This Track Drove me Crazier, But I Think I’m Done With it!

Recorded extra vocals on Tuesday, still didn’t get the effect I wanted.  So I sat down at my piano  last night, and tried to get a strings progression I liked.  It failed miserably rotfl.  But, luckily, I have amazing friends who come to the rescue!  One of my more musically inclined friends recorded a chord progression for me I really liked, but I just couldn’t get it down on keyboard so I did something similar enough and called it a night because I literally had been trying to record and fix up that one strings section for four hours and by 1 AM I was frustrated nearly to the point of tears.  I really need to not drive myself to that point but…it happens, what can I say?  When I want to finish something, I get really determined to do it even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity lolol.

 

With the strings added, it sounded better.  Not how I wanted still, but better.  I wanted to add more vocals to the 2nd part of the song but it just wasn’t working for me…until, I went, aha!  I can use that same chord progression my friend made, only make it with my voice instead of strings!  I did something I never have done before, and rolled out of bed to record the extra layers I wanted to test out.  Partially because I want this to get done, and partially because I needed to hit really low notes, and a tip I got years ago from a fellow singer was when you need to do that, just roll out of bed and use your morning voice.  I had never tried doing it before, but it totally works!

I have to see how everything sounds after mixing it later today, but honestly at this point, I’m done with this track.  I still find it a bit jarring as of now, but I think I’m always going to feel that way about this cover in particular because it’s the exact opposite of how the original sounds.  Honestly, I’m proud I took the leap to do something this experimental, whether it sounds good or not.  It’s at the point where I’ve worked so hard at it I’m posting it regardless of how I think of it.

 

I think I’m letting my nerves get to me too.  Like, I’m really iffy about posting this and people being like “Ugh, this sounds nothing like the original!” I’ve heard covers that sound drastically different than the original though and really enjoyed them, it’s just the 2nd phase of the track sounds so much different than the first to me, but at the same time, I like how it sounds?  It’s difficult because I really can’t go to the original and be like ok add this part because they both have completely different stylings, so I’m having to borrow things from the original, rework them, and fit them into the style of my cover.  I’m happy I’m doing this because I’m really pushing my music muscle, but ugh XD  Lol this is the most conflicted about something I’ve ever been, which usually is a good thing when it comes to music.  I did a more folksy cover of another Final Fantasy track (not a battle song) I need to post too, but with that one I can see it sounding the way I’ve covered it.  This one, I took from being high energy battle music to being haunting piano, vocals, and strings so really I’m just nervous about how people will perceive it.  But I know someone who has a YouTube channel where they do nothing but make battle arrangements of different music, so I guess me doing the opposite to a battle theme isn’t much different XD

 

TLDR:  I’m over thinking this entire thing, I like half of this track, am ok enough with the 2nd half and am going to post it anyway once I record video.  Need to record video for the other Final Fantasy song I’ve had done for like a month, I’ve been majorly slacking hahaa.  I really need to get a schedule going for this sort of stuff.

 

In other news, I got a statement from Soundrop, and I got some money from someone buying my tracks online, woohoo!  My first 78 cents, I’m in the money XD but in all seriousness, I’m super excited someone bought one of my tracks, super exciting!

This Track is Starting to Drive me Crazy!

Remember when I mentioned that I was working on a rendition of a Final Fantasy battle theme?  Remember when I was like “I’ve got it, it’ll be great!”.  I was…half correct in that assumption, because it’s freaking driving me crazy!

