With this music challenge I’m doing, in the VGMA Facebook group there’s a daily post where we all post what we’ve written. When I post something, I like to go through the previous posts to see what everyone else is coming up with. Today after doing so, it got me thinking about each person’s music tastes. Everyone is doing different takes on the challenge with genres they’re into – may it be fantasy music, electronic, classical – but all in the vain of making it sound like it can loop in a video game. But that also got me thinking: How does the genre of music we compose in, and the genres we prefer effect our composing, critiquing, and musical dispositions?
Me, for example. I grew up listening to country music. So when I listen to a song, what I look for is good storytelling, an impactful emotional tone, and tend to strive for minimal arrangements with basic chord progressions. When I build on something, I rarely change up the chord progression of one instrument and instead add something else – like a double strings harmony, a tambourine, something varying the texture of the sound over going into a different phase of the chord progression already there. My comfort zone is doing an ABAB song writing structure – verse, chorus, verse, chorus with an occasional bridge if needed.
I like good vocals, but vocals over good emotion and storytelling have never been my thing. I’ll take an ok enough sounding vocal full of raw emotion, over a belting power ballad that sounds like someone is phoning it in. Once again, I think that’s because I grew up listening to country music, and it’s what I’m used to and favor. Jumping to Celtic music when I was older wasn’t really a surprise, because country and Celtic are close cousins genre wise. Same with folk, and indi: all different branches of the same genre of music.
So even when I compose something video game themed with repetition, I go for that folksy feel, or an emotional, acoustic sound. But I notice when I’m arranging something, even when I plan to make it sound all orchestral it always winds up being about 5 instruments or less because when I try to add more, in the end I like how it sounds with less. I struggled a long time with that – thinking my arrangements aren’t good enough with more sounds but now I realize that’s just how I compose things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the VGM cover community about when a track starts “Not being a cover anymore” and my opinion on the subject? As long as there’s part of the pre-existing melody in there, it’s a cover. The VGM cover community is by far the sweetest community I’ve ever been a part of and the discussions on the topic lately also got me thinking of this topic. Like my favorite music is acoustic and folk, and whenever I see acoustic guitar cover artists in VGM I always get excited because they’re also channeling that folksy, minimalist feel I love. Now when you do something high energy like say, a battle theme, it’ll sound completely different on piano or acoustic guitar, even if you’re still keeping the same energy and vibe from the original track up. So does that still make it a cover? Yep! In my opinion at least. I saw a really cool way of phrasing this though. The original music is like a canvass, and you’re painting with the source material. You can go as basic with the source as you want, sticking to the original as closely as possible, or you can get abstract with it, adding your own take on it, expressing your style and spin on the track on it. My last cover was like that, and my next few covers will be like that, as well – and to be completely honest, I’m really happy they’re going to be. I’m really excited to be putting my own stamp and style on tracks that I love, and have gotten the most challenge and enjoyment from composing my last few covers, and in doing so have gotten lots of inspiration and motivation to do more covers in my own style that doing a note for note arrangement wouldn’t, and hasn’t gotten me in the past.
But yeah, all of these musings just sort of popped into my mind this morning and decided to make a blog post about them. Didn’t really touch on how this effects how we critique things, but probably along the same lines as why we compose in certain ways – no matter how unbiased we try to be, we’ll always have some sort of preference to wanting to hear something sound like the genre we prefer. Not saying that’s always the case, but I know for me at times I have critiqued something wanting something I prefer thrown into the mix lol.
I’ll stop there, I honestly could go on about these topics for ages! What sort of music genres did you grow up with, or are into that you think inspired your musical inspirations? What are your thoughts on covers that are a lot different than the original, also?