Main Theme From Legend of Korra

For the past two weeks, I started doing another music exercise from the show Legend of Korra, but this time instead of the opening, I’m using the main theme of the show. Compared to the opening theme, there are a lot more tempo changes and the instrumentation is quite different.

To start, my music teacher told me to listen through the entire thing first and try to figure out the tempos for different sections. Since Logic’s tap tempo system isn’t the most intuitive, I kind of just guessed and went back and forth between my click track and the music. Another thing that made mapping the tempo difficult is that at the very beginning there are strings playing really slowly. This made it difficult for me to figure out when the downbeat was, but eventually I managed to get something pretty close.

After mapping out the tempo, we started to figure out those slow opening chords played by the strings at the beginning. Figuring out the chords here was a lot easier than with the opening theme because there were fewer instruments. The opening chords are being played by a string quartet, and the timbre of each of them is really easy to tell apart. I was able to just listen and copy over the notes I could hear. If I was missing some notes, I could just use the notes that I’d already figured out and kind of infer what the chord would be to fill in the blanks.

Then, there’s a really short cello solo that comes in afterward which was pretty easy to figure out, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal. However, after that was when the music starts to pick up a bit with the cello playing an upbeat ostinato sort of thing that outlines a chord. To figure that part out, I just kind of listened for the note that was emphasized first, and then I tried to fill in the rest by thinking of the different intervals relative to the emphasized note. The cello continues the ostinato, but once the melody comes in it shifts around. It was still playing the same pattern but just a different chord. I just assumed that the chord structure for each chord change would be the same, so I moved the entire ostinato down to the emphasized note. It ended up being pretty much spot on with just one note that needed to be changed.

The last thing that we ended up doing was looking at the melody part that comes in when the cellos play their ostinato. For me, this was probably the easiest part so far because there are two instruments that are playing the melody that comes through really clearly. I just figured out which notes were being played for each phrase and then matched the rhythm after that.

Overall, that’s what we’ve done so far with the Legend of Korra theme. There was a bit more to it than just trying to listen for the chords because of how quickly the music changes compared to the opening. We’re still not completely finished with it though because my music teacher wants me to try and fill in the rest of the things that we still haven’t done like the percussion and some other harmonies that we didn’t cover. So most likely, we’ll revisit this soon.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact is an open world fantasy RPG that was released a few weeks ago. The game features different characters, locations, dungeons, and quests for you to play through. Since the game is free to play, I decided to give it a try a couple days ago.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the game is the art style. Genshin Impact uses a pretty clean anime art style that not a lot of other games use. As far as I know, the only other game I’ve seen with a similar art style is the yet to be released Blue Protocol. I think that Genshin Impact’s visuals are a lot different compared to something like Black Desert Online, but it certainly has its own appeal.

Another thing that is a big feature for Genshin Impact is the in-game gacha system. For those who are unfamiliar, a gacha system is a common mechanic in these types of RPG games where players can use in-game items and currency for a chance to unlock new characters or items. In Genshin Impact, this is pretty much the only way to unlock new characters. Playing through the game’s story does give you a few free characters, but the rarest 5 star characters can only be unlocked through the gacha.

One thing that I feel like is pretty important to note about the gacha system is that the rates for getting 5 star characters and weapons are really low. The base rates for 5 stars is only 0.7% which is pretty low compared to other games. What makes this worse is that the items used to roll on the in-game gacha is really hard to get once you get past the beginning stages of the game. After that, the only easy way to get more chances is to spend real money and hope you get the character or items you want.

As for the in-game story and gameplay, I found it to be pretty enjoyable for the first little while, but I can definitely see myself getting a bit bored if it was the only game I played. You can switch between your different characters who have different abilities, and you can go around exploring different areas of the world or take on quests. The game does include side quests along with the main quest like most other games, but that was about all I found.

Genshin Impact also isn’t necessarily multiplayer. There’s an option to play through dungeons with up to 4 other players, but other than that, the game is pretty much singleplayer only. For, me this kind of makes the game a bit less enjoyable. I’m already not really the type to play that many story-based games unless they seem really interesting, so for me, I just really like the art style and graphics.

Overall, Genshin Impact does seem like a really cool game, and I can see why a lot of people are playing it right now. Personally, I’m not too big of a fan, but if you like singleplayer games and don’t mind the bad gacha rates I think the game could be really enjoyable. In the end, I think I might make a few new accounts for the free gacha rolls to see what I get. I probably won’t get anything good, but I think Genshin Impact can still be a game I can dabble with when I feel like it.

