Sunday, February 24, 2013

Music composition "marathon," part 2!

Well, I wouldn't call it a "marathon" today, as it is already almost early evening. But I was a little disappointed in the 1.75 songs produced in yesterday's "true" marathon, so I wanted to do another live blog and push- hopefully I can at least have a total of three tunes ready (to recap, I picked some trickier tasks to work on, which took longer than I wanted).

4:50 - Church, A Good Day to Die Hard (left the wife and kid at home, had some "BROTASTIC BROTIMEZ" with a friend), some early dinner, the last of my awesome Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin spice coffee (sniff!), and a wee bit of Fire Emblem: Awakening (WHICH IS AWESOME). So here I am. I'm continuing to refine "Shining Fury." I have chords, baseline, basic drum part, a melody, and need to add some sweeteners. This is my first true "Sega Genesis" style tune so I'm a bit nervous making it!

5:29 added a "trill" part - there are a lot of details to making this sound work, I think! Wife and kid woke up from a nap. I haven't seen this since noon. I should probably say hello (and do a rapid fire round of cleaning).

7:07 Back from Sunday house cleaning. Kiddo got a long nap so bedtime is going to be (sadly) delayed, so time to sneak in more work! 

8:22 Success! Not only is Shining Fury finished but it is even mixed down! My first ready to publish track for Pitch to Pixel 2! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pitch to Pixel 2: Music Composition Marathon Live Blog

Look who's back! Finally!

So to quickly recap the past few years:

In early 2010 I published "Pitch to Pixel Volume 1." 

How has it done since? Well, slow, but steady sales (and let's not get crazy here, we're not even talking *four* figures yet), especially from the "streaming" variety (a few cents here and there). It is just encouraging enough to figure I can do more.

So to kinda get the ball rolling, I told the fam that today is a "music comp marathon day." All I'm doing to day is making music for the sequel to Pitch to Pixel (finally, at long last). Thankfully, quite a bit of legwork has already been done, such as:

-Getting my now ancient music composition software running in a modern, Windows 7 PC.
-Reacquiring all of the various VST plugins that I need to make things bleep and boop, including more 16 bit era type sounds (a common request after the last album).
-Sketching out various compositions already.

So here is the marathon-

9:00 am - wakeup. Biological alarm clock known as my five year old performs this function.
9:00 -12 noon - Embarrassingly, here is a fun fact: I am the anti-morning person, especially on Saturdays when my day job as a game developer doesn't force me to keep a more reasonable schedule. So that...... my goodness....... THREE HOUR time frame zips by, occupied by stuff like:
9:00-10:00 playing with my daughter (I don't feel bad about that of course).
10:00-12 Entering the blackhole known as "my bathroom" with a newly acquired copy of "Hyrule Historia," and a glass of Mio spiked water substituting for coffee.*

*Yes, I read/play 3DS/surf on my tablet in the john. I'm one of "those disgusting people."

12:00 noon- emerge clean and ready to rock! Well, except for a beard that is starting to get rather scraggly.
12:10- Fix lunch for daughter and myself, eggs and avocado, mostly so she'll be full and not beg for the cadbury eggs my wife so adores this time of year.
12:20 sit down at my "home office" in our basement. Finally.
12:21 shave mountain man beard while firing up the Pitch to Pixel blog.
12:30 Open up the norelco to gaze lovingly at the immense amount of beard shavings inside, and take a disgusting pride in this. Begin writing the live blog.
12:38 Band in a box, where I sketch tunes before exporting the MIDI to SONAR. Gonna start composing something classical, akin to the track "Warrior" from PtP 1 (Warrior got a big response, so I wanted to make sure to do more stuff like it).

1:57 Sketch completed for "Fantastical Prelude," which is a pretty strong hint of what it is going for. Taking into Sonar now to chipify and refine the arrangement! This is going to draw from mostly the 8 bit type of library.
3:49 Refinement and arranging complete! One song ready to mix down! I'm going to wait to do the mixdowns, as I want to do that when my ears are still fresh.

3:49-4:30 - taking my daughter outside to play as a pre-planned break/trying to be decent dad/stress reduction for wife.

5:32 - well that took longer than I wanted. Basically it was ye olde "it is impossible to get kiddos out the door" problem, compounded with a "honeydo" request of trash takeout and kitty litter scooping. Joy. But I'm back, complete with frostbit hands, dunkin donuts pumpkin spice coffee in hand (some of the BEST coffee in the world, but alas, I'm almost out!) and my next assignment:

A Sega Genesis sounding track that resembles something out of Shining Force. To the sketchpad!

6:14 - still sketching- I have a name for this, "Shining Fury," but man, as a side comment, the music to Shining Force is so amazingly good! Really really good!

7:03 - Finished sketching. Musical nerdery alert: the transition from A major to F# (VII to V to i) in B minor is a nifty sound :P

7:08 - Kiddo needs to start her bedtime routine at 8 or so- gives me an hour to take Shining Fury and refine it and such- can I do this? ENGAGE HYPER COMPOSER MODE!

11pm - Ok, didn't even come close to finishing this before the bedtime routine- so I did all that stuff, and we continue on...... WITH THE NIGHT SHIFT.

12:41 - Alright, gonna cry uncle here. I'm about maaaaybe 60-70% through "Shining Fury."

So let's do the math here-

Total "work time" = just under seven hours. So not quite a full "work day," which of course reflects the realities of doing a composition marathon when you are also a husband and dad.

Output: 1 complete song, ready to mixdown, and one song that is 60-70% away from completion. So let's call that 1.75 songs.

In my "fever dreams," I had hoped knock out as many as *five*. What happened?

Well, degree of difficulty. As far as composition goes, for me personally anyway, there are three degrees of difficulty:

1. Your own music. Your own style. Easiest by far for me to do. I just write the music in my head. The end. No worrying about trying to match a style.
2. Style imitation. You are wanting to create something original but something that clearly sounds like something the listener is familiar with. Both compositions today were that- "Fantastical Prelude" is meant to evoke, of course, Final Fantasy (in particular its prelude) while "Shining Fury" was meant to sound a lot like some Genesis era Shining Force battle music. These are harder to do because you have to spend time *learning* what makes these tunes sound like they do, and then implementing similar ideas while not, of course, ripping off the composers (pro tip: chord progressions are always, 100% fair game, melodies are not).
3. Outright cover songs. This may surprise people: imitation at its extreme end is way WAY harder than purely original composition, because you have to spend a lot of time listening and getting chords, melody, rhythm etc. EXACTLY right.

So today's tunes were firmly in the #2 camp. So they were harder to do and took more sketching and polishing time.

Yet and still, if I managed 2 (let's just round up to two) songs per week, every week, I'd release a ten track album every 5 weeks- a very very high level of output I'd wager!

Since I did want to get more done, I'll do a "marathon part 2" post tomorrow, though it'll start later in the day. Cheers and thanks for reading!