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2020 Update

2020 has been a dumpster fire. With the ongoing pandemic, global recession, and social justice issues raging on in the US, it’s clear this year has been a miserable one. Still, we have to keep going, keep pushing forward, so with that in mind, I thought I’d look at my New Years resolutions (which I made in late December) and see how they are going. Let’s laugh and cry together shall we?

Play More Gigs Than Ever Before

Hahahahaha! Not a chance! This goal is virtually impossible and certainly not a responsible one to have in 2020. Of course I didn’t know this when I made the goal, but that’s where we are at now. Not a possibility for 2020 and probably not a possibility in 2021.

Have My Music On Spotify

This hasn’t happened, but that’s more of my personal choice. As I’ve gone deeper into 2020 and deeper into my life goal of “impacting the world through sound”, it’s become clear that sound design for games is where my focus needs to be. Because of this, I’m less focused on my music and if it’s available on all platforms. So, my music is not on Spotify, but it’s available for free on YouTube and Soundcloud and for now I’m happy with that.

More Game Audio Work

Not only is this still a goal that’s alive, I’d say it’s my number one objective in 2020. Over the past few months everything I’ve done has been to ramp up my game audio work. Working on a game with peers, working on my sound design reel, and getting deeper and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of sound design. I’m so pumped about everything I’m doing in the game audio space and I can’t wait to see what more I’ll do in 2020 and beyond.

PR At The Marathon

This one hurts. Running is my favorite form of exercise and I was pumped up about the idea of running the marathon again. I loved running my first marathon and was looking forward to training again and showing what I learned from the first time and improving on it. My marathon was set in May and I was halfway into my training when the pandemic hit. This was such a bummer. Also, I’m finding it hard to imagine a race will be possible in 2021 either. I’m not sure what my workout and running routine will be moving forward, but I’m not expecting traditional races to return until 2022.

Appreciate Non-Work Activities

I’m a workaholic. I just love what I do and I’m always working hard to improve, even my rest is really not rest for rest’s sake it’s rest so I can work again. I want to have a better relationship with my non work activities and with my non work life. So this year I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. So far I’d say I get a passing grade on this, but I can do better. I’ve watched more movies for leisure and sports for leisure. I’ve also had less days where I work past five and I’ve also had a better attitude when I call it day early. I’m by no means perfect and some family members might even say I haven’t improved much, but I think I’ve made some progress on this goal.

What’s Next?

For now I’ll keep Appreciate Non-Work Activities and More Game Audio Work. Everything else I’ll put on hold and evaluate as I move forward into 2020 and 20201. This year has been so brutal, but I’m trying to remain positive and make the best out of this situation. So before I wrap up this post I leave you with this resolution for us all. Be kind to yourself, smile as much as possible, love your family, and keep making dope things. Cheers.

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Dance Again Deep Dive

Today I’d like to a take deep dive into the making of my latest single “Dance Again”. I want to talk about why I made it, how I made it, and what I’ve learned. Let’s begin.

My purpose for making this song was simple. I wanted to make a song to just make it. It’s been years since I have done this. As a professional musician I spend all my musician time working. I’m learning songs for gigs, I’m learning songs for recordings, I’m learning songs for a deeper understanding of a style or genre. While I obviously go for gigs, recordings, and genres I enjoy, you secede some freedom when you are a professional artist. Compromises however small, are made. I try to find things that are not only work, but fun, but even fun work is work.

So when I made Dance Again I went in with the mentality that this was just for fun, just for me. I’m making it to make something. Will I use it for pitching clients? Maybe if it fits, but I’m not trying to use it for that. And I made it with zero intention of doing so. The song came out the way it did because I liked it that way. No agenda, no deeper long term plan, just a fun song I liked.

Another thing you should know is that I use the app Korg Gadget on my Nintendo Switch exclusively to make the song. I’ve dabbled with this app for sometime now and I decided this was a great way to have some fun and challenge myself to go deeper into the app. I feel pretty comfortable with Korg Gadget and using it to make music I thought would be fun. The only sounds that are not native to the app are the voice samples I use. Everything else can be found using just Korg Gadget on the Switch.

Making Music is Hard!

