Category Archives: Music

Celebrating Small Victories (and a Music Challenge recap)

It’s been a while!

Last night concluded the Hero’s Journey 60-day workout challenge. Along with Blaugust, which ended less than two weeks ago, I now have two challenges under my belt. And I feel happy. Unlike those arbitrary gaming achievements, these are achievements that mean something. I wanted to do better at the things I was challenging and the challenges were the stepping stones.

They also helped to exemplify two things I’ve known, yet have had difficulty acting on:

1. Action is king.

Preparation can be important, but doing is how we learn best. Riding a bike, learning an instrument, learning sports or a video game, cooking, painting, computing; anything we become good at, we become good at because we do them a lot. The fundamental actions become second nature to us, and we can focus on the grander scale of the project at hand.

If I want to become better at writing, I need to write more. If I want to compose great music, I need to compose more. Will I make crap along the way? Yes! But, I won’t get to the goal without getting up and putting one foot in front of the other. So, I just have to pretend that I’m in ARK, and just my crap behind. 😉 Maybe I can compost them to make them into something useful.

2. You can’t have it all.

During these two months, I had to make choices. Do I spend these two hours gaming, or do I spend them blogging, exercising, and writing music? I made a commitment to the latter, and my gaming time suffered. My TV time suffered. My reading time suffered. But I am now at peace with the reality. I can’t do everything I want to do, but I can make a choice on what I will do, and try to do it well. And by doing it a lot, I will do it better. The other things will be there for me for the rest of my life.

To celebrate this victory, I am going to spend tonight logging back into WildStar, a game I’ve sacrificed for the past few months. Will I continue to have time to invest back into an MMO? I don’t know. But tonight, I’m just going to have fun!

I am taking tonight off from my self-imposed Music Composition Challenge as well. I never set an end date, and I may never. It’s a habit I need to keep if I intend to make anything of the skill. I would never have been able to keep this up without the help of these other two challenges, so a big Thank You to Belghast and Chestnut! 🙂

Here are my personal top 5 tracks from the 26 I’ve made so far (in the order they were made):

I thought the interlocking guitar parts were pretty cool on this one.

This one is different, and I love how it creates a specific mood.

Piano, Guitar, Bass and Drums. All the parts compliment one another.

My foray into writing orchestral strings. It sounds pretty legit. I impressed myself.

Compositionally, this one is my favorite. The melody switches over from the cello in the first part to the violins and violas in the second, but the cello line is still flavorful throughout.

Do any of these evoke a certain scene in your mind? What sort of game situations or scenario would these work with, do you think?

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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in Life, Music


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Two Habits for Stimulating Creativity

I didn’t post yesterday, and it was awkward. What have you done to me, Blaugust??

I’ve been working a lot of my creative muscles lately, and I’ve been having a blast. There were two habits that I’ve taken on lately that have helped greatly in keeping the process flowing, and I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Don’t eat a big dinner if you want to work on something afterward. I have been either waiting to eat dinner until later, or eating a light dinner with less carbs so my stomach will have less to digest. Sleepiness kills motivation and creativity.
  • Work standing up. Sitting can also kill creativity. Standing and moving keeps the blood flowing, and ideas flow more easily as well. Sitting can also lead to sleepiness.

My standing music workspace.

In the past, I’ve sat down after a long day at work and dinner, intending to work on something, only to have my creativity drained out of me within five minutes of sitting down. Day after day. Frustrating.

Changing just these two things have helped me a lot.

I’m curious. Have any of you had similar experiences?

Here are my latest two entries for my Track-a-day Music Challenge.

I’ve been working on my string section chops lately. It’s making progress.

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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Music


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Day 30: Sizzle

Blaugust Entry, Day 30

Today was a good day.

I just came back from downtown Chicago, where a friend hosted an informal classical flute concert at his sake bar. Are we allowed to have informal classical concerts? It was refreshing to hear something like this in a live environment — there’s an energy and emotion that you just can’t catch through a sound system.

I often feel the same way about jazz music. There’s a monumental difference between hearing a jazz recording through your home stereo system and being there in person, watching the musicians’ intricate movements, hearing the sizzle of the cymbals and the murmuring of the audience, the pure silence during the moments where the entire room’s breath is stolen away. There are those uplifting, healing moments when you hear a beautifully executed phrase that pierces your soul and forces you to smile. I had a few of those tonight. Those are certainly moments worth living for.

Onward, to Day 31!!!!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.

Music Challenge #17

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

Today’s track is a little orchestral. I love French horns.

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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Music


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Day 29: Focis

Blaugust Entry, Day 29


Geeze. Today’s music track took forever. Not being proficient in piano made it even harder. I do like the chord progression, and the melody almost came together nicely. A bit more polish, and it could be a solid piece of its own.

I guess today’s post is gonna be a little reflection on how my music challenge is going so far.

