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 😄

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!

Baked Good of the Month: Smore Pie

This baked good is a new landmark, because it’s the first one that I made the recipe myself!  Well sort of.  It was a few recipes put together to make this one, and needs some tweaking but…I did it all with my noggin instead of just following a recipe verbatim, so woo!

 

A while ago I got the idea to make a smore pie.  Took me a while to figure out how to do it, but after brain storming I figured I’d do it this way:  Get a gram cracker crust, use my brownie recipe, bake it then melt marshmellow and put it on top after baking.  It tastes delicious, but a few things need to be fixed to be a bit easier.  The main thing is, when to use the marshmellows.  Like I melted them fine but trying to get them on the top of the brownie before it solidified back into being super sticky was a feat all it’s own.  Had to use a lot of marshmellows too, but it worked!  It also majorly got stuck to my hands while trying to get it on, a major pain 😄 I think next time I’m going to try using marshmellow fluff, or maybe making marshmellow flavored ganache or meringue.  I’m torn about using the crust, as well:  my brother likes it, my Mom and I are iffy on it.  I can’t really taste it to be perfectly honest, and my Mom came up with the idea to crumble the crackers on top of the brownie instead of using a crust, which I actually like.  I think that way, I could actually taste the gram crackers with the marshmellow, and the chocolate would be easier to taste too.  But overall this first go was a good success:  I like the texture of everything, just have to stream line the process a bit more.
Not sure when I want to try it again, because I’m not really a huge smore eater.  It was just an idea I really wanted to try before going to something else, so glad it worked!

Ugh

So I wasn’t even planning on posting today because I’m freaking exhausted from all the crap I had to do dealing with posting on soundrop for the very first time.  Soundrop is a music distribution site, that was formed from CD Baby and Loudr and I honestly wish it had stayed Loudr because it took like four people for me to get my freaking track uploaded and then after all of that it charged my credit card with the cover licensing fee when I didn’t click on it (the page froze and I closed it, opened email and saw a receet).  I already emailed them asking them how the heck to upload my track because they have some dumb thing where you can choose to upload a track or upload an album and if you upload a track you can’t go through the steps to release it.  Did anywhere on soundrop say that?  Nope.  Nothing in the FAQ, no step by step guide and I should have just waited until tomorrow to finish up because I did the stupid section where you had to pay late at night and this day has been annoying.

 

Like I said, their sites interface sucks for a screen reader.  There’s nothing telling you how to upload so for the first time you’re just kind of…stuck figuring it out yourself.  I’ve seen major complaints about Soundrop not paying and stuff, but it’s basically the only inexpensive  music distribution site so you’re stuck with it if you want to sell on iTunes, Amazon etc etc.

Oh and did I mention?  I have no clue if the first time I did the distributing took, and it’s just going to send  my track to iTunes or if it’s going to send to every distributor like I did the second go.  Not sure what the price will be either (but it had defaults, where it said 1 track was 99 cents so fingers crossed it’s that) but also fingers crossed they get back to me so we can sort this all out.

 

I’m going to use Soundrop again, but not because I want to:  because it’s the only cheap option and it pisses me off hardcore.  I’ll have an easier time uploading next time, so that’s something but…ugh, so annoyed.  I’m off the relax.

 

Sorry for this negative post, I’ll be in a better mood on Tuesday!

Weight of the World Cover from NieR: Automata and Mini Experiment

Weight of the World cover from Nier Automata

Late post today, because I’ve been recording video all night.  Recording video is one of those things that I always dread getting ready to do but then love doing when I’m actually doing it haha.  Recorded for two collabs, and one of mine which I was going back and forth about recording for and got really good results with tinkering with my video settings and setup, so woo!
But enough of that, here’s a cover from NieR Automata aka the best game of 2017 so far.  I loved the first game, and the first games OST, and this one only amps up the quality of awesome it has with its music.  Definitely going to cover more from this series, loooove it!
I’m also doing a mini experiment with how I uploaded.  As you see, I uploaded this one with a still image.  So, since I’m a weirdo who really likes to see how things work, I’m going to track this videos view progress and put it up against the view count of my last on cam video, which would be the Inuyasha cover.  Do they both get the same amount of views in one month, and how many do they each get in the first upload day?  Right now, the Inuyasha cover has 189 views in a month.  It had 31 on its first day so let’s see how the NieR cover is doing so far!

