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!

The Witching Hour (Original) Smile Bomb! And General Music Update

The Witching Hour [Original Instrumental] – YouTube

 

Smile Bomb!  – YouTube

 

A few musical updates today!  There was one more collaboration I could have linked but I really don’t like how it came out and it deserves a post all its own if I ever wind up posting it to be completely honest.  Not a bad experience, just an annoying one lol.  But, This collab is another story!  I met Chris through seeing a friend of mine link her collab with him.  I commented on the video, he emailed me and asked if we could do something together and my answer is always “Yes!”.  After that, we got talking, and we get along really well!  He’s really nice to work with, and I definitely am happy to have a new friendship with him (an working relationship, as well!) it’s really nice to have people to talk to about all this music youtube business who’s into it too, I’ve already gotten loads of help and support from him, and doing this collab was amazing.  Yu Yu Hakusho is an anime I loved from my childhood, and when I saw Smile Bomb on the list of suggestions he had I was like “I love that song, let’s do it!”.  Overall, I just feel really open about talking to Chris, and working on improving our channels together, and this collab is hopefully the first in many more collabs with him!
This is another huge milestone, because it’s the first thing I’ve done that’s on iTunes and Spotify and other music distribution sites EEE!  I couldn’t stop myself from listening to the preview over and over again on iTunes, it’s so cool to see it there!  I can’t wait to see more of my stuff go on those stores as well, it’s a dream come true!
On that note, I got all of the distribution stuff situated for my next cover.  I had to get a bit aggressive with Soundrop, because I emailed them three times before they responded – and they only responded when I tweeted at them about my problem (which was pretty entertaining to see, I must admit hahaa).  They fixed it yesterday, and my next cover is now in the process of being listed on stores!  So after that’s done, I’ll be posting my Terra cover on YouTube (finally!  I’ve been working on this for so long).  They said it could take up to a week to get it to stores but I’ve seen other friends have a turnaround of a day or so, so the cover will be going up next week, woo!

 

Because Terra’s theme wasn’t ready yet, I opted to post the other video linked above.  I mentioned working on this track a while ago, and got my awesome animator friend to make an animation for me.  The first custom one he’s done, yay!  (Side note:  If you want him to be able to do this a lot more, consider supporting me on Patreon – he also made my album art for Terra’s theme).  I put this together a few weeks ago probably, just in a 3 hour span of time.  Figured out all of the melodies just by noodling on the keyboard.  I figured out the piano background first and was like “Oo this sounds spooky, what else can I add to it” and just kept on building on it until I got this.  I half improv, half made the main melody.  Not sure if I could even redo it haha but I really liked how it came out for my first attempt at an all instrumental track!  Let me know what you think J

 

It sort of just happened this month, but I really liked the amount of content I released!  I got one original track, one cover with backtrack, and one VGM/anime cover arrangement done.  I’m not going to concrete say I must stick to this schedule, but at the same time I kind of want to.  If the licensing goes smoothly, it really wouldn’t be a major hassle because this is all I do for an…attempted living 😄 I’d love to try and get a video out a week, but I don’t think I could do that with music all the time so may look at doing some how it’s made behind the scenes stuff, who knows.  Either way, I’m really happy this month of music is over, because hoo boy was it stressful haha.
That also was a lot longer of a post than I expected, but like I said a lot has been going on!  Hope you enjoy these videos, more will be coming soon!

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!