reaper, and it was really easy!  I had a few learning curve things to deal with along the way (automation and fading out the track were interesting to deal with) and I still have a long way to go before being 100 percent comfortable with using Reaper, but overall it was a harmless experience.  It helps that I’ve been reteaching myself mixing terms, and that I have always kept up with knowing how to mix things whether or not I could do them in audacity, but it’s just so interesting to not have to record my midi in Reaper, export it as a wav then do everything in laggy audacity.  I’m loving how customizable Reaper is, and how easy it is to organize tracks, add effects, and just the workflow I’m able to have in Reaper is making my mixes a lot funner to mess with.  I feel like I’ve been able to be a loooot more creative with my mixing, because I don’t have to be afraid of something messing up the tracks and not being able to fix it.
That being said, having this new workflow of both mixing and recording in Reaper has gotten me majorly motivated to make music again.  I didn’t realize how much my previous workflow was stifling my creativity, until I got to the point where I really didn’t want to record something because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of the process I outlined in the previous chapter.  Audacity isn’t very nice when you have about 20 or more tracks in it either, so it was majorly annoying having to apply reverb, and go do something else for like 20 minutes because audacity just took THAT LONG to render out effects.  With Reaper, just put the reverb plug on, and tweak parameters  in realtime with no lag!  It’s so nice~

 

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for audacity.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to mix for the past four years.  At the same time, I’m glad that I can take this step into more advanced music production because of some amazing devs who made NVDA scripts for Reaper to work well with a screen reader.

 

The first thing I mixed in Reaper was an all instrumental track, from an idea that I first came up with during that 21 days of VGM challenge I did back in July.  I’ll be posting it soon probably, but making it in Reaper, and Reaper alone was so easy!  I used the metronome for it, which as bad as it sounds I rarely do haha.  Just wanted to see the difference between using it and not using it, and I feel like I’ll be going bac and forth between using it and not, because there are times when I want to use a metronome and times when I do.
That tangent aside, I really want to work on making a decent amount of music in November!  I’m already working on another Final Fantasy track, because I really want to try and get an EP out before the year of all of my Final Fantasy tracks.  I’ll come out with it regardless, but I want to push myself to get it out soon, because I only have to add 2 more tracks to get it to EP length!  I went through all of my ideas from the 21 Day VGM Challenge and forgot there were a few I really wanted to flesh out and just never got to, so I want to get at least 2 of those done in November as well.  Then there’s Christmas songs I want to work on, as well, so I’m going to really push myself to work on music as much as I can next month, and not lose the motivation working in Reaper has given me.  Ugh, it’s just so nice to be able to do everything in one program, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on!

 

 

Wish me luck on this musical endeavor, I really hope I can pull it off!

Reaper is Accessible, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is such exciting news for me guys!!!!!
If you don’t know, Reaper is a DAW [digital audio work station] where you can do audio editing.  It’s known for being light weight, inexspensive, and overall a good program for people to use.  DAWs are notorious for not being accessible, I honestly don’t know why – audio editing seems like a no brainer to be accessible for the blind to me.  But anyway, I found out about this program years ago, because I heard it was accessible with some freeware scripts a developer made.  Now, it’s abandonware:  it’s usable, but no one updates it.  I belong to this Reaper for the blidn mailing list and everyone used to talk about how easy it is to use Rea access scripts, doing things and stuff.  But for some reason, using those scripts never meshed with me.  I’d try to do something someone said was easy to do, and it just never worked.  I could do basic things, like record midi and audio, but as far as actually using the program to mix?  Nope, wasn’t gonna happen.  I just exported my tracks to audacity and mixed there.

 

I was fine with that:  audacity is usable.  It lags when there’s a multitude of tracks in it, and is a destructive editor, but it works.  So I lived with my workflow of recording midi in Reaper, exporting it in wav, recording vocals in audacity, then mixing there and saving a ton of different projects because audacity is a destructive editor.  I’m not sure if it’s just my brain opening up as of late, or this extention being better than Reaccess (spoiler:  it totally is) but there’s a new accessibility option for Reaper, and it’s fantastic!
It’s called OSARA:  Open Source Access to the Reaper Application.  It’s made by the same people who make NVDA, a free screen reading option that was a huge game changer, because without it you’d have to pay 1000 dollars to get a screen reader for PC.  If not, you’d have to get a Mac which has voice over built in – another 1000 dollars, but at least you wouldn’t have to pay another thousand on top of that to get your computer accessible for you.  Likewise, before the only major option for audio mixing accessibility was on the Mac, with Garage band and pro tools being the bigger accessibility options (I hear Logic is accessible too?  Not 100 percent sure on that one).  But now, not only is NVDA a free option, but OSARA is free also, and works fantastically!!!

