This week’s video is another performance of one of my own compositions, Loss. It’s my take on a funeral march/death scene, which I released last year on my solo piano album, Let the Journey Begin!. The slow tempo is pretty standard for this kind of music, but I experimented with using phrases of varying lengths, so as not to have it feel too measured – I wanted the instability of losing someone.
The piece starts off very diatonic, but as it goes on there is more chromaticism and countermelodies are introduced, so although there’s repetition of the main melodies and long sections over a tonic pedal, there’s always something new being introduced to add variety and interest. I’m believe that repetitions are a useful tool when writing music, but I’m not a fan when they’re used unnecessarily or if they don’t add anything new to a piece.
It’s been several weeks since I last posted a video – I’ve been working on quite a few things musically, but didn’t have anything finished. This week’s video is a performance of my composition, Innocence. This is one of my favourite pieces from my album, Let the Journey Begin!, as I feel that I captured the feeling I was aiming for succinctly.
I had to work on my technique for this one, as I discovered that my arpeggiated chords were nowhere near as good as I’d thought previously – I had to thoroughly explore how to play them well enough to be accurate while dropping them into the main melody. There’s still some work to do before they’re really good, but I’m happy with how they developed during my practice.
I learnt a lot about different arm movements that can help or hinder rolled chords and how some of them can be combined to make them easier. Developing a technique that allows us to express ourselves as we want can take a long time and there’s always room for improvement but it’s a fascinating journey!
This week I have a performance of my latest composition, titled “A Moment of Safety”. It’s inspired by the safe room themes of the Resident Evil games, which provide a few safe areas in the games. The music reflects this but simultaneously creates a sense of tension, a small dread that you’ll have to go back out into the danger eventually. That’s what I’ve tried to capture with this composition.
The chords used are Am11 and Gm11 – they don’t relate to each other, but being so extended softens the contrast between them as they actually share a lot of notes. I chose them for this reason, as together they sound pretty relaxed.
The sense of unease comes from the rhythm between the hands – only occasionally do they sync up. While they aren’t actually playing in different time signatures (although the left hand sounds like it moves between 6/8 and 3/4), there are enough stressed notes falling apart from each other that some rhythmic dissonance is created, in my opinion. Let me know whether you agree or not!
This exploration of creating certain feelings, atmospheres or emotions is one reason I love composing so much and also why I enjoy teaching composition.
I have a third new video this week! Another orchestration, this time of my piano piece Clockwork Sanctuary.
This is a location theme for the game that I’m making. As the player moves deeper into the level, the piece will change, with more instruments and sounds related to clocks and industry getting added in. This is just the first version that will play upon entering the area.
It took me a while to settle on instrumentation for this version – I had a rough sketch of it recorded about a year ago but wasn’t happy with my choice of instruments at the time, or with my ability to make them sound good. I’m much happier with this version, especially with the string quartet at the end of it. All of the instruments are physically modelled and thus can be played in a very expressive manner (they’re the Audio Modelling SWAM Solo Strings and the SWAM Flute, Oboe and Bassoon, for those interested in specifics).
Here’s the original piano version for comparison. Please let me know what you think of each version! If you enjoy my music, please consider subscribing to my channel!
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
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…