Figuring Out Chords By Ear

This week, my music teacher decided to try something a bit different with me after finishing up our voice leading exercise with different modes. He showed me the intro to the show the Legend of Korra which was the sequel to Avatar the Last Airbender. It was quite similar to the original Avatar intro where they say the four elements and each one has a different chord.

The first thing that I tried doing was figuring out at least one note being played during each chord. For me, it was the easiest to pick out he highest notes that the choir was singing, and I was able to get those notes pretty easily. At first, I thought that it would be simple and that the highest note would be the root note and we could go from there. However, my music teacher reminded me that in full orchestration the highest note isn’t always the root note and that you can’t automatically assume.

Since, we needed more information, the next best thing for us to do was to listen to see whether or not the first chord was major or minor. To be honest, it was really hard for me to tell especially since an entire orchestra was playing and I was hearing all sorts of different timbres. In the end though, my music teacher helped me out there quite a bit and we established which chords were major and minor.

After that, we listed different major and minor chords that included the high notes as any of their chord tones and slotted them in until we found one that fit the sound. After the first two chords we started to try and determine the key and mode. Eventually we narrowed things down to a few possibilities so that we would be able to predict what our next chords could be. Unfortunately, we had a problem when it came to our third chord because theoretically there wasn’t any chord within our possible key signatures and modes that included the high note that we were hearing.

I spent a good few minutes trying to figure out whether or not we did something wrong or if I heard the wrong note, but eventually my music teacher just told me the key was a harmonic minor scale where the 7th degree of the scale is raised by one semitone. This allowed changed one of the previous minor chords that didn’t work into a major chord and we finally had our third chord figured out. The last chord wasn’t too special since we figured out that it was just the first chord again but an octave higher.

Once we finished figuring out the first four chords, there was a second section with more instrumentation and an actual melody. Just like the first section, I didn’t have much trouble figuring out the higher notes, or in this case the melody. What was different this time around though, was that now I know exactly what key we were in and was able to fill in chords based on what the melody was outlining.

Overall, I think that even though the intro was 20 seconds or so, it was still kind of difficult to pick out specific things. The fact that there were lots of different instruments playing which makes voicings a lot larger made me pretty confused, but in the end it was a good listening exercise for me to practice with.

Muse Dash

A few days ago, I noticed that I had a few extra dollars in my Steam Wallet funds and was look for a new cheap game to play. Eventually, I found out that the rhythm game Muse Dash was on sale for less than two dollars, so I decided to check it out. Here are my first impressions on the game.

Muse Dash is a side scrolling rhythm game where different notes come from the right side of the screen in two rows. You have two keys that you can use to hit notes on the top row, and you have another two keys that you use for the bottom row. I find this kind of similar to another rhythm game called Taiko No Tatsujin, but it’s still pretty different at the same time.

I think what makes Muse Dash a different kind of rhythm game for me is that you’re controlling a character which hits the notes that come from the side. Your character has to hit the notes and sometimes avoid obstacles on the ground as they run through a song’s level.

There are basic notes that you just hit once, notes you hold down that look like music sheets, and objects that you have to hit as many times as possible in quick succession. Those are the main things that stand out to me, but there are still other objects that you come across that the game kind of lets you figure out on your own. Another thing to note is that the different objects you hit are themed to each song’s level. In one song you might be hitting clouds and another you could be hitting a combination of cars and hats. This kind of fits with the game’s cartoony type of story, but at the same time there’s no real story.

One of the things that I don’t really like about the game is how you can unlock certain characters that give you special perks. Some characters can boost your overall accuracy at the end of the song and another can make it so that you’re immune to obstacles. I feel like rhythm games with aspects like these make getting good scores kind of unfair in way because there’s no guarantee that everyone will unlock the same characters. The way it works is that every time you finish playing a song you will get an item which goes towards unlocking any random character. This makes it so that it could take a long time to get the items for a character you want or need. People that have “better” characters will have some sort of advantage of other’s that don’t. I think this takes some of the skill away from these types of games, but I know some people probably like having another game element besides the main content.

Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is that the game only has around 40 default songs for you to play unless you buy the DLC packs. The game does temporarily unlock one song from each DLC pack, and every week the song will rotate, but there’s still a limited selection of songs. There’s no community level design opportunities unlike osu!, so you won’t be able to play all of your favourite songs.

Overall, Muse Dash for its base price even without the DLCs has still be pretty fun. The levels do get quite difficult, but without community involvement I think that high level players must get bored sometimes. However, I think Muse Dash is generally more of a casual type of game which I think is still fine. I’ll probably keep playing it a bit more and see how much better I can get.

