Getting “Nothing Done” Isn’t Always UnProductive

I just finished up a recording session on the piano, so with my instruments instead of recording vocals, and got seemingly absolutely nothing done.  I say seemingly, because a lot of us creatives think that if you’ve recorded nothing, written nothing, drawn nothing, in a session of creativity, you think you’ve done absolutely nothing and it was a waste of time.  It’s discouraging, and sometimes it makes you want to give up on whatever you’re working on and get frustrated.
I thought it was important to write this experience, and this post for other creatives, because in “getting nothing done” this recording session, I hashed out some arrangement plans. In fact, I figured out what I wanted to do for the track wasn’t working at all, and that the other idea I had for it was far better for the entirety of the track.  I originally wanted to start out with a capella vocals, then bring in some slight strings and have other vocal layers as a choral sort of thing for this.  Trying to record strings for it, it just wasn’t working, and I decided to just go fully a cappella with this track like the good old days of me arranging things XD but in hashing that out, I realized that maybe I’ll do all my Christmas covers as a cappella arrangements, because I’ve never done that before!  I’m confident in that choice, and now am re-energized, re-motivated, and already getting so many ideas bouncing around in my head and am thinking of other Christmas songs to do, perhaps make a series of a cappella Christmas for this year.

 

And I would have never come to that conclusion, if not for “botching” recording the strings for my original arrangement plans.

 

I have another arrangement I’m working on that just wasn’t coming together, and instead of trying to push it, I decided to move on to making my Christmas tracks, and push the release date of the album I was working on to January so it can truly make it the best I can before release.  Same with the Christmas tracks:  I want to polish them, and make them the best they possibly can for release, and wouldn’t have figured out how to do so without a few sessions of trying to figure out how I initially wanted to arrange this, which for me is brainstorming sessions – which, once again, I wouldn’t have realized that’s how I brainstorm if I didn’t just sit down and try things at my keyboard!
Like I said, I’m writing this because I think it’s an important lessons for us creatives to learn.  Sure, sometimes we’ll get discouraged with our music, with our blogs, with whatever we do, but it’s important to take something away from your creative sessions – even if it’s “This isn’t working, how can I fix it so it does”.  People are such crazy perfectionists nowadays, I’m also very guilty of perfectionism stopping me from taking steps forward every now and again, but it’s so so so so important to know  how to problem solve yurself out of slumps like that:  Maybe you need to add more chords to a section of music?  Maybe add an extra scene to the post or story you’re writing.  You’ll never realize that unless you initially try to do something and figure out the way you’re doing it isn’t working.
So don’t let bad creative sessions get you down, go out there and create!  Whether it’s good or bad, it’s something you can learn and grow from, and be a better artist for it!  I for one, can’t wait to get to re-arranging said track I was working on today, and mix my first a cappella tracks in Reaper:  It’s going to be loads of fun!

Advertisements

Going to Try and Write a Lot of Music in November!

I did my first mix in Reaper, and it was really easy!  I had a few learning curve things to deal with along the way (automation and fading out the track were interesting to deal with) and I still have a long way to go before being 100 percent comfortable with using Reaper, but overall it was a harmless experience.  It helps that I’ve been reteaching myself mixing terms, and that I have always kept up with knowing how to mix things whether or not I could do them in audacity, but it’s just so interesting to not have to record my midi in Reaper, export it as a wav then do everything in laggy audacity.  I’m loving how customizable Reaper is, and how easy it is to organize tracks, add effects, and just the workflow I’m able to have in Reaper is making my mixes a lot funner to mess with.  I feel like I’ve been able to be a loooot more creative with my mixing, because I don’t have to be afraid of something messing up the tracks and not being able to fix it.
That being said, having this new workflow of both mixing and recording in Reaper has gotten me majorly motivated to make music again.  I didn’t realize how much my previous workflow was stifling my creativity, until I got to the point where I really didn’t want to record something because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of the process I outlined in the previous chapter.  Audacity isn’t very nice when you have about 20 or more tracks in it either, so it was majorly annoying having to apply reverb, and go do something else for like 20 minutes because audacity just took THAT LONG to render out effects.  With Reaper, just put the reverb plug on, and tweak parameters  in realtime with no lag!  It’s so nice~

 

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for audacity.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to mix for the past four years.  At the same time, I’m glad that I can take this step into more advanced music production because of some amazing devs who made NVDA scripts for Reaper to work well with a screen reader.

 

The first thing I mixed in Reaper was an all instrumental track, from an idea that I first came up with during that 21 days of VGM challenge I did back in July.  I’ll be posting it soon probably, but making it in Reaper, and Reaper alone was so easy!  I used the metronome for it, which as bad as it sounds I rarely do haha.  Just wanted to see the difference between using it and not using it, and I feel like I’ll be going bac and forth between using it and not, because there are times when I want to use a metronome and times when I do.
That tangent aside, I really want to work on making a decent amount of music in November!  I’m already working on another Final Fantasy track, because I really want to try and get an EP out before the year of all of my Final Fantasy tracks.  I’ll come out with it regardless, but I want to push myself to get it out soon, because I only have to add 2 more tracks to get it to EP length!  I went through all of my ideas from the 21 Day VGM Challenge and forgot there were a few I really wanted to flesh out and just never got to, so I want to get at least 2 of those done in November as well.  Then there’s Christmas songs I want to work on, as well, so I’m going to really push myself to work on music as much as I can next month, and not lose the motivation working in Reaper has given me.  Ugh, it’s just so nice to be able to do everything in one program, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on!

 

 

Wish me luck on this musical endeavor, I really hope I can pull it off!

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!

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