It’s going as I expected. I’m starting to gain a familiarity with the process. The quality is nowhere near what I would expect from a professional, but that is not the focus of this current challenge. Speed of creation and finding interesting musical ideas: those are my two focuses (foci?) and I think I’m making good progress. If I make a thousand musical pieces, I should be able to make a few great ones. Not only that, the better ones should come quicker and quicker the more I do it. What I am gaining from this challenge is the ability to be self-critical while not letting it paralyze me from moving forward.

We have just two more days for this blogging challenge, too. I wonder how my life will have changed the next month compared to last.

Thank you to those of you who have bothered to stick around and read my blathering.


Onward, to Day 30!

This month-long blogging challenge is almost over! For more info and more bloggers, check out the official Blaugust page.

Music Challenge #16

A Track-a-day Challenge as an exercise in establishing efficient creative-workflow.

This was taking too long, so I called it a day. A little bit of FF at the end?

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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Music


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Day 17: I Want You to Change My Life

I saw a great quote on Twitter yesterday.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

– Maya Angelou

That’s what I want from my media experiences. It’s what all of my favorite films, books, games, and musical performances have in common. It’s those moments of breathlessness; the moments of the “Oh-My-God!”s; the moments when your heart fills with intense joy and awe; the moments that make you feel it was worth living just to have that one specific experience.

I believe the goal of an artist should be to inspire those moments in your audience. I want you to change my life. If you do, I will evangelize on your work for the rest of my life.

Gaming Update:

I played some WildStar F2P PTR for a little bit. I have mixed feelings about the flow of the reworked tutorial sequences. I like the addition of a very basic movement tutorial. I didn’t like how they gutted the Arkship tutorial, as there is already a skip tutorial option for more experienced players. It made the Arkship sequence feel very disjointed. I poked my head in the cash shop windows, but didn’t spend too much time with it, so impressions will have to come at a later date.

I also continued on The Longest Journey. And oh boy, does it feel like one. After switching to Windows 10, the save button and the quit button are glitching on me. I can hit enter to confirm the save with the pop-up window, but I’m not able to quit using Enter, or with the mouse. The only way I can do it is to close it through the Task Manager.

Because of this, I ended up doing something where I thought I lost all my save data. Thank the heavens for animation skipping in this game. I got caught up in about half an hour. Seriously, this game is like an audiobook in game form. The dialogue can stretch for minutes at a time. Don’t play this when you’re in a hurry. Maybe have something to do while listening to the conversations. You might fall asleep otherwise. I hope the sequels do a better job of separating dialogue into shorter chunks.

Onward, to Day 18!

Track-a-Day Music Challenge 4:

This one’s got no guitars in it. Just a couple keyboard instruments and drums. I went for simple and cute.

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust.

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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Gaming, Music


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Day 15: He Shoots, He “Scores”!?

Blaugust Entry, Day 15

This past week, both my exercise and blogging has been pushed back later and later in the day. I used to exercise when I first woke up before heading to work. When I started the Blaugust challenge, I would write the night before and schedule it to post in the morning. Then, it got pushed back to after getting home from work. Now it’s before bedtime. Let’s bring it back! It’s the weekend – the best time to make a schedule shift.

All right.


I love gaming. I love music. I love writing.

I feel like music and writing share a lot of the same brain-space in terms of harnessing creativity and communicating ideas. Visual art is probably the same, though I have little experience with it.

Since high school, I wanted to make music a career. I even started to have the mindset that if I wanted to be a serious musician, I need to be be able to enjoy all sorts of music and not shun any particular genre just because it’s not the cool thing, or it’s the devil’s music, etc etc. I took music theory classes. I started practicing violin on my own (gasp), and even sought out a part for guitar in the musical, “Crazy for You”. I’ve been studying and playing music ever since for the goal of working in the field. I love music.

At this point in my life, I’m not sure I want to work in the traditional music industry anymore. Gigging locally is tiring enough as it is. Writing pop songs? Jingles? Setting up and running PA systems? Not sure it’s the right direction for me.

But wait! I love gaming, too! I’ve loved video game music since back in the NES days. As a teen, I’ve daydreamed with friends about how cool it would be to be able to make video game music ourselves. Back then, it seemed like such a far-fetched dream.

The thing is, it’s not a dream anymore. With the acceptance of gaming in the mainstream culture and the proliferation of indie game development, now is the perfect time to do it, and it’s well within reach. I just need to work on my craft.

It’s time to get it up to speed.

Here is my progress on my track a day Music Challenge so far. Track 3 will come on tomorrow’s post, as I’m writing this the night I finished number 2.

Onward, to Day 16!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust.

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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Music


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Day 14: Getting into the Groove

Blaugust Entry, Day 14

So here’s a continuation of last night’s Music Challenge.

It’s starting to solidify in my head.

I have a basic template set up on my recording software with these tracks: Drum Sampler / Guitar 1 / Guitar 2 / Bass.

I will load this template each night and it will be ready for me to record. This will be my routine:

  1. Choose from one of the preprogrammed drum grooves.
  2. Compose and record a short guitar riff over it.
  3. Record a second and/or third guitar part over the first.
  4. Record a bass line.
  5. A very basic mix before exporting the file.


