Friday, April 30, 2010

Best of chip 4/30

One difference I have with many chiptune composers out there (that I suspect comes from my musical training and background) is that I tend to write things based on classical song structures; i.e. my tunes usually have a melody, followed by a counter melody, and maybe a bridge and chorus (something like ABA or ABBA for your classical music nerds out there). These same forms are very common throughout pop music as well (verse - chorus - verse).

Most chiptune peeps write things that are much more akin to typical electronic dance music; they focus on texture and melody more than harmony, so your typical original chiptune tends to be modal (uses one underlying harmony), with a repeating melody. In this, the average chiptune enthusiast is also quite different than the composers who inspired them from the video game world, which is why chiptunes like mine are sometimes referred to as "VGM" ("video game music"). To me, calling something "VGM" is a shorthand way of saying, "your stuff sounds like a song."

This isn't a value judgment on the modal, textural stuff. In fact, I'm going to use an example of this style of composing for today's best of chip. Listen for the really neat break beat thing at about 25 seconds in:

Modulate your Gameboy

From Mute City DMG's, here is a little mod for a Gameboy that acts as a pitch shifter (like on a keyboard). What it is actually doing is controlling the CPU speed, which alters the pitch as a consequence. It also affects tempo, since after all the CPU speed is what is actually being controlled. Pretty nifty mod for those that perform chiptunes live.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Patience Song Profile: Patience

Here we go with the song profiles for a new album! Now, I didn't write all the songs here, so I may not always have the most insight, but I'll try my best! The first song on the new (old) Paragon album, Patience, was written by me.

My motivation for this one was to basically punish the bass player by making him play a very "guitaristic" riff over and over again! Jason should thank me for the exercise though; he has a great warmup for life,  thanks to that riff! As a song, though, it is really about a kind of hard rock latin vibe that I had in my head, as well as the duality of a high pitched melody on saxophone against the low, low riff.

Best of Chip 4/29

This is from a Japanese artist, I think, called K-On? Not entirely sure, but I dig it.

Super Mario Kart Music Redone by the OneUps

Hat tip ECM.

Looks like Super Mario Kart is getting a treatment by the OneUps, a band that over the years has made a name for itself by making arrangements of video game music for live instruments. Kind of like the Pitch to Pixel approach in reverse, if you will.

New album out! Paragon - Patience

Finally, it's out! Patience is an album I recorded with my jazz rock band, Paragon, back in 2004. It sat in the can even though it was our best work, so I always felt bad about not releasing it. Thank you digital distribution, for making the process of releasing an album worldwide so darn easy.

Paragon was all about the hard rock/metal end of the jazz rock spectrum, influenced heavily by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and 1970's era Jeff Beck. These hard rock influences were held in check by the influences of the other primary composer in the group, saxophonist Matt Baumann. Those influences were wide ranging, from ECM jazz (no, not that ECM) to singer songwriters like the late Warren Zevon and Tom Waits.

What we wanted to do with Patience was come out and, to be blunt, kick some ass. The bookends to the album, Patience and The Gunslinger certainly do that! But in retrospect, it is alot of the quieter moments I find myself coming back to, especially the haunting "In A Lonely Place." We usually enjoyed putting in one "exploratory" number (which we did in our first album). For this one, we choose "A Short Expedition, No. 1," a tune that I had written way back in the beginning of Paragon's existence (as evidenced by the fact that its sequel, "A Short Expedition No. 2," is on our first album!).

My favorite guitar solo on this album is the one I did at the beginning of bassist Jason Gahler's tune, "Before One." It is some of my most crisp playing that I've ever recorded. But of course there is Ben Wolkins... freaking trumpeter extraordinaire, who lays down ATOMIC BOMB type solos. I'll always remember looking at the other guys in the band after he recorded that stuff; we were like, holy crap, this guy is a MONSTER player. He is also about the nicest guy you'd ever find.

