Categories
Music

Pages

While Soaring was the first vocal synth song I released to the world, “Pages” was actually written first. I sat on the lyrics and composition for months, not really sure how I wanted the final song to sound. Eventually, I got tired of waiting and just dove in. (Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there….) Using what I learned from the first song and sticking to the 16-bit sounds that I love, I sat down and finally got something my ears liked. I hope yours do too!

Lyrics

Looks like it's time again, just like all those times before
You already know, but they're the one that I adore
I take my pen in hand, on your pages I will write
All my thoughts not spoken into light

"I always notice you but you never notice me"
"The hand that makes these words would fit in your hand perfectly"
Another page is full, along with two or maybe three?
Pages that they'll never get to see

It's so embarrassing, but it's the only way I know
To set free these feelings that have no place to go
They'll never read these lines, I'll never show the truth within your covers
But why should I care when I know it's what I want?

I've told them how I feel a thousand times inside my mind
I've played the situation through to leave uncertainty behind
It's not reality, though I would definitely try
But if they ever read these words, I think I'd probably die

It's so embarrassing, but it's the only way I know
To set free these feelings that have no place to go
They'll never read these lines, I'll never show the truth within your covers
But why should I care when I know it's what I want?

Sentence by sentence I
Sit back and wonder why I cannot tell them
There's nothing stopping me
But my anxiety that there may be someone
Who took their heart instead
Got to their soul ahead of me
'Cause they've got words to say
But I'm vocal in my own way

It's so embarrassing, but it's the only way I know
To set free these feelings that have no place to go
They'll never read these lines, I'll never show the truth within your covers
But why should I care when I know it's what I want?

I take my pen in hand and in your pages I will be
Pages that they'll never get to see

The Creative Process

Some of you might be curious how this song came to life, so I’ll show you a bit of my process for creating it.

Composition

Pages began during an afternoon messing with Hookpad, a very nifty tool by Hooktheory. It’s basically a musical sketch pad that allows you to place notes and chords together, and the relationship between them. For someone like me who has basically no music theory training, it’s quite helpful. If you’re interested in writing songs, I can’t recommend Hookpad enough.

The first verse, as shown inside Hookpad.

Lyrics

I had an idea for a song about a girl who likes somebody, but she’s too shy to tell them. Instead, she vents her feelings into a notebook that nobody else is allowed to read.

Surprisingly, the lyric-writing portion of the project only took a couple of hours (special thanks to RhymeZone.com who made that process a whole lot easier). I was surprised at how quickly it came together, but it took a lot longer to convince myself that it wasn’t too corny to pursue further.

Building the Song

During the process of bringing everything together, I used 3 different programs.

Deflemask is a free chiptune tracker that I’ve been using for about 5 years now. It’s designed to emulate the old consoles of the 80s and 90s, like the NES and Sega Genesis. The hi-hat loop you hear throughout the song was created with Deflemask.

(If you’re interested in hearing what Deflemask by itself can do, my “Blast Processed Otaku Tunes” were made entirely in Deflemask.)

Synthesizer V is one of many programs that allow you to virtually create vocals for a song. There are other programs you can use to do this, like UTAU, but SynthV is special because it has natural language processing. This means I can enter the lyrics as full words instead of having to build each word phonetically. But, I can still go in and change the phonics of a word if the vocalist’s pronunciation is a little off. Overall, it saves a lot of time.

The Synthesizer V interface, showing a line of lyrics.

Each word is placed on a “piano roll” timeline, with words broken up across multiple notes if necessary. After placing all the notes, I go back and mess with the “tuning” of each note. This can consist of tweaking the pitch, vibrato, etc. One interesting thing about working with vocal synth is that, without extra configuration, the program will sing your song perfectly. That might sound appealing at first, until you realize how robotic it sounds. You get the best results by playing around with the tuning, and maybe messing it up slightly.

Reaper is a digital audio workstation (DAW) that is quite affordable when compared to similar options. This is where the bulk of the work is done.

The Reaper interface, showing a number of audio tracks.

As a general rule, each row you see in the program is a different instrument. I won’t go into detail about how the different instruments were created, because I’d be here for hours.

SynthV allows you to directly “plug in” to a DAW, so I link those programs together. That allows me to hear the vocalist sing within Reaper. The hi-hat loop made in Deflemask is exported as an audio file and imported into Reaper, where it can be looped as long as desired.

Categories
Thoughts

What’s all this then?

I have a weird relationship with social media.

If you have ever seen me comment on someone’s post or make a post of my own, congratulations! You’ve found a rare thing. Enjoy it while you can, because you probably won’t see another one for a while.

Getting my own thoughts out of my head and onto any kind of tangible surface is a challenge for me. Any time you see something I’ve written or said, chances are I’ve run it through my head at least twelve times, looking for just the right words. That conversation we had the other day? I’ve likely spent some time thinking about what I said, how I said it, if it made sense, how you might have reacted, and everything I did wrong. In fact, I’ve probably spent half an hour just writing what you’ve read up to this point. If you’re reading this at all, that means I managed to talk myself into clicking that “Publish” button, instead of rewriting for the millionth time only to talk myself out of saying anything.

Despite this, I’ve had a constant (but fairly silent) presence on social media for about a decade, mainly on Twitter. I suppose the short-form style of the tweet has always appealed to me. Fitting your thought into 280 characters forces you to keep things short, which I tend to do naturally. Even so, most of my social media use tends to be “lurking”, or seeing what other people are up to without adding anything to the conversation myself.

