The best it can be: Innovative and Ghetto

September 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Music Album | 73 Comments
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After doing some research and getting advice from Alec, I decided to try setting up a music store using bandcamp. I’m so happy that I finally have a functional store! So far I like it… the interface is really user-friendly, and it takes very little time to get everything up and running. The only thing I don’t like about it is that you don’t have the option to upload mp3s. Bandcamp’s deal is that you upload .wav or .aif files, and then bandcamp gives customers the option of downloading music in virtually any format (including FLAC).

While the flexibility is great, the problem is that I no longer have the original .wav files of some of my really old songs. Of course I could convert the mp3s to .wav… but given that most people will be downloading the mp3s, the .wav would get converted back to mp3 again anyway, and lose even more quality (and since these really old songs are already very low-fi, the extra step is pretty devastating… I’ve already tested it and I can tell the difference pretty easily).

I guess on the upside, I’m not going to have this issue in the future since I’ll always have the original .wav files… it just sucks because I wanted to give away all of my earliest songs as a bonus for buying the old “My Blue Dream” album (even going back to my very first embarassingly cheesy and lo-fi song “Find Me” which I can’t listen to without cringing, hehe). Thankfully I was able to find the .wav files of a handful of older songs… which brings me to the topic of this entry:

The is one of the very first songs I ever wrote. As a sound engineer, going back and listening to the recording is painful for me… but at the same time, the song has a special place in my heart because I remember all the hopes and dreams I had when I wrote it. I had so much fun experimenting with music software, recording and mixing vocal harmonies, making homeade samples, trying to emulate the sound techniques I heard in songs on the radio (lol @ younger-me thinking the telephone effect was hella cool), etc. To give you an idea how innovative I was about my ghettoness as a novice sound engineer:

  • I recorded these vocals with a computer mic that I got from a college career faire… I attached it to a water bottle using tape so that the microphone would be at my mouth-level, and I purposely sang very softly so that I wouldn’t clip.
  • All of the melodic instruments are actually from Cakewalk’s original 128-instrument MIDI soundbank😛
  • To make the beats, I recorded all the samples in Soundforge and then uploaded them to Fruityloops in order to build the percussion (I never used loops, everything was always manual with me). However, I preferred sequencing using digital sheet music (Cakewalk) so I mixed the beats and melodic parts together using AcidPro. Yup, I used 4 separate free programs in order to do what could have been done using one piece of full-featured producer software like Pro-Tools… but I didn’t have the money for that, so I did what I could with what I had.

This song is about making the best of every interaction, whether it’s with a person, a place, a situation, etc. It’s based off of a Japanese tea ceremony term 一期一会 (Ichi-go Ichi-e) which literally means “one time, one meeting.” The deeper meaning, is that this could be both the first and the last time you ever have this chance to interact with someone or experience something, so you should make it the very best it can be. I think it’s how I felt about life at the time, and I strive to view life like that now (even though I often fall short of this).

Anyways… I hope you enjoy listening to one of my old songs, and if you get a chance, please check out my new store! A lot of people were asking where they could purchase the older album, so I made sure to make that one available. I’m also putting the Melolune soundtrack there (it’s a work-in-progress, but I thought it would be nice to check out the music as it gets made), as well as the Plants vs. Zombies soundtrack as soon as the legal stuff gets squared away.

And if you’re having one of those bum days, just remember…

一期一会 (Ichi-go Ichi-e)
Today is the first and last chance you’ll ever have today.

73 Comments »

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  1. Oh this is so getting posted on TIGMN as soon as I get a chance.😀 It’s 2:00AM here and I imagine if I write it now it’ll come up as mostly gibberish.

    • Thanks so much KM! I appreciate that you’d post about it on your website ^_^

  2. Love your work! I’ve seen Bandcamp before, and it looks excellent; I especially like the philosophy behind it: “We should only make money if you make money.” I’m already subscribed to your Bandcamp RSS feed.

    Question: Is Melolune’s “Ultimate Battle” track supposed to be the same as in Plants vs. Zombies, or did they get mixed up in transit to Bandcamp?

    • Thank-you, I’m really glad you like my work ^_^ The funny thing about “Ultimate Battle” is that I actually created it to be used as Melolune’s boss battle music first… but then George (the designer of Plants vs. Zombies) overheard it and asked if they could use it in PvZ. I was totally cool with that, so long as I could still keep it in Melolune, too… so we made sure that the contract allowed for that😛

      • I’ve been wondering that for a while since I heard the track in the Melolune demo.

