Cover vs Original Music Composition Observations

The difference between making an original piece of music and making a piece of music form pre-existing has just hit me and it’s so interesting.  With original music, you’re free to make your own thing, not feeling pressured to “Stick to the original version” because you’re making something from scratch.  With a cover, you’re making something from scratch in a way but also not really.  If you want it to be your own spin on a cover, and not just you covering a song verbatim (I consider this more arranging when you add your own spin on it).  I think making a cover your own is definitely a puzzle in itself, trying to figure out what pieces of the original piece you want to keep the same, if any, and what you want to make different.  Do you want to make an upbeat song somber and orchestral?  Want to make a sad song or emotional piece rock?  Then you have to listen to the original track, picking the piece apart for parts of the song you want to use, and parts you want to make your own.  Want to just make the entire thing you own?  Well then, that’s a whoel different animal!  Time to start playing different musical ideas until you find ones that fit the tone your going for.

 

I find I hit road bumps whenever I want to change something a lot.  With that battle theme I altered I mentioned a while ago (I still need to post that) it was upbeat and high energy, and I wanted to completely shift that to something haunting and somber.  So taking chord progressions that fit that tone from the original was really interesting because I had to fit my concepts of how I wanted the track to be with the basic melody structure of the piece.  In the end, I got something that sounds completely different from the original, that is definitely something my own while still sounding like it’s that track because of me using aspect of the original track to form that idea.    And I hope that made at least a teeny bit of sense XD

 

But I’m hitting the same road blocks with this new cover I’m working on I did with that one, and even though it’s frustrating, at the same time I’m like “Well the more I struggle with this, the more I make it my own and it will get easier with time”.  I don’t want to rush it, but I think I’m finally forming an idea of how I want this to sound.  At first, I really wanted to use an iconic chord progression in the track, but got some good advice from a friend when I asked if it would matter to leave it in or out.  The basic progression will be there unless you drastically change the initial melody of the track, so don’t really worry about it.  I found something close to the chord progression that I will probably use for my version of the song, and am heavily taking inspiration form Laura Shigihara’s version of the track as well (which is also really different to the original but still sounds like it’s that song) so like I said, won’t worry about it.
I had a lot of these musings while trying to hash out getting this track down, and have found some interesting work arounds to trying to figure out how to write a track!  Breaking down the original version by listening to each track of it individually is something I figured out I didn’t know you could do just by importing midi to reaper, so that was cool!  Now I have a new way to learn parts of songs, and come up with ideas for stuff.

 

Really just wanted to share my findings with this whole thing and my thoughts on the subject.  If you have any, would love to hear in the comments!

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21 Day VGM Challenge, Final Day is Tomorrow! What I learned wrap up

Tomorrow is the final day of my 21 day VGM Challenge and I was debating waiting until next week to do the wrap up post or just doing it  day before it was over.  But I figure, what I learned during the challenge isn’t going to change overnight so I’ll just do a post about the things I learned during these past 21 days in a nice bullet list format!

 

  • Biggest thing I learned was no matter what, if you want to write something, just sit down and write.  This doesn’t just go for music, it goes for anything:  If you want to write a novel or fanfic, or blog, just sit down and write.  You’re not going to like the first thing you churn out, but you’ll have something to grow and learn from, and you’ll get your brain working in a creative way so you can actually be in the proper mindset to work on the piece.
  • For music, don’t be afraid of hitting a road block!  There were so many times during this challenge I hit a snag while making a melody or chord progression, but instead of getting frustrated, I stopped and said what I had was going to be my bars for that day.  A few times, the next day I came up with something I could use for the thing the day before, so just stopping and taking a breather instead of banging my head against the wall helped loads.
    • This is a huuuge one that I see a lot of musicians and creators struggle with, and it’s a constant battle for us but honestly don’t be a perfectionist.  There were a few times I made a mistake, and it made something even better than I was trying to get because instead of giving up because it wasn’t “perfect” I forged forward in spite of   the “imperfections”.  Especially in music, flaws show character, and can make something great out of something you may have thought was garbage.  So really try and check your perfectionism at the door, and just get out there and create!
  • I was getting burnt out halfway through the challenge, but I forced myself to keep on moving forward.  I know people think that creativity should be some sort of muse, or flash on inspiration, but it’s really a muscle you need to flex so it can get developed enough to come up with ideas. Whenever you need to.  If you want to make this your profession, then making music when you’re not “inspired” is a must have skill.
  • I’m slowly learning how to develop better melodies and figuring out how to make things more dynamic, and I wouldn’t have known that without this challenge.  I also wouldn’t have figured out the sorts of VSTs I want to buy for the type of music I make without it either, and wouldn’t have figured out writing for different styles isn’t as hard as I thought.  I put off doing a few other projects to keep my momentum going for this challenge, so I will probably do this sort of thing every so often to get a lot of ideas for songs.
    • As it stands, I’m going to work on some collabs, some other covers, and also work on fleshing the ideas I got from this challenge out (I already have at least three things I know where I want to go woo).  I’m really happy I did this because as you see, I learned a lot from it, and enjoyed it a lot and defs will do it again!

