Thursday, February 26, 2009

When you wish upon a star

Growing up I can't count how many times I've heard the theme of this song. At Tokyo Disneyland, in Disney Movie jingles etc etc. Until recently I didn't even know it was originally used in Disney's Pinocchio. I have never watched the movie, yet I know the song. I think the tune might be more famous than the movie haha.

Anyways, when I was younger, this song was one of the tunes I could never copy by ear, simply because the chords were way too complex for me to "decipher". Sure, I could have worked with sheetmusic, but as mentioned earlier, I don't do sheetmusic ;)

So I had given up on this song since then. But then recently, I stumbled upon a video of this song on YouTube. I tried to copy the first chords and suddenly IT WORKED! My ears must have evolved over the years (yay)!
I kept going until I had the chords down, and then worked out an arrangement. Here's the result:

Doing piano arrangements is always challenging to me because you have to play the bassline, chords and the melody all by yourself, as opposed to ensemble arrangements where you can delegate certain parts to other players (or tracks, if you're using sequencers).

It's like 15 years ago when did my first attempt (and got stuck), but finally I'm able to play it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cinderella Overture

I created this one back in December last year. My brother was participating in a competition at CGSociety. The theme of the competition was Steampunk, and my brother chose the story of Cinderella as the base for his work.

While he was telling me about his concept, it gave me the idea to compose a soundtrack to his version of Cinderella. So I started working out my own concept for a possible "overture" pretending that the Steampunk Cinderella were a movie.

Here's the completed piece:

The piece consists of three sequences:

In the first sequence, the spectator would see a aerial panorama view of a beautiful castle and a small village just beneath it.

Second sequence: From the bird-view perspective, the camera quickly goes into street-level, showing the everyday life of the commoners.

In the third sequence, the camera ends up in Cinderella's house. Her theme is introduced and she is seen doing her work, dreaming of a better life...

This was my first real attempt to create a full-orchestra piece from scratch. I did a rough "sketch" with a single piano-track first so I would have a "wireframe" that would keep me from derailing too much from the initial ideas I had in mind. Then I went on to orchestrate everything, which was a lot of fun especially with the nice sounding software synthesizer I was using (Steinberg HALion Symphonic Orchestra. Definitely worth the money!)

Personally, I'm actually pretty happy with the outcome ;)

Hope you like it too!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Here's a song I wrote randomly.

I wanted to create a tune that could work within the framework of a musical. It could be inserted in a scene where the main character is gazing into a possible bright future. Perhaps there could be two characters interacting and the melody could be sung as a duett. Overall the scene should be filled with hope and positivity.

The instrumental part is intentionally kept rather simple, since it shouldn't clash with the vocals. The lead melody kind of sounds dull in the current version, but I'm pretty sure the song will shine more if there were actual lyrics and singing voices.

Here in Japan I don't have easy access to native English singers who would fit into the context of this song, but hopefully I can eventually find a nice lyricist and singer who could fill in the part. Recording this would be fun for sure!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Arranged a song I found on YouTube

So there was this video that was on the YouTube top page one day. It was in the "featured videos" list and I clicked the thumbnail.

It turned out to be a video of a Japanese girl (Sachiko) who filmed herself singing a song she had written. As of now the video has been played over 88000 times! Pretty nice. She has a very beautiful voice and I think the song suits her voice well.

This is the original video:

Then I had this idea to re-orchestrate the accompaniment of the song. Since the original accompaniment is kept rather simple (which is good too), I thought "How would it sound as a pop-version?" ...You know, like in Disney animated movies, you'd have a title theme (e.g. "A Whole New World" from Aladdin) that would be played in the movie as part of the storyline and again at the end of the movie as a pop-arrangement serving as background music for the credits.

So here it goes: my pop arrangement (without vocals though)

This was my first YouTube post by the way ;)
Thanks to Sachiko for allowing me to put the video up here!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Music by ear

Many of my fellow musicians (especially keyboardists and pianists) read and play sheet music. A skill that I don't have. I admire people who can just look at the notes and play pieces they never heard before. I mean, I'm familiar of the concept of sheet music, and I'd be able to decipher notes if I have enough time, but reading AND playing in realtime? Never!
To this day it's a mystery to me how pianists can read the melody, the accompaniment and the rhythm from sheet music and actually play it.

I've always been a "music by ear" kind of person. Simply put, I'd listen to a tune, process it in my head and play it. This has advantages and disadvantages, but so far it has worked out OK for me :)

I also use the movable do concept when I listen to music. Whatever key is used in a song, the root note is defined as the "do". In my case, I go further and define the "do" as the "C" of the C-major scale (that way I don't have to worry about flats and sharps). So, whenever I hear a tune, I transpose it in my head to C-Major and go from there (hence the title of this blog).

These days synthesizers have convenient transpose or key-shift functions that simply shift the pitch of the keys. So if I have to play something in E-major, I'd shift the keys 4 semitones upwards. As a result, I'd be playing in C-major, but the audible output would be in E-major.
This confuses the hell out of people with absolute pitch. Pressing the C key and hearing E is apparently very uncomfortable. Fortunately I only have a relative pitch (hence the URL of this blog), so I don't have this problem :)

All in all I guess I have a rather unusual way of approaching music when I play the keyboards. I sometimes feel I'm some kind of rare exception because all piano or keyboard players I met so far (no fail) would rather read sheet music than copying music by ear. Not that I feel left out or anything ;) but it would be interesting to know how many people out there have a similar standpoint.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Hi people out there! Here we go, my first blog in English! Yay!

I've been writing blogs in Japanese so far, but as nice as this language is, it's incompatible with the majority of the world :(

So my thought was to make things a bit more accessible and start a blog in English for a change. I'm sure it'll be interesting to share some of my work with you guys out there. Hopefully I can make this page an interesting site to check out.

Contents will include my own works, talks about music-related gear (instruments, recording equipment, etc.), and other random topics that I'll probably stumble upon on the way.

So, enjoy, have a good time here and hopefully this blog will be around for a while!