I am indeed practicing to record (gonna start with 13 Zelda arrangement videos), but I've recently dropped some time (uh...maybe nearly 30 hours' worth) into NieR: Automata, and it's goddamn brilliant. It's the only single-player game I've played since Ori and the Blind Forest that just has me totally sucked in. I could sit on the couch for twelve straight hours and play it, no joke. Perfect combat, a great story (that, as I understand it, has yet to go full mindfuck), and, most importantly, a killer soundtrack.
I never played the original NieR on the PS3, but I have listened to its complete soundtrack on YouTube several dozen times, easily. Here. Go listen to it while you work or something. It's easily in my top three video game scores of all time, alongside those of Chrono Cross and Shadow of the Colossus (honorable mentions include those of Chrono Trigger, of course, Ni no Kuni, and several of the Final Fantasy games.
NieR: Automata's soundtrack is not quite as good as its predecessor's, but it's still phenomenal. There's also quite a dearth of good piano arrangements of any of its tracks, which, despite my zero recording activity of the past several years, gnaws at me. And because I'm always the most productive when I have a good project ongoing, I've decided to do a set of transcriptions (that are less heavily arranged than my usual stuff) of some of the more popular tracks in the game.
Well, half of 2017 has come and gone, and it probably seems like I have, too. I mean, I have, so that's probably why it seems that way.
Quick update: Kate tells me that during every single stream I do, at least one person asks how they can remove or change their queued request. You've never been able to do that: once your request was in, it was in forever, unless I caught you asking about it in chat and manually booted it from the queue for you.
No more! Now, when you make a request while you already have a request in the queue, you will be asked if you'd like to update your existing request. If you choose to do this, your existing request will be changed without losing its position in queue! Should make a lot of people happy.
There's still no way still to straight-up remove your request from the queue, but I think 99% of the time people want to do that, they just want to queue up something different, anyway, so this should please just about everyone.
Hot damn, I'm behind on my blogging. March must have been so bad that I didn't even take time for a brief month-in-review post. Oh well, time to do a bit of catching up.
The other day in stream I was talking about how it would be cool to do recordings of the most-requested music on the stream and throw 'em on YouTube or something, so I ran some queries. I no longer think that that would be a cool idea. At least not yet.
I'm a little late on this one, but it's okay, because it'll be short.
GOOD THINGS OF THE FEBRUARY
First, I finished my "Tour of Kanto Suite," which comprises seven arrangements of town/city themes from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow. Second, I redid all of my Streamlabs stuff, OBS scenes, and mic configurations; I re-cataloged my entire score library and (mostly) synced it up with my site's library; and I started streaming again! Feels great to be back. Third, I wrote a couple lengthy blog posts, so that's nice.
BAD THINGS OF THE FEBRUARY
I done did too many online games. And I didn't record nothin'. :( FeelsBadMan.
1/10: SHITE MATE
(Overall, wrapping up a suite and getting back to streaming felt really good, so I'm actually pretty happy, especially given that I spent the first week of the month wandering through my apartment like a zombie, hoping my gnarly sinus infection would magically go away.)
Well, I had the stream all ready to go. Updated my Twitch page, cataloged several hundred scores, made my OBS look fresh, tested all my mics, and even made a countdown splash page instructing people to make requests before I actually start playing.
And then my web hosting died.
And then when it came back up, it was too late to stream (apartment complex, you know).
And then I snapped a mic clip in half anyway, so I need to order some more of those.
Anyway, stream's totally ready, though, so on Monday I'll get back to it for real. I'm pretty excited. Here's a couple images of how it looks now:
Splash page with countdown timer.
(Click for big version.)
Main stream window. Can't figure out how to make webcam not look like shit. Advice gratefully accepted.
(Click for big version.)
See you soon, folks.
2016, developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, published by Square Enix, $40
If I had to pick a single word that encompasses the entire nature of I Am Setsuna, I would fail. But if I had to pick two words, I would pick "bleak" and "austere." Bleaksterity permeates every facet of this game, from its homogeneous setting to its sparse (almost-)all-piano soundtrack. An overt love-letter to the old-school JRPG (especially Chrono Trigger), I Am Setsuna is a solid first outing from developer Tokyo RPG Factory, but its failure to comprehend all of what made those old games great ensures that it will never join their ranks. Between wooden characters and a deluge of unnecessary "deep customization" features, I Am Setsuna is an experience that's ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
A bit more MuseScore-specific than its predecessor, this installment will focus on some crucial techniques for creating space to give your notes some breathing room.
