Sad Serenade – Original VGM Inspired Instrumental

Sad Serenade [Original Instrumental] – Crystal Dennis – YouTube

 

I really don’t like going a month without posting anything, and since my other covers are taking time in the video editing phase I figured I’d just throw this together real quick and post it.  I’ve had it done for a while and just wasn’t sure when to post, so glad I had it as a sort of backup piece for a delay like this with my other covers.  I need to do that more often!

 

Not gonna lie, I’m really proud of this one.  I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction as far as my style goes, and it’s going to be interesting to hear it against my next two uploads which are also two things that are steps in the direction of my style.  Which, I guess is folk…acoustic….simple instrumentals?  Still haven’t pin pointed it down yet XD

 

I had the track loop because I thought it’d be nice for people to be able to have it on in the background or something, but I feel like next time I may cut it down a little and maybe fade it out on the halfway point through the second playthrough of the track so it doesn’t feel like it drags on.  I honestly didn’t realize how long it was but like I said a little note for myself for next time.

 

Not much else to say, hope you enjoy!

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!

Song Writing Road Blocks, aka Some More Music Talk

I realized right after opening this up to type that my blog has been dominated with music related thoughts as of late, but it makes sense considering all of my free time has pretty much been dedicated to one of two things:  Reading novels or fanfic, or looking up, working on, or learning to make music.  Which has both been lots of fun, but somewhat frustrating when I want to apply certain things I’ve found to apply. Aka, another music post ahead, feel free to skip if that isn’t your thing XD

 

I’ve been having soooo much trouble trying to add lyrics to my originals!  Or rather, writing a song with lyrics.  When I go to cover a song it’s fine:  I just go off of the pre-existing song’s melody and structure, add lyrics if I want and work off of that.  The next cover I’m going to post is really interesting to me, because for a while I thought it was eh because the tone of it sounds so different than the original:  my rendition of it is definitely more folk, when the original is more medieval sounding.  I’ll be interested to see what people think of it when I post it honestly, it’s my first step into making something that I’d consider “my style” the stuff I’ve been doing lately is definitely along those lines, but I stuck to the structure of the original versions a lot more than with this one.

 

That track was pretty easy to make, I mean, I hit a few hurdles on the way, but I overcame them fairly quickly, and got this track done in two weeks give or take.  I…need to get better at recording video footage because at this point that’s really the only thing that holds me back from posting consistently.  But, I went on that mini tangent to say, it’s so much harder for me when it comes to forming something from scratch!  I feel like The Witching Hour was a fluke:  whenever I want to use chords to form a song, or even another track, my brain just hits a road block. I’ve recorded multiple beginnings of tracks, but my brain just can’t wrap itself around making a phase 2 or 3 of the melody:  or, I’m not sure if what I’ve made as the 2nd phase of the melody really counts as such sometimes.  And when trying to write lyrics with a song, don’t get me started!  I have no clue why it was so much easier for me to write songs with only my voice.  I have some old a cappella originals I did about a year or two ago that I’m tempted to redo because the mic quality is so bad haha.  But those came so much easier to me, and I have no clue why.  Over thinking, maybe?  There are a few of those old ones I want to restructure, because some are just too long or too wonky but once again, when I think of restructuring them, my brain draws a blank on how to do so.  I think I will make it a mini project of mine to retool at least two of those old tracks, along with fixing up some lyrics I’ve never used before to make them usable for a song because right now they’re the length of a poem and not really structurally sound to be lyrics.
To top it all off, there’s another “original” that’s just coming so easily to me, I don’t get it!  I put original in quotes, because it’s something I wrote based on a set of cards in Yu-gi-oh XD I wrote a bard’s song for the set of Gaia the Fierce Knight cards, and finally got to fixing up the lyrics, and fine tuning it and after fixing up the lyrics, the music is coming so easily in my head.  This one is another case of “Crystal, get off your butt and record the music already” because it’s basically completely formed in my noggin and I just need to get its parts recorded.  But once again, why does something like that come so easily, and an original not based on something not?  Over thinking again?  Too much pressure on myself when it comes to originals?

 

I really think I need to figure out what works for me song writing wise.  Maybe trying to come up with the chords first just doesn’t work for me, or maybe I should record demos of chord progressions with my voice and that could help?  But at the same time, sitting at the piano and noodling around for progressions just comes so easily to me, so like I’ve said multiple times this post I wonder what my road block for song writing could be when writing music with, and for pre-existing materials comes so much more easily.

 

Any song writers out there? Would love any advice!  I mean, I’m gonna keep trying, but blarg this is getting annoying XD

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 XD

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 XD 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 XD

 

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 XD
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!