 

Views for Nier cover in 1 hr: 14

In 8 hrs:  24

11 hrs:  27

23 hrs: 33

2 days:  41
So far, both videos have gotten about the same views in one day.  At the end of its first upload day (Sunday) it had 27 views.  Inuyasha had 31, so only a 7 view difference.  By the morning of the next day, Weight of the World had 33.  So as of now, doesn’t seem like either video style really makes a difference in view count, but we’ll see at the end of the month if Weight of the World reaches 189.  I know there are a lot of other variable’s,  like how popular the song is etc etc but still  they both got about the same amount of views in one day so who knows how much that actually matters.

 

But enough of my weird “science” lol.  Hope you enjoy the cover!

 

Extra Note:  Just saw my Inuyasha cover and it’s up to 193 so I’ll use that as my base number for this since I posted this today lol.  So we’ll see how Weight of the World  does in comparison!

Time for a Venting Session!

I’ve been so tired lately it’s annoying. And really not in the mood to do many YouTube-y things.  Well, not exactly that, but my audio quality has been annoying me because I have white noise I hear in recordings and I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get it off ugh.  It doesn’t help that I want to license the thing with the loud white noise, but at this point I’m probably just gonna release it anyways because I’ve already tried re-recording the vocal and no luck.  The noise isn’t as loud, but it’s still there so…yeah, really not happy about that T_T I’m trying to just release things and not obsess about them being perfect, but this is bothering me so much!  I got some trouble shooting tips from people so I’ll try those for my next cover, but sooo frustrating.

 

Speaking of frustrating, I ordered an ocarina!  On Thursday.  They didn’t’ mail it out until this morning (and only after I emailed them) so I’m really upset at the company because I needed to get it tomorrow.  So now, I either have to wait an extra week, or have it sitting at a PO box until I go back which probably will not be for at least a month.  I ordered it last week so it would be here by tomorrow, that was plenty of time!  I know the ocarina gets good reviews, but I’m definitely going to leave a review about how wonky their customer service was.  Not only did they wait to ship it out this morning, but they didn’t even respond to my email inquiry.  I emailed them asking why my item hadn’t been shipped yet, and instead of replying with “Oh, sorry, we can refund your money if you needed it by tomorrow” they just…shipped it without even replying, like they didn’t even know I had ordered an ocarina from their Amazon store.  If I had gotten a reply, I would have probably canceled the order and ordered it later, because I really wanted the ocarina this week so I could implement it in covers.  Now, I have the choice of waiting a week to travel to my PO Box, or wait a few months to get it and not be able to use it in covers -_- really upset with this company.  They’re one of the big ocarina companies, so their lack of customer service is really frustrating and I doubt I’ll order from them again.  But what’s done is done, I suppose.

 

And what gets me about them too, is they didn’t even ship it with express shipping after such a long delay!  Like you should at least do that company, come on.  Raaaage!

 

 

 

I think I may add a few options to the types of videos I’d be doing covers with too, because ugh I’m still not feeling recording for this particular cover and I still can’t put my finger on why.  I have to record video for a collab this weekend, so I may just do it then.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve been feeling bleh lately.  Like I don’t really want to go on camera for the collab but I’m going to out of necessity.  I really need a backup for my covers/arrangements when I’m in a mood like this and just don’t want to be on camera, which probably will be still custom art, or stock footage/animations.  So for covers and originals I’ll have both those options available (though still don’t know how I feel about using a still photo for an arrangement, even if it is custom art lol).  I also want to use game footage for covers too, that would be really fun and another option I’ve thrown on for any cover I do.  I hate that I’m still conflicted about this, it’s not that big a deal and I need to stop stressing about it!
That was a good venting session I needed lol.  Hoping I’ll make a decision with my video styles soon, because I’m getting really annoyed with how stagnant my uploading schedule has been because of something this dumb and probably so inconsequential.  But in my typical way, time to over analyze and over stress about it for no reason~

Almost Backslid, but Stopped Myself – Progress Yay!