Developing Small Ideas

A few weeks ago my music teacher decided to try something new with me and I thought it turned out pretty interesting. He gave me a motif, and the motif was “four of the same note in a row.” This week, I’ll be writing about how that turned out.

So at first, I wanted to know what he meant exactly by “four of the same note in a row,” and he said that the first bar has to be four of the exact same note, at the same pitch, and of the same duration. From there, I’d have to figure out how I could develop that into something more while still keeping the motif. On the piano roll, I started with four quarter notes in the first bar. In the next three, I did the same thing but just changed the notes.

After that, I decided to have the left hand hold down different chords for each bar. At the fifth bar, things started to get a bit repetitive, so I had to change something about our four note pattern. I could have changed either the pitches of the notes or the lengths of the notes since those two attributes were what mainly stood out from the original motif. I decided to go with changing the four of the same note pattern to a three of the same note with one note different pattern, and that was only for one bar followed by three bars of the original pattern.

We kept that pattern going for a little bit until it also started getting a bit repetitive. After that, we went with two of the same note and two different notes for one bar still followed by the original pattern. Eventually though, I thought it was getting quite boring quite fast, so I switched it up to having every single note of every bar be different. Now, the main pattern was that all the notes are just the same length instead of focusing on the pitches or tones of the notes. There was kind of a melodic pattern in the notes, but it wasn’t the main thing that I was trying to go for.

Since it was just a small project, we wanted it to be pretty short. We brought it back to the original pattern until it sort of fizzled out and ended it on a final chord. After all that my music teacher wanted to try and take the piano arrangement and rearrange it for a string quartet. However, that idea kind of turned out a bit underwhelming for me since I felt like the patterns didn’t come through as strongly with the strings as it did on the piano.

Overall, I think it was nice to try something different in terms of writing new material. Usually I’d already have a melody or chord progression in mind and add other elements to that instead of having something super simple and developing that instead.

Finishing Up The Full Orchestral Arrangement Project

Before summer break started, my last post was an update on an orchestration project that I’d been working on at the time. I still actually ended up finishing it over the summer despite not writing about it. It’d be weird if I didn’t actually write about how it ended up so that’s what I’m going to be writing about this week.

In the last post, the basic layout for the climax was decided. We had the percussion playing a bit faster and the cellos and double bass were still doing the same thing as they were before the climax. We also had the violins, horns, and some winds all layering the melody with the rest of the winds doing runs. The things we added were a trumpet section that was playing chords, timpani, and a glockenspiel. I had the trumpets change chords before the downbeat in order to make them sound less square. The timpanis added more impact and the glockenspiel was just a little something extra that I felt like putting in.

After the climax continues for a little bit we started to work on how we wanted to move towards the ending. The way we went about it was building tension and then finishing with the orchestra playing one big chord. So the climax transitions into a back and forth between the violins and horns playing swells and the rest of the orchestra doing a staccato type call and response in between. For the percussion, we took out the timpani and a few other elements of the percussion to lessen the impact from the climax section. The chords we used went higher in a stepping type fashion as well as the swells. After a few measures the orchestra comes together and ends on one big chord.

Once we finished with the orchestration we worked on setting the levels of the instruments right because for some reason after we exported the track some of the instruments were a bit quieter than we were hearing them in Logic. One of the things I would probably change if I were to do this type of style again would probably be to extend the length of some of the sections. In my opinion, some parts go by a bit too quickly and you can’t really remember what each section sounds like. However, that was kind of to be expected in an exercise like this project. Another thing I would do would be spending more time with the programming of a few instruments so they would sound a tiny bit more natural.

Overall, the project ended up better than I initially thought it would sound. There were a few times were I was having a hard time thinking about what I wanted some of the instruments to be doing, but I think everything turned out alright. I ended up learning a lot more about different ways you can use the instruments in an orchestra as well as how to develop sections of a track. It definitely took a bit of while to write out, but I think if I were to do things again it would go by a bit faster now.

Starting School In 2020

A few days ago, the school board for the area I’m in started with school again. Unlike other years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more complicated in order to try and keep people safe. This week, I’ll be writing about the different measures that the board has put in place.

The biggest change that the schools have made this year is the introduction of the remote learning system. Unlike the previous year’s temporary emergency online learning, this system is supposed to be more organized. Before actually starting school, students were given the option if they’d like to participate in either full online learning or a mix of in-person and online. I ended up choosing the full online learning experience, so I’ll be able to comment more on that, but I also have a decent understanding of how the in-person side goes.