I struggled a lot with the structure of this song. The drum pattern came to me pretty quickly and that was maintained throughout, but how to build themes and motifs around it was a struggle. The app refers to different parts as “scenes” so for a while I had extra scenes I was trying to fit in and certain scenes were longer before I was able to edit them down. For example, near the end I had the second to last breakdown happening for twice as long and I realize that was just way too much so I cut it in half.

This songs structure really came together when I let the words tell the story. Despite the few words, they actually dictate what’s happening on the record. The story goes a friend telling another friend that they should take their date dancing. After dancing the protagonist tells his date “you look really beautiful tonight” she replies “you don’t look so bad yourself mister” then he proceeds to offer her a ride home…

Impact of Sitcoms on My Song

One thing you should know about me is I love sitcoms. I mean I love sitcoms. I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother more times than I can count. Watched Friends at least 3-4 times since it’s aired on Netflix. And I’ve watched Cheers, Seinfeld, and Kings of Queens infinitely. Sitcoms have been there for me when I’m up, when I’m down, when I needed to laugh, and when I needed to cry. So why not use those voices to retell and reimagine the stories they’ve already told me?

Breaking Down The Words

So the first line I’ve used was from Friends where Rachel tells Joey “Oh dancing take her dancing!” In the scene she’s suggesting Joey take a date dancing and the same thing happens in my song. For the song it’s not the Friends characters just one person talking to another making that suggestion.

The second line is from How I Met Your Mother where Ted is telling Stella “You look really beautiful tonight”. Now in the show Ted is just saying that because he was caught staring at Stella. He didn’t really think she looked “beautiful tonight” he was just looking at her face to see what her reaction was to watching Star Wars for the first time. In my track the words were sincere.

Next line I used was from the same episode of How I Met Your Mother where Stella says “You don’t look so bad yourself mister…” in the episode it’s Stella coming on to Ted. In my song the same sentiment can be interpreted.

The final line I use is from Cheers where Sam Malone tells his worker Carla Tortelli he’s taking her home after their shift of work at the bar. In the episode this is a normal event. In my track it implies a pleasant end to a date.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

My focus on this track was just to have fun, make some electronic music using Korg Gadget, and to tell a story using words from my favorite sitcoms. I think I accomplished all of these things. I really love the breakdown that happens at the :54 second mark. In my opinion it’s the highlight of the song. Coming in at a close second is the story developing from 1:11-1:33. I really enjoyed making this and I hope you enjoy listening to it. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback feel free to comment below. Take care and be safe out there!

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My Career Over The Years

A person’s career path is never a straight line and today I’d like to go in-depth on how my career has changed over the years.

When I think about my career in music it’s hard to pinpoint the start. Like many people, music has been a part of my life since the beginning. So when did I really take it seriously as a profession? I’d say that started for me when I was 17-18 years old in 2005-06. During that time hip hop music was my obsession. I was listening to the music 24/7, annoying my friends always talking about my favorite albums and my favorite rappers, and I even begin writing my own raps believe it or not!

The Hip Hop Years

So I actually started to make music and I had my friends helping me by making beats for me to rap over. They were primarily rock musicians but they were spectacular at their craft. So even though they were out of their wheelhouse they helped me tremendously. After a couple years though I realized they just weren’t as serious about making hip hop music as I was. I understood they were primarily rock musicians, but I was taking this music seriously and I needed to be around people who took it seriously. So I did some soul searching and decided to be a producer myself. I’d go back to school, learn how to make beats, and then work with other artists while also working on my own projects on the side. I started googling things like “How to be a producer” and asking people for advice on getting started. One thing that came up was the benefits of playing an instrument. It’s not a requirement but many said knowing how to play the piano would help me understand theory and harmony and make it easier to use a MIDI controller. So I used my sister’s piano and started playing. Than everything changed.

The Piano Years

I fell in love with the instrument. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t get enough. Suddenly the piano became my life and I went from wanting to do hip hop to wanting to play the piano for a living. So from 2010- 2017 piano was my main focus and specifically jazz music became my main focus. I went to college for it, graduated, and began playing gigs and teaching. By 2015 I was officially a professional musician! I had made it.