 

Well, let me rephrase that:  The very end part is driving me crazy.  I really like the meat of the track, but the phase two of the thing so to speak, isn’t’ going so well and I have no clueee how to finish it up.  I thought, ok, add vocals to it and just have one piano line, but I recorded vocals for it last night and ugh it just doesn’t sound right.  I tried adding some strings to that section, sounds blech.  Tried extra piano, sounds bleh.  At this point, I just don’t know what to do!  I’m going to mix what I have so far, and see if that helps.
My initial plan was to have everything drop out, just have the base piano line, and fill it with a lot of choral bits.  When I tried that last night, the harmonies just weren’t coming together.  I think I may have figured out the backing harmonies I want for it that I’m going to record tonight and hope they fit but if that doesn’t work….no clue what I’m going to do XD I may just scrap it for now if that doesn’t work, because I’ve been trying to get this done for like a month and it’s just not coming together at the end.  At the same time, I know this track is super experimental, probably the most experimental thing I’ve done and I’d like to finish it to see how it’s going to turn out.  But, we’ll see how I feel about it after mixing, I tend to have a better picture of how to fix up a track after I’ve heard it post-mix.

 

In other news, I also recorded a few episodes of a fun behind the scenes podcast I’ve been planning!  I go through my recording and arranging process, and how I decided to cover a certain song in it.  The podcast is a patron exclusive, so if you’d like to hear it, consider becoming a patron over on Patreon.  You can get other rewards, as well, and give as little, or as much as you’d like!

 

 

That’s it for today, We’ll see if on Thursday I’ve finished this cover, or if it drives me mad XD

I Finally Wrote a Song with Lyrics on Piano, Yay!

Note:  Said song won’t be in this post, because I still need to work on the mix, but I was excited and really wanted to blog about this because I’ve been struggling with it.

 

For some reason, when I tried to write a song with lyrics on the piano,  it just wasn’t coming together.  I can write an instrumental fine, but lyrics I just was drawing a blank.  I started searching through different genres of music, mainly video game, celtic, and folk, and listened really closely to how the chord progressions in each worked.  It wasn’t until my Mom was listening to this old folk band, The Seekers (who are amazing, check them out if you haven’t) and writing a song clicked.  I don’t have to use a bajillion chords, I can use as little as one and put my vocals over it!  Thank you, The Seekers!

 

I actually stumbled into writing this song duo to my ability to never sleep at a reasonable hour.  Sometimes I sing when I lay in bed and am frustrated when I can’t sleep and a few nights ago I just started singing “Insomnia-a-a-a” and came up with the melody and everything.  The next night, worked on the backing, and kept it simple.  I used the exact same chords, just as different types of inversions and the chorus is just the chords being played all together, and bam!  Got my song.  It was really cool to see it was that simple to have a song form into…a song haha.  Like legit I only used six keys on the keyboard and a song was made!  I thought of adding some strings or something, but as is the song is pretty goofy and quickly put together (in about 2 hours) but I really wanted to just write a song and get it done.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is to just work on a piece of music and finish it whether you think it’s good or not, then you can grow as an artist lol.

 

But yeah, really happy I got it done!  Not sure if I’m going to wind up sharing it or not because it’s just such a  weird song haha.  But at the same time, I really like how it came out, it’s super cute and catchy to me XD

A Musical Musingf

I’ve been in a music making funk and  a video creation funk – which, at this point, I’m probably just going to make some music slide shows and post my music like the good old days because the amount of time I’ve been slacking on recording video is ridiculous and I just want to get my music out at this point.  I’ve had a lot of half made ideas I’ve recorded, a lot of ideas with written lyrics with musical ideas forming in my head also, that I just haven’t gotten to recording and fleshing out.  And, I have to say, aren’t half thought ideas the worst?  I literally have about four melodies recorded and just can’t wrap my head around how to go about fully fleshing them out.  I record them regardless, because I hope to make them come of use one day:  I really just need to sit down with them, and get them done.  A major thing I always struggle with is whether to make a track have just music and lyrics, or just music, or just vocals and that’s honestly the snag that I’ve hit with another cover I’ve been working on also.  So basically, I think my brain needs to chill out XD

 