So as stated on Tuesday I’ve hit 100 subscribers on YouTube.  I think that’s in major part to starting to arrange my own covers, and recording myself on camera for said covers.  I also set a goal to post 2 covers a month, and this month I had two…technically.  I had one arranged for the longest time, but for some reason I didn’t record the vocals for it until last week.  I was going to record video footage for it this past weekend, but didn’t get to it, and there starts my dilemma.

 

I usually record video on the weekends.  Like, I’m pretty sure I’m conditioned to do that because the thought of recording video during the week just erks me, and I’m not motivated to do so.  I think it’s because I gear myself up to prepare to record on Sunday (but I’ll probably do it on Saturday this weekend, I want to get it done) because I do vocal warm ups all week and take a break on the weekends to rest my voice.  So I take that time to do other things, usually bake or record video depending on what I need to do.

 

So back to setting a two covers a month goal.  I totally misscheduled!  I know it’s entirely my procrastination’s fault, and if I had recorded vocals and mixed like two weeks ago I wouldn’t have this problem.  I recorded the actual piano like last month and just have been sitting on this, so legit the only reason I didn’t record vocals and get this done was laziness.  And that made my brain go into paranoid overdrive, because I thought of doing videos in my old, still photo style.

 

I’m planning to license  this specific cover to be sold on digital music distribution sites, and had my friend do some art for that.  So I was like “I’ll just use that instead!” and I went back and forth, back and forth about doing this.  I don’t mind using animation’s for covers still, because there’s movement involved in that and it isn’t just a still photo.  But I really want to stop using still images as a crutch, and almost back peddled into doing so, but I stopped myself!

 

Last night, I made the video really quick.  I wrote out my video description, even uploaded it onto YouTube, had it unlisted to share to patrons, but when I was doing all that, I got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I started getting super nervous that the quality wouldn’t be good, that this video wouldn’t get as many views as my last two, that I wasn’t doing my best.  The first two were just me being wonky, but the last one I think was my brain going “Cryyyyystal you know you don’t want to do this stop stressing out over your self-imposed deadline” because even though I want to do two covers/musical pieces a month, the fact of the matter is, I didn’t plan well enough for that to happen in March.  If I’m going to post a video, I want it to be one I’m not going to second guess (something I did a lot last year) and I want it to be the quality that I want, with guidelines I set forth.  I’ve never done this before, but I kept the video unlisted, deleted the video and told myself to just record this weekend, and post the video next week.  After that, I felt a lot better about my decision, but was glad to have gone through that process of uploading, not feeling right about it, and deleting, because if I hadn’t I would have been debating with myself about what to do about the video for ages.
One of my main reasons for not recording video was just because I wasn’t feeling being on video this week.  But, that’s ok:  I’ll wait until I feel better about being on cam and record.  I’ve also set some guidelines in place for my video styles, because I don’t want to have a mental battle like this again 😄 so I figured I’d do it like this:
For arrangements that I worked super hard on like what I’ve been doing recently:  Record myself on video, because those videos deserve to have me on video for them, because I’ve worked really hard on them!
Originals:  Either choose to use an animation, or record myself on video.  More leaning towards an animation, if my friend has something that I can use for certain originals, because I like the idea of having a scene playing while some video game inspired music is playing.  Because, let’s face it, any original track I do that isn’t a song with lyrics is going to be RPG/JRPG inspired, that’s just my esthetic haha.  On that note, I finished my first all instrumental original, and in March too!  So I got my goal of getting an original track done in the month of March.  I really like how it came out, even though it’s probably pretty basic!  Once I finish up with this video, I’m going to work on releasing that one.

For covers with pre-existing backtracks:  Haven’t decided yet, maybe a still photo?  Or maybe I’ll set this one to have the option to choose between recording myself singing, animation, or still photo.  But still using a still image just doesn’t sit right with me anymore, but we’ll see when I do a cover with a pre-existing backtrack how I feel.  I think I’d probably just record live singing, though, but want to give myself flexible  guidelines because I realize that’s just how my brain works.

