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2020 Update

2020 has been a dumpster fire. With the ongoing pandemic, global recession, and social justice issues raging on in the US, it’s clear this year has been a miserable one. Still, we have to keep going, keep pushing forward, so with that in mind, I thought I’d look at my New Years resolutions (which I made in late December) and see how they are going. Let’s laugh and cry together shall we?

Play More Gigs Than Ever Before

Hahahahaha! Not a chance! This goal is virtually impossible and certainly not a responsible one to have in 2020. Of course I didn’t know this when I made the goal, but that’s where we are at now. Not a possibility for 2020 and probably not a possibility in 2021.

Have My Music On Spotify

This hasn’t happened, but that’s more of my personal choice. As I’ve gone deeper into 2020 and deeper into my life goal of “impacting the world through sound”, it’s become clear that sound design for games is where my focus needs to be. Because of this, I’m less focused on my music and if it’s available on all platforms. So, my music is not on Spotify, but it’s available for free on YouTube and Soundcloud and for now I’m happy with that.

More Game Audio Work

Not only is this still a goal that’s alive, I’d say it’s my number one objective in 2020. Over the past few months everything I’ve done has been to ramp up my game audio work. Working on a game with peers, working on my sound design reel, and getting deeper and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of sound design. I’m so pumped about everything I’m doing in the game audio space and I can’t wait to see what more I’ll do in 2020 and beyond.

PR At The Marathon

This one hurts. Running is my favorite form of exercise and I was pumped up about the idea of running the marathon again. I loved running my first marathon and was looking forward to training again and showing what I learned from the first time and improving on it. My marathon was set in May and I was halfway into my training when the pandemic hit. This was such a bummer. Also, I’m finding it hard to imagine a race will be possible in 2021 either. I’m not sure what my workout and running routine will be moving forward, but I’m not expecting traditional races to return until 2022.

Appreciate Non-Work Activities

I’m a workaholic. I just love what I do and I’m always working hard to improve, even my rest is really not rest for rest’s sake it’s rest so I can work again. I want to have a better relationship with my non work activities and with my non work life. So this year I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. So far I’d say I get a passing grade on this, but I can do better. I’ve watched more movies for leisure and sports for leisure. I’ve also had less days where I work past five and I’ve also had a better attitude when I call it day early. I’m by no means perfect and some family members might even say I haven’t improved much, but I think I’ve made some progress on this goal.

What’s Next?

For now I’ll keep Appreciate Non-Work Activities and More Game Audio Work. Everything else I’ll put on hold and evaluate as I move forward into 2020 and 20201. This year has been so brutal, but I’m trying to remain positive and make the best out of this situation. So before I wrap up this post I leave you with this resolution for us all. Be kind to yourself, smile as much as possible, love your family, and keep making dope things. Cheers.

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Timeline of my move to LA

I recently moved to Los Angeles and today I’d like to share why I did the move and the connections I’ve developed with the city of Los Angeles over the years.

I first wanted to visit LA in 2013. That year I took a vacation with my family to San Diego. It was the first vacation I had since 2002. It was long overdue and it was a wonderful time. Here’s a picture of my dad and I from that trip.

During that trip I had family from LA kind of giving me grief for not visiting them. They were just giving me a hard time for being only two hours away, but not seeing them or even letting them know I was close by. Honestly, I really didn’t think about it. My family agreed to go to San Diego so the proximity was just a coincidence. Still, I did feel a little bad since I haven’t seen my aunt or her kids basically ever in my life. They live in LA, never leave California, and the last time I’ve seen any of them I was three years old. So when they asked me about visiting I assured them I’d visit in a couple years.

First Trip To LA

It took me a few years, but in the Summer of 2015 I visited LA. I had a great time. Loved hanging out with my immediate and extended family. It was so wild to see the ways my cousins were so similar to me. My aunt had a boy and a girl around my sister and my age so it was like meeting a west coast version of ourselves. They took us everywhere and we ate it all up. The taco trucks, the hike to the Hollywood sign, and the amusement parks, it was all wonderful.