The Game Audio Years (Present Day)

In 2019 I started to search for other ways I could contribute to the world with my skillset. After thinking about it and trying different things I decided to work in game audio. I wanted to create compositions and use sound design to enhance the experience players have in these worlds. So I began creating a demo reel, working with an indie dev on an RPG, and learning all I can about audio implementation. Working in game audio has been one of the more challenging and thrilling things I’ve done in my life. There are so many new things for me to learn, but it’s so fulfilling when I figure out how to make the sounds work the way I want them to. I’m looking forward to where this next step in my career takes me and I’m so glad I’ll be able to document it all here on my website.

Conclusion

Throughout the years my career has changed so much. I went from rapper, to producer, to jazz pianist, to composer and sound designer. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to be willing to adapt and change as I adapt and change. To not put myself in a box and force myself to become who I said I was but to just be who I am. Some may see these different roles and think I’ve been all over the place, but I was really just progressing through my career, expressing myself through music, and finding out where I felt the most comfortable and where I could make the biggest impact in the world. I’m glad to say that the biggest way for me to impact the world through sound is in the game audio space.

What’s your career looked like? Did you always know what your calling was? Did that ever change? Would love to hear your story and your journey in the comments below.

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Nine For Nine Retrospective

I’m so proud of myself for having completed my Nine For Nine Series. From April till the end of the year I released a new track on my Soundcloud every month. My primary goal was simply to get the project done. Simply completing the project would be considered a success to me. Since I did just that I’m thrilled with all I accomplished with this project and my musicianship as a whole. Still, some things definitely could’ve gone better. So today I want to break down this project. The highs the lows, the reaction, etc. Let’s jump right into it.

 

I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew

I loved doing this project, but I doubt I will do anything similar to this for a while. Doing a new track every single month was pretty brutal. You are always in recording mode. Either learning the tunes, composing, arranging, recording, editing, promoting, or brainstorming for what’s next. I talked to and read work from others who had similar projects and everyone said to plan ahead and have a couple tracks done if not all the tracks done. I did neither of these things. I had a rough estimation of what I was going to do, I had most of the months planned in advance, but I didn’t have all the details sorted out who was gonna play on the tune; what the instrumentation would be , etc. If I ever do this in the future it will be a shorted project with everything figured out months in advance so I don’t feel like I’m rushing through everything all the time.

Keep It Simple Stupid (Or at least plan for the complex)

I had so many ideas for all this music, but I had to cut out so much because I was on a time crunch and didn’t have everything done. A good example of this is “Stranger Things Theme” I did a good job learning the tune and doing the necessary research on the music, but I had all theses great ideas I had to kill. I wanted to expand the theme, maybe write a string section in or do some more electronics, and maybe do a brass arrangement.  Time got the best of me I kept on changing the original idea and in the end I had to just do a short piano rendition to fulfill the goal. Again Keep It Simple, if you want to do more you better have the idea further along or allot the time you need to actually get it done. Next time I’ll plan ahead or kill that idea earlier so I don’t get frustrated.

 

What I thought Would Happen

Many people have told me that predicting how the general population will react to your work is a difficult things to do and a nearly impossible skill to master. Whether you sell sneakers, bake cookies, or write songs figuring out what you make and how much people will like it is crucial to our success. I’m a new artists with no fan base or data so it was hard to predict what type of audience I would  grow throughout the year and which songs they would like the most. Here were my predictions of most views before all the music was released.

  1. Pyramid Song
  2. And I Love Her
  3. Stranger Things Theme
  4. Legend of Zelda Overworld Theme
  5. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  6. Christmas Song
  7. Of Dreams To Come
  8. Maiden Voyage
  9. Liberating Hoop Villain

 

Here’s What Happened

  1. Pyramid Song
  2. Legend of Zelda Overwold Theme
  3. Liberating Hoop Villain
  4. Of Dreams To Come
  5. Maiden Voyage
  6. And I love Her
  7. Stranger Things Theme
  8. Christmas Song
  9. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

As you can see there are significant differences between these two lists. The only thing I got right was “Pyramid Song”. Legend of Zelda was only one spot away, but everything else is far off.  Course people are still listening to this project so perhaps this list will change over time, but as of now it’s quite clear I don’t know what the masses will gravitate towards. Here’s hoping I get better at figuring that out and that more and more people will listen to my music either way.