Anyway, I could go on about this album for awhile, which I intend to, so I'd better save that for more posts later!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Best of chip 4/28/10

I need to have features like this guy does, so people will think this blog is sweet, and therefore buy my stuff. So here's one I think I can maintain. I cruise around YouTube looking for cool chiptune stuff to comment on, so I'd like to take a moment to feature some interesting music and artists out there:

Dolorean Transit Chips it up with a piece from the FREAKING AWESOME Super Mario Galaxy Soundtrack:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pitch to Pixel featured in Gonintendo

You know, I've tried getting coverage in numerous "mainstream" gaming sites and blogs (and yes, in these times there are such things as "mainstream" blogs). Most don't really do anything, and I don't blame them. While my "industry level designer makes music" is perhaps slightly more interesting than "just some random guy does music," it isn't really "big timey industry news" to report on Pitch to Pixel.

So I'm always delighted when a well established, popular blog covers my stuff, which happened early Monday morning when's rawmeatcowboy posted a nice writeup on the album.

Of course, bigger isn't always better and I've benefited from having relatively new blogs cover my stuff as well.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profiles: Queretaro and Mystique

I'm going to cut the song profiles a little short and put the last two tunes in one post. I actually have a new album coming out this week! Yep, that's right, more music! That's just a few weeks after I got done the last album! I'm awesome, right?

Well, no, it is really because it is an unreleased album from 2004. But its really awesome. More on that later.

Anyway, back to Pitch to Pixel. Queretaro is, of course, about the city of the same name in Mexico. I have a bit of history there. My wife spent time there as a college student and we went there together on our "babymoon," a few months before my daughter Helena was born. The song is actually more South American than Mexican, but that's ok, because I was inspired to write it from watching a bunch of kids doing "Capoeira," a martial art from South America.

Mystique is two things really: a homage to a great Jeff Beck track from his "guitar shop" album, called "Behind the Veil," and a song form called the "minor blues," which I like to go back to every now and then.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Run

Every song so far described from this album has had a pretty clear purpose or vision. That's pretty fortunate, since I gave myself barely over a month to complete this project. You see, in order for this to be a profitable venture, speed is key. I can't labor over the album for a year, because I want to get other stuff out to market (provided that I at least break even, which I still haven't done yet, hint hint HINT).

I think "Run" is maybe the only song that resulted purely out of the "speed" approach, so I guess "Run" is an appropriate title. I had no idea what to write when I sat down to compose. I just needed to write something. The latin groove that this song uses is kind of accidental. The melody comes from a technique that I use with my jazz guitar students; use a simple motif, over and over.

So, seeing is that I didn't have an artistic "purpose" here other than to make a song, how do I feel about it? I feel fine. Its a good song. Sometimes as a musician (or even as a level designer) you have to get beyond inspiration and just get down to work. If everyone only made art when they were inspired, then we'd have a hard time getting anything done.

Not sure exactly what to post as my "song profile YouTube" clip, so here is some cool chipmusic that isn't from me:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mega Man Fan Movie

Some cool effects for a fan made film, and they found a dead ringer for Dr. Wily.

I kinda wish they had found a way to make the scenes look less like 2010, although to be fair, the original Mega Man story *does* say "20xx," so it could be present day.

And the music is an orchestral version of Wily's castle music from Mega Man 2!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Wooster At Night

Ah, the undergraduate days. My graduate school days (I did half a degree at Wayne State in jazz studies, then I made my big career change and got my masters degree at Southern Methodist University in Interactive Technology) were more career oriented. I was older, and a bit more focused. While I was a good student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio (where I did my bachelor's), I was certainly more connected to the night life, if only because playing gigs as a professional musician demanded it.

So, I would often see Wooster Street at night, when the drunks were shuffling back to their dorms/apartments/rented houses. The slow sections of this tune is a musical representation of the drunk's slow walk. The fast sections... well, those are in there because, well, they sound cool. No artsy reason! Guilty as charged!

However, I should note that the tune borrows heavily from a jazz composition called "Fables of Faubus," by Charles Mingus, shown here (this is a pretty cool rendition by a modern jazz group):

Fables doesn't have the fast double time, but the transition from "two beat" to 4/4 swing makes it feel that way. And while my little tune is about dumb drunks, I should point out that Fables of Faubus is a serious composition about segregation and racism (written during a time when it was very near and present danger in this country).

#1.... but how?

If you click to enlarge you'll see that this morning I was #1 on the CDBaby chiptune charts! YEAH!!!

