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?

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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

Limit Yourself Kinda Sucks

For some reason with everything else I am like “Limiting yourself in ___ is stupid I will do whatever!” but with music I am like “I can’t do this, because I am rooted in ___ style of music” and yes, that’s somewhat true, but like, I don’t get why I’m so dead-set  against experimenting with different musical styles, when I really don’t have to.  I’ve been thinking I really want to tinker with making some EDM, or covering some rock or pop but my brain is always like “You can’t, you only sing Celtic or video game stuff!” and I just want to be like duuuude it really doesn’t matter, it’s my channel and I can post whatever I want as long as it’s music.  So right now, I’m trying to just get over that and start working on different genres of music, and see what happens.

 

It’s a really bad mindset though, because my brain keeps on saying anything I write in another genre isn’t good enough, and when I just look at any lyrics I write I’m like eww.  But I’m going to try and just get over that by recording, and like I said see what happens with experimentation.  I mean, worst case scenario is…nothing?  You always learn something from stuff you do I think, so I just really need to get out of this mindset when it comes to music.
So time to cross my fingers, force myself to record, and see what comes of it!  Wish me luck XD