 

Recording Issues

Albert Amey (guitarist and producer here in Chicago) and I have a ton of stories from recording this project. From great recording sessions to musicians failing us, having to rework our schedules, and other audio malfunctioning fun. Overall I’m so happy Albert Amey was with me every step of the way. Without him this project would have been much harder to finish, and I have no doubt the audio quality would not be as good.  Some have commented that they thought the audio quality could improve,  I’m happy with it. These are essentially home recordings. Also, a lot of times I had to record people remotely or I’d bring Albert just a bunch of different files and he had to mummify it into existence. The time will come when  I will shell out thousands of dollars and do a recording in a big studio, but for now I’m satisfied with what we did.. I’m so grateful Albert puts up with my incompetence.

Closing Thoughts

This project was my baby: my first full fledged project where I had 100% control over everything. People who know me in my personal life understand that I like things my way. Once I have a superior, a boss, or I just disagree with the direction, I become negative and check out. My independence and freedom means more to me than others. This project is truly me. Jazz, rock, and hip hop. This is some of my best work. I love the reworking of strings I did on “Pyramid Song” , the solo and electronic take I had on “Of Dreams To Come” , and the original composition “Liberating Hoop Villain” which ended up as third highest viewed song.

So please listen to my Nine For Nine project. Tell me what you think, what you liked, and even what you didn’t like in the comment section below.  I loved making  this project, and I am just as pumped with the next couple projects I will be announcing in the upcoming weeks. So stay tuned and thank you for your support.

 

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Nine For Nine: Christmas Song

Here it is! The final song from the Nine For Nine series. Let’s breakdown why I chose to perform the “Christmas Song” as my last tune for Nine For Nine.

I knew I wanted to record a holiday song for December, but I wasn’t quite sure which one. After talking to my guitarist we decided “Christmas Song” would be a good tune to do.

Initially we wanted to have it be a bit more complex then it turned out. We wanted to add other instruments and to try different styles and sounds. Unfortunately time ran short on us and the best option to ensure it’d be done was solo piano. Luckily I was up for the challenge.

I really enjoyed the entire process of learning and recording this track. It was fun going through dozens of different holiday songs and thinking about how I’d go about recording them and what they could sound like. Perhaps in the future a Christmas album with a tour could be in the works?

This is the final song in my Nine For Nine. I had a blast recording the music and sharing and talking about it with all of you each month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and maybe gotten to know me better because of it. I’ll be doing another post this week where I’ll discuss talking the entire process of recording Nine For Nine and that’ll wrap up this project entirely. I’ll talk to you all then. Cheers

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Nine For Nine: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

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Last Month I did a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins classic track “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness”. Today I’d like to share with you the experience I had recording it and why I chose to cover it in the first place.

I was a late bloomer to rock music. I didn’t really start listening to it until I was in my early 20s. I made up for last time very quickly and listened to everything I could get my hands on Radiohead, Beatles, Foo Fighters, etc. It wasn’t long before I listened to the album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness it immediately became a favorite album of  mine. Within a year a bought every studio album The Smashing Pumpkins released.

I feel The Smashing Pumpkins entire discography doesn’t get enough credit. They consistently released quality albums. Sure they have a specific sound and don’t deviate much from it, but what they do, they do well. When it came time for this project I knew The Smashing Pumpkins would play a role. Being a pianist I couldn’t resist covering the title track of the album that solidified The Smashing Pumpkins as rock legends.

Billy Corgan, guitarist and singer for The Smashing Pumpkins has his issues (he can come off as a douche), but his ability to create great projects as a solo artist and as the lead member of The Smashing Pumpkins since the 90s is impressive. I implore all of you to do a deep dive on the Smashing Pumpkins catalog you won’t be disappointed I assure you.

 

One day I’ll do more covers of The Smashing Pumpkins tracks. I’d love to cover tracks from Adore Pisces Isariot, and Monuments to an Elegy, but for now this cover of “Mellon Collie And The Inifinte Sadness” will have to do. Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.