Category Archives: Arrangements

Rude – Magic!

Heard the song Rude on the radio by the reggae band Magic! and wanted to do an arrangement of it.  I wanted to keep some of the general groove, but wanted to it make it slightly more romantic (after all, that’s one of the things that the piano does best).  Hope you like it!

 

Silent Night 2012

Apologies for such a long delay between posts. I’ve been working on various projects, including a Children’s education website, web commercial, and a primary children’s song. Just a lot of backlog here that I need to get around to posting.

My goal this holiday was to finally publish the initial version of Silent Night that Jolie and I worked on in 2010, which was a solo version of the SATB I wrote in 2008. Anyway, I finally got around to putting the Youtube video together and putting the mp3 on iTunes. I hope you guys like it.

You’ll notice that If you compare the audio in the Youtube video against the iTunes mp3 and/or the sheet music, you’ll find there are a few subtle changes. When I initially wrote it, I had the refrain at measures 52-55 repeat “Christ is Born.” This is what Jolie ended up singing. I later realized that it would be more powerful to have the piano play the second refrain. Same thing goes with measure 79.

Also, at measure 60, the final produced version has Jolie singing a 5th higher than notated (Bb instead of an Eb). This was a change I made after hearing her do the first run through. I actually had to call her back into the studio (i.e., my bedroom) and re-record that line. The sheet music also still shows an Eb.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and I hope you enjoy the video.

Click to purchase in iTunes
Click for sheet music

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

So, Jolie and I recorded a version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow during one of our evening recording sessions at my place.  Originally, it was supposed to be a submission on Taxi.com.  Unfortunately, the response was they wanted something a little bit more upbeat (think Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s ukulele version).  Our version is slower in tempo and more ponderous.  I guess in my mind I was referencing Eva Cassidy’s amazing version during the composition process.  I felt I’d be happy coming even half as close to the atmosphere created by that seminal recording

We actually had a lot of fun recording the arrangement. It was one of those quick things you do in a half an hour where after taking a step back, you realize you were kind of lucky.  Since the recording was a spur of the moment thing, Jolie kind of just sung along while I experimented with different piano lines.  I took a different approach from some of my other arrangements by making the piano be more of a background component.  Block chords, low registers, empty spacing.  As Professor Simpson used to say, “a bed for the vocals to lie on.”  I wanted to capture all the things I heard in the song: mysteriousness, solemnity, joy, wonder.

The final product is just piano and vocal. It’s simple and uncomplicated.  But when I listen to it, I feel as if there’s soul to the music.

For those who would like the mp3, please visit iTunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/somewhere-over-rainbow-single/id444783190

The First Noel

Happy Holidays everyone!

Jolie and I have been working on recording a couple of Christmas carols to get us in the Christmas season.   This first one, an arrangement of The First Noel, is something I actually started in September.  I first began the initial sketches after receiving a request from a lady from Washington who needed some original music for their Christmas Nativity event.  She’d really enjoyed Give Said The Little Stream and wanted to see if I had anything else.  I thought her inquiry would be a fun project and so I started playing with a few ideas.

After experimenting with a few different carols, I knew I had a potential idea in The First Noel.  I recorded a few measures, and upon playback, immediately felt all Christmasy.  That was a good sign.  The first two verses came in the span of 30 minutes because  I knew what I  wanted to convey: images of fallen snow, a mother peacefully singing to her child, etc.   But when recording the initial demo, I abruptly stopped at the end of the 2nd verse/chorus.  I had no idea which direction to take the music.  So, I did the typical musician thing and put it on hold for a few weeks (e.g. forgot about it).

In late October, I revisited the arrangement by looking at some of the other verses contained in the carol.  The last verse  in particular stuck out to me.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

It was joyous, mysterious, celebratory.

I realized that, growing up, I’d sung the carol superficially. I’d always sung it as a narration, as I were telling a story to a nearby child.  The carol had always been about that story, and never about the act and joy of praise. Reading that last verse, I realized that I’d missed the true message of the carol when singing it.