That’s the week I also went to my first LA Galaxy game. As a Chicagoan who had to watch the Chicago Fire in Toyota Park. Seeing the Galaxy play was a 180 to my MLS soccer experience. In Chicago you have travel far to go to the middle of nowhere, watch a bad team play in a half filled stadium, then head to the ungraveled parking lot to go home. In LA you have a beautiful stadium filled with palm trees, a statue of team legends, world class amenities, a great team, and the most loyal and loud fan base America has to offer. At first this was just an observation of two teams heading in two directions, but soon, it became a synonym for my life.

After College

In summer 2016 I finished college and came out inspired and ready to take on the world. And I did. I was able to perform, teach, and compose my way to a full time musicmcareer. It felt so good to be done with school and be able to truly create and work on what I wanted with who I wanted. LA was the last thing on my mind I was happy and working on my craft.

2017: LA As A Summer Home?

I’m a person whose always evaluating their life. Am I challenging myself? Am I maximizing my ability? Am I maximizing my happiness? When 2017 began I started looking at other ways I can impact the musical world. When I reflected I started thinking of doing film scores and video game scores. When focusing on composition and scores, living in LA became an idea I was intrigued by. That’s where movies are made, that where AAA games are made. Yes I can probably do some of that work remotely, but I can also do it in person, be in the community, and increase my work opportunities. Still, I loved Chicago so much it was not an option. Maybe I can work there in the summer or winter?Do some seasonal work there when I’m composing a big project or something. Maybe there’s a way I can work there for a few months at a time I thought.

2018: Switch Turned On

By 2018 I was focused on game music. No more thoughts of film scores I was looking into what I had to do to get work in game music. I started working with a game dev on a project and making music for it. By 2018 I visited LA again. This time with my producer and friend Albert Amey. By now LA was where I wanted to live. I talked with my girlfriend, my sister, and my Dad about it. They all were open to it in theory, but nothing was set in stone. Still, the switch was turned on in my head. When I looked at my ideal life and ideal work. It was in LA working in game music.

2019: GDC And Sound Design

In 2019 I went to GDC for the first time. By then I had samples of my music and was still working on an indie game so I was beginning to get more involved in the game audio space. Going to GDC revitalized and solidified that I was heading in the right direction. That game audio was my calling and the area where I needed to focus my energy. In 2019 I also visited La twice. Once with my girlfriend to celebrate our ten years together, and another time to go to a friends wedding. Both times were magical and reconfirmed that LA was the place for me. 2019 was also huge because I became more involved not just in game music, but sound design. At first this was just a means to an end. A way to get more indie gigs and work, but soon it became my main interest.

2020: The Move

2020 was intense for everyone. Career wise I went all in on sound design. Learning middleware like FMOD and Wwise, working on demo reels, and attaining all the knowledge I could. My goals became clear. I want to make an impact on the world through sound. Specifically through sound design. I want to work at a AAA studio in Los Angeles doing sound design for games. This goal is a long term one and I didn’t plan on moving to LA until I either got a job at a AAA studio or around 2022 when my finances were in better order. Than a global pandemic hit and changed the world. For my family it meant out all our jobs were on hold or a moved to remote work. This moment gave us time to reflect and evaluate our lives. And when we did, my family and I came to the conclusion it was best to move now. To move to LA and restart our lives there.

What’s next?

LA wasn’t some wide eyed dream for me. It had to work for my love. Slowly, demonstrating time and time again, the value it can bring me. With each visit, each interaction with local Angelinos, I became more and more convinced that this was where I belonged. Now I’m here two years early ten toes down ready to bust my tail off and make the biggest impact I can on the world through sound. LA earned my heart, earned my love, and I’m excited to give that love right back to the LA community. Let’s get to work.

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20 Questions

So much has been so serious on my blog so I decided to keep things light today and just answer 20 random questions. Let’s begin.

Q1. Have You Ever Dined and Dashed At A Restaurant?

A1. No, never.

Q2. Would You Rather Have Endless Love or Endless Money?

A2. This one is a close one for me. I think I’ll go endless money and hope I can find enough love to make it by.

