Monthly Archives: July 2008

Indulging the Geek

The other day, I was surfing my favorite tech site, www.arstechnica.com, when I stumbled upon an article of particular interest.  It was a feature story on how a group of music hobbyists with a penchant for video game music formed a website to house fan-made arrangements.  The website was so successful that Capcom, a video game company, took notice.  Impressed with the arrangements, they enlisted the fan community to create new mixes for their new Streetfighter 2 remake coming soon to Xbox Live.

This might not seem like much for those of you unfamiliar with the workings of the video game industry.  But to put this into perspective, it would be like Spielberg asking a bunch of amateur filmmakers to assist on a major motion picture (hmm, maybe that’s what happened with Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull).

Incidentally, I visited the website cited in the article a few years ago.  At the time, I thought OCRemix was just a bunch of cheesy MIDI arrangements, but I really didn’t do a good listen to all the stuff on the site.  Based on the mp3s available now, I actually wish I’d joined the community from the very beginning.  Oh well, live and learn I guess.

The piece I’m uploading today is something inspired from my OCRemix visit.  It’s an arrangement of a theme from Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III as we know it here in the States).  When playing the game way back when, I remember enjoying the “in town” theme that played.  I knew it would make a pretty piano piece.   So, here is Kids Run Through the City Corner (originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu) arranged as a piano lullaby.

City Corner Lullaby, by Jared Ong

p.s. I sent the submission to OCRemix, so we’ll see if it makes it past the judges and on to the site.

The Songwriting Process – Part 3

The first thing that I changed when I got back from San Diego was the outtro.  When recording the original piano scratch track, I ended up playing the 4th chorus and improvising the ending.  In the process of rewriting the song, I’d actually never mapped out how to end the thing.  My follow-up listens showed that the ending was too abrupt.  Outtros should be an extension of the verse or chorus and let the listener ease out of the mood created by song.

Another thing that I ended up fixing was the “C” sections of the song (i.e. the bridge).  The improvisation of the early demo was just too distracting.  I opted instead for some simple ooh’s and a restatement of the chorus.  This worked much better with the general groove of the bridge.

The lyrics also were tweaked a bit.

I’ll find some days I’m lost
Out on my own

was changed to

I’ll find some days I’m lost
On lonely roads.

This seemed much more appropriate for the metaphor.  Other similar lyric changes were made.

After I felt comfortable with both the lyrics and structure of the song, I decided to try and add a couple of instruments.  I originally heard strings. But after playing them in, my creative side got really excited and I started adding more instruments that I’d anticipated.  First it was the nylon guitar.  But that seemed a bit boring without the bass.  Then I heard congo’s and shaker.  But when that was added, they seemed lonely without the rest of the drum kit.  So I added the kick, snare, hi-hat, crash, and cymbal swells to build the song properly.  Adding the rest of instruments consisted of about 2 or 3 marathon 8 hour sessions of recording and MIDI editing (e.g. I’m not yet efficient in using ProTools to do my arranging) plus mixing and tweaking over a period of a few weeks.

As my internal deadline started approaching, I had to stop with the MIDI and work on rerecording the vocals.  This ended up being one of the more frustrating aspects of tracking.  I’m not a singer, and trying to recreate the vocals in my head just makes me hear all the flaws in my voice.  However, since I didn’t really have time to go and find a good vocalist, I ended up recording myself and editing out the bad sounding bits.  There was also that blasted dog that decided to bark for 20 minutes straight right when I was ready to record the main vocal track.  Anyway, the vocals sound a bit rough, but what can I say, it’s a demo.

The last thing I added were a couple of vocal comps.  At one point, I had this Imogen Heap Hide N Seek sound going on but decided that might be a little much for an EFY track.  The harmonies ended up mostly hidden underneath the main track.
Here are the final lyrics:


I Know It’s You

Words and Music by Jared Ong

Copyright 2008

Verse 1

I find some days I’m lost

On lonely roads

And then by chance it seems

I’m heading home

And I see more clearly

Verse 2

And in my life I’ve felt

I’m on my own

But without words it seems

That someone knows

And I see more clearly

Chorus

I know enough to say

When life just goes my way

It’s not from what I do

I know enough

To know it’s you

Verse 3

Then there are times I ask

To know you care

And when I turn the page

The answer’s there

Then I see so clearly

Chorus

Bridge

Ooh

I know it’s you

Ooh

Verse 4

At night I close my eyes

To say I’m grateful

My heart just overflows

And I’m unable

To freely sing to thee

Chorus

I know enough to say

When life just goes my way

I know it’s all from You

I know enough

To know it’s you

Repeat Chorus

Bridge

Ooh

I know it’s you

Ooh

Outtro

I know enough to say

When life just goes my way

It’s not from what I do

I know enough

I know enough it’s you

Here’s the final mp3: I Know It’s You Jared Ong Final Demo

And here’s the final mp3 minus track (i.e. instrumental track): I Know It’s You Jared Ong Minus Track

One thing I forgot to mention is that when recording, I transposed the song from the key it was originally written in (F major) to Ab major.  I hear the song being sung by a tenor, although I’d like to see what female vocalist could do.

I definitely still get annoyed by the limitations and flaws in the mp3, even with all the edits and rewrites of the songwriting process.  Fortunately, I know that demo submissions don’t need to be perfect and am comfortable with the current result.  Of course, I still would like to find a good vocalist to rerecord the vocals, but I’ll get to that in due time.

Going through this demo submission process really helped re-emphasize past lessons learned from when I was studying Media Music at BYU.  Each songwriter/composer works differently, however here are a few common things:  The first is to leave nothing sacred.  Don’t avoid rewriting just because you’re tired or afraid something better won’t come along.  Time crunches are a different matter, but even then at least make the attempt.

It’s important to follow your instinct on what works.  This is of course assuming that your instinct is properly aligned.  I’ve heard some really, uh, interesting music at some LDS open mic nights when I was in Utah.  If you’re unsure of your instinct, get feedback from trusted peers.  Have them tell you the bad stuff, as well as the good stuff.

It’s also important to know your audience.  I don’t write strictly in one style, but for this demo submission I had to do a rewrite to make sure the song fit the target audience (there’s that instinct thing again).

Lastly, identify the parts of your music/lyric that you feel standout.  My professor at BYU, Ron Simpson, always reminded us to build our music with golden bricks.  If you can’t hear the golden bricks in the song, do the rewrite.

Who knows what will come out of this demo, now that I’ve sent it into the Internet void.  However, I do hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of my creative process as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about it.