I started writing the third verse with all those thoughts in mind.  I could hear the crescendo of the piano adding emphasis to the message, with the Fm9 bringing an aura of mysteriousness.  And finally, the refrain “Born is the King!” reminding us of the joy his birth brings to the world.   Both the third verse and the final refrain came quickly. And now, when I listen to the arrangement, that 3rd verse is my favorite part.

Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you all enjoy the video.

Jared

p.s. In terms of the mp3, Jolie and I thought it’d be helpful to put the music on iTunes/Amazon, etc.  This is all hard work (but fun!) and we know that there are those of you who are supportive of what we do.  Thanks for understanding!
iTunes Link
Amazon Link

p.p.s. Other arrangement notes: Some of you might notice that the meter of the arrangement is in 4/4 instead of 3/4. This was done to emphasize the chorus and really bring out the melody. Also, the third verse was changed a little bit from the last verse of the original carol in order to more facilitate a musical transition to the final refrain.

Sunday Sounds #1

I’ve been thinking about doing this type of recurring post for quite a while. But Saturday or Sunday always passes and by then it’s too late. So, today’s the day when I’m actually going to start the recurring blog post, “Sunday Sounds.”

I have a lot of random hymn arrangements floating in my head, but this is the first one I’ve recorded in many months.  This is a rough cut of an arrangement I’m writing for Jolie.  We’re planning to do another demo recording, and this was a favorite hymn of hers.  Unfortunately, she’s pretty busy, so she’s not recorded the vocals yet.   So, for this initial Sunday Sounds post, you’ll only get to hear the arrangement as the initial piano accompaniment scratch track to Be Still My Soul.   And honestly, probably a lot of the tracks you’ll hear in my Sunday Sounds blog posts are going to be quick piano things because those are the easiest to record quickly.

The arrangement actually has four passes of the verse/chorus.  The fourth verse will consist of a piano solo, with the final chorus containing the following lines:

“Be still my soul, Thy best thy heavenly Friend, thru thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.”

“Be Still my soul, when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed, we then shall meet at last (I added the word “then” to make it easier to sing).”

In general, the arrangement is supposed to be sad, sweet, contemplative, peaceful.  That is the way the hymn speaks to me.

Other writing notes you might be interested in. These will be more “music theory” based, for those of you who eat that type of stuff up:

  • Some of you will notice that around 0:42, the arpeggio sounds like something out of  Prelude in C. Yes, I did that on purpose.  It’s a tribute to Bach.
  • I hit the low C during the third verse to give that feeling of spiritual resolve as the hour is “hast’ning on”.
  • I don’t hit that distinct Major III chord (chord sung at “remain”,” at last”, “restored”) that totally makes Be Still My Soul until the  last chorus.  My purpose for resolving with that chord until the very end is  to help people take notice of the music and lyric (“leads to a joyful end”) at that point of the song.  I’m trying to be subtle in the way I draw people’s attention.  I’m curious if this catches your attention in the way I intended.
  • I do use the major 3rd at 2:26, but since it’s not expected to be heard in that part of the song, it adds a certain mysteriousness to the lyric.  It also leads nicely into the  obligato melody I use for the end of the 2nd chorus.
  • Speaking of that slightly changed melody, those of you who have listened to some of my other arrangements might have noticed that I do this quite a bit.  I guess it’s one of my signatures (play the end of the chorus melody a third above the original).
  • I use deceptive cadences throughout the piece, because, well, I like deceptive cadences.

I’ve  yet to write out the sheet music, but if this is something you’d like to play for yourself, please shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment so I can gauge the demand for this type of thing (writing out sheet music in Sibelius takes a while!)

Enjoy!

Be Still My Soul arr by Jared Ong v1

Another Belated Valentine’s

The title of this entry actually refers to the fact that I’m posting this a few hours after Valentine’s Day has past.  Ideally, if I had done a little bit of planning, I would have created this entry a few days before Valentine’s day.  Oh well.