Q3. Have You Ever Been In A Car Accident – And It Was Your Fault?

A3. No. I’ve been in accidents as a passenger and a driver, but it was never my fault.

Q4. If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be?

A4. Not sure if this question wants a current movie/ a movie that’s already come out or something new. I’ll answer with something new. I’d like to Star in a Disney Movie. Ideally something from Pixar. Something where I’d be the main character and the main protagonist.

Q5. What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji?

A5. 😂

Q6. What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?

A6. I worked retail back in the day therefore I’m not a fan of stealing. As a kid I’m sure I took a candy bar or something from a store, but I can’t recall honestly.

Q7. Are Platonic Relationships Or Romantic Relationships More Important To You?

A7. Both are very important and as I have aged both are close, but right now I’ll choose love and go with the romantic relationship being more important to me than platonic.

Q8. Even Though The World Has It’s Problems, Was Any Time Period Better Than This One?

A8. I feel this is always impossible to answer so I won’t try to. Every generation is so different and it has its challenges and advantages. So is this the best? Idk maybe? Were other times better? Idk maybe.

Q9. What Was Your Favorite Dinosaur As a Child?

A9. T- Rex hands down.

Q10. If You Had To Choose To Never Use Twitter, Instagram, Or YouTube Again, Which One Would You Let Go?

A10. Tough One! I like to use and consume YouTube content so I can’t let that go. Twitter and Instagram I also like, but I feel like Twitter is more for conversations and I love to communicate on there the most so I’d have to go with keeping Twitter and saying goodbye to Instagram.

Q11. Would You Rather Someone Always Tell The Truth Or Protect Your Feelings?

A11. Tell me the truth, tell me my flaws, help me get better. Stroking my ego helps no one.

Q12. Who Do You Miss More: Ziggy Stardust or Prince?

A12. Prince easily. Never really listened to Ziggy.

Q13. If You Had To Be Trapped On A Desert Island With One Friend, Who Would You Choose?

A13. Albert. My best friend since high school

Q14. If You Could Find Out How You Were Going To Die, Would You Want To Know?

A14. No way. That’s just way too dark for me to want to know.

Q15. If You Could Only Email Or Text People For The Rest Of Your Life, Which One Would You Choose?

A15. Text. I like email for business but I’d much rather text forever than email forever.

Q16. Would You Prefer To Work The Overnight Shift Or Work Alone For Eternity?

A16. I’d much rather work alone for eternity. Overnight shift is tough and having someone talking to me while I try to work from 11pm-7am sounds miserable. Give me working by myself during more humane hours.

Q17. Would You Rather Have a Beyoncé Song Or A Rihanna Song Stuck In Your Head For 24 Hours?

A17. Tough one. I like both, but I think I’ll go with Beyoncé.

Q18. If You Could Start College All Over Again What Would You Do Differently?

A18. If I could start college all over again I’m not sure if I’d even go. Yeah, that’s my answer. Id strongly consider skipping it altogether. I’m not one of those bitter graduates whose not using their degree. Even as a person who uses their degree every day, I wonder if it was really worth it now that I see what it really takes to succeed. It feels like the skills I need to actually be successful as an artist, a lot of that was cultivated by myself after school was done. So if most of what is needed to be successful is based on my self teaching what was the point of paying for college and spending those years there? I’m happy with how my life turned out, but I wonder if it would’ve been better if I skipped the college experience altogether.

Q19. Would You Rather Have Been In The Marching Band Or On The Debate Team in High School?

Marching band.

Q20. What’s One Secret You Are Still Keeping From Your Mom?

A20. We don’t talk right now so nothing really.

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Kansas 1935: Deep Dive

Today I’d like to take a deep dive into the making of my latest song “Kansas 1935”. I’m going to talk about how it was made, what is what made for, and how I feel it ultimately turned out.

Kansas 1935 was a song I wrote for the Charity EP Jam. The Charity EP Jam is a project where a handful of composers write music based on a theme and the proceeds go to the Charity Able Gamers.