 

I’m not exactly sure how long OSARA has been in development.  I know at least since 2015, but it’s probably been longer than that.  OSARA takes keystrokes from Reaaccess, and builds upon them to make a really awesome, usable option to use Reaper.  I’ve been learning it for the past few days, and the latest version of OSARA is just so easy to use, I’m honestly amazed!  Once I updated both Reaper and OSARA to their latest versions, I started learning it.  There are also a lot of tutorials via podcasts that weren’t around until last yearish, and they help tons.  Another big problem I found was no guides other than the mailing list for help, and I just never could get into using Reaaccess to the fullest extent.  For me, it was just such a clunky interface.  OSARA is so streamlined, I’m amazed at how much effort the developer put into this, and it’s all totally free!  You can donate to the cause, which honestly I may because this is amazing work being done for the blind.

 

I’ve been messing around with learning Reaper, and have already learned so much.  I think I know enough to do a practice mix, and have already been messing around with effects parameters  in plug ins I’ve never been able to access before!  A good example of this is my piano VST.  It has all these different things you can tweak on it, reverb, hammering on the keys, all sorts of different things.  I was in so much excited shock with how I could control both that, and edit midi things super easily!  I can quantize now, go to themidi editor and edit single notes, all sorts of cool things like that.  I can also automate, which is a first for blind users to be able to access easily.  Here’s a list of the tings I can do so far, that I’m going to make cuz I’m just so excited:

 

  • Add effects to a track
  • Automate tracks
  • Make audio sends for effects
  • Use the Master bus! It’s so amazing
  • Be able to add a plug in and not be worried it’ll ruin the track, because if it does I can just bypass it or switch it out. Hurray for non-destructive editing!
  • Recording different takes on one track, wasn’t even aware this was possible!  But it streamlines managing files so much
  • Making folders for different sets of tracks. So nice and organized!
  • Probably more, but I can’t think of it right now!

 

I’m really liking how much OSARA announces things.  Instead of having to guestimate where I’m putting something when I’m panning, it reads out “10 percent to the left” and things like that.  You can even monitor your audio so you can make sure it isn’t distorting, so cool!  All in all, just so much functionality that I was never able to get to on audacity, simply because it doesn’t have that sort of functionality.  I’m still a firm supporter of working with what you have, and don’t discount audacity at all – it’s still an amazing tool for basic editing, but I didn’t realize how drastically advanced and different Reaper was until I started using it, and seeing the differences.  People used to tell me that, but I never got it until now!

 

If you’d like to check out OSARA, you can go to it’s development page here.  I’m going to stop gushing now, and go back to learning how to use this powerful new toy of mine!

Arranging a Cover From the Ground up

I’ve talked about making a cover of a song your own before, but can we talk about how difficult it is to do so at times?  Why am I asking:  We’re going to talk about it in this post!

 

I’ve been working on a track for another Pixel Mixers album, my usual fair of adding lyrics and making the track folksy.  But, I sent a not so great version of it to the person who runs the album making and low and behold, there’s a new feedback committee that lets you know what you can fix in the track to make it better, and what you need to fix in the track to get it done for the album!  It came out of the blue, but honestly it was a nice surprise because I took a little bit of everyone’s notes and made the track, what I think, is a lot better than before and something I really enjoy listening to now, instead of the first draft where I was like “This is garbage, but what else am I supposed to do with this ugh”.  It made me realize how valuable getting feedback is – I needed that as a reminder, in all honesty, and made me realize another thing.

 

If you’re going to make a cover your own, you’re literally going to have to build it from the ground up.  There will probably be one, or two chord progressions  from the original that are majorly iconic, like Corridors of Time and Schala’s Theme from Chrono Trigger, but other than the main chord progression that is the driving force of the song, if you want to do something drastically different, it might as well be like writing an original track.