But anyway!  The mental snag I was having with this cover is that I was trying to make it more intense then I had to with instruments I think.  It’s a weird concept:  I’m taking a battle theme from a Final Fantasy, and seeing what I can do with it as a sadder, stripped down arrangement.  The initial chords of the track are really easy to pick out, and I’ve had the first chords and strings recorded for weeks:  I was going to record the main melody as piano, and then go into the second phase of the arrangement with all vocals, basically all a cappella with some minor instruments.  But that didn’t seem to mesh to me either.
Until it hit me:  Why not just do the main melody with all vocals, along with backing vocals as the intensity factor?  I have strings and piano recorded, and add maybe a tambourine or some jingles and just have a lot of vocal layers and see how that comes out, I think I’ll get more the effect I was going for.  I think I’m going to drop out the piano for the 2nd half of the arrangement, and only have strings:  or maybe an ascending or descending scale of piano with a ton of vocal layers, I think that would be good!  I find it funny because when I was making my Lufia cover I had this same dilemma:  I wanted to have a woodwind as the lead melody, and when I was playing back the track I thought my voice would sound better as the lead here (which honestly I find I do a lot lol – I guess that’s just the esthetic I like music wise).
But yeah, I’m going to try that, and see if finishing up that arrangement works out that way.  Still have to work on 2 videos (which like I said I may just make a picture slide show but still not sure).  But I reall hope my May funk doesn’t follow me into June, because I’ve really felt meh and not wanted to do anything productive this month ugh.

Song Writing Road Blocks, aka Some More Music Talk

I realized right after opening this up to type that my blog has been dominated with music related thoughts as of late, but it makes sense considering all of my free time has pretty much been dedicated to one of two things:  Reading novels or fanfic, or looking up, working on, or learning to make music.  Which has both been lots of fun, but somewhat frustrating when I want to apply certain things I’ve found to apply. Aka, another music post ahead, feel free to skip if that isn’t your thing XD

 

I’ve been having soooo much trouble trying to add lyrics to my originals!  Or rather, writing a song with lyrics.  When I go to cover a song it’s fine:  I just go off of the pre-existing song’s melody and structure, add lyrics if I want and work off of that.  The next cover I’m going to post is really interesting to me, because for a while I thought it was eh because the tone of it sounds so different than the original:  my rendition of it is definitely more folk, when the original is more medieval sounding.  I’ll be interested to see what people think of it when I post it honestly, it’s my first step into making something that I’d consider “my style” the stuff I’ve been doing lately is definitely along those lines, but I stuck to the structure of the original versions a lot more than with this one.

 

That track was pretty easy to make, I mean, I hit a few hurdles on the way, but I overcame them fairly quickly, and got this track done in two weeks give or take.  I…need to get better at recording video footage because at this point that’s really the only thing that holds me back from posting consistently.  But, I went on that mini tangent to say, it’s so much harder for me when it comes to forming something from scratch!  I feel like The Witching Hour was a fluke:  whenever I want to use chords to form a song, or even another track, my brain just hits a road block. I’ve recorded multiple beginnings of tracks, but my brain just can’t wrap itself around making a phase 2 or 3 of the melody:  or, I’m not sure if what I’ve made as the 2nd phase of the melody really counts as such sometimes.  And when trying to write lyrics with a song, don’t get me started!  I have no clue why it was so much easier for me to write songs with only my voice.  I have some old a cappella originals I did about a year or two ago that I’m tempted to redo because the mic quality is so bad haha.  But those came so much easier to me, and I have no clue why.  Over thinking, maybe?  There are a few of those old ones I want to restructure, because some are just too long or too wonky but once again, when I think of restructuring them, my brain draws a blank on how to do so.  I think I will make it a mini project of mine to retool at least two of those old tracks, along with fixing up some lyrics I’ve never used before to make them usable for a song because right now they’re the length of a poem and not really structurally sound to be lyrics.
To top it all off, there’s another “original” that’s just coming so easily to me, I don’t get it!  I put original in quotes, because it’s something I wrote based on a set of cards in Yu-gi-oh XD I wrote a bard’s song for the set of Gaia the Fierce Knight cards, and finally got to fixing up the lyrics, and fine tuning it and after fixing up the lyrics, the music is coming so easily in my head.  This one is another case of “Crystal, get off your butt and record the music already” because it’s basically completely formed in my noggin and I just need to get its parts recorded.  But once again, why does something like that come so easily, and an original not based on something not?  Over thinking again?  Too much pressure on myself when it comes to originals?

