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!

A Cool New Resource – Video Game Music Academy

Today, I thought I’d share this really cool resource I found by googling a few nights ago, Video Game Music Academy!  It’s a funny story how I found it.  I was looking up tips on how to compose fantasy music, and the article on the site that went in detail about the different music theory concepts you can learn from the theme of Final Fantasy VII popped up.  Being the major game nerd I am, I just had to click on that title!  It was a really in depth, interesting read on the different music theory concepts you can learn from how the theme was composed.  Some were concepts I knew, some were refresher courses, but all was really good information, because it was all in the context of video game music.  I’ve read about music theory before, but couldn’t entirely grasp every concept explained.  Through hearing examples via some of my favorite video game tunes however, I’m understanding concepts I’ve read about before a lot better.  And, I’m learning tips and tricks about composing video game music, which is right up my alley!  I’ve been trying to work on something video game inspired, like a town theme or something like that, so reading up how composers do it has really gotten my composing brain going!

 

Not only does the site have composing tips, but it also has interviews with video game composers, tips on networking and marketing in the industry (can be useful for any industry really) and just overall helpful advice on things like not getting burnt out.  Of course, my favorite section is the music composition tips and tricks, but that section is rather sparse (the blogger posted an article today, so I hope we get a lot more of those in the future) and really, the site is just fun to explore.  There’s also a resources section too!

 

 

I hope you enjoy this resource, and if you have any other resources to share, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Something Looks Different Here…

If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve changed the theme of my blog!  I’ve been wanting to do so for a while, after I made my new blog and saw the default theme over there was a lot nicer looking  (and actually showed my links instead of them being in a side bar) so I finally took the time to find the same theme over here and make the switch.  I love how it looks!  I’m a huge fan of the having full blog posts visible format because I personally don’t like having to click read more when I want to read more of a post haha.  And I added recent posts, archives, and categories’ to my bottom menus, yay!  This blog to me was a bit messy, so it’s nice to be organizing it.  So now, at the bottom of the blog, those three categories are there for easier blog viewing!
When I set Categories’  to be a section at the bottom of each post, I noticed I had way too many.  I know I talk about a lot of things here, but I had 23 categories’ which was over kill, and a lot of them were repetitive so I streamlined a bit.  A lot better than the 40 or so I initially had when I first started blogging, and thought categories were tags 😄 I still would like to narrow down a bit, I’d like to have ten sections to choose from and have eleven right now so still working on organizing those a bit.  Here are the new categories’  and a breakdown of what they used to be:

 

Life Updates and Chit Chat:  Basically my rants, ramblings, and introspections, and any life update. I had three different sections for this before, so wanted to just make one section for all of those.  I’m trying to move things into that section but I have 200 posts to go through so I’m just going to find what I can and what I can’t will probably be in uncategorized.  Music Updates won’t go here, and will be in my ‘Crystal Dennis Music’ section.

Creative Writing/Poetry:  I just smooshed creative writing and poetry into one category because having two was silly when they are both writing themed.

Composing Music/Songwriting:  Just like above, smooshed these two together

Jewelry Making:  Got rid of all the subsections that were like “Wire work” “chain maile” because it’s all just jewelry making

Cooking/Baking:  I just had this labeled cooking and wanted it to have baking too because let’s be real I do a lot more baking than cooking 😄

I got rid of the YouTube section, because the “Crystal Dennis Music” section is where all my YouTube stuff has always gone and I rarely used the YouTube category.  Since Crystal Dennis Music is the name of my YouTube channel, it works!

 

I also added new links to my primary menu up top.  I added my Patreon page, along with a cool new site I found that works as a one-time tip jar – it’s a super cute idea, so I figured I’d give it a go!  It’s a pay pal to pay pal transfer, and the catch phrase “Buy me a coffee” got me hooked because I’m a coffee fanatic. So, if you’d like to help out with a little tip instead of becoming a patron, that’s available to you as well!
I also added a contact Me form in the primary menu after being told I didn’t have one and it was a bit difficult to get in contact with me.  It’s not that I didn’t want a contact form, but this blogs default theme didn’t have one like the default over on The Blind Nerd had.  When seeing it over there I realized it would be a nice feature, so looked into making one for here and it was a lot simpler than I thought it would be to make, so now if you’d like to contact me, you can click on the contact me link underneath the About Me section!

