Manually Adding Drums in Reaper, a Blessing and a Curse

I realized something guys.


I can’t deal with playing drums on a keyboard, both piano and computer.  Any time I tried to add drums with my VST through playing, it was such a headache to line things up.  Eventually, I just gave up on adding any drums to stuff.  That is, until I watched this video series on how to write a song in Reaper with midi, live instruments, and all that jazz.  The first step that the person took in the video, was opening up the piano roll and clicking in the notes with the mouse.


And that’s when it clicked!  No pun intended~


I can manually add things in with the keyboard and keystrokes.  So I started doing that, and boy what a difference!  It takes up more time of course, but for the most part for drums it’s more manageable for me.  It’s still a headache regardless, but it’s better than not using them at all.  I know it’s something I’ll get the hang of – have only been doing this method for a few days – and two major problems are having the notes completely line up with the time signature, and figuring out where the notes fall when you add new ones.  I’d love to be able to just add a ton of notes and then go across the timeline and add the midi information on blank notes in each bar.  Now keep in mind this may be highly possible, but as far as using it with the scripts I need to use Reaper I haven’t seen a way.  It’s just the learning curve thoUGH:  I just add one note to the next bar and then move said note around, kind of have to figure out how it works because right now new notes I add always wind up on beat 4 lol.


But it’s been nice!  I have just been making simple drum loops, and due to the nature of the original music I write, I copy and paste the loops.  Have to get the hang of that now too, but it’s a new method I’ve been doing after learning how and it saves a lot of time.  I don’t have to play and play and play the same thing over and over again, can just play one verse worth of chords then copy paste to the next verse, saves lots of time.  I’m a little nervous to record vocals to my new tracks for a number of reasons – one of them being I’m afraid it just will be a garbled mess of drums and strings and I have never done a non acappella original track with lyrics, so a bit of stage fright there.  It’s a little irrational,  I know, but just something I have to do and hope for the best lol.  Can always add more to it later!


I’m working on doing originals right now, and doing originals with lyrics and vocals, and VSTs is new territory for me.  That’s another reason I’m getting recording cold feet:  will my old originals sound as good the way they are now?  Is it all garbage?  Should I just suck it up and record (yes) it’s just one of those internal things I have to work through, and will.  I like to have all the music done first though, and still have one original to finish the instrumental for.  I’m like half excited half nervous about it, so yeah!


And that’s been my midi experiences as of late.  Music, and midi actually haha.  Fingers crossed I get all of these tracks done by the middle of April!


EPs, Original Music, and an Overall Musical Update

If that title doesn’t say it all, read on for more of a break down!
I’m currently in the process of uploading one of the Final Fantasy EPs I’ve been working on for the past few months to online music distributers, and can honestly say I’m very excited to be done with it’s production.  I love Final Fantasy music, but working on copious amounts of it for as many months as I did took a bit of a toll on me.  It won’t be the last Final Fantasy EP of mine this year, but I have to wait for another album I’m contributing to to drop before I can release that one (a track on the EP has to be released on said album first before I can do what I want with it).  I’m really happy I pushed myself to make these EPs though, because they gave me the confidence, and format of how I want to do the rest of my EPs this year.


While working on my ambient Final Fantasy EP, I kept on trying to add a fourth track to an EP that already had 3 tracks.  For some reason, in my head, the EP just had to have four tracks:  probably because that’s how I always see EPs formatted.  But no matter how hard I tried, going through at least six, if not more attempts at arranging a fourth track, nothing was working.  I got frustrated, and almost gave up…until I thought back to an article I read from a DIY musicians blog that had talked about doing what they called a 3p – you guessed it, an EP with three tracks, instead of four.  Their reasoning was, because you can work on 3 tracks fairly quickly, experiment with genres, song writing, etc etc, and not be fully committed to making a full album.  You can then release that content, have things for people to stream and purchase, and in the mean time work on another project of yours.


