October 1, 2010

Musical Sketches: “Assault” and “Feldschlacht III”

I took a Masashi Hamauzu day recently, and I thought I’d share the results with you guys.

FFX Piano Collections: Assault
September 28, 2010

A 30-second test run I recorded of “Assault” from the FFX Piano Collections, composed and arranged by Masashi Hamauzu. I’ve been practicing this one a lot, and think I’ve mostly gotten the hang of it! I give it another month or so. (Also, I lost the sheet music last week, which is forcing me to play from memory and make up notes that I can’t remember for the life of me... sounds about right.) This one makes my right arm sore after an hour, but the way both hands fly around is so satisfying.

SaGa Frontier II: Improvisation on Feldschlacht III
September 28, 2010

I’ve been on a long SaGa Frontier II soundtrack kick, and among the fantastic stand-out tracks that I listen to a lot (like “Vorspiel” and “Arranguer”), most of my attention has been on “Feldschlacht III”. I go through entire commutes to and from work with Feldschlacht on repeat (and I even learned how to spell it!) The result of my gushing love is a short improvisation that I sat down and recorded. It's messy, but I like how it turned out for a sit-down-for-one-minute-and-wing-it track and think it has potential for a full-fledged arrangement.

More of my sketches here. Happy October, everyone! (Where did this year go?)

September 16, 2010

September 8, 2010

“Piano Fantasia” Video, from Secret of Mana

What’s going on here, two posts in one day?!

This is a simple medley I made to cheer a friend up a long time ago, with some themes that I like. I decided to call it a “fantasia” because I was sort of winging it as I went along (quick terminology lesson: a “fantasia” is a musical composition with a more free structure, and it often has an improvisatory feel, sometimes sounding abrupt when it moves between sections. In short, it’s a piece where the composer does whatever he darn feels like.) I really like how it came out.

Secret of Mana has one of the most amazing game soundtracks, and even though I haven’t played the game, the music is incredibly inspirational to me. The themes I used in the medley are “Together Always”, “Color of the Summer Sky”, “Fear of Angels” and “A Bell is Tolling.”

(You can tell what piece I love the most by the fact that I spent a whole 2 minutes on it, hehe.)

Musical Sketches: “Time Circuits” and “Into the Thick of It”

Hi everyone! Wow, I’ve been so busy in real life, between teaching piano 6 days a week and then when I’m not working, I’m still working (freelance composing). Unfortunately, that means almost zero time to arrange new pieces, write new scores, and practice. But I finally figured out a way to get around that: post things I’ve already made, but have never shared with anyone before.

I put up a new back-door-page on my portfolio site called Musical Sketches, where I’ve posted a few rough recordings and ideas. It’s kind of like looking at doodles in an artist’s sketchbook, and sometimes that’s more fun; I think there’s a certain charm to seeing a piece of art when it’s unpolished and in a more “natural” state. Well, okay, I’m not sure if that applies to me, but hopefully someone will feel that way about my pieces!

So... enough talking! Let me show you some music.

Into the Thick of It
December 19, 2009

This is a rough recording (or as I was calling it, a “draft of a draft”) of “Into the Thick of It,” a fantastic piece from Secret of Mana by Hiroki Kikuta. If you remember my pal Alex from Dragon Roost Island, this was our second planned duet that we never got around to finishing up. We recorded this to feel out the structure of the arrangement, but even for a “draft of a draft,” I think it turned out nicely. Hope you like it, too! Piano by me; guitars and drums by Alex. The drums were influenced by “Did You See the Ocean” - mmm, two birds with one stone.

Time Circuits 
February 28, 2010

This is, hands down, my favorite song from a videogame. I adore it so much, and it even inspired me to play Chrono Trigger. “Time Circuits” is such a unique piece for a game - the instrumentation is exotic, with tabla, sitar and what sounds like some sort of gamelan instrument, yet the notes themselves aren’t “exotic” at all, carrying a sound that’s much more familiar. The result is a beautiful kind of tension, something that instantly inspires the fantastic feeling of far-off worlds and bittersweet nostalgia all at once.
Anyway, this is a little piano sketch that I recorded of it awhile ago. I really like where it’s headed, and I’ll definitely finish it sometime!

Feel free to check out the Musical Sketches page for some original pieces, too. As usual, please enjoy!

June 8, 2010

A Rainbow is a Smile (Turned Upside Down)

As a person who’s capable of absorbing a lot of complicated, convoluted music, I’m surprised by how much joy I still find in the simplest of melodies. And I mean simple. When I’m not busy composing for clients and listening to my own pieces as I edit them, you’ll likely catch me listening to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

It’s not as creepy as it sounds. I have over twenty piano students at the moment, and the vast majority of them are beginners, so I end up listening to these kinds of tunes for a few hours everyday. Maybe it’s because I’ve been having some bad days on the composing front (long story short: I feel like I’m forsaking my soul to write music that I disagree with), but listening to children’s songs has been cheering me up.