 

So yeah, still working on organizing here, but super happy with how it looks so far!  Will I get graphics or a banner made eventually?  …proooobably?  It’s something I’ve debated but I can never think of good art for those sorts of things.  I’d like to get a new URL eventually too but you know baby steps~  Either way, I hope you like the new layout of the blog!  And to think this all started just because I needed to make a contact form for over here 😄

March Piano Update

Quick piano update because I’m feeling a bit under the weather today.  Also a bit of a YouTube update!

 

In my last post, I mentioned adding more movement in my playing by having my left hand play a cord progression, while having the right play another part that would probably be considered the melody line/embellishment bits in whatever I’m playing.  I’ve found that instead of some sort of structured warm up/exercise program for learning, I work a lot better just noodling around on the keyboard and seeing what happens.  So I did that a few nights ago, and decided to try playing a chord with the sustain peddle on one hand, using the sustained cord as a backdrop for playing a few embellishment keys, then going to the next chord.  It worked pretty well, but I need to get down transitioning to the next chord after doing that sort of thing:  my fingers weren’t nimble enough to do a few separate key presses, then hit the full chord again, but it’s something I’m going to start practicing.  I’ll record it also to see hwo it sounds, and share it with you guys!  That’s pretty much it on the piano playing front, at this point most of my practicing comes with making up arrangements and noodling around with different chord progressions, adding things to said progressions.  I’ve stopped being afraid of using the black keys with things, and wow what a difference they make!  So I’ve been seeing how doing the 1-3-5 chord is with a sharp and flat in there, seeing how the chords I’ve learned sound with those augmentations and they sound so much different, I’m a little annoyed I was nervous to use the black keys before!  When you just start plugging them into chord progressions you already know, they get a lot less intimidating than AHHH they are black keys AHHHH.
But yeah, excited to see how adding the black keys to arrangements will change the dynamics of arranging things.  I’ve been trying to work on arranging for original pieces, and just working through that has made the thought of doing so not as difficult as I originally thought.  Will I have an original piece by the end of March?  I’m hoping at least a demo, but we’ll see if everything comes together by then.  I work better when I have lyrics written first, so I’ll probably work on that as well.  But I just wanted to get used to hashing out chord progressions for something not a cover, which I’ve been working through decently well.
I’ve been sitting on an arrangement I need to just record vocals for and mix, which is a Final Fantasy VI cover with lyrics I wrote for the character theme.  I’m going to get it out by the end of March, to keep my two covers a month upload schedule.
And that’s pretty much it!  Small, but important strides both with YouTube and piano playing.  Fingers crossed I can get a demo for an original song done by the end of March!

Baked Good of the Month: Cookie Bar Double Feature

I have a confession to make:  I’m in love with cookie bars.  After my mishap with making them last time I made chocolate chip cookies, I’ve just fallen in love with them.  You don’t have to worry about sectioning them off like cookies, or them bleeding together by accident, and they taste just like cookies, only they’re the thickness of bars with a nice crunchy top like a cookie and mmm they’re so good!
Needless to say, my baked good of the month is a double feature!  I’ve been in the mood for oatmeal raisin cookies, but didn’t like how big a batch oatmeal cookie recipes I found make.  So, I looked up an oatmeal raisin cookie bar recipe, and made that over the weekend.  After those were so freaking delicious, I wanted to try using the exact same recipe with chocolate chips, and it works like a charm!  The dough with chocolate chips is a lot stickier, because there aren’t any oats to absorb the moisture, but both taste phenomenal.  I don’t think I’ll ever make a cookie again, cookie bars all the way!
I thought it was pretty interesting, when I paid attention to what was in the recipe.  The cookie bar recipe is exactly like the brownie recipe I use, melted butter and all, except you don’t add cocoa powder, instead adding a full cup of sugar (for brownies, it’s one third cup cocoa powder and one half cup sugar).  Most cookie recipes have half brown and half white sugar, but I’ve never been one to do that and just use a full cup of white sugar.  I like the taste of the cookie a lot better that way, and it’s never disappointed.