I figured it'd be helpful (to me, not you) to have a brief retrospective at or near the end of every month to assess how well or poorly I'm doing at meeting my goals. Let's have a gander at January, shall we?
Buying myself more time: cutting back on my work hours and weeknight online gaming hours was my single most important goal, and I did a great job with it. I successfully hard-capped my work hours at 25 (and even got in a little under that a couple weeks). I technically cheated on the online gaming thing a few times by firing up Heroes of the Storm before 9 PM, but I never did so without putting in several hours at the piano first and hitting a good stopping point in my work. Realistically, I don't play the piano much after 8 PM anyway, but I did miss out on a couple evenings' worth of notating scores in software or writing blog posts or whatever. Overall, though, not bad: gaming time was way down, and what was once an hours-long nightly ritual has become an every-now-and-then thing that rarely lasts more than an hour. FeelsGoodMan.
Streaming: streaming was never really on the menu for January, due to issues with the piano that needed to be addressed, so it's not really a part of this assessment. Worth mentioning, though: the repairs have been made, everything's sounding much better, and I'll probably spend some time this weekend cleaning up the stream page and getting things set up to get back to it in a week or two here.
Composing/Recording: I didn't record anything for the same reason I didn't stream. I did, however, do a great job with composing. Ages ago, I started a seven-piece suite of town music arrangements from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow that I'm tentatively calling "A Tour of Kanto." I wrote two of them, God, I dunno, sometime early in 2016? -- and then I just kinda stopped. I got back to it hard this month, though, and wrote four new arrangements: Vermillion City's theme, Lavender Town's theme, Celadon City's theme, and Viridian/Pewter/...Saffron...? City's theme. A couple of the themes are used in several cities. I'm still finishing up that last one this weekend, but will immediately move on to the Cinnabar Island theme and start recording the set. The goal as stated at the beginning this month was to do at least three "easier/shorter" arrangements and at least one "harder/longer" (giggity) arrangement each month. These Pokémon arrangements fall somewhere awkwardly in the middle of those two descriptors, so I'm considering getting four of them written (especially given that I was out in Chicago for the first week of the month) a solid success.
Writing on the Blog: Eh, not great. I started a series about piano notation, though, and am almost through the second entry (they're time-consuming to write), so that's cool. Would like to try to get around to writing reviews of some of the single-player games I've been playing recently (Uncharted 4, I Am Setsuna, Tomb Raider, Ori and the Blind Forest, etc.).
Overall: Overall, this has been a great start to 2017. I'm already solidly in the habit of wrapping up work early and going straight to the piano, and it feels good to produce tangible things (in the form of written scores, I guess) and to spend most evenings doing stuff other than playing video games. I think it'll be no problem keeping it up going forward.
When I write, I do it at the piano with a black Pilot G2 fine-point pen and manuscript paper. It's the easiest and fastest way to take notes out of my head and put them into some physical medium. When I'm finished with whatever I'm working on, I use MuseScore to make it pretty. I haven't used Finale or Sibelius since I was but a wee lad, so I have no idea of what kind of crazy-powerful features they're packing these days, but when it comes to creating solo piano scores, I have yet to find a thing MuseScore can't do, and my scores can get fairly complex, notationally.
MuseScore is free and open-source software, available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, so I expect that a lot of more casual music-notators (that's a word now) will reach for it over the more professional options on the market as well as the more daunting ones (e.g., LilyPond, whose output is amazing but whose learning curve is so precipitous that it's not worth bothering to use except for bizarre, avant-garde notational elements).
Especially when streaming, I come across a lot of horrid scores. Just as how a person may read a lot of books but have difficulty putting a valid sentence together, a pianist might play from a lot of sheet music but never think about how the notes are actually laid out on the page. I did some pretty idiotic stuff when I first started writing things down by hand. Like anything else, you get better at it the more you do it.
That said, I thought it'd be a nice idea to share some notational tricks I use a lot in my piano writing, as well as how to replicate those tricks in MuseScore. First up: cross-staff beaming.