And that’s when my arranging slump had ended.  Because I already had a third track recorded, and just had to add vocals to it.  But re-reading that article gave me the confidence to just go and make a 3p:  which, according to soundrop, is still an EP.  A single is 1 to 2 tracks, an EP is 3 to 4, and an LP is 5 tracks or more, aka a full album.  So that was even more perfect!  Now I have a huge weight off my shoulders, and am just waiting for the tracks to get on stores.  And, with that creative hurdle done with, I have so many other ideas for 3Ps, including originals I can group together in that format that I already have recorded, ideas for EPs that I didn’t have before because doing 3 tracks at a time seems to be the magic number for me, and is a really manageable  amount for me to work on at any given time.  I can do 3 tracks in a month, and have consistent content coming out, and keep my creative juices flowing.  All win-win scenarios for me!


Another awesome thing I can do now, is hire my friend to do art for me!  I am beyond excited to have the budget to be able to do that, and to have someone reliable  to hire for said art on an ongoing basis.  Getting art done is my least favorite part of the process, because I don’t like having to hunt an artist down, if I’m being completely honest, so just having an awesome friend that I’m glad to hire for stuff is a good thing 🙂


My next musical projects are a little up in the air.  I’m deciding between doing a spiritual hymns EP, or re-recording originals of mine and releasing them as an EP:  I wrote them back in 2015 when I had no virtual instruments, not nearly as much  composing knowledge as I have now, and my voice has definitely gotten better, along with my mixing and production quality.  So I would really like to revamp, revisit, and release those tracks.  I’ll wind up doing both eventually, but I’m just deciding which project to do first.  I’m leaning more towards the original redos, because that’s what I’m inspired to do right now (and I have album art done for it already I got done waaay back when I wanted to release the acappella version of one of the tracks  and chickened out lol).  I’m debating recording a third track with lyrics I’ve had written for years for that, or just writing an entirely new song for it.  The EP would be based on different stories about different warriors, is the idea I’m having so we’ll see if I wind up writing something new for it or just redoing stuff.


I really want to get back into writing original singer/songwriter songs with lyrics too.  I love my covers, but I also love writing originals, and I haven’t written a non VGM based orig in foreeeeever.  So I really need to get my writing chops back up to par so I can get back to that, I miss it tons – luckily, I came up with a chorus as I was listening to music tonight, so fingers crossed I can get that turned into a nice song!


A rather big post, but I’ve been busy music-wise.  I’ll post again when Ambient Fantasy is available to stream/in stores!  I hope all of you are doing well, and having a great year so far!

Learning to Use the Midi Editor More Efficiently in Reaper

Usually, when I have problems in a track, I re-record until I get it down right.  With a recent track I’ve been working on I tried that, and it just wasn’t working.  No matter what I did, there were still breif timing issues here and there, and it had gotten so bad that it just wasn’t worth trying to re-record.  So I did my second best option, using the midi editor.  And in doing so, I learned so much!


Before I only knew the basic controls of using the midi editor, which was making big jumps with my notes.  But through using the shortcut help mode in Reaper, I figured out how to move it by tiny lengths, and man what a difference!  I had always been annoyed by the midi editor because I thought you could only do big jumps, but now I see how much control it gives you to just go in and edit parts you don’t like.  There were a few sections that I would have never been able to fix via recording, and all in all the control I had over my midi notes was really exciting to be able to do.  It’s just another skill in my toolkit that I’m so happy I can use, and it majorly enhances my composing flexability!


I’m so happy I can use the midi editor to it’s full potential, now I see what people mean by midi being really easy to control and use!

Took a Little Break from Music

And by little, I mean liiiiittle.  I took a week off from arranging this ambient album, and went to do some other things.  It really helped me re-center what I wanted to do with this ambient album/EP I’ve been working on, and how to approach it.  I also discovered some nice new tricks I can use for videos, and that will also help me in the future!


I have a decent amount of covers I haven’t posted, so decided to work on getting my backlog out.  Linked below is the first part of that series of covers!



Working on ambient tracks is certainly an adventure all it’s own.  I’m realizing covering dungeon/cave music, or more atmospheric sounding stuff in general is a far better route to take.  Also, I realized you can be a lot more liberal with the chords you leave in and out of the arrangement, and in listening to some other ambient tracks, and some awesome advice from friends, I realized that I can try and combine some sparce strings with vocal layers as said chord progressions in the covers, and see how that sounds.  All in all, ambient tracks are a lot more experimental, and I’m going to take advantage of that and experiment with different approaches to each track.  I just went and made 2 soundscapes to play with for arranging over,, and have to go do a third one to tinker with too.  But I’m not going to stress too much over arrangements in this style and just go with the flooooow~


Blue Fields is one of the tracks I’m going to have on my ambient album of Final Fantasy tracks, so I hope you enjoy it!