Of course, I haven't recorded a sale since last week (my last recorded sale was from my Mom. Thanks Mom!). So I'm wondering how is it that my tracks keep climbing the charts?

Obviously one answer could be that perhaps there is a "timeout" on how long the sales count. In other words, if the sales for the other songs on the chart are older, maybe they "drop off the board," hence rising the chart position without any actual sales. Obviously I'd prefer it if I got real sales, of course (even breaking even, which I haven't done yet, would most certainly inspire more albums in the near future).  But I'm still very happy with this, as the CDBaby style page is where I get most of my web hits, outside of "direct reference" (which is how my web traffic report classifies it when you click a link in an email or directly enter it into your browser).

I actually emailed CDBaby today to ask about how they calculate their charts to get to the bottom of this. Its possible that they have sales they haven't reported to me yet, or their partners via their digital distribution program (iTunes, Napster, Verizon VCast, among many many others) have sales too. Now, I know I don't get paid from those services for awhile after purchase (for iTunes its supposed to be a couple of months of turnaround), but I don't mind that; I get a big cut out of those sales, so while "all things being equal" I would prefer you go to the CDBaby page and order there, I don't mind at all if people buy tracks from iTunes or other places.

Maybe CDBaby factors in *all* sales, even ones not on their site, which is possible since music submitted to CDBaby is digitally encoded (I think those are called "ISRC" codes or something), so they do show up in music industry sales charts. So something sold on iTunes would register as a sale on those charts, probably instantly, way before iTunes pays out the actual money from those sales.And, happily, I do know of folks who bought the album on iTunes (huge thanks to you folks... especially one who is a "great catch.").

In any event, I'm very grateful for the success the songs have had on the charts so far. Please do continue to support my efforts! I'd love to be able to make more Pitch to Pixel for you guys!

Update: Just heard back from the folks at CDBaby. They said that the chart is determined by a combination of sales and how many times the song is listened to. What isn't perfectly clear is by "listened to" they mean the sample you get when you go to the artist page. I'm thinking that's what it is (how can it be anything else?). Of course, that means lots of people are sampling the song, which is good... but more of you need to BUY IT!!! :-) 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Street Struggle

Let's get something straight: I often think of my life as divided into video game "eras." For example, early elementary school was the "Zelda" period. Pubescence was the "Street Fighter II" era. The late teens was the "Final Fantasy VII" era (aka the "emo" period, heh). My college years were the "Halo I and II" era, while my graduate school years were the "Knights of the Old Republic" era.

It is the pubescent era that inspired "Street Struggle," most notably Street Fighter II's awesome, rockin' introductory music. I wanted something with power and fire, and of course I had the challenge of emulating power chord guitar with the emulated NES sound chip!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Over The There

Last song profile, I talked about basing a song of off some silly thing I say to my wife. Well, this song is a silly thing my daughter says. Obviously "Over The There" is non-sense, but when a toddler says things like that it is, well, super cute. Basically, whenever she wants to tell me where something is, she says, "Dada, Over The There!"

The song itself is a bit of "bebop" jazz. Bebop refers to a style of jazz that came after the swing era, beginning roughly in the early 1940s. It included players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, and of course Charlie Parker, the most important musician of that era. Bebop is full of frenetic melodies and rapid fire ideas. Since my daughter is super high energy and "in your face," it seemed like a good choice for her :-)

The tune also resembles a Dizzy Gillespie composition called "Groovin' High," which in itself is based on an earlier American song called "Whispering."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Album Review: Jeff Beck's Emotion and Commotion

Something you should know about me is that I'm a Jeff Beck super mega fanatic. He is my favorite guitarist in any genre, bar none, and there are lots of guitarists I absolutely adore. Grant Green, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis Django Rheinhardt, John Fogerty are all guitarists that I've admired and greatly enjoyed. I suppose if I was alive when I could have seen these fine players up close in personal, maybe they'd have the top honor (John Fogerty is alive, I just haven't seen him in person).

I'll never forget seeing Beck play in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1999 while he was supporting his "Who Else!" tour. The thing about Jeff Beck is that while many other guitarists have surpassed him in technique (the ability to play lots and lots of notes efficiently), nobody has approached the electric guitar like Jeff Beck has. He uses technique utterly alien to everybody else. He manipulates the basic electronics of the guitar; volume knob, tone nob, whammy bar, tools available to almost everyone on the electric guitar, to create a vocabulary of sounds that makes it seem is though he is using effects. He is not. That is the man, his guitar, and an amp cranked up. That's it.