Another interesting thing is the butter:  most, if not every, cookie recipe calls for softened butter beats into sugar to cream it.  But these use melted butter, and honestly I like the cookie a lot more with melted butter instead.  Last time, I did the creaming process, and it makes a bit more of a crispier cookies.  It’s still soft in the middle, but more of a doughy soft instead of a chewy soft.  I’m more of a chewy soft person, so the melted butter works better for me.  If you prefer a bit more of a traditional cookie with crispy sides and a doughy center, then cream the sugar with salted butter.

 

I’m really glad I experimented with this recipe to make chocolate chip cookies.  I’ve never tried to experiment with another recipe to do something else, and was half tempted to just use a chocolate chip cookie bar recipe, but I really wanted to try seeing how the exact same recipe from an oatmeal raisin cookie bar would work with chocolate chips.  So glad I did, because now I have a master recipe for cookie bars!  It’s interesting too, because adding different things after making the dough makes for a different texture of cookie.  With the oatmeal raisin, the bars came out a lot more chewy and gooey, like oatmeal raisin cookies usually do.  But with chocolate chips, it got that crisp chewy texture chocolate chip cookies usually have.  So I’m really excited to try out adding different topping to these bars, and seeing what other things result in texture-wise.
I think I’m finally mustering up the courage to try my own recipes:  I have my own ideas, but just haven’t had everything to test them out.  A few of them are a smore pie, which honestly is the one I want to try out the most 😄

 

So that’s my baking adventure for the month!  It was a pretty delicious one.  I want to say these chocolate chip bars will last longer than a day, but the oatmeal raisin ones only lasted one day so…yeah not gonna happen 😄

Inuyasha Piano and Vocal Medley

Inuyasha Piano and Vocal Medley – YouTube

 

This cover has been an interesting journey.  It took me a month to get every part the way I wanted it.  Initially, I wanted to just make it Kagome’s theme, and also initially, I had a lot less dynamic playing:  When I first recorded this, I was only using the right hand pattern and when I went to record a demo of vocals over it, it just didn’t sound right to me.  That cover was recorded before I had recorded the Lufia cover, which has a pretty basic chord pattern as well, but I really wanted to practice more dynamic playing on this one, so went back, and added the left hand chord progression underneath the right hand melody chords and this was my end result for Kagome’s section.  And I hope that made at least a little bit of sense 😄
For the Inuyasha’s theme section (the middle section) it was really straight forward,  For the Kagome section, I made it a bit different than the chords played in the original, but for Inuyasha’s theme, I legit just copied the chord progression from the original verbatim.  So no major hurdles to jump over for that one, It didn’t take me long to record.

 

 

Now, the Kikyo section has quite a tale!  When I’m arranging a track, I do everything by ear, so I was listening to the original version which as a background, had descending scales consistently going.  I think maybe because this version uses strings and woodwinds as the main melody, that simplicity wasn’t working with my voice.  I was ready to scrap adding Kikyo’s theme to this, and just make it its own cover at a later date, but then I ran across the version of her theme that has vocals, and it clicked!  So I used a variation of that as the chord progression for her section…and played it entirely too long 😄 I didn’t want to completely edit it down (I had to do some editing regardless, but some cuts were just plain awkward and not fitting) so had to figure out what to do near the end.  In one of my late night inspirational strokes, it hit me again!  I was singing along to the track when I realized:  both Kagome and Inuyasha’s themes fit really well as counter melodies underneath the last round of Kikyo’s  When I recorded demos.  So, when I went to record for real, I did that, added the last bits of embellishments, and bam, my medley project was complete, and five minutes long!  Wasn’t expecting that length to be honest, but it was cool to see all of my work turn into a full-fledged track when I had been working so hard on it.