  3. Here’s my super big super tight super bone crushing HUGGGGGGG for your SUPER SUPERRRRRR…. errrh, BEING YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    *Hugging like crazy*

    Ehhem.

    As usual, your music is stunning and so hypnotizing. Yeah, I only need to listen to once and then keep drowning into it for days and days😀

    I wonder if there’s anyway besides charging the credit card to buy your album, and get those other old – unheard songs😉

    Auwww, I love you😛

    • Aww… that was such a nice comment, thank-you Ken ^_^ I’m hoping that I can find the original .wav files somewhere on an old backup CD so I’ll be able to upload them to bandcamp, but if not I’ll probably end up uploading the mp3s to my site so you guys can all download them.

  4. Anyways… I hope you enjoy listening to one of my old songs, and if you get a chance, please check out my new store! A lot of people were asking where they could purchase the older album, so I made sure to make that one available. I’m also putting the Melolune soundtrack there (it’s a work-in-progress, but I thought it would be nice to check out the music as it gets made), as well as the Plants vs. Zombies soundtrack as soon as the legal stuff gets squared away.

    Oh, this is fantastic! I’ve been waiting for this day to come! I’d write a longer comment, but I want to go download it😀

  5. So, I already bought “My blue Dream +”, but there’s no global download link for the Melolune soundtrack😦 I could do them all individually, but I’d prefer not to D:

    • Aww, thank-you Atreus ^_^ I really hope you like it! As for the Melolune soundtrack, since it’s still a work-in-progress I haven’t made a global download link yet… I figured since I’m still updating it, perhaps I should wait until it’s completed. But I wanted to have a place where folks could listen to the music as it was made. Perhaps I can make one now though, and then add the rest of the tracks as a 2nd soundtrack (like how they did it with Chrono Cross in Japan).

      • I definitely do- You could even make two entries if you want. One would be the “WIP” soundtrack, where all the tracks are entirely free with a global download. The other one would be the “official”/finalized songs which would be up for purchase only, yeah?

        I mean, I’d pay for the WIP too, if I knew I’d be able to get the future songs. Does BandCamp support something like a preorder bonus? Meaning, we could pay to preorder the finalized soundtrack, granting us perma-access to the WIP album or something.

        Just putting some ideas out there🙂

        • Hm… I’m not sure if they have that option or not, but I’ll try to look through their FAQ. I do know that they give you the option to give out download-codes which is kind of neat. One thing I can do, is if I add any tracks to the “Part 1” section, I can make them free to download so you can just add them to the collection retroactively🙂

          • Did you do anything special or different with Melolune Track 12 – The Great World? For some reason, it plays fine on the site, but when I try to play it in foobar2000, it fails to play it and skips to the next track. Every other FLAC file I’ve ever gotten from bandcamp has worked fine, including the other songs you put up for Melolune, but that one seems not to be. URL: http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/track/the-great-world

            Any ideas? And, if not, could I get one of those download vouchers for it in WAV so I can possibly try re-converting it to FLAC myself (that’s the one thing I dont like about bandcamp: purchasing it in any format should give you access to the rest, in my opinion :/)

            • That’s weird, I wonder if it’s a bandcamp glitch? But just in case it’s a reoccuring problem, I went ahead and made that track free to download so you can mess around with the FLAC conversion. And yeah, I totally agree that bandcamp should let you have access to any of the other formats as well once you buy the track (and they should let me upload mp3s, hehe)😛

              • I tried grabbing various other formats and they all worked, for whatever reason. So, I just took that and converted it to FLAC for myself and it’s fine. What a weird fluke!

                • The FLAC version seems to work just fine for me. Bad download?

    • I just wanted to let you know, I changed it so that the first 20 Melolune songs can be downloaded in a bundle now ^_^ You gave me a great idea! I’ll upload the rest of the game’s music as Part 2 since it comes from the later parts of the game. Thank-you for your support Atreus, you’re awesome!

      • Glad to be of service! Thank _you_ for producing such awesome stuff and being so receptive to your fans🙂 It’s downloadin’ time!

        • I wasn’t going to make another comment, but I am listening to the Melolune soundtrack, and felt compelled to come back and tell you how much I’m enjoying it so far! Fantastic!

