I’ve talked about making a cover of a song your own before, but can we talk about how difficult it is to do so at times? Why am I asking: We’re going to talk about it in this post!
I’ve been working on a track for another Pixel Mixers album, my usual fair of adding lyrics and making the track folksy. But, I sent a not so great version of it to the person who runs the album making and low and behold, there’s a new feedback committee that lets you know what you can fix in the track to make it better, and what you need to fix in the track to get it done for the album! It came out of the blue, but honestly it was a nice surprise because I took a little bit of everyone’s notes and made the track, what I think, is a lot better than before and something I really enjoy listening to now, instead of the first draft where I was like “This is garbage, but what else am I supposed to do with this ugh”. It made me realize how valuable getting feedback is – I needed that as a reminder, in all honesty, and made me realize another thing.
If you’re going to make a cover your own, you’re literally going to have to build it from the ground up. There will probably be one, or two chord progressions from the original that are majorly iconic, like Corridors of Time and Schala’s Theme from Chrono Trigger, but other than the main chord progression that is the driving force of the song, if you want to do something drastically different, it might as well be like writing an original track.
For this track in particular, I couldn’t figure out what else to add to the track as a whole. I knew there was something missing, but just couldn’t figure out what until I got feedback, and tips on what instruments to add. It made me see how far I have to go before I make something polished, that I enjoy, and how inexperienced I am with using actual instruments for arranging things. But, in doing so, I found a really good trick for my composing workflow!
When I told my friend I was having a hard time finding a progression, they said something to me along the lines of “You need something that compliments the vocal, like think of it like adding vocal harmonies”.
And that got me thinking, why not literally just sing the chord progressions I want to add first? Since I’m used to hearing an acappella arrangement since that’s how I used to do things before I had access to all these instruments, I went back to my roots and sang the chord progression I wanted to add with my flute VST. After I did that, it just all clicked! I usually try to find a progression by playing things on the piano, and that doesn’t always mesh well with what I’m making. But, going back to a song writing tip I read a really long time ago, your voice is your best instrument to make music with. If you have to sing a chord progression to make sure it fits, then do it! I found this really works for me, and I’m going to make an effort to go to vocal harmonizing first for when I get stumped – because I was stumped pretty hard on this one!
Arranging this track reminded me of when I was majorly changing up that Final Fantasy battle theme in the beginning of the year (still need to release that ugh). It’s just such a different process making a cover the way you want to hear it, and not just making a cover that sounds like the original – which I’ll never get, why are you going to watch a cover that sounds exactly like the original? I’m going to listen to the original for that experience!
I guess the third thing I took away from this IS I have a lot to learn still. I kept on telling myself “I Wish I knew more about music theory, it would make this so much easier” but in retrospect, I honestly don’t think that’s the case – I really just need to write more music, more consistently so I can practice and master skills. I really think this was one of the more challenging things I’ve done, and it’s more rewarding at the finish line because of it.
I need to keep on writing music, but more than that: I need to stretch myself with my arrangements, and in doing so teach myself new things. I recently forgot I had some pretty cool electronic sinth instruments! So I think I’m going to challenge myself and make an all-electronic VGM themed track. I’m going to go more in detail on this in another post, but I’m so excited that I’ve found a more fleshed out screen reader script for Reaper – a far more advanced mixing program than audacity, and I can finally learn how to use it! So I’ve been teaching myself the basics the past few days, and I’m amazed at how easily my brain is clicking with Reaper this time around. There were abandonware scripts for a really old version of Reaper that I used to use but I could never wrap my head around doing more than just recording tracks with it, so this is majorly exciting! I don’t know if it’s because my audio brain has evolved or something, but it’s just really easy for me to grasp the concepts now – in part thanks to some awesome tutorials that weren’t around a year ago!
But like I said, that topic is for another post. I’ve learned a lot from fixing up, and writing this cover in general. I hope your journeys, musical or otherwise are going well!