It’s a long road

The theme this year was dust. At first I struggled with how to approach dust. What does dust sound like? What does dust feel like and how can I convey it? I started by looking up dust storms, wind sounds, and even watching some documentaries on the Dust Bowl. That’s when I decided to write the song about Kansas in 1935. I wanted to share what I felt listening to the stories from that dust bowl and try to capture that feeling via music.

Rough Start

I started with an entirely different song and thought it was a solid beginning. After a couple days and some feedback I realized that was not the case. At first I tried to salvage what I had and make something good out of it, but after a while, I realized it was best to throw it all away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start over so I did. It’s tough to admit something you made isn’t good, but it wasn’t good. Better to realize that and try again then to just have a meh recording.

Take Two

So I went back to the drawing board. This time I went with the instrumentation of piano and guitar. I also went in thinking of having one idea that would turn into different ideas and eventually end on something completely different. This turned out quiet well and I was able to also get my friend to play guitar on it.

Putting Together The Pieces

So the way the song works is we have four parts. At first all four parts are played one after the other. There are two piano parts and two guitar parts. The song is essentially done with new ideas when the piano is done playing at the 1:10 mark. Then there is a dust storm that occurs until 1:35. Once it settles down the music is rearranged and returns in a different order. The new order is 3,1,2,4. This is done to represent how the dust storm rearranged and changed the music. I didn’t choose the order. I actually wrote these numbers representing the different sections down on a sheet of paper, placed them in a jar, and threw them on the floor. I picked them up off the floor in order of the pieces of paper closest to me.

This actually turned out quiet well! I like the new order and I like the fact that the new order is kind of subtle. Many people don’t notice that things don’t come back the way they began until the songs is nearly done. I like having this kind of inside joke or hidden secret in the song that’s available for anyone to notice if they pay close attention. And if they don’t, hopefully they just hear a good song.

Closing Thoughts

I really enjoyed the process of writing this piece. It was hard, required a lot of rewriting, and it really forced me to reflect on my work and brought out my best. I hope in the end I did good work and made great art. If you have the ability to do so I’d love it if you’d make a donation for this album. It would really mean a lot to me and the proceeds all go to Able Gamers.

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Dance Again Deep Dive

Today I’d like to a take deep dive into the making of my latest single “Dance Again”. I want to talk about why I made it, how I made it, and what I’ve learned. Let’s begin.

My purpose for making this song was simple. I wanted to make a song to just make it. It’s been years since I have done this. As a professional musician I spend all my musician time working. I’m learning songs for gigs, I’m learning songs for recordings, I’m learning songs for a deeper understanding of a style or genre. While I obviously go for gigs, recordings, and genres I enjoy, you secede some freedom when you are a professional artist. Compromises however small, are made. I try to find things that are not only work, but fun, but even fun work is work.

So when I made Dance Again I went in with the mentality that this was just for fun, just for me. I’m making it to make something. Will I use it for pitching clients? Maybe if it fits, but I’m not trying to use it for that. And I made it with zero intention of doing so. The song came out the way it did because I liked it that way. No agenda, no deeper long term plan, just a fun song I liked.

Another thing you should know is that I use the app Korg Gadget on my Nintendo Switch exclusively to make the song. I’ve dabbled with this app for sometime now and I decided this was a great way to have some fun and challenge myself to go deeper into the app. I feel pretty comfortable with Korg Gadget and using it to make music I thought would be fun. The only sounds that are not native to the app are the voice samples I use. Everything else can be found using just Korg Gadget on the Switch.

Making Music is Hard!

I struggled a lot with the structure of this song. The drum pattern came to me pretty quickly and that was maintained throughout, but how to build themes and motifs around it was a struggle. The app refers to different parts as “scenes” so for a while I had extra scenes I was trying to fit in and certain scenes were longer before I was able to edit them down. For example, near the end I had the second to last breakdown happening for twice as long and I realize that was just way too much so I cut it in half.