RE-Learning When to Take a Step Back from a Creative Project

I feel like I’m just going to post on here when I have something to say.  That’s a decent amount of time mind you, but my old post 2 times a week on specific days plan wasn’t working for me the last few months of 2017.  However, for now at least, it seems like posting when I have something to say, and telling myself post 2 to 3 times a week works, so that’s how I’m going to run this blog for the time being.  We’ll see how it goes!  But anyway, onto the post~


I’ve been working on a project that stumbled into my sights a few weeks ago.  When reviewing all of the tracks set for one album release, there was one that just wasn’t meshing with the rest of them.  After having a few trusted people listen to the track listing, we decided to pull one of the tracks in question off, and leave the other track in question on the first album.  So having just one track floating around my harddrive with no album to call it’s home, I decided to make an ambient album of tracks to fit that track on, and have another EP to release later in the year.


Didn’t realize how much of a learning experience this would be!


I tried so many arrangements of different tracks, and hated them all.  Yesterday, I just went “Forget it, maybe doing this album isnt’ for me” but then I got a message from a friend who I had told about the album, and they said they were super excited for it.  It’s going to be full of ambient Final Fantasy tracks, so they mentioned the dungeon/cave themes of the franchise, and we started talking about them.  That’s when it hit me.


I had been trying to do world map and town themes, but for ambient tracks, I’ve only gotten 1 world map theme from a game to work.  The rest of the things I’ve been recording and trying to mix I really disliked, and that’s why I just felt discouraged and burnt out from even wanting to continue the project.  That, and I had self imposed a deadline on myself to have it all done by the 15th of this month, so that didn’t help matters.  But talking about that music, made me completely change my outlook on how to deal with this album, and dealing with the burn out made me realize I needed to take a step back from this beast, re-evaluate the tracks I wanted to arrange, and not be afraid to scrap anything I’ve done on this project so far.  Doing that, and taking a  breather to work on the new Let’s Play series I’m posting on my channel (side note: it’s going well) gave my brain the creative space and time to destress and re-establish my goals for this album.


I also realized, the sort of ambient music I was trying to do with these themes was a bit more structured then it had to be.  So I’ve been taking my break time from working to listen to ambient music, watch tutorials on how to make ambient music, and just educate myself in general about the genre of music I’ve been wanting to create for this EP.  I know it sounds silly, but I always thought the style I did when I added no lyrics was ambient, but boy was I wrong!  There’s so much more to making ambient music then I ever imagined, and I’ve been enjoying learning.  I can’t wait to take what I learned and apply it to the new tracks I want to record for the EP.


I picked new tracks to do also, all tracks that could fit the ambient style.  I’ve written out detailed outlines on how to do each track I picked, and I feel a lot more secure in going to record those, then vocals, and having them for the EP.  Another thing that sounds like a no brainer, but when you get excited to do something, you want to jump into it.


I guess what I’m trying to say is, stopping a project you’re hitting your head against the wall with is always a good thing.  It’s something I think creatives think to do until it’s time to do it, but it’s important to know your creative limits, and when you need to take a step back and work on something else for a while.  I actually got a comment on a video for a request to cover another Inuyasha song, so I may do that for a while musically and then be working on my Let’s play videos as a de-stresser, because I surprisingly enjoy recording those a lot more than I expected.  But more of that in another post.


Setting an arbitrary deadline to get these done didn’t really work for me.  I told myself I wanted to have an album out for the release of the new Final Fantasy game this month, but honestly that’s just too much pressure, and I want to release this thing right.  Final Fantasy is timeless, so coming out with an album of music whenever should be fine, and getting all the tracks done, then marketing the EP to the best of my ability sounds way more appealing than it has to be out asap!  But once again, something I wouldn’t have thought of without taking a break from the project.


Don’t be afraid to replan something if it isnt’ working.  Don’t think you’re a failure because one way of doing something didn’t work out.  If you find yourself having too many problems doing something one way, find another way to do it!  And if you just are so fed up with a project, but know you want to finish it, take a breather for a few days, destress and re-evaluate how to tackle said project, it’ll do yu wonders!

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!

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!