 

For this track in particular, I couldn’t figure out what else to add to the track as a whole.  I knew there was something missing, but just couldn’t figure out what until I got feedback, and tips on what instruments to add.  It made me see how far I have to go before I make something polished, that I enjoy, and how inexperienced I am with using actual instruments for arranging things.  But, in doing so, I found a really good trick for my composing workflow!

 

When I told my friend I was having a hard time finding a progression, they said something to me along the lines of “You need something that compliments the vocal, like think of it like adding vocal harmonies”.

 

And that got me thinking, why not literally just sing the chord progressions I want to add first?  Since I’m used to hearing an acappella arrangement since that’s how I used to do things before I had access to all these instruments, I went back to my roots and sang the chord progression I wanted to add with my flute VST.  After I did that, it just all clicked!  I usually try to find a progression by playing things on the piano, and that doesn’t always mesh well with what I’m making.  But, going back to a song writing tip I read a really long time ago, your voice is your best instrument to make music with.  If you have to sing a chord progression to make sure it fits, then do it!  I found this really works for me, and I’m going to make an effort to go to vocal harmonizing first for when I get stumped – because I was stumped pretty hard on this one!

 

Arranging this track reminded me of when I was majorly changing up that Final Fantasy battle theme in the beginning of the year (still need to release that ugh).  It’s just such a different process making a cover the way you want to hear it, and not just making a cover that sounds like the original – which I’ll never get, why are you going to watch a cover that sounds exactly like the original?  I’m going to listen to the original for that experience!

 

I guess the third thing I took away from this IS I have a lot to learn still.  I kept on telling myself “I Wish I knew more about music theory, it would make this so much easier” but in retrospect, I honestly don’t think that’s the case – I really just need to write more music, more consistently so I can practice and master skills.  I really think this was one of the more challenging things I’ve done, and it’s more rewarding at the finish line because of it.

 

I need to keep on writing music, but more than that:  I need to stretch myself with my arrangements, and in doing so teach myself new things.  I recently forgot I had some pretty cool electronic sinth instruments!  So I think I’m going to challenge myself and make an all-electronic VGM themed track.  I’m going to go more in detail on this in another post, but I’m so excited that I’ve found a more fleshed out screen reader script for Reaper – a far more advanced mixing program than audacity, and I can finally learn how to use it!  So I’ve been teaching myself the basics the past few days, and I’m amazed at how easily my brain is clicking with Reaper this time around.  There were abandonware  scripts for a really old version of Reaper that I used to use but I could never wrap my head around doing more than just recording tracks with it, so this is majorly exciting!  I don’t know if it’s because my audio brain has evolved or something, but it’s just really easy for me to grasp the concepts now – in part thanks to some awesome tutorials that weren’t around a year ago!

 

But like I said, that topic is for another post.  I’ve learned a lot from fixing up, and writing this cover in general.  I hope your journeys, musical or otherwise are going well!

An Eciting Surprise!

I got a statement email from Soundrop, the site where I distribute my music to selling/steaming platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play etc etc.  Now, I only have 2 tracks up to distribute – one the Smile Bomb collab I did months ago, and the other my Terra’s Theme with lyrics.  I would get occasional updates from my collaborator on Smile Bomb, saying it streamed this much on Spotify and things like that and it was cool hearing how much people were listening to it but I didn’t really think of the actual money being made because I knew it wouldn’t be that much.  And, I knew Terra’s theme wasn’t doing too well – last time I looked at it, it had made one cent USD.  It doesn’t bother me at all, but like I said, I just posted up on distribution platforms, realized doing singles wasn’t my thing (I’d much rather make full albums of covers so I don’t have to get a piece of album art for everything I do and realized that while getting Terra’s theme together).  I figured, “Distributing music really doesn’t make a difference, no one is going to buy my stuff anyways because I’m some nobody that if they did want to support me, they’d just listen to my videos on YouTube”.
Until I got my first payout from Soundrop!  Wooooo~

 

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting this at all!  You have to hit a certain payment threshold before Soundrop pays out any money to you, and it isn’t a big threshold but I hadn’t hit it yet.  I need to still look at the stats for Terra’s theme, but I’m like 100 percent sure all the revenue is from Smile Bomb, and it’s so cool!  It made me realize that no matter how small an amount you think you’re going to make, it’s worth putting stuff up there on platforms you can get paid for because someone may just be looking around and see your song or something.  Like it’s so cool to me that this is 100 percent passive income, and all I did was pay the 9.99 to distribute a few months ago and got this money now!!  Not something I really ever foresaw happening, but it did and it’s amazing!!

