Author Archives: nickowenpetch

Orchestrated version of ‘Innocence’

I decided to release a second video this week – something I’ve been working on and was too excited to fit into my usual schedule of one video per week!

I’ve been working on orchestrating some of my piano music recently (the first ones were Theme of Oppression and To Arms!, though the latter is a rock arrangement rather than an orchestration. I’ve got a few compositions in progress and have been figuring out what works when it comes to combining instruments and learning a little about how they’re played as I go along. I’ll make a more thorough study of orchestration when I’ve experimented more by myself, as I’m a firm believer in having some practical knowledge to stick the theory to.

The video this week is an wind and strings version of ‘Innocence’. I say version, as I believe that it’s worth making multiple versions of the same piece of music to explore the many different ways that a melody or harmonic progression can go. Arnold Schoenberg advocated a systematic approach to composition in his education materials, exhausting all of the possibilities that you can think of, and Moshe Feldenkrais designed his Awareness Through Movement classes in such a way that you try a whole bunch of different variations of movement that are “wrong”, but they give your nervous system more information to work with and allow you to find new ways of moving outside of the habitual.

Soundtracks often have many variations of the same compositions, to give a sense of coherency to the story and characters and is particularly effective in video games. I remember Jak II adding an extra layer of rhythmic elements over the existing music whenever you drew a weapon and finding that really raised the tension. More recently A Hat in Time impressed me with just how many versions of every piece of music it has – as you move around the levels and encounter different characters, the instrumentation changes to reflect the mood.

I’ll link the original piano version of this composition, so you can easily compare the two. I’d be glad to hear what people think works in each version, ad whether people have a preference for one or the other. If you use YouTube, please consider subscribing, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Performance of my composition, Grief

Hi, everybody! I have a new video on my YouTube channel – me performing my own composition, Grief. This piece is a variation on another one of mine called Innocence – they’re both themes for a character, but Grief is the minor key version of Innocence. Not all is dark and depressing in it, though – I aimed to capture how it feels to work through one’s feelings of Loss, and memories of good times gone by.

If you enjoyed the performance, please consider subscribing to my channel!

New performance video – Ju-on: The Grudge – main theme

Hello, everybody!

A new video is up on my YouTube channel. This week, it’s a cover of the main theme from the film Ju-on: The Grudge. It’s one of my favourite films – it manages to create a feeling of deep melancholy and inevitability, and the music and sound design play a huge part in that.

I think this composition is wonderful to analyse, to see why it’s so effective. In my opinion, it comes down to a few elements: the harmony, use of chromatic notes, and the tonic pedal.

The harmony is pretty simple – it’s in E minor and most of the chords are diatonic: Am, Em and F#m7b5 – only the third inversion Fmaj7 near the end is out of key (and only one note of it). However, melodically there’s a fair amount of chromaticism and in the original there’s a high part that is very chromatic which creates the unease.

At the beginning, there’s an immediate sense of sadness but as the theme progresses, I think it captures a feeling of hopelessness. The use of the tonic pedal helps create that feeling of not being able to move forwards.

If you enjoy the performance, please subscribe to my channel! There’ll be more performance videos of both covers and my own compositions, plus new compositions will usually end up there before release. I’m also in the process of scripting some teaching videos.

Time of the Oppressed – performance video

Hello, everyone!

I have a new video this week, which is a performance of one of my own compositions – the one that started my journey as a composer. I actually wrote the initial draft of it back in 2013 and it’s gone through multiple revisions over the years before I settled on this one. If you’ve listened to my recent album, you’ll know it already. Despite having written it so long ago, I think that it’s still one of the strongest melodies that I’ve written.

When I first wrote it, I was experimenting with polyrhythms – I didn’t have much experience with them but knew that I wanted to use them to increase the sense of something not quite being right in the repeat of section A in this piece. Writing them into was pretty easy, but I struggled with playing them at the time.

Since then, I’ve explored how to practise polyrhythms fairly extensively. I’m in the process of writing the script for a video dealing with how to effectively practise them, though it’ll take a while because it’s the first of this kind of video that I’m planning to make. Does anyone have any notable polyrhythms that they struggled with (or are struggling with)?

Also, which other topics would you like to see teaching videos about?

To Arms! – proof of concept video

I’m excited to announce that I have a new video on my YouTube channel! This one contains a rock arrangement of one of my earlier piano tracks, titled ‘To Arms!’. For anyone that prefers rock to solo piano, this is for you! If you’re a fan of epic (in the original sense of the word) guitar solos, please have a listen. The solo in this piece was written by the fantastic Ainsley Stones, (who plays in the band Girl Gone Bad), and is the first of two collaborations we’ve done recently.

