How do Our Musical Tastes Effect Our Composing and Critiqueing? Some Musings

With this music challenge I’m doing, in the VGMA Facebook group there’s a daily post where we all post what we’ve written.  When I post something, I like to go through the previous posts to see what everyone else is coming up with.  Today after doing so, it got me thinking about each person’s music tastes.  Everyone is doing different takes on the challenge with genres they’re into – may it be fantasy music, electronic, classical – but all in the vain of making it sound like it can loop in a video game.  But that also got me thinking:  How does the genre of music we compose in, and the genres we prefer effect our composing, critiquing, and musical dispositions?


Me, for example.  I grew up listening to country music.  So when I listen to a song, what I look for is good storytelling, an impactful emotional tone, and tend to strive for minimal arrangements with basic chord progressions.  When I build on something, I rarely change up the chord progression of one instrument and instead add something else – like a double strings harmony, a tambourine, something varying the texture of the sound over going into a different phase of the chord progression already there.  My comfort zone is doing an ABAB song writing structure – verse, chorus, verse, chorus with an occasional bridge if needed.


I like good vocals, but vocals over good emotion and storytelling have never been my thing.  I’ll take an ok enough sounding vocal full of raw emotion, over a belting power ballad that sounds like someone is phoning it in.  Once again, I think that’s because I grew up listening to country music, and it’s what I’m used to and favor.  Jumping to Celtic music when I was older wasn’t really a surprise, because country and Celtic are close cousins genre wise.  Same with folk, and indi:  all different branches of the same genre of music.


So even when I compose something video game themed with repetition, I go for that folksy feel, or an emotional, acoustic sound.  But I notice when I’m arranging something, even when I plan to make it sound all orchestral it always winds up being about 5 instruments or less because when I try to add more, in the end I like how it sounds with less.  I struggled a long time with that – thinking my arrangements aren’t good enough with more sounds but now I realize that’s just how I compose things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


There’s been a lot of buzz in the VGM cover community about when a track starts “Not being a cover anymore” and my opinion on the subject?  As long as there’s part of the pre-existing melody in there, it’s a cover.  The VGM cover community is by far the sweetest community I’ve ever been a part of and the discussions on the topic lately also got me thinking of this topic.  Like my favorite music is acoustic and folk, and whenever I see acoustic guitar cover artists in VGM I always get excited because they’re also channeling that folksy, minimalist feel I love.  Now when you do something high energy like say, a battle theme, it’ll sound completely different on piano or acoustic guitar, even if you’re still keeping the same energy and vibe from the original track up.  So does that still make it a cover?  Yep!  In my opinion at least.  I saw a really cool way of phrasing this though.  The original music is like a canvass, and you’re painting with the source material.  You can go as basic with the source as you want, sticking to the original as closely as possible, or you can get abstract with it, adding your own take on it, expressing your style and spin on the track on it.  My last cover was like that, and my next few covers will be like that, as well – and to be completely honest, I’m really happy they’re going to be.  I’m really excited to be putting my own stamp and style on tracks that I love, and have gotten the most challenge and enjoyment from composing my last few covers, and in doing so have gotten lots of inspiration and motivation to do more covers in my own style that doing a note for note arrangement wouldn’t, and hasn’t gotten me in the past.


But yeah, all of these musings just sort of popped into my mind this morning and decided to make a blog post about them.  Didn’t really touch on how this effects how we critique things, but probably  along the same lines as why we compose in certain ways – no matter how unbiased we try to be, we’ll always have some sort of preference to wanting to hear something sound like the genre we prefer.  Not saying that’s always the case, but I know for me at times I have critiqued something wanting something I prefer thrown into the mix lol.


I’ll stop there, I honestly could go on about these topics for ages!  What sort of music genres did you grow up with, or are into that you think inspired your musical inspirations?  What are your thoughts on covers that are a lot different than the original, also?


I Learned Something Today

I don’t know how this epiphany  came about – I think I was listening to one of my favorite youtube artists (if not my favorite) and who I hadn’t heard in a long time.  She initially inspired me to write my own lyrics, after listening to  originals of hers, and inspires the style of music that I’ve always wanted to make.  She makes covers of video game and anime music in a medieval style, and plays all of her own instruments.  It’s something I strive to do eventually, and is part of the reason why I want to buy things to make my own mini one woman band.  But as the title of this post says, I learned something today


I want it to be easy.


Let me break this down:  I don’t mean I want the process to not have road bumps, I know that’s impossible.  But I want to do this with instruments that are easy to learn, like a recorder, tambourine, hand drum, shakers etc etc.  I love arranging music, and singing, and I want instruments that are easy to learn so I can spend less time learning how to play those, and more time arranging my pieces with them.  Sure they’re simple to learn, but hard to master:  and that, to me is a lot more fun than spending a ton of time having to learn an instrument.  The fun to me, is taking something simple, and figuring out how to make it sound intricate and well thought out with it in an arrangement.  That’s what the fun of music is to me, and I need to learn that it’s completely fine to do that, and there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to learn how to play a 12 string guitar or something.  I realized that my strength as a musician, and a person, is being adaptable, and making things work for me that most people wouldn’t necessarily make work for them, and that’s a strength I never quite realized I had until now.  So, I’m going to take that adaptability, get simple instruments to learn, and make the best damn covers that I can with them!


I hope I don’t relapse into my typical “Oh, I need all this intense stuff to do ___” mindset, I’m going to try not to.  This is definitely an important step for me as far as my music is concerned, and I really, really need to drill into my head that this style that I want to use to make music  is fine, that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do it this way.  I don’t know why I have in my head that I need to do some structured, perfect way of making music, because honestly it’s the most flexible art form around.
So yeah, here’s to keeping my new music mindset!  XD

Gotta Do You

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve always had a chronic struggle with wanting to post songs I love to sing, and posting songs that I think people want to hear. Well, recently, after the DIY Musicians Conference, I just decided to start posting songs I like to sing, love to arrange, and want to share. And, turns out, that makes me a lot happier, and I get more views that way as well! Which I wasn’t expecting: Though, I’m not sure if I am really getting more views, or if I am just happier with my content now because they are all songs I love, and this is the content I’ve been wanting to produce.
It got me thinking, though: So many people struggle with this, just in life in general. People are afraid to do a certain thing because of what others will think, or they don’t take a certain step in their career out of fear. But, I realized, None of that matters. At the end of the day, gotta do you, do what you know you’re going to be happy with, produce things that you know you can look back on and say “Yes, I am proud of this” even if it does have minor imperfections, or things you’d like to fix down the road. I think that in the creative field especially, when you release something that you had fun doing, or are passionate about, it attracts more people to your work and really shows through. Right now, I’m working on video game covers, singing Celtic songs, posting originals, and I couldn’t be happier. I know 2015 isn’t over yet, but I think right now my singing career is on the brink of evolving into…something, not quite sure what it is yet XD but I’m just really getting this great creative flow and really good vibes from everything I’ve been doing lately, and it feels great. I want to keep this momentum up all the way through next year, and onward!