 

I really think I need to figure out what works for me song writing wise.  Maybe trying to come up with the chords first just doesn’t work for me, or maybe I should record demos of chord progressions with my voice and that could help?  But at the same time, sitting at the piano and noodling around for progressions just comes so easily to me, so like I’ve said multiple times this post I wonder what my road block for song writing could be when writing music with, and for pre-existing materials comes so much more easily.

 

Any song writers out there? Would love any advice!  I mean, I’m gonna keep trying, but blarg this is getting annoying XD

Two More Music Resources

Since I’ve hopped into the world of composing originals with instruments, I realize how different it is from arranging covers (and honestly, my cover arrangements could use some work too lol).  But in my bid to learn more about said composing, I found 2 awesome new music resources I figured I’d share!
The first is the Berklee College of Music’s YouTube Channel which is full of really easy to understand, really amazing videos.  They have short blerb like videos, and full blown seminar videos that I’ve learned so much from!  The teachers all talk in normal speak, and not some super confusing musical theory type of lingo, and overall they just make it sound so easy to make music.  They also have online classes, and degrees you can get if you’re interested!  This channel has made it really easy for me to learn:  for me, it’s a lot better than just picking a random how to write music video that litters youtube, because it’s an actual college so the instructors know more streamlined methods on how to teach music theory, and music composition.  Like I said, check it out if you’re interested in music, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Next up is Ongaku Concept which takes teaching music theory in a really interesting direction, that I’m crazy about.  Ever wonder how a certain video game track is made?  What makes a video games music tick?  Wanted to learn music theory, by hearing different modes of music described as RPG classes?  Ongaku concept is the channel for you!  This channel teaches music theory, and music composition through video game music.  There are “Let’s Compose” videos, videos explaining music theory through analyzing  specific game tracks (Mario, Pokemon, etc etc), and basic smaller videos on how to compose with different styles, different chord progressions, etc etc.  I’ve learned a lot from this channel and barely scratched the surface of its videos, so I highly recommend watching them if you’re interested in composing video game music, or in general just want composing tips.

 

 

I hope these resources can help any other aspiring music composers!  If you have any good resources, feel free to share in the comments!

Working on my Music Skills: Redoing The Witching Hour, Results and Thoughts

When you post music on YouTube, sometimes (most of the time) you have the thought go through your head that it may not be good enough to be posting.  I always just post anyway, but recently, with the last video I posted, I got a lot of feedback (you can hear it here – it’s an original) and wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise, if I hadn’t posted up the track initially to YouTube.  I also went to the Video Game Academy facebook group for help as well, and every piece of advice I got was great help both for this track, and for composing originals in the future.

 

When I first was writing this, I had one thing in mind:  I knew the vibe I was going for (haunted forest area in a video game) and I found the chord progression that I really liked while noodling around on the piano one night that I just recorded.  After that though, I really didn’t have any other structure in mind for the thing – which, you can probably tell from the melody.  I knew the first few chords of melody I wanted, but the rest I 100 percent did improv for.  Not bad, but needed work.  I wasn’t aware of how much work until getting this general feedback:

Needed a more concrete melody, strings were a bit off tempo, add more dynamics.  That last one, I asked VGM Academy how to make the track more dynamic, because this first draft of the song, I liked, but when I asked myself “Would I buy this if I saw it somewhere?” my answer was “Hrmm nah, it’s nice but missing something” and I wasn’t sure what that something was until posting it on YouTube.