There’s a link in the video description to my Soundcloud page, which has a version without the sound effects from the game.

I’m a fan of making multiple arrangements of the same piece of music (I love the classical form Variations on a Theme), as I think there’s so many different directions a melody or harmony could be taken in. I hope that this rock version can provide an interesting demonstration for my pupils when compared to the original piano version (see below) for how different two arrangements can sound, while still keeping the same essence.

Theme of Oppression proof of concept video

Another new video is up on my YouTube channel. This one is my attempt to integrate one of my compositions into a video game level. Actually, this is a remade version of a composition that I wrote back in 2013 that inspired me to take up composing more seriously, though it took until the recent pandemic for me to really start focusing on it.

The game is in the style of 90s JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games), such as the Final Fantasy series. My intention is that the music matches the visuals and dialogue and helps convey the story and emotion.

Let me know if you think I succeeded in this. Does the video feel oppressive, as the track name states?

Piano Variations on We Wish You a Merry Christmas

This week I released a set of variations that I wrote on the theme of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. They’re available on my Bandcamp as ‘pay what you like’ (i.e. free if you want, just enter 0 when asked to choose the price) along with the sheet music: https://nicholasowen-petch.bandcamp.com/…/variations-on…

They’re also up on my YouTube channel:

And just went up on Spotify today: https://open.spotify.com/album/39rHITso7TKVvLtZXTaM8j…

Let me know if you enjoy them and please pass them on to anyone that you think might like them.

Performance of my composition, ‘An Ill Presence’

I’ve been asked in the past by prospective and current pupils about videos of me playing. I recently decided to start experimenting with different types of videos for my YouTube channel, so here’s a performance of one of my own compositions, ‘An Ill Presence’. Nothing tricky, but I hope I managed to capture the atmosphere of the piece with the lighting. I’m planning to make more performance videos in the future (including some covers) and will also be making videos about learning music and how to simplify the process.

Variations on We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Since Christmas is on the way, I thought I’d dig out a set a variations that I wrote on the theme of We Wish You a Merry Christmas years ago for a pupil of mine. She was from China and not really familiar with traditional English Christmas carols, or with much in the way of Western Classical music, so I wrote these variations as a way of combining both of those things.

They are very (very) loosely in the styles of Bach, Clementi, Schubert and Beethoven, but are only pastiches aiming to evoke the feeling of those composers – if anyone who knows their music well takes a look, I’m sure they’ll be able to pick them apart. My original plan was to write a couple more variations in Romantic styles – if anyone is interested in hearing that, let me know and I’ll give it a shot.

Lesson status and album release

Hello, everybody! Since my previous update at the end of last year, not much has changed on the lessons front. All of my lessons are still currently being given online using Skype and Zoom. I understand that potential new pupils might be sceptical about starting with e teacher this way, so my usual offer of an hour of free tuition still stands.

Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt a lot about ways to support online learning – I’ve recorded more audio and video examples for my pupils than in the entirety of my career so far! Good lesson notes, both from me and my pupils have proven more important than ever and I’ve had to refine my use of language and how I explain concepts. I feel that I’m better equipped as a teacher than ever. If anyone is thinking about starting lessons online with me but isn’t entirely convinced about them being online, I’m open to an additional hour of free tuition on top of the usual one that I offer.

I other news, I’ve spent the best part of 10 months writing and recording a solo piano album. Over the years I’ve had a tendency to begin compositions before finding another interesting idea and moving on to that. As such, I’ve had quite a few pieces of music left unfinished for a long time. The oldest piece on this album actually began life in 2013! As I’ve had fewer lessons to teach during the pandemic, I decided to take a project through to completion. The result is my new album, Let the Journey Begin!

My biggest inspiration for the album comes from old video game soundtracks – in particular, old JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. With older games, the lack of graphical power and disc space meant that facial expressions and voice acting for characters were limited, and thus the music had to carry the emotional weight of the scene and tell the story. These qualities are what I’ve tried to emulate with my writing.

My album is available to purchase on Bandcamp (click the link to be taken to my Bandcamp page). For the princely sum of £6, you’ll receive not only the audio, but also sheet music for every track. If you feel that my music is worth your money, this is a great way to support me.

If you prefer to stream music, you can listen on Spotify or on YouTube.

The cover artwork for my album was done by the wonderful Shannon Leslie. She works in traditional media and I highly recommend checking out her website: https://www.shannonleslieart.com/