From the information that’s been sent out says, students that participate in in-person learning will be placed in groups of 15. Those 15 students will physically go to school every other day for around two hours. When they are not physically at school, they will also be participating in online courses. In my opinion, this just seems like online learning with a few extra steps that don’t really seem necessary. Students will only be at school for a little bit of time each week and will be doing online learning anyways, so I don’t really see the point. Supposedly, students won’t even get tested unless someone in their group of 15 starts showing symptoms.

As for the full online learning system, students will spend most of their time in Google Meet sessions with their teachers and the class that follow a normal school schedule. However, students that opted for a full online learning experience will be placed in classes where students are mixed from different schools and teachers. This means that you might not know as many people in your classes. So far, the board is still trying to get everybody’s courses figured out since some teachers had issues configuring their teaching platforms of choice.

Personally, the courses that I’m taking are Math, Technological Design, Careers & Civics, and Food & Nutrition. I’d say that I’m okay with all of the courses and the teachers seem alright. I actually had a bit of a problem getting in contact with my Food & Nutrition teacher, but eventually, we got things sorted out. None of my classes have actually started with any actual course material yet though, so it seems like it’ll take a little longer until we get started.

Overall, the school board’s approach to reopening schools has been going alright so far. I’m not too sure how well the in-person learning will go, and I think some of the choices they made are a bit questionable. We’ll see what happens though.

Full Orchestral Arrangement Project Update

Last week I wrote about the action orchestration piece that I’ve been working on with the help of my music teacher. We’d laid out most of the ideas that we wanted to have and wanted to start incorporating more and more instruments. As of this week, pretty much all of our instruments have something to do, and in this post I’ll be writing about how we did it.

Starting from where we had left off last week, we were still missing the entirety of the winds section, horns, trumpets, and needed to write in the melody for the violins. Those were the elements that we thought were essential, so we wanted to get them sorted out before starting on anything else. We started by copying in the piano midi into the first violins track and adjusted the expression, modulation, and midi notes in order to make sure that the violins didn’t sound too fake.

Our next step was to figure out how we were going to harmonize the melody because the first violins sounded pretty bland on their own. We figured that the most obvious choice was to use the second violins by having them play the same melody in a different interval. It took some time getting the notes to fit with the key and chords, but eventually things worked out.

After writing out the main melody for the violins, we wanted to use the horns for a sweeping countermelody that would fill the gaps in between the violins. I found it pretty difficult to find the right timings and notes, but my teacher was able to guide me along with the process. The end result fits really well with the violins and adds a second layer of interest.

At this point, the piece hasn’t had too much going on, so we wanted to introduce the big climax next. It started by having all of our percussion working together at once but with a more urgent feeling to them. The strings were doing the same thing they’ve doing before except our first violins jumped the melody up an octave and the second violins using a different interval for harmony. We then, brought in the winds by having some of them layering the melody in different octaves and the rest of them playing fast runs in between. The horns also stopped playing their counter melody, and instead were used to be another layer to our melody. Lastly, I thought that this would be the best time to bring in the timpani for those powerful hits.

Overall, I think that we’ve done a lot in the past week, but I still need to write out a part for the trumpets when the big climax hits. I also want to see whether or not adding in some tuned percussion like a glockenspiel and a choir could be viable to intensify the moment. Other than that, the piece has been coming along pretty well, but there’s still some more work to do.

Full Orchestral Arrangement Project

Around two weeks ago, my music teacher suggested that we start and try to write full orchestral arrangements since I had just gotten the BBC Symphony Orchestra samples. We started laying down the foundation of the project and got a few ideas down. As of now, I think it’s coming along pretty well, but I wouldn’t say that we’ll finish anytime soon. Regardless, this week I’ll be sharing my experience so far with full orchestration.

I’ve actually tried doing something similar for a school project, but I was using some pretty bad samples and I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. However, this time I was able to get some help on the things I should focus on and where to start. Before we actually created the project file we worked out a template with all the instruments that we might use for the project as well as any other projects we’d make in the future. This helped to organize different groups of instruments and figure out what the purpose of each instrument is within the orchestra.

After creating our project from the template we made my music teacher gave me a short piano bit to start with. It was only a few bars long and had an up beat sort of action feel, so that was the theme we were going for. My music teacher sent me an example that he’d written a few months ago so I could get an idea of how each instrument can be used before we got started.