          • Aw, that’s wonderful! I’m really glad that you’re enjoying it!

  6. Also, is there a reason some of the songs are 99c for the Melolune soundtrack, and some are free? Whatever the case, I’d really like to be able to get them all at once >_<

    • Oh, the reason some are free is because they’re really short (like 10 second soundbites). I originally was going to leave those out, but then someone mentioned that they really liked the end-of-battle riff so I wanted to make sure to include that (I didn’t feel right charging 99 cents for something so small though).

      • Normally I’d say “Hey, they’re only $0.99, I’ll buy them!”. But, then I thought about the fact that 60 tracks at $0.99 each is $60.00, which I totally can’t afford😦

        • Yeah that would be way too expensive! I still can’t believe I have 20 more tracks to make… when I think about it, it’s a tad overwhelming (20 tracks is more than the amount I did for PvZ as a whole)… but I hope I can get through it!

          • This is what I see in the middle of the page…. Digital Album
            Immediate download of 20-track album in your choice of 320k mp3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
            Buy Now $5 USD or more

            I think it’s the whole album prize?

            • Er, I’m not sure what you’re getting at? That looks right to me

            • Yup, it’s $5 and you can download all 20 songs (and for any future songs I add to “Part 1” I’ll make sure that they are free to download).

              • For 20 songs, I think a little more could do better, you know, raise it up a little bit😉 ‘My blue dream’ is at 5 too😉

                • Hehe, that’s true… I hadn’t really thought about it😛 What do you think is a good price… maybe $7 or $10?

                  • I think it’s up to you really. For 16 songs, I’d say $8. I think everybody appreciate your works so they won’t mind paying a few more bucks😀

  7. I’ve gotta ask:

    Was Melolune Track 5, Tense, inspired by anything? It has a very Legend of Mana feel for me (in a good way!). The the first portion of the song reminds me of the first song on the Legend of Mana soundtrack, actually – the title theme. I know you’re a Secret of Mana fan, so I this didn’t seem that much of a stretch🙂

    • I also seem to detect a bit of Final Fantasy 7 in Track 6, “Sweet Unlucky (Battle Theme)” around 1:08 :D! I’ll be interested to see if I’m onto something or totally imagining it.

      • I think Sweet Unlucky sounds more Chrono Cross like in my opinion. Transformation sounds pretty BoF4 in my opinion also.

        • I’m actually not familiar with the BoF series music (I rented the first BoF from Blockbuster a really long time ago, but because I didn’t own it I wasn’t able to play very much of it)… but I think you’re right about Chrono Cross (the fast descending strings part).

          Speaking of “Sweet Unlucky,” I have a bit of trivia for you guys… do you know why I named this particular piece of music “Sweet Unlucky”? I’ll give you a hint, it has to do with composition.

          • BoF is a great series, especially 2 and 4. 3 is pretty good in my opinion, but people seem to rate it higher than I would. I found BoF1 not to be as good as 2-4.

            The reason I like the series is because of the storylines. Usual motifs include sacrifice, tragedy, and religion. BoF2 really set a trend with these as not too many RPGs really focused on these issues quite like BoF2 did. You’d really just have to play them to seriously enjoy them as my words don’t exactly do them justice.

            BoF4 has probably the most distinct music of the entire series as it’s a traditional orchestral score based off Asian music. Even the battle music is really unique and catchy. I think it’s my favorite sound track out of the entire series.

          • I’ll take a stab. The time signature is 13/16… 13 is a pretty unlucky number?😀

            • Ding! That is correct ^_^ And the “sweet” part is like “sweet 16.” I had never composed a piece in that time signature before… in fact, when I got the music in my head, I was having a really difficult time setting the time signature in Sonar because it didn’t fit any of the conventional ones, so I actually had to ask for help in figuring out what the time signature was.

              • 13/16 is a pretty odd time signature. Can’t say I ever tried anything like that before.

    • Although it wasn’t inspired by anything in particular, I think my composing style as a whole was definitely influenced heavily by the music in SoM/LoM and the Chrono series🙂

      • That definitely explains why I enjoy it so much😉 I wish Hiroku Kikuta would put something new out the caliber of SoM😦

        Also, the beginning of the track “2.75” reminds me a lot of a more jazzy, slowed version of Ultimate Battle. Any relation there? Feel free to let me know if these questions bug, you, by the way – I’m just always interested in this kind of stuff!