 

In the End, I realized this was a really good thing that happened, because I touched on something I probably needed to deal with.  Setting guidelines, and limitations for myself, and finding out that that sort of video doesn’t appeal to me anymore is a huge step forward, because I remember when recording myself on video just didn’t appeal to me haha.  The fact that a still image vid wasn’t up to snuff is a great improvement on my YouTube mindset, that can only improve from here!  I also learned that it’s ok to miss a deadline you set for yourself and make sure that missing the next deadline doesn’t happen again by having better time management.  Next step:  to not chicken out about licensing my covers, and to figure out how to master tracks for releasing on those platforms!

I’ve Reached 100 Subscribers on YouTube!!!

I did it guys!  After almost 2 years of YouTube, I made it to 100 subscribers!  I checked, and my YouTubeaversary is April 17, so almost two years.  I’m SO FREAKING PUMPED!!!

 

At the beginning of March, I noticed my subscriber count was at 95, so I randomly decided to set the goal to get to 100 at the end of March.  Usually, I’d just set a goal and hope it happened, but this time I was a lot more proactive, linking my channel all over social media, asking people to share my channel, and people to subscribe if they hadn’t been subscribed already.  I was pleasantly surprised to see so much support come through from old friends, family members, and acquaintance’s.  My brother kept on retweeting my link as well, and he got a few of his let’s player buddies to subscribe too, which helped loads:  one of his friends was my 99th subscriber, in fact!  I can’t see who my 100th subscriber is because of their channel preferences, which is ashamed because I’d really like to know, but I’m also not complaining because AHHH I’m at 100 subs!  In doing all of that, I realized hustling to get something accomplished wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.  In fact, it’s actually pretty fun!  Doing this helped me get over my trepidation’s in regards to sharing my content, so that was a major bonus in just deciding to get to 100 no matter what this month.
One of the cool things you get when hitting 100 is a custom URL.  So instead of my channel link being some weird user ID, it’s now /c/crystaldennismusic.  Which, to be honest, is the whole reason I was pushing so hard to get to 100.  I really wanted that custom URL, and seeing it there is so amazing.  I’ve typed it in like ten times today and squealed every time my channel has popped up, it’s sooo cool!

 

Now that I’ve hit this milestone, I feel like my channel is finally going somewhere.  100 people like my music enough to be subscribed, and that’s an amazing feeling.  That’s like, the size of a concert!  Getting the amount of views I get, now that I’m recording myself is great too, and I feel like it majorly contributes to people’s readiness to help me out.  I could kick myself for not doing so before!  I’m not going to do every video on cam, like I don’t think I’ll do it for originals, but maybe I will, who knows haha.  I want to branch out and start recording in outside locations as well eventually, just have to plan it a bit better.  But overall, I’m super excited that I’ve hit this milestone!  I’ll shoot to hit 200 by the end of the year!

 

In other music news, a random tune popped into my head last night.  I’ve been obsessing over NieR Automata’s OST and story, because I’m a huge fan of the first NieR, and the OST for the 2nd game doesn’t disappoint!  The story doesn’t either, it’s freaking beautiful.  I’ve been soaking in NieR lore, watched the entire games story on video, and have been watching all the boss fights because ugh I love this game so much, and wish I had a PS4 to play it.  That tangent aside, I think this tune that came up is really inspired by NieR’s instrumentation style:  melancholy and haunting.  For my first piano original, I was trying to do a video game type of track, but it didn’t really click until I was practicing piano last night and ran across some really gorgeous sounding key combination’s.  So, I grabbed my USB cord, plugged my keyboard into the computer and recorded a few layers of melody.  Tomorrow I’m going to fine tune it a bit and see what I can come up with, so excited!  The tune is a bit simplistic, but as I’ve stated before:  I think simplistic, acoustic folksy stuff is just my style haha.  I never find a need to add more than about six instruments to a track, and I’m finally feeling like that’s ok.  So woo for progress in my musical self-esteem!

 

Long post, but ugh I’m just so excited.  EEEE I got to 100 subscribers!  My channel can only go up from here, can’t wait to make more content this year!  This milestone has given me major motivation, can’t wait to get my next video out so I can start working on other projects!