After a while, the workflow should become second nature and I can start to experiment a little at a time.

Speed is key. Just like with sports, a musical instrument, or twitch gaming, the more focused practice you put in, the faster you will get.

I need to get myself to a place where I can start monetizing my assets.

Here’s my #2:

Onward, to Day 15!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust


Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Music


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Day 13: Challenges Galore

Blaugust Entry, Day 13

So, I’m starting to get hooked on these challenges.

I’m finishing Day 32 of my 60-day Hero’s Journey workout challenge and I’m feeling great. This Blaugust challenge is nearing it’s halfway mark as well.

This past year of blogging has given me a few critical improvements in my life. Here are some:

  1. An outlet for expressing my real thoughts. Something I have difficulty doing with the spoken word.
  2. Improved facility at articulating my thoughts, even verbally (see 1).
  3. Coupled with Hero’s Journey, these challenges are letting me form some great life habits.
  4. An opportunity to write, and write often.
  5. An organized approach to creating content.

This last one is especially important.

I have spent over half of my life immersed in music, but composition has always been difficult for me. I think I realize now that it’s not the lack of ideas, but the lack of a workflow. I realized that creative workflow is very different from a non-creative workflow, and I never understood how to create effectively. Blogging and writing has helped me to create an effective way in which to produce content in a relatively short amount of time.

Hopefully, I can put this to use in my musical journey as well.

I don’t know if I want to make this a daily challenge yet, but this is my first entry into my self-inflicted “Music Challenge”.

The concept is for me to create short and quick compositions without worrying too much about the quality of the recording. Eventually, I should develop a workflow where I can churn out longer and more complete compositions.

Here’s the first one, inspired by my recent reunion with Rock!

The drums are sampled, but the guitars and bass are all me. 🙂

Onward, to Day 14!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust

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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Music


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Day 11: !!!!!!

Blaugust Entry, Day 11


I love video game music!

I’ve been listening to two albums of VGM recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra recently via Spotify. But ever since I discovered Critical Hit over the weekend, I’ve been listening to them at home, in the car, and even at work! They are apparently playing at the Chicago Comic Con in a couple weeks. Ugh… if only I had enough reason to take a day off to go.

Well, since I can’t get them out of my head, I’m gonna let you guys suffer, too.

Don’t forget to crank the volume up!

Battle for New York (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3)

Tetris Theme

I posted about this two days ago, but for those of you unaware, the dude grooving on the keys (and dancing with a tambourine on the Tetris theme) is Jason Hayes, the guy who put the band together, but more importantly, the lead composer for the original World of Warcraft.

Legends of Azeroth (World of Warcraft)

The arrangement choices are very interesting in this fusion of rock and orchestral band members. Sometimes I wish that there were more strings to make certain sections fuller. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. I absolutely love the energy, and I really love it when the violin and screaming guitar lead sing together.

More guitars, please!

Anyone want to go to Chicago Comic Con with me?

Onward, to Day 11!

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust


Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Gaming, Music


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Day 9: What does Alice Cooper and VGM have in common?

Blaugust Entry, Day 9

I don’t consider myself a hard rocker. For a period in high school, when I was first learning to play guitar, I was into bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and B’z – a Japanese ‘Van Halen’-esque pop rock duo. I never went any further than that.

I was offered a free ticket to a Mötley Crüe concert that happened last night – this tour would be their final one after 35 years of rockin’ their testosterone filled music. Alice Cooper was to also share the set with the Crüe. I never followed either band and don’t really know their music, but I figured it would be something worth experiencing. So I decided to go.

I ended up enjoying Alice Cooper much more than Motley Crue. One reason was that Mötley Crüe’s performance sounded like it was their last tour. They were a little sloppy and the vocals not as powerful. The collective age of the band was getting to them. What kept the show moving was the constant, never-ceasing light show and the crowd’s nostalgic energy that filled the arena.

Alice Cooper, on the other hand, was just one aging man as opposed to a band of one. He had the luxury of hiring younger talent to perform his music. It was also more theatrical. As an outsider to the genre, I felt their music and their set had more craft, chops and musicality compared to the headliners.

They had three guitarists for their set; all young relative to Mr. Cooper, who is still performing strong at age 67. One of them caught my attention in particular. It was a rare sight to see in this world of chest-thumping alpha-males (or alpha-male wannabes) and their groupies. I saw a young, shredding, rock-n-roll machine – and she was a woman.

I mention her, because as we were waiting in between sets, I looked her up on my phone and discovered some interesting history about her which lit my eyes up in surprise.

Aside from being in various groups like the all-female cover band, The Iron Maidens, she was a member of the band Critical Hit, a video game tribute band put together by Jason Hayes, the composer for World of Warcraft. This is probably how her guitar playing also became a part of the soundtrack for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, as well as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

As a video game lover, this was a pleasant discovery. We can always use more electric guitars in video game music!

Her name is Nita Strauss. Go check her out.

To participate in this month-long blogging challenge, check out the official Blaugust

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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in Gaming, Music


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