        • Haha, don’t worry, these questions don’t bug me🙂 I actually wrote 2.75 several years before Ultimate Battle so I don’t think there was an intentional connection (but in retrospect there are some similarities in relative chord progression). My sister tells me that 2.75 sounds a lot better live because I can be more expressive when I’m playing jazzy/bluesy stuff on the piano it’s less “MIDI-fied”).

          And yeah, I wonder what Hiroki Kikuta is doing these days… I really loved the music from Secret of Mana.

          • The last music I have from Kikuta off the top of my head was actually from an H-Game (Hentai Game) called Sora no Iro, Mizu no Iro. Needless to say, I didn’t play the game — but I sure as hell got the soundtrack😛 It’s not Secret of Mana caliber, but it’s definitively his style!

            Other stuff I have from him are: Alphabet Planet, Koudelka, Sakura Relaxation, and Sookaigi

            • Oh wow, I didn’t realize he did work for those types of games >_< Yeah, H-Games are totally not my thing either… But at least he's doing some other non-H stuff after SoM.

  8. Outstanding! I completely love how hardworking and dedicated you were to making that music back when you were younger, sometimes I wish I could be you, very hardworking and creative with your methods and style of creating music. The only thing that put me off about being hardworking, is when someone who just slacks off and does less work than you, gets a better grade/result just because he has a higher position, or a higher favor over an official. It just sometimes isn’t fair, when you work hard over a grade, and to have someone who sleeps in class get higher than you just because the teacher likes him more or he’s one of those special students . . . I hope it’s not too much of a burden, may I ask how you got through this situation? Because so far, like some subjects, I’m falling apart.

    • I know what you mean, Stephen… When I took Computer Science courses back in college, I felt like I had to study really hard in order to understand the material… but some of my friends didn’t even need to do the projects and they’d get an A+ on all the tests! But I think we were all made to have different strengths and weaknesses, so in order to get through tough situations I just tried to use my strengths to overcome the weak parts😛

      For example, I think I’m naturally poor when it comes to time and organization… but on the upside, I’m very dedicated once I have a clear path. So I make a lot of lists and check off each thing as I go along… I focus on the list, and then it’s much easier for me to get a lot done and stay on task. I also believe that we were all made the way we are for a reason; we have particular strengths and weaknesses, and the balance shapes who we are. So I hope you won’t be discouraged by the other students in your class, just try your best to be the best person you can personally be🙂

      • Thank you for your inspiring words Laura, I guess I will just have to deal with whatever life hands out to me, thanks a lot, I’ll make sure I’ll do better at fixing my weaknesses! Thank you so much Laura! You really are a great person!🙂

  9. Hey, now I can pay you back for all the times I listened to these songs on YouTube. The experiences you talk about with composing/producing your own music and working on your own rpg are all very familiar to me, but it really amazes me how you’re able to drive them through to such polished products. It’s one thing to have your talent, but it’s quite another to have the dedication it takes to devote the kind of effort and time required to complete these projects.

    • Thank-you for your support Tyler ^_^ Sometimes I really have to use all my will-power to get the project completely finished (I end up making a lot of lists, haha)… I really hope I can apply that effort to finishing Melolune. Even though the part I’m working on now is very tedious, I can’t give up now! The comments I receive here are so helpful to me.

  10. Well awesome. I’ve been wondering how to purchase some of your music. Unfortunately i am on a ending hiatus right now, however when I am not I will most definitely visit your store.

    An interesting article! I don’t know much about music although I did have a class once that let me use Acid. It’s awesome that past you are so dedicated. I need to find the willpower to be more dedicated to my hobbies!

    • Thanks Nojh! That’s cool that you were able to try out Acid, what class was this for? I had always wanted to take production classes, but we didn’t really have them at UCB so I kind of just learned on my own and from friends (I also wasn’t a music major, but the music department was nice enough to let me use the pianos, hehe).

  11. im publishing your demo on my blog and in your facebook fan page😀

    • Thanks Nico! I hope folks will like it🙂

  12. Hmm this is interesting… It always makes songs more interesting when you tell the story behind it. I’ll definitely be purchasing some songs soon🙂 Hope recording goes well for you (without the water bottle mic stand lol).

    • Thank-you Davixus ^_^ Hahaha, yes, my set-up has definitely improved since the water bottle computer mic😛 But I actually learned a lot from having to improvise like that, so I’m glad I had to deal with those things when I was first starting out, hehe.

