johnfn's News

Re-appreciation

2015-10-09 17:50:17 by johnfn
Updated

About a year ago I found this album: http://bc.s3m.us/album/minimap - and I thought it was okay. I really loved Scrumb and My Cheesed Life but I found the rest of the stuff just average.

I randomly happened to return to it yesterday, and oh my god, EVERY SONG IS GOOD. I swear, the run from track 3 to 8 is just insane, like, it's just 5 insanely happy songs in a row. (Also, tracks 11, 12 and 14 are great too.) It's rare that I connect with so many songs off a single album - even critically acclaimed professional albums usually have a couple of (subjective, I don't deny) duds, just because that's how music subjectivity works. So, whoa.

(Oh and by the way Scrumb is still the best thing. If you want a good reason to listen to the album, listen to Scrumb first - trust me.)

But what I find interesting is that I was completely unimpressed by this album a year ago, and now it's suddenly SUPER GOOD. I know this means that my tastes are evolving, but it's interesting to see it happen to such an extreme. 

Anywho, do you have any good examples of "grower" albums? Any stuff you used to hate (or just be unimpressed by) that now you love? 

P.S. My Cheesed Life has some of the weirdest chord progressions I have heard. My brain detonates every time I try to pick it apart on piano.


Happy songs with sad chords, sad songs with happy chords

2015-09-18 20:01:49 by johnfn
Updated

@LunacyEcho and I were having a conversation the other day and, long story short, we started wondering about songs that sound happy but have a major chord tonic, or songs that sound sad that have a minor chord tonic.

To me, the quinessential example of a sad song with happy chords is Fox in the Snow by Belle and Sebastian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKSI1idOUzM

However, I really struggled to find a happy song with a minor tonic. The best I could think of was Range Life, which has a chorus that's 100% minor chords but still sounds pretty happy/catchy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VVj1zqbWpU

I'm SURE there are better examples in EDM, since practically every EDM song has a minor tonic, but I really couldn't think of any.

Can you think of other examples for either? 

(Also, what's the correct music-theory way to say what I'm trying to say? :P)


Add me on Skype!

2015-09-03 01:51:42 by johnfn

My skype name is

(this is gonna be really hard to guess)

...

johnfn

 

DO IT! I'm starting to talk to some newgrounds friends on Skype. Now I'm greedy and want more. Yay friends!


Awesome songs

2015-08-31 23:43:14 by johnfn
Updated

If you take the time to listen to these, I'd really like it if you shot me back any songs that you've been listening too - especially if they have a similar sort of aesthetic going on.

Cosmic Wave Radio FM SUCH FUNK OH MY GOD. I haven't heard such a catchy riff in a long time. Sounds like it's straight out of Michael Jackson or something. 

chamilton I don't even know what it is about this song. It's just such a unique and interesting riff. One of the few (good) songs I've heard that practically has no break at all. I'm not sure how it pulls it off.

The White Room Battle of the Bits ran their own NGADM-style tournament, and this one placed first in the first round. Who's better, Newgrounds or Battle of the Bits? The arrangement is rather straightforward, but keep in mind they only had 5 days to make this stuff (with only a sample pack!) The chords and melody are next level. (How is this guy only 16? Man, I'm practically a grandfather if this guy is 16.)

Microbeings Everyone probably knows I have undying love for fearofdark. Won a contest, for good reason. 

 

I hope yall don't get mad that I rarely link to songs that are on NG... but that's just because I hate you all. You just suck. Every single one of you. Yeah, someone needed to tell you... Sorry about that.*

(eh, this is awkward...)

* This is a joke lolz I just figure most people have heard the good music on Newgrounds already. 


3 simultaneous competitions

2015-08-12 03:49:03 by johnfn

So here on Newgrounds I'm doing the NGADM. I'm obviously gonna lose the first round, but that doesn't even matter, because there are so many friggin contents going on.

On Battle of the Bits, there's this big competition called s3xmodit mania, which is pretty much the same as the NGADM, except that lower scoring of paired people getting knocked out, it's just the bottom 50% of whoever remains. Also, all participants vote, rather than just judges.

