May 272013

Kendandra here!

A while ago I provided a demo of what direction I was taking Bob’s theme.  When I recorded that demo I was naïve about a couple things.  First of all I had no idea how to record audio; now I do.  Second of all when Kaelas (Robert Owens himself) listened to the theme and simply shook his head.

“It’s not Owens,” he said.

And I thought to myself, “How dare him!”  How dare he offer criticism to his own character’s theme?  Now to be fair I knew a good two thirds of the theme were subpar.  But that last third was the part I stole from Ricky’s theme, and I loved that part.  Seriously, how did he not see sacrifice I was willing to make by giving my own character’s theme his character’s instruments and….

Suddenly I realized what I was doing wrong.

Of course the theme didn’t fit Owens, it was originally gallant and upbeat, dashing and daring, bold and heroic.  That’s not Bob at all.  He’s down to earth, gritty, and a bit ill-tempered.  Just because the guitar fits the cowboy theme doesn’t mean I can put any melody to it.  So I got to thinking:  How was I going to come up with something that would fit Owens?  Well first of all, there was a piece of improvisation I did during the first demo that Kaelas did like.  So more like that, I guess.

At Steampunk Symposium it was joked that Kaelas should carry around a guitar to complete his cowboy look.  This would have been cool, except Yami’s guitar is BRIGHT RED.  Though I guess it would match the bandana.  Anyway, if Kaelas did carry around a guitar that would mean that Owens would be able to play one right?  That got me thinking about how to go about hashing out his theme:

What would it sound like if Owens was playing his own theme around a campfire?

I can’t imagine that Owens got any formal training on how to play the guitar.  Not to mention that’s half the reason the guitar exists, it was a cheap instrument designed to be easy to learn and play.  So how does an amateur that’s held the instrument for years, but put no effort into it sound?

Now many of you may or may not know, but Radiant Vanguard meets usually about once a week to talk, game, and marathon movies or shows.  This last week’s meeting I arrived at my usual time.  Late.  Kaelas was busy playing (read, abusing the sneak skill) in Skyrim and while we were all talking and watching Kaelas be thrown about the place by some Nordic zombie with the power of the force, I picked up Yami’s guitar and began trying to hammer out the Skyrim theme song while we chatted.

Now I don’t play the guitar, and in this context I don’t mean like when I say “I don’t play the piano.”  Because that’s just me being modest.  I actually don’t play guitar.  Which meant, first of all, I attempted to try and treat the thing like a keyboard, substituting the keys for the frets and generally failing to get anything that sounded remotely good out of it.  Secondly I couldn’t hit the notes in tune.  (One of the two reasons I dropped the viola, pianos are just magically in tune.)  Anyway, all that sliding around and frantically trying to hit the note gave me a good feel for how to do a rough demo.

So, have a listen.  Try to see if you can visualize Owens kicked back against a dead tree.  His hat askew over his eyes.  He twists the tuning pegs slightly after hearing a sour note.  The firelight flickers illuminating his jaw as he taps his thumb against the side of the guitar in rhythm with his melody-less song.

That’s it for today, buckaroos.  Next time I might have something more concrete for drum practice, really.  Unless I get distracted again.

–Kendandra, we’re done here.

Apr 122013

Kendandra here!

Okay.  First off, I’m not late.  It’s still Character Theme Thursday.  Though now that I’m actually working again, we’ll have to see how often I can keep these updates up.  If I can’t, feel free to make Character Theme Thursday into Taco Thursday.  If you don’t like tacos think of another T word.  I suppose sometimes people abbreviate Thursday with an R, so it could be Radical ThuRsday.  Or something.

Ahem, anyway.

Oh good ol’ Robert Owen.  What is there to say about Bob?  Not much, considering Yami beat me to the punch.  So thanks, Yami.  Basically Robert’s the muscle of the group.  He’s rude, crude, and full of attitude.  Let’s go down the list shall we?

Ridiculously skilled?  Check.  Gruff?  Check.  Questionable morals?  Check.  Tough as nails?  Double check.  Tormented past?  Check.  Funny Hat?  Check.

Yeah.  Not many other people fit that list.  Batman is one of them.  Jayne from Firefly is another.  So Robert is a gun-toting Batman.  Or Jayne from Firefly.  Oh, or Jayne is Batman.  Oh.  Yeah.  That’s head-cannon now.

Ahem, anyway.

When I started doing these themes, for the most part I had little in my head (like always) except for a few instrument collections.  Bob’s was acoustic guitars and no drums.  I want to avoid having any “true drums” in there (there will probably be a few percussion tracks, like a woodblock.  You know, something sporty.).  With that in mind I set out to lay down a rough melody and harmony.  So here’s a demo.

Now normally I record a MIDI track and then spruce it up a bit before releasing it to you, single reader of this blog.  However this theme’s main attraction is the guitars and I’ve yet to find a satisfying guitar sample in Fruityloops.  Which, quite frankly, is odd.  I was, however, marginally happy with the guitar sounds Privia makes.

[Oh yeah, I got a new keyboard to celebrate my return to the working world, that’s important, I should have mentioned that first.  Perhaps I’ll cover Privia (keyboard) and Samick (piano) in a different post sometime.  And yes.  Those are their first names.]

Ahem, anyway.

So I set out on the arduous task of trying to capture audio from Privia to my computer.  So obviously my first thought was that I could just place a mic against Privia’s speakers.  Then I noticed Privia has speakers.  Plural.  And it balances the stereoscopic sound between the high and low ends of the instrument.  Which is amazing.  If I wasn’t recording sound.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work.  So I got clever.

I took a quick stroll out to my car and grabbed a male-male headphone cable (that I use to pipe my phone audio to my car stereo).  I hooked it up to the back of Privia and straight into the mic jack on my computer.  I had to spend like… forever balancing the levels between the two to get a decent sound.  Then I realized something.  With the audio going to my computer, I couldn’t hear what I was playing.  So I had to Beethoven it.  The final recording has a lot of noise that I couldn’t remove because Fruityloops’s built-in recorder is… gah.  For a music composing software it… just… GHAH….  You would think that… bah! <Incomprehensible garble of frustrated noises>

The original theme I had it my head was much faster than what I recorded for the demo, but it works well enough.  The more I listen to it the more I only like the third part of the song (which is the chunk stolen from Ricky, if you’re wondering).  Before I scrap the other parts though I’m going to see what I can get out of some refinements:  cleaning up note placement and duration, and fixing the velocity of the strumming part.  It should have a more punctuated beat, something Privia couldn’t convey well enough.  Though to be fair, Six-Trak couldn’t convey it at all.

Ahem, anyway.

That’s all for today lads and lasses.  Next time, I’ll have a small excerpt of Lucas’s theme.

–Kendandra, we’re done here.