 

I’ve been thinking about making music to be able to sell/license  out royalty free style, and also been thinking about releasing compelation Eps/albums of my covers from the year I’m able to make money off of (aka the ones I made myself, using no karaokes for).  I think God was like “Yes do iiiit” with that because I log onto my computer today and see this, and it just inspires me to not slack on making music, and vocal warmups, and really hone my craft so I can make whatever amounts of money at this that I can.  This payout wasn’t expected, but such a blessing!

 

Don’t know how to close this post out because it’s really just me gushing and being excited so…I got my first Soundrop payout today!  Wooooo!!!

Baked Goods are Back! Banana Bread and Cherry Quick Bread

I’ve been having a hard time getting back into the blogging way – I’ve still been enjoying not being on the computer a ton!  I’m debating just blogging when I have something to say instead of feeling obligated to do so all the time on this blog, but at the same time, the schedule I had before was nice.  Maybe I’ll do one post a week on here or something, I dunno.  I’ve been slacking on doing things on the computer in general, so really have to get back on the ball with doing the things I actually need to do on the computer lol.

 

I decided to group these both in the same post, because in all honesty I don’t have much to say about the cherry bread.  I made these both a while ago, so no pictures, but if you’re interested in the banana bread recipe, I used this one – and it turned out delicious!  I didn’t have a big enough pan to do the entire batter in one go, so I split it between two cake pans.  It baked really well.  I was a tad skeptical about adding the oats into the recipe, but I know they absorb moisture.  Some of the oats didn’t absorb exactly, so there were a few oat flakes in the finished product, but it added to the texture for me.  I’d really been wanting to do banana bread for months (since I did the apple cinnamon bread earlier this year) so I was happy that I finally remembered to pick up an extra bunch of bannanas while shopping so I could make the recipe.  Next banana themed baked good I want to make is a banana cream pie, because every time I buy one form the store it has nuts in it which I don’t like.  That’s one thing I love about making my own baked goods – I can customize it however I want!  I don’t like whole nuts in things, and neither does the rest of my family, so I figure if I ever add nuts I’ll just pulverize the nuts into a powder for the flavor of the nuts instead of having chopping annoying nuts in my batter.
I’ve been watching Bigger Bolder Baking for a whiel now, and this was the first recipe I’ve tried from her.  I have so many others saved I want to try, but this one was a good one to start with – I was sold on her recipes before, but now I am even mooore sold because having tried one it’s soooo good!  Next recipe of hers I want to try is chocolate cream puffs, they seem really easy and really delicious!

 

 

 

The cherry bread I decided to do on a whim.  I had an entire bag of cherries (I love cherries and had wanted them for a while, so was happy to get some at the store) but my family wasn’t eating them fast enough.  So I decided to take them and make a cherry bread.  This recipe is known as a quick bread, so nice and simple.  I didn’t have the cherry juice to make a glaze with, because I wasn’t using canned cherries, so decided to make the brrread without said glaze (or any glaze) and boy, was that a mistake.  The bread was rather bland tasting, the closest thing I could relate it to was a scone.  I like scones a lot, but this was like…a bad tasting scone lol.  After I put some vanilla frosting on, wow the difference!  It brought out all of the flavor I was missing from it being plain, and the day after it tasted more like a good scone.  I usually improvise on a recipe if I want to try something different, but this was the first time I did so and the results weren’t favorable.  So, I learned that If I do a bread like this again, to definitely glaze it.  When I made this I didn’t have any powdered sugar either, so I didn’t try just a normal glaze.  But I guess these types of breads need to glaze to bring out the flavor, because the ingredients aren’t as bam as other sweets I’ve made.  Nice learning experience!  I don’t know if I’d make this bread again, though:  All in all, I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I may try it again some day and see if I change my mind on it’s taste.

 

And those are the two breads I’ve made lately that I hadn’t made BEFORe!  Now I need to make one more thing to catch up with my bake one thing a month new years resolution, and I’ll be set.  Like I sadi in my last post, I think the net thing will be pita bread, but we’ll see if my mood changes!