This songs structure really came together when I let the words tell the story. Despite the few words, they actually dictate what’s happening on the record. The story goes a friend telling another friend that they should take their date dancing. After dancing the protagonist tells his date “you look really beautiful tonight” she replies “you don’t look so bad yourself mister” then he proceeds to offer her a ride home…

Impact of Sitcoms on My Song

One thing you should know about me is I love sitcoms. I mean I love sitcoms. I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother more times than I can count. Watched Friends at least 3-4 times since it’s aired on Netflix. And I’ve watched Cheers, Seinfeld, and Kings of Queens infinitely. Sitcoms have been there for me when I’m up, when I’m down, when I needed to laugh, and when I needed to cry. So why not use those voices to retell and reimagine the stories they’ve already told me?

Breaking Down The Words

So the first line I’ve used was from Friends where Rachel tells Joey “Oh dancing take her dancing!” In the scene she’s suggesting Joey take a date dancing and the same thing happens in my song. For the song it’s not the Friends characters just one person talking to another making that suggestion.

The second line is from How I Met Your Mother where Ted is telling Stella “You look really beautiful tonight”. Now in the show Ted is just saying that because he was caught staring at Stella. He didn’t really think she looked “beautiful tonight” he was just looking at her face to see what her reaction was to watching Star Wars for the first time. In my track the words were sincere.

Next line I used was from the same episode of How I Met Your Mother where Stella says “You don’t look so bad yourself mister…” in the episode it’s Stella coming on to Ted. In my song the same sentiment can be interpreted.

The final line I use is from Cheers where Sam Malone tells his worker Carla Tortelli he’s taking her home after their shift of work at the bar. In the episode this is a normal event. In my track it implies a pleasant end to a date.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

My focus on this track was just to have fun, make some electronic music using Korg Gadget, and to tell a story using words from my favorite sitcoms. I think I accomplished all of these things. I really love the breakdown that happens at the :54 second mark. In my opinion it’s the highlight of the song. Coming in at a close second is the story developing from 1:11-1:33. I really enjoyed making this and I hope you enjoy listening to it. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback feel free to comment below. Take care and be safe out there!

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Nine For Nine: Christmas Song

Here it is! The final song from the Nine For Nine series. Let’s breakdown why I chose to perform the “Christmas Song” as my last tune for Nine For Nine.

I knew I wanted to record a holiday song for December, but I wasn’t quite sure which one. After talking to my guitarist we decided “Christmas Song” would be a good tune to do.

Initially we wanted to have it be a bit more complex then it turned out. We wanted to add other instruments and to try different styles and sounds. Unfortunately time ran short on us and the best option to ensure it’d be done was solo piano. Luckily I was up for the challenge.

I really enjoyed the entire process of learning and recording this track. It was fun going through dozens of different holiday songs and thinking about how I’d go about recording them and what they could sound like. Perhaps in the future a Christmas album with a tour could be in the works?

This is the final song in my Nine For Nine. I had a blast recording the music and sharing and talking about it with all of you each month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and maybe gotten to know me better because of it. I’ll be doing another post this week where I’ll discuss talking the entire process of recording Nine For Nine and that’ll wrap up this project entirely. I’ll talk to you all then. Cheers

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Nine For Nine: Stranger Things Theme

Working on the “Stranger Things Theme” helped me connect with the show and the music in a deeper level then I had previously. Like a lot of people I started watching Stranger Things due to the overwhelming buzz about the show. I liked it immediately and thought it was a refreshing show that paid homage to the 80s.

Because I had to do this recording I went back to watch the show to understand the music in context. One thing I discovered is I liked the music and the show less the more I paid attention to it. I started hating the development of certain characters. I felt the music was bland and generically electronic in certain scenes, I started to think maybe covering the Stranger Things Theme was not a good idea, and suddenly I was not excited for season 2.

As time went on and Season 2 came out I gave it a try. I began enjoying the music more, character development was more to my liking, and the second half of the season is some of my favorite television to come out this year. I’d love to talk to the composers one day about how they created the music and figure out why some of it resonates with me and some of it doesn’t. One things for sure, The Stranger Things Theme works. It’s catchy, and immediately recognizable. I’m happy to have covered it and I can’t wait to see what the show will have in store for us next season.