Nobody else on the instrument has his articulation and phrasing. And while he has lots of rip snortin' tunes in his repertoire (he was always good at playing gonzo guitar), it was on ballads and soulful melodies which the guitarist always shined the most, since this displayed his talent in a way other material could not. After all, it was "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" from his album Blow by Blow that caused me to all in love with his playing. It was full of power and teenage angst; it was a guitar representation of how I felt at the time.

So it makes great sense that he would make a classical album someday, with lush string orchestras and arias. It is this direction that the guitarist heads in "Emotion and Commotion," and I think Beck fans should welcome this development.

The album marks the ending of a very fruitful phase of Beck's career, the "electronica" phase. Starting with 1999's "Who Else!" and ending with "Jeff" in 2003, Beck attempted to broaden his audience by combining his jazz rock blues guitar with Prodigy/Chemical Brothers style beats and sounds. It was wildly successful from an artistic standpoint (Who Else! is one of his finest albums), but by the time Jeff was released in 2003, it was clear that this era should be put to bed. The formula was maybe wearing a little thin, and I don't think he was expanding his audience with this direction.

It took him seven years and a couple of awesome live records to get to his next studio album, but here we are. It opens up with "Corpus Christi Carol," which really is representative of the whole record, with a lush orchestral arrangement that supports but does not dominate Beck's lyrical guitar (the arranger for the strings did a great job). This melts into "Hammerhead,"  which is a rock n' roll instrumental that hearkens back to Beck's late 80's powerhouse, "Guitar Shop." "Never Alone" showcases the major influence that Indian music has on Beck, while "Somewhere over the Rainbow" is going to be a Jeff Beck concert classic if it hasn't already. Here the amazing vocabulary is on full display: artificial harmonics bent with the whammy bar, volume knob manipulation, clever rhythmic play, and powerhouse scorching. Check out the sweet live performance I've included in this post, and you'll see what I mean. Awesome.

While Beck has made his name as an instrumental performer, he has in recent years included more vocals in his music, usually with he aid of a comely female singer. Here he features Joss Stone on Screamin' Jay Hawkins' old standard "I Put A Spell On You." She is soulful and powerful, and Beck employs his musical taste in perfectly answering her vocal stylings. Imelda May is the other featured gal, and I adore her voice. It is silky and smooth, and full of seductive power. This is on full display on "Lilac Wine."

But it's Beck's guitar that we want, and we get it once again with a gorgeous ballad, this time the aria "Nessun Dorma." "Serenity" is a space rock ballad, recalling tunes like "Angel Footsteps." Finally we have a blues, something Beck always has on his albums regardless of the record's pretense. This time its "Poor Boy."

Jeff Beck is a treasure and a powerful artist. One of the reasons I am a Christian and theist is that music (as well as any and all art) is so utterly powerful that it makes me think that material is not all that there is. What a man like Jeff Beck does, scientifically, is produce soundwaves. Maybe it's mathematically pleasing to us in some way, and yes, our brains appreciate and determine patterns and that plays a role in understanding music. But why does someone move you, to your very core? It isn't just pattern recognition. It is, simply put, God's image in us, His Creation. Great artists are great because, whether they know it or not, they reflect a tiny fraction of God's creativity. And Jeff Beck's creativity lives in his guitar playing.

Pitch to Pixel Featured in Scatterbrain Goober's Album Spotlight

Another review of Pitch to Pixel went live today, and this one is from the Scatterbrain Goober blog, aka "The Arch Nerd." 

I guess this is a good time to reflect on reviews in general. In my career as a game industry pro, I've only had one game that I've been involved in get reviews, Vicious Cycle Software's Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond (I'm not in the credits, it was almost done when I started there last June, but I did do a little bit of work on it). Even though I wasn't personally involved with a lot of the major things, every criticism stung, and every praise made me smile. I'll admit: I'm not one of those guys that makes a big pretense of "having perspective" when it comes to people's evaluation of my work. No, that does *not* mean I take criticism badly and don't want it. In fact, I welcome it in every field I'm involved in. But I don't pretend that I'm not human either. If someone says something I do isn't any good, yeah, that isn't going to feel great, even if I smile, say thank you for your thoughts, and take you seriously and in good faith (which I will).