 

If you want to check out the ideas I came up with during the challenge, you can check out the playlist I made for them here!

The 21 Day VGM Challenge has Begun!

And it’s been loads of fun!

 

If you haven’t seen me mention it before, the 21 Day VGM Challenge is an event put on by Video Game Music Academy, a blog and facebook group that specializes in helping people improve their composing skills, specifically for composing in video games.  This month, a challenge was set forth to create music for 21 days.  It has to be 2 to 4 bars, and the entire thing is designed to get into the habit of making music every day, to get your composer juices flowing.
And I gotta say, it’s working super well for me, in more ways than one!  Not only is it helping me come up with ideas, but it’s helping me learn how to play on piano in different ways.  It’s also stretching my brain to look for different chord progressions, melodic structures, and ways to play both on the piano.  I hadn’t realized how much of a practicing piano slump I had gotten into, until I started this challenge.  I still play daily, but I was having a hard time finding things to teach myself that I hadn’t already figured out.  With this challenge however, I’m doing things like mirroring left and right hand playing, looking for different chord voicings, figuring out how to do a different tempo in one hand as opposed to the other, and overall just striving to teach myself things I wasn’t really thinking of, because I wasn’t stretching my brain to think outside of the box.  I’m much more of a teach yourself something when you need it type of person, so this write a melody or chord sketch a day process is working extraordinarily well for me!
On the Facebook group, people are sharing what they’re coming up with, and it’s really cool, and inspiring!  It’s interesting to see how people are approaching the challenge differently:  some people are doing simple piano sketches like me, other full blown tracks.  Some people made a theme the first day, and are building upon said theme with the rest of the bars they’re making throughout the challenge – a great idea that got me thinking, I’ll see if any of my ideas can merge together after the challenge is done in such a way – and that’s the cool thing, too.  Seeing everyone else’s compositions is giving me so many ideas just by listening to them.  The crazy thing too, is we’re only four days in!  There are so many pieces of music to listen to, the event is going awesome so far!

 

That’s basically been my experience thus far.  I’ll write a wrap up post when this is all over, talking about what I learned and enjoyed and sniz in this little adventure.  But honestly, I know I’m going to be doing this again on my own.  It’s an awesome experience already, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

If you’d like to hear the musical sketches I’ve come up with, I’ve made a playlist for them you can listen to here.  Fingers crossed I don’t run out of time on my soundcloud before the event is up XD

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

Nier Automata Possessed by a Disease Cover, plus Mini Music Updates

[Nier Automata] Possessed by a Disease Cover – Crystal Dennis – YouTube

 

Posted this cover last week.  It’s been in the works for like, 2 months, and let me tell ya it’s probably the most intense cover I’ve done with a pre-existing backtrack.  I adore Nier’s music, but the reason I tend to not cover things from it is the sheer amount of work that goes into doing so.  The Chaos language is something you have to pick out by ear because there aren’t really any lyrics around, so it’s like learning a song in another language which, I always have to learn phrase by phrase.  Luckily, this song is in Enka, which is a real language but still…same concept applied.  I wanted to cover this song so much though, it’s my favorite piece of Nier music.  So not only did I learn this one by ear, but I took the time to write out the phonetics of the song so I could get as close to the original as possible.  Is it perfect?  Nope!  But it’s as close as I’m going to get with pronouncing the lyrics in this song so I’ll take it XD
The other troublesome thing with this one was mixing.  I only have access to Audacity for mixing due to like, no other DAW being 100 percent accessible (get on the ball for PC some DAW come on) so the original mix of this was garbage, and I hated it so much. I hate not being able to use a more advanced DAW in general but I use what I can to the best of my ability and that’s another story for another post, but one of my friends offered to mix this one for me because of that.  When I heard this mix, I was floored!  It was just how I wanted it to sound, love how it came out.