So why am I going to try blogging on this website, where’s there is no character limit? I have no idea.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I know I want to have a proper home for my creative endeavors. A single place I can share with others and everything is there. Also, I’d like to share not only stuff I’ve made, but also the process that went into making it. There’s only so much you can put into a social media post before people lose interest (myself included). I think a site like this is better suited for stuff like that. Another reason is that I’ve always thought having a “blog” like this would help me with getting my thoughts out of my head. It’s not easy right now, but it’ll probably get easier as I do it more.

And that’s the thing: I need to do it or nothing will happen. I’ve lost count of the projects I thought would be nifty to do, but never started because I thought about it too much. Don’t get me wrong – thinking before you leap is good, but you won’t ever get anywhere if you don’t leap at some point.

So here it is. It’s a work-in-progress, but it’s a start. And that’s something I can be proud of.

Categories
Art

Pre-2020 Art

This is a collection of visual art that I made before starting this website. Some of them were college projects, and some came after. There aren’t any progress shots of anything here, so I can’t really detail the creation process. Because of this, I’m throwing all of it on this page. I hope to document the process more in the future.

Some of what you see can be purchased on a variety of merchandise on my Redbubble store.

flowers

life-size-self-portrait

woodpecker-ad

newspaper-ad

city-glass-company

bt_logo_expo

bandina_1500px

augment_1500px

eat-some-beans

vbs-2017-magnifying-glass-V4

typeFACE

space-bar

nested_dots_pink

60th_anniversary_1000px

Categories
Music

Soaring

This song was the result of both writing lyrics and playing with vocal synthesis for the first time. There’s certainly improvement to be made, but you gotta take that first step at some point.

Eleanor Forte is a virtual singer featured in the software Synthesizer V. I went with SynthV instead of UTAU (another vocal synthesis program) mainly because SynthV has built-in language processing, which means I didn’t have to enter all the phonetics manually. Saved me a lot of time, but I wanna get into UTAU since there’s a ton of different vocalists out there.

I used quite a bit of sounds from the Sega Genesis because I like the sound the console makes and I was used to them. Eventually I’d like to add to my musical library and figure out how all these synths work.

Lyrics

3am, what am I doing?
Can't settle down, there's something brewing
These thoughts won't stop
And I can't get you out of mine

You were there, but I couldn't see
My gaze was always behind me
I never knew you were
The hope that I couldn't find

Down, down deep underground
You uncovered my sound, exposed me
And you brought light to my eyes
No wonder I'm mesmerized

Look to the sky!
You'll see me high aloft with wings of light
There's nothing stopping me tonight
The weight of worry down and out of sight
Below the star-lit sea
I may not know how or why
But I'm sure I can fly
With you, 'cause you're soaring high

Down, down deep underground
You uncovered my sound, exposed me
And you brought light to my eyes
No wonder I'm mesmerized

Look to the sky!
You'll see me high aloft with wings of light
There's nothing stopping me tonight
The weight of worry down and out of sight
Below the star-lit sea
I may not know how or why
But I'm sure I can fly
With you, 'cause you're soaring high
Categories
Music

Blowin’ Off Dust

This album is my love-letter to the video game music of the 1990s I grew up listening to. This was the first real musical project I ever worked on, and it’s been sitting on my hard drive ever since 2016, so I think it’s time I blow the dust off of it and share it with the world. These songs were originally written for my brother’s pirate-themed Pathfinder game. At the time, Roll20 had a SoundCloud player built in and you could loop music through it. That feature was removed mid-campaign, so most of these songs ended up not being used. These ten are my favorites from that project. There were also a few songs that didn’t make the cut, but maybe I’ll do something with them eventually.

Tracklist

Roll for Initiative – The title is an obvious reference to the tabletop RPG world where players roll dice to decide turn order in battle. This was the battle music the players would hear as they “rolled for initiative”.

This Warm Sand Is Inviting – The first song the players heard as they woke up on an unknown beach. This was the second song I ever wrote. Song #1 didn’t make the cut and will probably stay on my hard drive forever lol.

A Happy Tune Indeed – . There wasn’t really a specific part of the game that this song was going to be used, it was just kinda there if the GM needed something happier.

We’ve Lost Count of Hominy Got Lost In This Maize – At one point in the game the players were going to get stuck in a giant corn maze. This song was specifically written for that, which explains all the corn puns in the title.

A Well-Stocked Market – Written for the various shops the players would encounter throughout their journey. Originally I was going to try to make this sound like something you’d hear playing in a K-Mart back in 1994, but I could never get it to sound right.

The Great Wide Open – Probably the most obscure inspiration I’ve had for any project, this was influenced by the boot-up music of the FM Towns Marty console from 1993.

Marching – Since the game was centered around a group of pirates, a march seemed fitting. I don’t think this song was ever used, as it was written much later than the others.

I’d Tell You Where This Appears But It Would Be Spoilers – The GM needed a song for a specific encounter later in the game, so I wrote this. I couldn’t think of a name that wouldn’t give the players a clue about what it was for, so….

Dangerous Terrain – Another song that I’m pretty sure didn’t get used. This wasn’t originally going to be included on the album, but I wanted an even 10 songs so I stuck this one in at the last second.

Lullaby – A slower, more calming song that was used mainly for story exposition and less exciting NPC interaction.