Which leads me to some of the reviews I got in my musical career, with my jazz/fusion outfits. I'm not sure if this is out there anywhere so I won't bother to find it, but the first real album I ever put out, "What Is Paragon?," was absolutely destroyed by a jazz critic. In retrospect, I don't blame him, the linear notes were pompous and waaaay over the top (I should know, I wrote them. Heh). The playing was good but we were all kids just starting out in music college, and I was inexperienced as a record producer. I didn't exactly know who to get the best out of my friends and colleagues, and we hastily recorded it all in a few days.

Surely my solo album, also in the jazz rock realm, titled "Zeitgeber," would be better. I had more experience then. I had even cut a real, nationally televised commercial for marathon oil (I played a smokin', kinda "Southern Rockish" lead for a commercial about some free travel map you'd get if you went to a gas station or something). I had graduated with my music degree, and my musical buddies had as well. We were all pretty polished musicians and it showed. But, it was still really artsy and odd in places (although I think if you listen to Pitch to Pixel, you'll find the fabric that connects it to the jazz stuff). The only review it got was a smart-alecky fellow who hated the guitar solos (this is the CDBaby review).

So I guess you can say I've gotten used to negative reviews, even though most have been more or less positive across my disciplines. So when I started to read the review from the Arch Nerd, I kept waiting for the "but..." the moment were he describes something he didn't like. All of my life, I have been conditioned to expect "the compliment sandwich," when someone says something nice, something constructive, and then something nice to make you feel good.

But in this review, it was all positive, and very deeply touching to me personally. My wife told me when I told her about it, "yeah we want to make money on this, but its really great that you made somebody happy with this." Yeah, it is really great.

My music isn't perfect, and this album isn't either. There are lots of stuff I would want to redo or improve (I had a self-imposed deadline of early April when I started this is late January). But I believe strongly in the idea of gestalt, or, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." When you got gestalt goin' on, it covers up the flaws. Now, I cannot possibly know if Pitch to Pixel, or anything I'll ever do, musically or video game wise, will have that effect for you. But its really great to know some of my work had a little bit of that for somebody!

Rising up the charts (but was it last weekend's sales?)

Some good news to report. I now have singles at the #10, #9, and #5 positions on CDBaby's chiptune chart. Is it from last weekend's sales, or is it, I hope hope hope, from new sales? Of course, if you haven't bought yet, you know what to do (it's only $9.99!!!).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sales report... I need more of em'

Well, Pitch to Pixel is almost two weeks old. How am I doing?

There are signs. I've gotten at least *one* non-family member to buy the thing. This is good. But I need to do a lot better! Surely, some of you folks are on the fence, intending to buy, but you haven't. Well now is a good time to do it!

In all seriousness, this takes tremendous effort and I'm committed to that effort. Everyday I write blogs, websites, and podcasts looking for supporters. Some do, many just ignore me! But I will continue to seek out the audience that I know exists for this music.

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Did You Know I Love You?

Hmm, this seems like a strange title for chiptune, kinda. Well, there is good reason for that. This wasn't a chiptune originally. It was actually a medium/slow tempo jazz tune I composed as a Christmas gift for my wife. The title of the song refers to something I say to her alot (one of those cheesey things a husband says to a wife, I guess).

I think it translates just fine to the NES though, and I'm actually pleased with how the emulated NES "noise" channel sounds just like snare drum being played with brushes. This works great for jazz tunes.

Instead of the usual "here is an interesting YouTube video that is related to the song on some way," you are actually getting a real, live performance of this song in its original form: with *myself* on guitar, my good friend Jason Gahler on bass (he also plays bass on "What Is Paragon?" and "Zeitgeber") and Al Ashby on tenor sax. The pictures are from my honeymoon in 2006.

Did You Know I Love You? from Robert Howard on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Pocket Change

Before we go into Pocket Change, one of my personal favorites on the album, let's review the most popular songs so far, not just in pure sales, but also in "attaboys."