 

The last step of releasing this one was the step I always debate over the most lol.  The dumb video!  In the end, I did a still image because I just wanted to release it and have been stressing out over what types of videos to make for eeeevery video  and honestly, at this point, I’m starting to re-evaluate what style of video I want to make for my channel.  I had this epiphany  last night when I couldn’t sleep:  I honestly don’t remember if recording myself on camera singing was something I wanted to do, or just did because everyone on YouTube forums and subreddits said I should do it to engage the audience more.  Seeing my view counts for certain videos, I feel like that isn’t exactly the case for my channel:  the highest views I have on any cover is close to 1000 views in a year, and that’s a still image video, same with the second video with the most views on my channel.  I like the idea of giving back to the artist community in a way by commissioning artwork to use in videos, using animations of friends and acquaintances  and things like that, and when I think about doing that for videos, I get excited to make things.  When I think of recording myself on camera, I think of how much of a hassle it is to get everything set up, and that it’s ridiculous how much I’m stressing over it when I really care more about producing music.

 

I know I talk about this particular thing sooooo much on this blog so if you’re tired of hearing it, sorry XD I know I’m tired of thinking of it, so yeah!  I’m not going to for sure say I’ll never record on cam again, but like I said I’m definitely going to re-evaluate what type of videos I want to predominantly  feature on my channel, and make sure they’re videos I’ll 100 percent be alright with and proud of posting, regardless of what they are.

 

That being said, if you watch cover videos that use animations or still images, I’d love for you to describe the style they use to do so!  I know some way bigger YouTubers use minimal art and animations for vids, so if you have a particular YouTuber you like that does this I’d love to hear why.  It’s hard for me to figure out what style could work for me when I can’t see others videos XD

 

And I told myself I wouldn’t blog about this when I posted my tangent on facebook at 5 AM, oy…

 

 

Some Mini Music Updates, to finish off this post:

 

Piano Practice update:  I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I hit a major landmark the other night!  I’ve been struggling with playing and singing at the same time, but the other night while practicing, I was able to do so!  I was so happy because that was something I was majorly struggling with, so just being able to do it was so cool.  It’s weird how it doesn’t seem like you’re progressing in something, but then something like that happens and you go “Oh, guess I actually am improving”.

 

Original Music Update!:  I’m working hard to churn through my backlog of melodies I’ve recorded and not finished.  I finished up a simple piano and strings piece last night and really like how it turned out.  It’s some more VGM inspired music (aka loopable music lol) so be on the lookout for that soon!

The best piece of advice I’ve read is to just finish up compositions,, no matter the quality.  You learn something from every piece, and can move on knowing you completed something.  So I’m going to work hard to do that with all the melodies scattered across my computer!

 

Song Writing Update:  I have five or six originals I wrote probs about 2 years ago.  I didn’t have a keyboard, or drum, or any way to use VSTs that was accessible with my screen reader, so I did them all a cappella.  But I always dreamed of going back to them, rearranging them with instruments, and re-releasing them.  I got inspired by a critique on one of them to stop procrastinating on doing that little project, so we’ll see how this goes!  Aka I hope I don’t just procrastinate on doing it more XD

 

I wrote a companion piece to the very first original I made that I need to work on too.  I’ve just been slacking on it. But I feel like I should probably redo the first original then work on that one so the styles match.  But once again, we’ll see how that goes haha.  I’m trying really hard not to procrastinate on these things though!  At the same time, I need to pace myself and doing all of these will probably lead to burn out if I’m not careful so yeeX D

 

Mmm, don’t you love when posts get far longer than you expected them to?  Tends to happen to me when I’m talking about music.  Anyway, hope you enjoy the Possessed by a Disease cover, and see you guys on Thursday!

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.