 

That being said, I opted not to record myself playing piano on this one.  By the time I was recording video for it, I would have had to re-teach myself all but Inuyasha’s section, and didn’t really want to put the effort into doing so.  So on this video it’s just me singing, but I did play the piano on this track, regardless.
It was really cool with this cover, too, because it’s the first post that I set to be charged to patrons over on my Patreoen Page!  Not going to lie, it was a really great feeling being supported by my patrons, and sharing my cover early with them, conversing with them etc etc.  I’m really excited to make more content for patrons, and grow both my YouTube and Patreon pages this year!

 

And that’s all for this cover.  Eventually, I’d like to make videos detailing stuff like this, I’m wondering if you guys would be interested in that?  Also, I’m trying to think of different ways to stage recording video, so if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

Writing Down Negative Thoughts

I’ve been so tempted to just tweet or post on Facebook about this, but one of my major pet peeves is people who tend to vaguebook or vague tweet and I didn’t want to come off as being whiny on any of those pages.  Since writing things down long form always helps me decompress my feelings, however, I will vent on here as I usually do!  Well, not really venting, but let’s just get into it.

 

For me, when I reach one milestone, it’s like all of these negative thoughts just pop in that are new and foreign, and my old negative thoughts are still slightly there, but barely out of reach.  It’s so frustrating, and I wish I could just beat them away, but I think acknowledging them is a far better way to go about it then just suppressing them.
Now that I have a keyboard, and have been arranging and posting things on piano, my brain keeps on whispering things like “Well, sure you’re arranging stuff now, but you could be doing so much better.  Piano is only one instrument, after all, you should be using more instruments like drums and guitar or else what you’re making is lack luster crap that isn’t really music”.  A part of me finds that ridiculous:  I’ve seen tons of people just use one instrument on their covers and songs, and when they need other instruments they ask for help from other people.  But, for some reason, my brain just keeps on going “Nope, that isn’t good enough, buy more instruments!”  In which, I have and still haven’t used them.  Like, I bought a hand drum, which I plan to use but haven’t yet.  Got a recorder, which I have no clue how to add to songs because of the key it’s in.  Shakers and tambourine are fine, sure, but still I don’t really use them because when it boils down to it, I listen back to my arrangements, and like how simplistic just using piano and my voice sounds.  I came to the realization a while ago that that is just my composing style:  I like using 3 or less instruments, usually I’ve found I just use two and my voice.  Does it sound bad to me?  Not at all:  I really like the end result, but still in my head I go “It isn’t good enough, more more more!” no matter how much people say they like it, no matter how much I tell myself that’s just my style, my mind keeps on saying I need more instruments, because apparently  in my warped negative thinking more instrument’s=the arrangement being better?  (which logically, I know is bull ugh).

 

 

On top of that, recording myself singing was stressful my last go around.  I have my Mom look at the footage before using it, and she always criticizes that my face has no expression while singing.  I had to do like five takes before I got something passable, and she still said it didn’t look like I was into my singing.  But, for my past few covers it’s just been a ton of ooing and aahing, and like what sort of emotion or expression are you supposed to put into that?  On top of that, someone I am collaborating with was like “Can you make your video quality better?” and I know that was a vague thing to say they didn’t realize would bother me so much, but it just made all of my recording video insecurities come back to the surface and now I’m back to being paranoid about my quality sucking.  Will that stop me from recording video?  Not at all, but it just shook my confidence a bit and I’m trying to recover from it still.  That along with all of my music insecurities lately, it hasn’t been very pleasant.
that being said, I’ve just been powering through.  Another thing that’s been popping into my head is my piano playing not being good, which isn’t true and also is dumb to think because it’s only been three or four months of playing ugh.  My game plan is to just keep on working towards bettering myself, both musically and with video, because I know that these things will work themselves out.  Did writing them down help?  Sort of!  I do feel a bit more relaxed and less stressed after writing this, so woo~