The winner is a tie, between "Warrior," still on CDBaby's chiptune charts at #8, and "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," the hymn. Additionally, "Jumpin' Around" has gotten some kudos as well.

Between those songs, you have classical music, the Lutheran Chorale, and early jazz represented here. So that begs the question... what is MY favorite genre of music? Well, I'd say jazz, both straight ahead acoustic style jazz (really, to get specific for the muso nerds out there, I'm a hard bop guy) and fusion. And "Pocket Change" probably nails that side of me better than any of the other tracks.

Pocket Change is a fusion tune, named because it has a deep, groovin' pocket (yeah yeah, it's computerized and all that, but I still think the pocket is tight!) and it has some rather drastic *chord changes*, more simply put, it has weird chords. It also features a "bass" solo, done in the style of Jaco Pastorius. Jaco was a legendary electric bassist in the 70s and 80s with bands such as Weather Report.

Finally, this seems like a good time to bring up the style of music I do other than chiptunes: Jazz. You'll note to the left that I have a few of my jazz rock albums for sale on CDBaby. My solo album, Zeitgeber, is now available for a paltry $5 for the whole darn full length album. It represents me at the height of my powers as a guitar player, and has some great moments on it. Some clown also gave it a mediocre review on CDBaby, so maybe one of you guys can chime in and help me out by writing a better one?

Pitch to Pixel featured in Arcade Heroes and Waxing Erratic

One of the big challenges of doing a project like this is promotion. When you do something as an indie, you have to really hit the pavement hard (well, the virtual pavement of the internet at least) to get the word out. Especially since the very nature of this project excludes a pretty well worn business model: selling CDs at shows. I won't be doing shows anytime soon, except for maybe recording myself performing "live" for YouTube purposes (I currently don't have the right kind of equipment to facilitate that, but we'll see what happens in the future).

So I really, really, really (no, I mean REALLY) appreciate it when blogs and websites actually decide my stuff is worthy of their attention. In my experience, going back to my earlier days in music when I was in a jazz rock band called Paragon (whose debut album is still available, link to the left, and who may or may not have another album coming out soon... hint hint!), I've found that most places basically ignore you. And why not? There are countless people out there doing music. Why should you get special attention?

So the peeps that actually promote your music tend to be the people who connect with it on some level (i.e. they actually think its good).

Anyway, two websites have recently featured my stuff, and even though I've obscured the original intent of this post (to link to them and thank them) with my pseudo-philosophical ramblings, here they are:

Waxing Erratic has been an early and ardent supporter of Pitch to Pixel, and featured me in a post here.

Arcade Heroes, a really nifty site dedicated to coin-op gaming, features me here.

I'll have both listed in a new blogroll to the left for further reference. Thank you guys! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Jumpin' Around

Koji Kondo is, of course, one of the greatest video game composers of all time, and for my money, a great composer period. Along with Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy among other things), he really defined the sound of Japanese video game music (while The Fatman, of Wing Commander fame, Tommy Tallarico and others defined the Western approach).

What is always so terrific about Koji Kondo's music is his emphasis of early jazz in his work. Of course we see that in Super Mario Brothers, heavily influenced by early jazz and ragtime. So that was the spirit that Jumpin' Around was composed  in. It is meant to be a tune that could neatly fit into a mid-1980s NES platformer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Village

Ballads are hard for me to conceive sometimes, which is odd because some of my better compositions are ballads. Why is that? It is mainly because ballads require (at least for me) a little more inspiration than a rockin' tune.

Yet it is a little easier in Chipland, because we have such a wonderfully large palette to pick from: RPG town/village music. Yep, I've always really liked the nice little ditties that play in oldschool RPGs when you walk into towns to buy your silver swords, your iron gauntlet, and phoenix downs!

Village is created in this mold, but I do employ (musical geekout approaching!) the lydian mode to create something that is a little more exotic.

Anyway, here is a young lady playing a nice version of the Final Fantasy town music on an Ocarina! Enjoy:

Warrior From Pitch To PIxel #7 on CDBaby's Chiptune charts!!!!!!

Well, this is a real blessing. Happy dance time!