 

I could have just taken the advice I got and taken it to another track, but I don’t really learn very much by doing that, plus I’m a perfectionist at heart, so went back to working on this one!  I’ve got to say, actually planning out and working on this full on took a lot more work and structure than I was expecting.  Was it hard?  No, but I was tapping into a ton of different skills I wasn’t aware I needed to use, or even had!  A good example of this, was keeping on tempo with my chord progression, which was a major thing I was struggling with.  I looked up different tips and tricks, and completely restructured the strings so they had a bit more movement in them, and if for some reason they went off tempo for a bit it wasn’t as noticeable.  On VGM Academy, I was told to add some vocals to add to the atmosphere, and from another friend I was told to add an extra harmony and some bass in the later sections.  I moved the pizzicato strings to harps, and only had them play in the second half of the song for more dynamic movement (another note I got was to either have the track crescendo, or completely fade away to only have piano and I decided for the former) and, in the end, I wound up with this:

 

The Witching Hour Revised

 

I can’t even tell that this was the same track!  I love hearing it and the first version of it side by side:  This one is so much more polished and sounds like it actually would be looping in a video game to me, which is what I was going for.  For me, the sign of a good track is when you can’t get it out of your head, and there are parts of this that I just can’t stop hearing in my brain.  Before, I was asking myself if I should sell this track, but now I know for sure I’m going to:  It’s just a matter of if I want to wait and make more instrumental tracks to go with it or release it as a single.  I’m leaning towards making it an EP of a few original semi-instrumental tracks haha.  Does it count as an instrumental track if it has vocals in it?  Either way,  I realized that adding vocals to my tracks is just my style, I’m a lot more comfortable making an “instrumental” track when it has vocals in it, it’s a lot easier to arrange that way for me.  As soon as I got the tip to add vocals and did so, I was like why didn’t I think of this before?  I was so dead set on making a purely instrumental track, that I totally forgot my musical aesthetic  has always been this sparse, atmospheric acoustic new agey stuff.  I keep on having to tell myself to embrace that every time I arrange something new, but it’ll get drilled into my head eventually!

 

 

I learned so much from redoing this track, I’m so happy I did it.  As my final thoughts, I’m going to list the things I learned while re-composing this, because I learned a lot from not only the arranging side, but the technology side as well!

  • First thing:  My computers latency is decently slow in comparison to when I hit the key on my keyboard, to when the midi is sent to my DAW.  So I have to listen to my keyboard, and my reference track and ignore the lag on the midi because when I try and record by listening to the midi it’s always laggy.  My new system is to have one side of my headphones off, so I can hear both the piano without the latency issues, and my reference track/the midi playing so I have a clearer picture of what I’m playing and adding to the track.
  • Don’t be afraid to not have something in your mix at first! I kept the violin all throughout the track, but getting rid of the pizzicato strings and only having them halfway through the track added so much to the track. Experiment more with that sort of arranging!
  • Don’t be afraid to embrace my musical stylings. Going into this, I was thinking it’d sound more like a NieR track. Turns out it wound up sounding more like an Ori and the Blind Forest track, to me at least haha.  My style is very indi, I realize, and even if I’m working towards making a track sound like it’s from a video game, I can use that style for VGM composition as well.  TL;DR:  Embrace my musical style full on instead of halfway!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I mean, I’ll be posting this redone on YouTube later, but at the same time I’m also kicking myself for posting the first version too.  I wouldn’t have gotten all the feedback I got without posting it on YouTube, so I guess I really shouldn’t complain XD

Everything else I learned, I covered I think.  Overall, I learned that composing an original song is a lot different than making a cover.  Both go through the same steps, but having a pre-existing track to build on is a lot easier than coming up with all of your concepts from scratch.  In the end though, it’s really just me messing around on my keyboard til I find something I like, which I do on both arrangement styles.
Best thing I can take away from this, is to not rush the composition phase.  It doesn’t have to take forever, but at the same time it doesn’t have to be a rushed job.  I wasn’t sure where to go with this track at first, but now  knowing what I know it all seems so obvious to me haha.  I’m really excited to start my next original, and see how the concepts I learned from here carry over to that.  Like I said earlier, so happy I redid this track!
What do you think, which version do you like better?  I have a hard time choosing between the two!