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!

Soldiers of the Night Original Song

I was going to rant today, but then I posted a new original song, and figured it’d be far more productive to post that instead of ranting about blind music accessibility and the lack there of 😄


I always am conflicted about posting my original stuff before like, posting them for sale on Loudr.  But, After hitting a lot of snags with getting my art done, I just figured I’ll share my music now, just to get it out there:  Because in the end, I really just want to share this stuff with you guys.  Of course I’ll post this stuff on avenues where I can make money off of them eventually, but for now I’ll just settle for getting over my fear of posting original stuff on the interwebs with lyrics with this 😄
So, here is my latest original!  It’s a song about a mercenary guild, and I really was trying to get a tavern-y, fantasy-esk sound with it.  I hope you guys enjoy, and if you have any tips on how to improve this, let me know!  Later down the line, I will be recording mini-sodes about my writing process and creative musing and stuff I’ll post here too, so stay tuned for that!


Taking a Break, then getting back on the Ball

I’m taking a mini-break from recording this week (not singing, just recording) and after that, I’m going to get back to some stuff I had planned.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m still setting up my YouTube stuff for recording – but that should be done by the beginning of next month.  As it stands right now, I may upload another static image video tomorrow and then next month I’ll start with the recording and all that jazz!  I know I’ve been saying that all month, but this time I am cracking down and getting it done – I had my backdrop all set up yesterday, just have to get the lighting going, and then get ready to film myself and hopefully not be an awkward derp while doing so lol.


I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but my album art hit a bit of a snag I’ve been trying to fix.  I’m starting to get frustrated, not gonna lie – but I’m just going to take this experience as a lesson learned, try and get it corrected, and then get my music released.  For me, there’s nothing more frustrating than asking for help:  I’m just really independent, and I know help is fine and dandy, but when you have to ask for it to do every visual thing it takes a toll on you I guess.  I’m trying to get over it, but it’s really gotten me bummed out with this whole art thing.  The art isn’t bad per see, but it just wasn’t done how I wanted it to be done, and trying to get it rectified has been a major hassle that I hope to avoid with releases in the future.  I’ve also been pushing back releasing this original music for months because of said art, so idk I guess I have just overall been really frustrated and want this to get done.  But mini-rant over:  Good news, original stuff should be released soon!


I also have a concept for a video game a cappella cover album in the works.  I’ve shared some tracks I’ve done here, but I thought to myself “Hey, I plan to do a few more a cappella songs anyways, so why not release a little tribute album after I’m done?”.  After my break, I’m going to start working on that to get myself back into the swing of recording and mixing haha.  I’m super excited:  I think I’m going to start with a Kirby track I’ve been dying to do, and after that, probably some Chrono Trigger!  This release is a total labor of love, and I just can’t wait to start working on the second half of it (I have four tracks done already, woo!)


So yeah, that’s what’s been up with me.  All in all, it’s been a topsy-turvey month of triumphs and set backs, but I’m going to keep on trucking until I get all of this sorted out.  Hope you guys’ creative endeavors are going well!

Discovering, and Taking Steps Towards my Unique Musical Style

Something you usually use in fashion, but can be applied to other things as well. I see it all the time in crafting, and in music, and musically it’s been something I’ve been contemplating and researching for a while. Also, I’ve been figuring it out through some good old fashion experimentation!


I think I finally figured out what my musical style is. Sure, I sing Celtic music, and sing video game covers, but that doesn’t say very much about what I like to do for my original stuff. I started doing the a Capella style acoustic sounding music for them, simply because it’s what I had available to me at the time – but now, I realize it’s something I really enjoy doing, and have started incorporating it into my style. At one time, I was like “Ugh this doesn’t sound like a full fledged song at all” but now, I really like the simplistic, yet intricate sound I can convey with only my voice and making different sounds with it.


I’ve also been doing some research on the types of instruments I want to use for the type of music I love to create. Which, for me, is medieval sounding, fantasy-esk, Celtic folk music that tells a story. I gotta say, looking up all the different medieval musical styles has been really fun and interesting! A few things I found out, that I didn’t know before: Back in the day, they only used 3 to four types of instruments. Woodwinds, percussion, and strings. That was really eye-opening to me! I always thought that you needed a ton of instruments to make something substantial, but seeing that, and knowing that this is the type of music I love creating, was a huge…hmm, not relief, but really…therapeutic to me? Like I have wanted an ocarina, and tambourine for quite some time, and seeing that those are two instruments that were used in the Renaissance era (aka the era I love the most music wise) was just really cool. I was so happy to see that the music style I want to dedicate my time to creating had the instruments that I really wanted to learn to play, as well.


Next on my list, was to find a string instrument that I could either use a synth for, or also learn with minimal effort. Of course, perfecting it is another story, but I have wanted to learn a string instrument I was passionate about learning for a while – years ago I bought a guitar, but looking back on that purchase, I didn’t want to learn that specific instrument. I really just bought it because I was trying to book gigs and everyone I contacted was like “Well you need to be able to play a live instrument” so I was like guitar bam! Then never learned to play it and it’s just sitting around my house 😄
But anyway, long tangent aside, I found this really cool harp called a zither! I love the sound it produces, and I love how you play it. Instead of having to hold down strings on frets or something, all the strings are laid out and you pluck them and they produce whatever tone you’ve tuned it to. And buying one to learn is generally inexpensive, so yay! But until then (I’d like to dedicate time to learning the ocarina first) I will just use a harp synth I have on my computer, that doesn’t sound perfect, but gets the job done.
Eventually, I’d like to get a hand drum too, but once again a bit later down the line. I love percussion instruments though, so I am really excited to get one and get jamming!


And all of that combined with my voice creates…my style! Well, it will once I learn to play, and acquire said instruments haha. But I guess I’m just glad I figured out the type of sound I’m going for, and can work towards perfecting that, and making it the best I can. Watch out 2016: Crystal as a one woman band will be coming your way, I’m determined to make it happen!