Anyway, I’m currently stuck on the song Fallin’ For You by Colbie Caillat. I think the the first time I heard it, I was like “Hey, she just ripped off the chorus lick from Man In the Mirror.”  And a second listen through found that true.  It still is a catchy little pop song though.   Ok, actually, I can’t get enough of it.

I decided to learn the song via the Internet.  There were a lot of incorrect tabs, which kind of drove me crazy.  Who are these people writing tabs?  They’re not even close most of the time.  I mean, I hardly play the guitar and even I can tell that the tab is totally wrong.  I finally found a tab that was about how I thought the song should be played.  But even that was wrong. They had a G#m chord as part of most of the pre-chorus, when it should have been a E/G#.  It’s a subtle one note difference when spelling out on the piano, but one chord (G#m) sounds major, and the other one (E/G#) sounds major.

Here’s what I mean:

The tabbed version from the site:

     A...         G#
I am tryin' not to tell you
      F#
But I want to
     G#
I'm scared of what you'll say
      A...             G#     C#m
So I'm hiding what I'm feeling
        F#      G# A...       Bb5
But I'm tired of holding this inside my head

Here’s how I think it should be:

A... E/G#
I am tryin' not to tell you
F#m
But I want to
E/G#
I'm scared of what you'll say
A... G#m C#m
So I'm hiding what I'm feeling
F#m G#m A... B5(barred)
But I'm tired of holding this inside my head

After learning the song on the guitar, I realized it’d make a neat piano solo.  I tried to keep the arrangement fairly close to the original but it morphed it into more of a ballad.  It was hard to capture the rhythm and groove of the guitars without getting too repetitive, so I decided to make the piano a little more sweet.  So for all of you celebrating another belated Valentine’s day, enjoy!

-J

Fallin’ For You arr by Jared Ong

Hi Mr. Ironing Board!

As promised in my earlier post, here’s the video that we took during our vocal recording session.  This take is actually the last take of the night.  And now that I think about it, I like this take quite a bit, so I might actually just use the audio from this clip when distributing the mp3 online. Some other things you might pick up out of the video.

  • Mr. Ironing Board, the perfect way to lay sheet music flat without any ruffling noises.
  • The double keyboard setup (Yamaha Motif ES6 and Casio PX-310).
  • My headphones of choice being Sony MDR-V6s.  In my opinion, these are the best sub $80 headphones you can buy on the market.  They just sound great.
  • My friend StevO’s microphone that he so kindly let me borrow.

Lastly, I have a confession to make.  My room usually isn’t this clean.

Give Said The Little Stream, version 2

I know this little blog hasn’t been updated in quite a while.  I have been writing music in the interim.  Unfortunately, my stubborn Chinese self keeps insisting that I have projects completed before I do a new post, and so that’s to the blog’s detriment.

So today, I  finished one of the projects in my queue, a remix of Give Said the Little Stream.  I really do love the original version that my friend Stephanie Bennett recorded for me. It captures the innocent and cheerful nature of the song, and her voice is just wonderful.  However, I wanted to attempt to make the recording a bit more full and radio friendly, and that necessitated re-recording the vocals to fix a couple of the EQ problems I ran into during the original recording.

Since Stephanie is now in Utah, I asked a favor from another friend, Jolie to do the vocals.  She definitely has a different texture to her voice, and I had to work with that a bit.  Oh the joys of recording in a home studio.  I’ll have to post a video we did, there’s a standing joke related to ironing boards and such. One thing I noticed when comparing the two versions is that Jolie smoothed out the rhythms and sang them a little bit looser with more legato.  Anyway, in the midst of remixing the vocals I started playing around with some new string patches.  One thing led to another, and I ended doing a string/flute arrangement.  Emotionally, the piece sounds and feels quite different with this type of orchestration. More mature perhaps.