(It actually makes a lot more sense that way... :P)

And of course it's running totally concurrently with the NGADM. (It has a faster schedule - 5 days instead of 2 weeks.) I expect to drop out of one or the other really quickly, so hopefully that won't matter. Hehe.

s3xmodit mania actually kinda terrifies me, because it pulls some prodigiously talented people. The kind of people who stay holed up in caves only to emerge once a year and destroy everyone with crazy jazz progressions (or something). Link to past songs: https://soundcloud.com/kayfaraday/sets/s3xmoditmania-ii-2014

And as if that wasn't enough, Ludum Dare is totally the weekend after next as well. Ludum Dare is a game development competition, and it's only 48 hours, but hey, there's totally a music component as well... :3 (Ludum Dare is really fun, by the way! If you're interested in game development AT ALL, you should totally check it out. It's great. http://ludumdare.com/compo/)

 


Today's Inspirations...

2015-08-08 22:30:28 by johnfn
Updated

BT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGtTRVhMNEQ

Anti-Citizen: anti-citizen.newgrounds.com

Mr. Bill: https://mrbill.bandcamp.com/track/the-art-of-mr-bill-season-1 

 

What do these songs have in common? FIND OUT... When I submit my NGADM piece! 

Also thanks to @SkyeWint for showing me Anti-Citizen ages ago. So good wow. 


How to Mixing II

2015-07-17 16:57:48 by johnfn
Updated

Here's a link to the last guide.

Ironically, even though this is part II, these tips are actually more fundamental than the previous guide. So pay attention! :-)

 

Volume levels.

Internalize the following fact: 90% of mixing is getting volume levels to be right. For the longest time I was obsessed with using EQ to get my mix to sound good - not realizing that my levels were way off. This is dumb. If you're building Mt Rushmore with your trusty DAW, volume levels are the dynamite, and EQ is the chisel. :-)

Aside from a high-pass on non bass instruments (see the previous guide), you don't really have to worry about EQ until you're confident you've got your levels correct. 

 

Wait - how do you become a good judge of volume levels? 

Eventually you'll just be able to intuit it, so keep practicing. Until that point, there's a really good trick: make all mixing decisions with the volume turned down low. For complicated reasons, the brain can make better mixing decisions when a track is very quiet - it's much more easy to recognize which instruments are too loud or quiet.

 

Slots 

Imagine that your song has a couple of slots:

  • bass
  • midbass
  • midrange (melody/singing)
  • midrange pads
  • high range (high arps, or sometimes nothing).

If you put one instrument in each slot, the song will sound full. (Yep! It's that easy.)

If you put more than one instrument in the same slot, they will fight with each other and make each other inaudible. 

If you notice that your song is sounding cluttered, this is almost certainly why. Yes, it means you have to get rid of elements - sometimes good elements - and it sucks! But trust me, a muddy song is always worse. 

 

Never let your volume meter go into the red.

This is called clipping, and it's bad. If you are, turn down your volume levels until you aren't any more. 

 

If you're using FL Studio, for God's sake, take the limiter off the master channel, and never put it back on. EVER

Limiters make it impossible to make good mixing decisions. Just trust me on this one. (Once you get much better, and you want to drive up the loudness of your song, you can add it back on - but only after you're completely done with your mixdown.)


How to write better melodies

2015-07-17 14:44:57 by johnfn
Updated

In the NGAUC, I'm about to complain about everyone's composition. Which would not be very fair if I didn't explain how to get better at it. Here we go!

In order of how important I think it is:

  • Learn an instrument. - Playing the piano is the best thing I've done for my composition. It allows me to experiment so much more rapidly than anything else. Plus, for some reason I'm a lot more creative when I'm not on my computer. (Just think, how many good ideas have you come up with while on your computer? Ok, now: how many good ideas have you come up with in the shower? On walks?)
  • Play along with songs that you enjoy

This is the most important tip here, so read this carefully.

  1. Find a song you like and play it on speakers.
  2. Simultaneously, try to play along with it on your favorite instrument. Play until you can pick out the bassline and melody most of the time. You're going to make mistakes - a LOT of mistakes. Play until you get to the point where you're playing the meaning of the song, with feeling, rather than hunting notes or playing mechanically. 

Repeat forever.