Thanks to everyone who has went out and bought this! And of course, you can help keep it up there by paying a measly .99 cents :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: 8 Bit Hero

Some songs, like the one I previously wrote about, Warrior, are based on one pretty distinct idea. 8 Bit Hero is a hodgepodge of several ideas, the most prominent being 1980s action flick cheese rock (think Rocky IV) and "epic" style game soundtracks such as Koji Kondo's classic Legend of Zelda score.

My background as a jazz musician is reflected in this track as well. I harmonize the melody in a Sammy Nestico, Count Basie style shout chorus, and I include background "horn" harmonizations during the lead solo near the end of the track.

I must confess, of all the tracks on the album, the melody to this one tends to stick in my head the most.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pitch to Pixel Song Profile: Warrior

Now that I've run out of freebies, my next plan is to give you all some insight on all the other songs on the album. I'll write one of these per day until I run out!

Track number two is called "Warrior," which is a reference to the NES game "Dragon Warrior." Like many, I received the game as a freebie from Nintendo Power magazine. They seemed very keen on promoting JRPGs at a time when they were unheard of, especially on game consoles. The NES would get the occasional odd port of something like Ultima, but it was really Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy that would begin a long tradition of gaming that continues to this day.

I have always been pleasantly haunted by the beautiful, contrapuntal classicism of Dragon Warrior's music, and this track is an attempt to imitate this. Here's some of that wonderful Dragon Warrior music:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My favorite games.... part I

I told you this was going to be a video game blog, in fact, my goal is for this to be primarily a video game blog, that also happens to be the marketing vehicle for my music. So let's start with some of my favorite games, with some mini-reviews of them.

Valkyria Chronicles:

Awesome turn based strategy game for the PS3. It has a terrific art style, and each mission is a tactical tour de force; in fact, some of the challenges will require some pretty deft planning to execute. The storyline is OK, but the character development is above average. I also really appreciate how other characters bond with other characters, and give the attribute bonuses.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

I'm usually not interested in stealth games (with the exception of the Metal Gear series), but here stealth has been redone to be a different, more predatory thing than usual. It works great and really puts you in the role of the Dark Knight.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save posted on YouTube

Alrighty, got another (actually the last!) of the "freebies" from my chiptune album. "Eternal Father, Strong To Save" is probably most well known for being the hymn that the United States Navy uses. Actually, some lyrical treatments of the hymn include verses for all the armed services.

In any case, its a beautiful, gorgeous hymn, and what I like most about this is that the NES emulation actually sounds a lot like an organ when you add reverb to it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Best of Video Game Blogs

I really want this to be a great place to go to read about video games generally, so part of that effort is going to go to aggregate posts from bloggers I like. Here's today's best of:

ECM talks about the upcoming PS3 firmware. Say buh-bye to your Linux.

Scatterbrain Goober reviews a JRPG that I haven't heard of

Joystiq raps about a JRPG that you can finish in ten minutes

I personally like the idea of condensing a game to its essential elements. That's why I'm digging on Torchlight right now, I can jump right in and get going.

New YouTube Sample: Johnny One Note

Here is another preview cut from "Pitch to Pixel," Johnny One Note.

Johnny One Note is inspired by Thelonious Monk, the great jazz composer and pianist. I had a conversation with a coworker in the design department at Vicious Cycle about Monk, and how this particular coworker couldn't really stand him. Well, don't worry, this track doesn't really posit the most challenging aspects of Monk's music. It is influenced much more by his playful side (I personally think all of this music is terrific, though!).

The title refers to the fact that for much of the melody, a one note motif is heard. This is most obvious in the bridge, where the melody hammers on one note, while the harmony underneath changes.

One nice thing about music with a jazz influence is that it works very well for video games. In fact, many Japanese video games have a big time jazz influence, from the ragtime of Koji Kondo's Mario Bros. music to the jazz rock fusion styling of something like Streets of Rage.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It is finally here!!!

Pitch To Pixel Volume 1: A Collection of 8 Bit Video Game Inspired Music is finally out today on CDBaby! 

This is, of course, what this blog is about (well, that and my other music).

To celebrate, here is the full version of "Shooter," a track from my album, as provided by my youtube account. I'll have a few more of these to show you in the coming days! Hopefully they will inspire you to buy  the album or buy some tracks!