This also was good practice for me to try and get the strings to sound as realistic as possible.  I originally started with some string sounds from Omnisphere, a virtual instrument, which was what got my muse going initially.  Although it sounded great, I had the problem of trying to bring out specific melody lines, and the patch sounded too homogenous for that.  Then, I had the idea of also adding other string sounds from Kontakt (a sampler), but that still didn’t sound quite right.  So, I decided to stop being lazy and ended up splitting all the chords into separate parts: Violins, Violas, and Cello/Bass.  Then each part was tweaked by drawing volumes and velocities to simulate string motion.  The last step was to pan and add reverb (Altiverb) to each part to simulate the string section.  The sound isn’t perfect, but its miles better than what I was able to do in college.  Of course I have much better tools now, so that helps.

The flute was added some time in the middle of my work on the string stuff and was the easiest to emulate.  I just stuck some nice reverb on it, panned, and did some quick editing.  Originally in some earlier mixes the flute was quite prominent, but I’ve ended up pulling it back into the mix to kind of meld it with the string sounds. I like it when its more subtle.

Anyway, I haven’t heard any LDS pieces written in this style (a hybrid of Classical, New Age, perhaps?) so I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s comments.   I plan on submitting this to a couple places too, so we’ll see if people connect with this style of arrangment.  Here’s hoping :)!

-J

Give Said the Little Stream, Jared and Jolie

Bubble Bobble Remix – Waterfall Ending

My siblings and I used to play this cute little game on the NES.  My parents highly disapproved of the violent Double Dragon that we received for Christmas, and so my brother and I ended up trading that game with our neighborhood friend for the more innocuous Bubble Bobble.  What parent could get mad at watching squat dinosaurs (er..wikipedia says dragons) blow and pop bubbles to dispatch evil robot enemies?

The game was memorable for a few reasons.  The famous Bubble Bobble music that plays as you jump around popping bobbles.  The number of levels (99 was an insane number to playthrough as a kid).  Oh, and that big scary boss that, even when you beat it, gave you a SAD ENDING?  First time we beat the game, and saw that we needed to try for a happy ending, we were so mad.  Eventually, my sister and I figured out that we needed to save one life and then hit  start -> select -> start to add the second player into game as soon as the big boss was surrounded.  That netted us the Happy Ending!  There was even a “true ending” that was referenced in the credits, but we never played through the game a second time to get it.

After finishing my City Corner Lullaby arrangement, I went looking for another video game piece to arrange.  I didn’t think I wanted to tackle any of the music in Bubble Bobble until I hearkened back to that very first “sad ending” experience (geez, I must have been pretty traumatized).  The music that played over the credit was catchy, but I distinctly remember thinking that the prettiness of the melody was masked by the limitations of the NES’ sound capabilities and that annoying drone like bass. After previewing the original source material on Youtube, I decided to see if I couldn’t come up with a remix to do the music justice. I truly believe that video games should have a good payoff with memorable end game music.

This piece has ambient, new age, and dance influences.  One of the major changes I’ve introduced is an extended “chorus section.”  The original piece of music had a chorus section that seemed to end a bit abruptly. To remedy that,  I use a deceptive cadence (i.e. V -> VI) in order to extend the passage for a few more measures.  I think this makes the melody flow better.  I also organized the music in a pop-friendly format: intro, verse, verse, chorus, interlude, verse, chorus, outro.

I really enjoyed playing with different patches within my soft synths (Omnisphere and Stylus) to recreate that Bubble Bobble experience. There’s crystal like sounds as well a waterdrop arpeggio during the interlude. The end product is a little bit of cheer-you-up new age/dance, my very own take on what a happy ending should be.  I hope you enjoy.

-J

Bubble Bobble – Waterfall Ending -arr by Jared Ong

Sunday Sounds

Here’s a little something for Sunday.  This is a quick two minute demo piece that I put together to practice my mockup abilities.  The arrangement is based on some ideas that I had while playing prelude music about a month ago.  I’m looking at getting some killer string and orchestra sounds, but for now these will have to do.

Did You Think To Pray Demo