It's hard to explain exactly why, but after doing this for a few days, you'll find that your fingers just naturally want to go to chords that sound good and just naturally want to find melodies that are more interesting. You don't have to internalize rules like "chord movement by 5ths sounds the strongest" - you'll just know, because you've heard it in practice over and over again.

It's a little like jamming, except you're jamming with musicians who are ridiculously talented.

By the way, this approach is actually fun too - I mean, you're listening to your favorite music and learning how to play it. How could that not be fun?

  • The importance of coffee, exercise and alcohol can not be overstated. Whenever I write a song I have this voice telling me that what I'm writing is no good. Doing any one of these 3 things is enough to get him to shut up long enough to be creative. The combination of coffee and exercise is particularly amazing. I have never written a bad song while drinking coffee after a run.
  • Try to use your mistakes - Mistakes inspire creativity. Every time you accidentally do something, stop and see if you could somehow work what you just did into the song. e.g. one time I accidentally pasted a melody into the wrong place in a song - but then I realized it sounded kinda neat and tweaked it into something awesome. Or maybe you accidentally sidechain your lead to the kick, but then it sounds kinda neat. The point is to reframe "oops that was a mistake" into "maybe I can use that!"
  • Write chiptune. I love writing chiptune because it's a genre that's 90%+ dependent on your compositional strength (mixing is trivial). If you write a lot of if you're just naturally going to get better at writing melodies. There's nothing else to do.
  • Give good feedback to other people. I don't think it's a coincidence that some of the best musicians I know (ahem... @Step, @SkyeWint ...) are also the people who can write like 10 paragraphs dissecting something I wrote. You learn a lot from really sitting down and actively paying attention to other music you like. Figure out exactly what is going on in a song. Try to figure out every layer that's playing. Try to figure out exactly why a buildup is working so well. And yeah, you can help out other people immensely by giving them feedback.

Keep this in mind: Writing good melodies is hard. Really hard. Even as musicians we often don't appreciate just how hard it is to come up with a great melody. So don't feel bad if you don't do good on your first attempt, or in your first month, or even in your first year. EVERYONE struggles with this.

I hope that helped. Now let's get excited and write some awesome music!


How I judge the NGAUC

2015-07-16 14:19:41 by johnfn
Updated

I break it down into 3 categories, which I score out of 4:

  • Mixing: How well the song is mixed. How well each instrument stands out (drums are a constant offender). Hopefully there are no instruments with overlapping frequency ranges. Do the climaxes sound suitably like climaxes? That is the job of a good mix.
  • Composition: The melodies and chord progressions. How good are they? (Sound design falls into this category, as good sound design will make melodies sound better.)
  • Arrangement: Does the song keep my attention? Or is it too repetitive? Does it change and evolve? Do the energy levels change over time? 

My overall score for your song has nothing to do with these mini-scores. All it has to do with is how good I think the song is. I provide the mini-scores as my best guess as to what you need to concentrate on to improve your overall score. 

Q&A:

  • How can I improve my mix? Read this... and this
  • How can I improve my composition? Read this.
  • How can I improve my arrangement? Er, I don't have a guide on this yet, sorry. In the mean time, pay attention to your favorite songs and see how they work.

Hopefully that helps! Good luck, everyone :-)


Audition Round Statistics - just for fun - my scores for the All-Stars Round

Overall Score Histogram

> 5| XX
5   | XXX
5.5| XX
6   | XXXXXX
6.5| X
7   | XXXXX
7.5| XXXXXXXXX
8   | XXXXXXXXXXXXX
8.5| XXXX
9   | XXXXXX
9.5| XXX
10 | X


Mixing Mini-Score Histogram (+ in 3 indicates a score of 3+)

1 | XXXX
2 | XXXXXXXXXX
3 | XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX++
4 | XXXXXXXXX+++

Composition Mini-Score Histogram

1 | 
2 | XXXXXXXXXXXX++
3 | XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX+++++++++
4 | XXXX+++

Arrangement Mini-Score Histogram

1 | XX
2 | XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
3 | XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
4 | XXXXXX+

 


2^8 followers!

2015-06-11 00:45:56 by johnfn
Updated

The all important milestone! Thanks to DFury for being #256.

Please follow me on Soundcloud too, it'll make me feel warm and fuzzy. 

If you're not sure if you want to follow me on here or there, why not listen to this song?