One of my eight-year-old students today was learning a piece called, “A Rainbow is a Smile (Turned Upside Down)” composed by Nancy Faber, from the Piano Adventures series. It’s a cute melody on its own, but when I sat down beside her to play the teacher accompaniment, my heart swelled and I started getting emotional over how pretty and uplifting everything sounded. I liked it so much that I even made up some excuse for us to play it together again. (“Let’s focus on the dynamics this time!”)

I don’t care if it’s a primer level piece written for an eight-year-old. I would happily play that duet with any (and all) of my friends.

April 23, 2010

“Fina’s Theme” Video and Sheet Music, from Skies of Arcadia

A long time ago, I received a request to play “Fina’s Theme” from Skies of Arcadia. I’d never heard it before, but upon first listen, I absolutely loved it and wanted to cover it someday. This was fun to arrange and I took a lot of creative liberties with it, even composing my own melody at 1:21. Hope you enjoy!

Fina’s Theme
Format: PDF
Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
Info: My interpretation of the lovely piece from Skies of Arcadia. (hear the original.)

April 15, 2010

“Zora’s Domain” Sheet Music, from Zelda: Ocarina of Time

You asked – and here it is, finally. Enjoy!

Zora’s Domain
Format: PDF
Difficulty: Intermediate
Info: A relaxing piece first heard in Ocarina of Time, that appears in several Zelda games. (Watch me play it or hear the original.)

April 14, 2010

Space Junk, No. 1 & 2

I never wanted to be one of those kids who’d open up GarageBand, lay down tracks in twenty minutes, then call the end result music, but admittedly I’ve been dabbling in exactly that – and it’s so much fun.

These are two short melodies that I improvised, both strangely in the middle of the night. Think of them like an artist’s doodles in a sketchbook. I’m calling them “Space Junk” because 1) the name seems appropriate to my love for Super Mario Galaxy, 2) the two improvisations are named after celestial bodies, and 3) the songs are junk. They make me smile, though.

No. 1: “Hello Moon” 
December 30, 2009

This was my first time messing around on GB. I won’t lie, there was a little bit of Bomberman and Mega Man on the brain.
The first thing I “doodled” was the chordal texture, then the drums, melody, and lastly the twinkling countermelody. The idea here (and with my thought process in general) is something that my dad taught me about prioritizing: imagine trying to fill a jar with stones, pebbles, and sand. The most productive way to do that is to start with the larger stones, then fill in the gaps between them with the pebbles, and finally, when the sand is poured into the jar, it’ll naturally fill in the rest of the holes. For me, texture and harmony are the stones, and my main priorities: they determine the overall feel and movement within a piece. The pebbles are the melody: of course I value a good melody, but I think a line of single notes provides a lot more flexibility than a line of chords. And finally, the countermelody is the sand: its main role is to complement all of the elements that are already there.
This method of composing seems better suited to certain kinds of music (like GB doodles) but it works for me, especially when I want to get an idea out there quickly.

No. 2: “Skylights and Stars” 
February 6, 2010

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, feeling a little sad. I ended up opening my laptop and recording this tune, before falling asleep again. I think my subconscious influence here was the Tekkon Kinkreet soundtrack by Plaid (which is fantastic, I should mention.)

It’s pretty fun to see how I make music when I’m sleepy and uninhibited. Thank you, GarageBand!

April 1, 2010

Reason For My Treason: Blood Knight

Hi everyone! I wanted to apologize for my silence over the past few months – I promise I haven’t left you all. I’ve been a little swamped by life’s happenings and musical projects, and it’s been quite exciting around here!

Since December, I’ve been working on the music team for an upcoming game called Blood Knight, an epic RPG for the iPhone being developed by iPwn Studios. My partner in crime is my good friend Stuart Nishiyama, along with other talented musicians who contribute and keep us in check. It’s been an interesting experience so far – sometimes smooth, sometimes extremely stressful when there are aesthetic disagreements and tight constraints over our creative liberty. But this soundtrack is turning out to be cool, and I have no doubt that everyone’s hard work will pay off.

So I’m still around, and I’ll post new covers to YouTube as soon as I get a chance to practice and record them. There are a lot of great videogame tunes on my queue and I hope you’ll all enjoy what's to come, when it comes. Thanks for all of your patience and support and see you soon! ♥

(Side note: I’ve been trying to be more active on Twitter, so feel free to get in touch if you want to say hi or see what ol’ me has been up to.)