Category Archives: Original Instrumentals

Original Instrumentals

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

Walking With Angel

A lot has happened in the past month, and I’ve just been too busy to post anything.  I’ve procrastinated writing this blog entry because I wanted to post my new piece at the same time,  but now that’s it been almost two weeks of tweaking, I figure I better just send it into the Internet void.

So what’s been happening recently?

I was asked a couple of weeks ago to play a musical number for a fireside.  This gave me the opportunity to flesh out Did You Think To Pray as a piano arrangement.  Unfortunately, on the day of the fireside I found out that the number was canceled because of lack of time.   Bummer.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise, as I was asked by my former branch president to collaborate with a vocalist and do a musical number for his son’s missionary farewell.  I met with Kevin O. this week and we ended up deciding on using DYTTP.  Kevin’s an extremely talented singer/performer, having performed on Broadway and conducted various related workshops.

The final touches of the arrangement came as we worked to layer the vocals on top of the original chordal harmonies.   Kevin has a great tenor voice, so we quickly transposed it into the key of G, which made it more singable than the Eb key signature of the original hymn.  He also gave some great ideas in how we could build emotion into the the third verse and meld the intro and outros motifs with the rest of the music.  We did a quick rehearsal before the meeting, and everything came together this morning during the service.  The third verse was just powerful. I think we really captured the essence of the hymn by the way the music and vocals developed through out the arrangement.   I’m going have to spend some time in Sibelius putting the thing down to music notation, but look for the sheet music sometime in the future.  I also need to do a piano/vocal audio recording.

Oh, remember the arrangement of the Final Fantasy piece I posted a while back in this blog post?  OCRemix finally posted a decision on their website.   It ended up getting accepted by which was a nice little pick-me up.  I didn’t realize how high the bar was until after I submitted the entry.   Since I was submitting a piano solo, I debated whether the judges would understand the method of interpretation, that the arrangment was trying to evoke the nostalgia of wandering a town that’s just a shade of its former glory. Well, the judges got it.  You can find the piece on the OCRemix Site here, under my artist profile Jennerstein.  Comments have been favorable enough that I feel I’ve caught the remixing bug.  If anything, it’s a fun exercise down memory lane for me.  There’s something challenging about trying to capture both the experience of the game and the experience of playing the game.  I’m thinking my next project will be a new ageish/dance remix of Bubble Bobble.

Although I’ve had experience writing New Age piano pieces, I haven’t really tried mixing New Age and trance together.  So, this past month I’ve been experimenting in writing/producing within this new style.  There’s shades of piano rock, trance, and ambient, with New Age serving as inspiration.  I guess you could even say there’s a little bit of Robert Miles too.  Anyway, I played it in the car for my friend, Tony, and he immediately had visions of Neverending Story.  Which I guess isn’t a bad thing.  You can find the piece below:

Walking With Angel

As this is all experimental stuff (at least for me anyway), comments are more than welcome.

I’m Itchy, Just Saying

I have this problem, I call it the “itch” (those of you who know me will think that’s funny). I’ll be about 80% to 90% done with a song, and then right as I’m ready to lay down the final vocals or backup dubs, I’ll get antsy. It’s this urge to try something new. Usually, after I get the itch, I’ll try to fight it for a few days. Inevitably, I’ll end up being terribly unproductive, and the song-in-progress will be put on the backburner while I work on something else.

I’ve tried to figure out if this is some sort personality disorder. I had a classmate at BYU who mentioned having the same problem, so maybe it just goes with the territory of being a musician. Music people are all a little crazy – Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Britney Spears. Yes I know, I don’t place Britney on the same level as the revered classical geniuses either, she just happens to be a perfect contemporary example of complete wackiness.

Anyway, getting back to being itchy. I tend to believe that musicians are perfectionists at heart. We have a problem with feeling like a song or work is a finished, completed work. This drives us crazy. Sure, a songwriter is “done” when his song has been mastered or broadcasted, but there’s always something that he would change if he had a chance to record it again. Whenver I listen to my mastered projects, my thought process goes something like this: “Oh, that’s nice. Nice pretty vocals. Clean guitar sound. Good kick and sna – why the HECK is the hi-hat so loud? Wait, I added distortion after the bridge? What was I thinking? What is this !$@*% riff doing here! I can’t believe I was happy with this, it all sounds like total crap!”

See how hard it is to be a musician?

I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I switch to new projects in order to avoid confrontations with my perfectionist nature.

In any case, I’ve started work on a new indie-piano peice. I still need to record “Memorial Day” vocals, but I’ve been itching to work on something new. So here’s the instrumental, just saying. The song might morph into something with words, and lyrics, and maybe even a lot more instruments, but I recorded this in a quick session so I wouldn’t forget the general idea.

Just Saying

Memorial Day

I was in Boston all of last week, attending a conference for work.  It was an interesting opportunity to experience a city for the first time.  Boston is ideal for walking, and most of my coworkers would talk a night walk for exercise.   Up until I arrived, I’d planned on walking with them, but I caught a pretty nasty code a week and was unable to really get out.  Although I enjoyed my trip immensely, I missed my weekly composing sessions.  Now that I’ve been back a few days, and have had a chance catch up on sleep and rest, I’m back at the grindstone.

 This latest piece is something I started last year.  It originated as a piano idea, but it’s been gradually involving something a bit bigger.  This is version one of the minus track.  I’m still working on the lyrics, but vocal melody, but this serves as a good enough vocal bed for me to write to.  Putting the whole thing together really has been great practice in arranging.  It’s tricky trying to get the most of my gear…especially since I don’t touch it nearly enough.  

 Anyway, this is version one of the song.  I’ve given it the codename “Memorial Day” until I come up with some proper lyrics. 

Memorial Day (working title)

A little late for Valentine’s

I tried writing for a couple of times this week, but I’ve been more than busy. I’ve noticed that if I don’t really give myself much personal time then I just don’t seem to be able to come up with any unique ideas.

Today, was the first day in a while that I didn’t have to go somewhere or do something as soon as the day started. So, I spent today pretty much doing nothing. After SotW rehearsal, I took an afternoon nap, and then started watching episodes of Firefly. I know I’m behind the curve on that show. Curses be to Fox for keeping all that other reality-TV lèsè, and cancelling a show that had so much more soul. But oh well.

Incidentally, when writing today, I was reminded that parallel thirds (especially the borrowed third from the parallel minor) are really useful for creating that “western” sound. I’ve got to remember that in case I ever score any pseudo Sci-fi western commercials, heh.

Anyway, the file I’m posting today is the first romantic ballad type piece that I’ve worked on in a while. No, no, this isn’t some sort reflection of personal life (at least I don’t think so). Rather, I’m trying to practice writing in this particular style. I was definitely out of practice, as I was stuck in diatonic mode for the first half hour or so.

Although there are some signs of a melody in there, most of today was just figuring a good chord progression. This is just a sketch, so the piano is not as polished as what I’ll finally end up with. I also need to spend a bunch of other sessions figuring out a melody on top, adding some strings, etc. This piece will probably change a bit before it’s all finished anyway.

Note that the first 4 seconds are intentional silence. This is because sometimes Pro Tool’s MIDI acts all goofy if you start the music right at the first click. I’m going to take it out when I done fleshing out all the parts…this is a sketch anyway.

Belated Valentine’s