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My video game music channel

July 17, 2014

This has nothing to do with the main theme of this blog. It is purely self-promotion (but since this is my blog, then no harm, no foul, right?)

Like many people, when I was in school, I had a hobby that I didn’t keep up very well with. For me, I studied music. I wasn’t all that good at it, for a number of reasons (I don’t know when people are supposed to learn music theory, but I definitely wasn’t). One thing I regret is that when my instructors told me, “Wow, you’re pretty good. You should get private lessons,” I was young, and dumb, and didn’t interpret it the right way. I thought that they were just trying to be polite while meaning something like, “You’re not very good, so you should get private lessons.”

Over time, I have come to realize that that’s not why people recommend private lessons. Rather, when people recognize some kind of raw talent that is being squandered through bad habits, that’s when they recommend private lessons.

I quit playing the sax later in high school, mostly because I didn’t want to do marching band anymore, mostly because I hated my sound and tone, but also, because I wanted perfect GPAs for the rest of my high school career, and band didn’t get that honors GPA boost. (Man, to be a dumb, naïve high schooler! [P.S., it didn’t work anyway, because I kept getting Bs in math class.]).

So that was that.

Every time I’ve visited my parents, I’ve noticed my sax sitting in the corner of my old room, collecting dust from within its case. A few times during a vacation, I’ve pulled it out to practice a few pieces. Each time, I’ve put it back away.

Of course, my sound hasn’t gotten any better without practice.

The last time I visited my parents, I decided that I would take my old sax back with me and start practicing again. But how would I stay motivated? I bought a new mouthpiece, some new reeds, and some etude study materials. And I started practicing. Intermittently.

Part of the problem is that I didn’t (and don’t) like my sound. Much like with my art or writing, whenever I regard it, I am aware that it’s not as good as what I know it should be. But, to make things worse, the practice pieces weren’t all that fun (although I do like going through the pieces that I painstakingly studied for the all-region tryouts.)

When I was younger, I had the same problems. But I thought that my poor sound was because I had a poor instrument. Fortunately, I read enough online to learn that the instrument isn’t as big of a factor as one’s embouchure. And that a lot of technique could only be developed through time. I didn’t know what that could possibly mean when I was in school (and I certainly wasn’t the kind of person who would practice for even an hour each day, much less dedicate time to scales and long notes), and since I didn’t have a tutor, no one was telling me explicitly.

Now, hopefully, I’m a little more mature, so I’ve scoured the internet for links on embouchure, YouTube videos, and so on. The one thing I regret is that most videos don’t really show “before and after” approaches, so I can’t really tell which concept I’m not getting.

…still, slowly but surely, I think my sound is getting a little better (although I still can’t buzz a full scale on my mouthpiece, and if it weren’t for the YouTube videos, I would think that idea would be witchcraft). And, on top of it all, I’m more motivated to practice far more regularly. Why?

I’ve changed what I’m playing.

The music of my childhood, the songs that pop up in my head every so often and then get stuck there…they are songs from video games. So I thought, why not practice those songs?

I think this is an interesting hobby. Most video game songs don’t necessarily have sheet music, and if they do, they don’t have sheet music for saxophone. To play these songs, I’ve had to painstakingly listen, over and over, and figure out each note, note by note.

Remember, I don’t know music theory, and I certainly don’t intuit it. I’ve learned that my youngest brother and sister are blessed with perfect pitch, but I still stumble around to guess which note follows the other in a song.

People covering video game music on YouTube is not a new thing. And there are certainly a lot better folks than me. But one thing I’ve noticed is that most folks tend not to cover every part…they tend to stick to one part that best fits their instrument, or maybe perform a duet or trio or quartet or whatever is necessary to get the right instrumentation. Or maybe they play their part along with a recording of the remaining parts.

But my approach has been to try to play all the parts on saxophone.

You can visit my YouTube channel here.

The interesting thing is that since starting the process of actually recording pieces, I’ve had to research more things. How do I edit? How do I mix/EQ/balance different tracks? How can I make my alto sound like different instruments? (Turns out, lowering pitch by 12 steps is a good approximation of a bari sax…which makes sense, because both the bari and alto are Eb instruments just one octave away from each other….but raising the pitch by 12 steps doesn’t produce as convincing of a soprano sax.) I have friends who have gotten degrees in sound production and audio engineering, so I know that if they listened, they would be able to point out a million things I’m doing wrong, but for now,  it’s fun.

Anyway, I won’t babble anymore. Here are a couple of pieces I’ve covered so far:


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  1. I’m not a big video game person, but I definitely agree that we do better when we play what we love. I am glad you have found something you enjoy. One of my instructors is trading “tutoring” for music lessons, (not in his own classes but with a graduate student that he is helping out, who is a wonderful musician. I didn’t hear his playing at the beginning, but since January he has definitely made improvements.

  2. That’s an interesting arrangement…trading tutoring for music lessons.

  3. Hedgehog permalink

    As someone who absolutely has to have the music to play, I think this is amazing. Interesting music. I gather concerts of game music are also popular now too. My son has some of his game music on his phone to listen to.

    But yes. Playing what we enjoy. For me, usually such a hermit, music is something I enjoy doing with other people, so that for a long time after student life was over, I didn’t play trumpet at all for years. Not until my daughter started learning brass and it was something we could do together. I also got a selection of books with cd accompaniment full of fun tunes from films to get back into playing, which was way better than playing boring exercises on my own.

    • I have attended a few concerts of video game music, so yep, that definitely seems to be getting more mainstream, as there are several people at the concerts who may not even have played the game in question.

      Your playing trumpet with your daughter is the most heart warming thing I have heard this weekend.

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