For our composition, we decided to start with mostly strings and some light percussion and slowly build up the rest of the piece by adding more instruments. We started with the cellos and double basses playing short eighth note octaves of the chord progression for a pulsing sort of rhythm with violas playing an ostinato that mostly followed the chords as well. Instead of incorporating the violins from the beginning, we decided to save them in order to play our melody in harmony.

The next thing that we started working on was the percussion. Instead of building up our percussion as we went, it was easier to just write out all the percussion that we would want for the climax of the piece. Then, we just took out most of the elements and slowly added them in. This made things easier for me since I was able to listen to all of the different percussive instruments working together.

After working out the percussion we decided that we should have some of the brass section come in before the melody started. Since we mostly had some rhythmic action going on, we used the trombones and tubas to accentuate some of the notes that the strings were already playing. The trumpets and horns were a bit too blaring to write into the start, so we haven’t used them just yet.

Overall, that’s what we have written down for now, but we’re definitely working on incorporating more of the orchestra because we still haven’t even touched the woodwinds yet. The addition of horns later on should also change up the feel of the piece significantly. Right now, we’re just working on incorporating the melody into what we already have using the violins, and there’s still more to come after that.

Valorant’s New Map & Agent

Earlier this week, Riot Games did a full release for Valorant which just came out of closed beta. With its release came a new map called Ascent and an eleventh agent called Reyna. A new gamemode was also introduced with the ranked gamemode being taken out. There have been a few changes since the closed beta, and this week I’ll be writing about my thoughts on them.

First, the most anticipated addition of the new agent Reyna. She’s classified as a duelist agent which means that she’s meant to be played with a more aggressive playstyle, and I think it really shows with her abilities. Some people would say she’s overpowered, but I would say that she’s in a pretty good spot right now.

The first ability Reyna has is called Leer. It costs 200 credits and can hold a maximum of two charges. With Leer, Reyna can cast an orb anywhere within a certain radius that will cause players that have the orb in their vision to be nearsighted. Unless it is shot at and destroyed, it will remain in its position for a few seconds. Unlike other vision-impairing abilities, enemies that are nearsighted can still see but just not as far.

Reyna’s second ability and her signature ability are linked together, so things might get a bit complicated. Her second ability is called Devour and her passive is called Dismiss. They share a maximum of four charges that can each be bought for 100 credits although she automatically gets one charge at the start of each round due to the abilities being her signature.

The way these two abilities work is that anytime Reyna kills an enemy player they’ll have a Soul Orb floating over their dead body that lasts for a few seconds. During that time, Reyna can cast either ability on that orb. Devour is an ability that will heal Reyna as long as she remains in a line of sight with the Soul Orb of the player she killed. If Reyna’s HP is already 100 then Devour will overheal her for 50HP.

Dismiss is an ability that allows Reyna to become invulnerable and gains movement speed for a short period of time, however, you can’t use any other abilities or shoot while it is active. Additionally, she takes on an almost invisible appearance although you can still see her. This ability doesn’t require you to stay in the line of sight of the player you killed.

Reyna’s last ability is her ultimate called Empress which increases your firerate, highlights enemies in your vision, and gives you unlimited charges on Devour and Dismiss. There is a timer on the ultimate before it goes away, but any kills you get while in the Empress state will reset the timer.

I wouldn’t say that Reyna’s abilities are too strong. Some people complain that Her Dismiss ability is too strong, but I think it’s fine since you can still see her, and when she becomes visible again you’ll hear an audio cue of her laughing in the direction she is. As long as you’re paying attention I don’t think you should have a harder time countering her than you would with any other agent.

Moving on to the new map Ascent. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s really all that special. There are some spawn timings that I think should be changed, but other than that there’s not much else I’d say in terms of balancing. Supposedly the map is supposed to take place in a Venice like location where a piece of land flew up into the sky. I don’t really care too much about the game’s lore, but some people might find it interesting.

The new gamemode called Spike Rush is meant to played a lot faster than a normal game. In Spike Rush, every player spawns with the same weapons and have all their abilities on one of the normal maps. Orbs can be found around the map that provide the player that picks them up or their team buffs such as a better weapon, extra speed, or reduced HP for the enemy team. Every attacker has a spike although only one can be planted. It’s a pretty simple gamemode that’s not really meant to be taken seriously and is something you’d play if you were waiting for a friend or don’t have time for a normal match.

Overall, Valorant’s full release has been pretty successful. The gameplay at its core hasn’t changed, but there are some new things to explore with the new map Ascent. Some players have taken a liking to the new agent Reyna and others are still awaiting the return of the ranked gamemode. For now, I’ll simply continue on enjoying the game with friends.