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Nine For Nine: And I love Her 

I recently released a cover of The Beatles classic record “And I Love Her” and today I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this tune. 
I can’t recall the first time I listened to the Beatles or the first time I liked their music. It feels like The Beatles have been with me my whole life. Their impact on music and culture cannot be understated. The landscape of music and society as a whole would be entirely different if The Beatles never existed. 
I choose “And I Love Her” to cover because it’s a beautiful song. It’s one of those Beatles tunes that I neglected early in my life and at some point during college I paid more attention to it and appreciated it more with each listening. I always new I’d do something with the song and I’m glad I was finally able to cover it. 
I hope you enjoy this version of “And I Love Her” it’s the first Beatles song I’ve covered on record, but it certainly won’t be the last. 

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Nine For Nine: Of Dreams To Come

The first time I listened I ever heard of Robert Glasper was from my composition teacher. He was talking about piano voicings and he asked me if I ever heard of Robert Glasper. I told him I didn’t and he recommended I listen to Double Booked. I was blown away. I loved his style, loved his virtuosity, and I loved how he developed melodies within his solos. As time passed I became more of a fan of Glasper. I listened to every release, loved the Black Radio albums, and saw him live.
I MISS THE OLD ROBERT GLASPER 

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Despite Black Radio 2 being my favorite Glasper album I can’t help but feel that I want the Glasper back. I don’t hear as much of his virtuosity, the burning solos, enough with the auto tune! So I decided to go back and cover one of his classics “Of Dreams to Come” from his album In My Element. I was gonna cover it as a solo piano piece. It didn’t turn out that way.

I started by playing just piano, but the more I played it the more I felt I needed to add to the music. Soon enough I essentially went from a old school Robert Glasper song to one that would fit in with his current style. I guess Glasper was right, it was time to develop a new style. Maybe Glasper went through the same thing I did. He was creating and saw what was lacking in his music and decided to add this new style to his music.

So thank you Robert Glasper. You’re impact on me, jazz, and music as a whole cannot be understated. Keep creating, keep composing, and I’ll keep listening.

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Nine For Nine: Pyramid Song

The first time I listened to Radiohead was life changing. Not because they are the greatest band of all time, not because the album was the best album I’ve ever heard, but because it was my first introduction to rock music as a whole. At the time all I was really exposed to was pop music, rap music, and my Dad’s smooth jazz radio stations. With the help of my friend Albert Amey (who plays guitar on this recording) I was beginning to broaden my musical palate. I told Albert to give me some of the best rock music out there and I’ll listen to it. He gave me Ok Computer.

I still remember those winter days listening to “National Anthem” and being blown away by what I was listening to. By the end of the year I listened to every recording Radiohead had released along with dozens of other rock acts I’ve never heard before. My life has changed forever and for the better.

One album that I felt was often overlooked was “Amnesiac”. There were some fantastic recordings like “Morning bell/Amnesiac” and “Dollars and Cents”, but one that really resonated with me was “Pyramid Song”. As a piano player it was always a bit odd for me when listening to rock music. It always felt like I couldn’t be a part of it, I always had a reduced role or was completely not included in the music. I mean how many rock keyboardist do you know? How many rock songs have the piano as the lead or as a pivotal role in the music? Some, but not many. The moment I heard the opening chords of “Pyramid Song” I thought, “Yes! A role for me!” The chords really resonated with me, it was a hauntingly beautiful song. At the time, I had nowhere near the chops to play it. I tried to play some of the chords, but it was way too hard since I hadn’t even been playing the piano for a year yet. Still, I never forgot about “Pyramid Song” and I always thought in the back of my head that I would eventually go back to it.

Now I finally have! I’ve rearranged the strings which were performed by two wonderful violinist Windy Indy and Erendira Izguerra. The vocals were performed by Courtney Grace and the guitar solo was taken by Amey Albert, the person who introduced me to all of this wonderful music. I hope you enjoy it. I hope this will be considered a wonderful homage to Radiohead, a band that changed my life. So please, enjoy the recording and be sure to check out what I’m working on next month.