  13. Totally offtopic comment with no post that would suit it better! I was just browsing my twitter client and saw a tweet by Infinite Ammo (Alec Holowka). Now, that’s not anything special, but for some reason it got me realizing you don’t have one! Given the way you seem to enjoy interacting with your fanbase (and other composers), might that be a good idea?🙂 You could even integrate it into the sidebar on your blog or something.

    I’ll leave it at that for now, since I have no idea if this is a decent idea or not. If it is, I can recommend a client to use or whatever else would be entailed in making this happen🙂

    ps. Any chance of Lighthouses and the like getting a spot on bandcamp?😀 That’s one of my favorite tracks by you, for sure.

    • Either I use “:)” too much, or the default wordpress plugins make “:)” look way scary.

    • Hehe, folks have been trying to get me to sign up for Twitter for a while now… perhaps someday I’ll do it😛 I would definitely like to upload Lighthouses once it’s finished. It’s one of the 3 new songs I’m working on now.

  14. Hi i hope u got more tech for ur songs :D!

    • Hi Vince, thanks🙂

  15. I’m wondering, why not iTunes? (don’t own any Apple stuff, but I’m curious)

    At any rate, you do good work, Laura.😀

    Ah, and here’s my bit of tea ceremony advice:

    正座 (Seiza)
    This is the first and last time I will ever sit like this.

    • Thank-you Curtis🙂 I think eventually I’d like to get on iTunes. I’ve heard that it’s a bit more complicated to get on there, but once my new album is finished I’ll try to look into getting on iTunes.

      Ah, I’m actually sitting Seiza as I type this, haha… (sometimes I lower my chair and sit Seiza so that my posture will be better, but if I’m sitting on a hard floor like that my feet fall asleep)

      • If you put your music on iTunes I think somebody will probably offer you a contract about making you a mainstream artist….. Hehehehehehehehe😀

        • Is it the right term? I don’t know, I’ve just thought of it as an artist who is very famous and well known and stuffs like that. Is that right? I don’t mean anything if it’s something not nice😦

        • Hehe, thanks Ken (and no worries, it’s not a mean comment)🙂 Although I don’t think iTunes helps you get better exposure for your music. Normally, unless you’re in the top artist section people won’t find your music through iTunes, but they might hear about you from somewhere else and go to iTunes looking for your music since it’s such a popular distribution channel. So for that reason, I definitely want to get on iTunes eventually so people can access my music more easily!

          About contracts… I think these days signing with a major label isn’t necessarily the way to go. I’m actually working with the director of music at Sony Playstation right now on an indie album project, and our goal isn’t to work with their parent company or any other major label; we want to release it independently. Although I’m not opposed to signing with a major label if the contract is good and fair, I think in many cases it isn’t. I learned a lot about contracts after being offered a half-million dollar record contract with a major label in Japan back in 2002. At first I was so happy because I felt like it was my “big break,” but then I realized there were a lot of things about the contract that I was not comfortable with, and I ended up turning it down for personal reasons (they wanted me to do a gravure photobook, they wanted me to hand over all the rights/credits for songs I wrote, I learned that unless you go platinum you don’t make a dime because of the way contract money is earmarked, etc. — did you know there are a lot of musicians who become very famous but end up with barely any money in the end because their label takes it all? It’s sadly very common).

          • I knew about the contract but I didn’t know the half million thingy @.@”
            Anyway, I think now you don’t need a ‘big break’ anymore😉 You know what I mean😀
            And the most important thing is you’re happy and you’re happy then I’m happy😀 But would it feel nice to top the charts and break every (good) records :D:D:D

  16. Wow, that tea ceremony term is inspiring! When it comes to looking back on old works, I think any artist would feel the same cringe coming on. I know I do, when I go back through my old high school notebook scribbles. But during that same time, I also see just how much I was struggling to improve, and just how much of an improvement I really made. 9 times out of 10, I end up feeling better, and motivated to keep that trend going. I’m glad to hear that there’s finally a good way to support your music and buy your album! I’ve been wanting to buy your music for my mp3 player ever since I came across Plants Vs. Zombies. Thank you.

    (ps, by the way… I haven’t used paypal in the longest time, and I actually changed my card number during that time… When I clicked on the paypal button, I wasn’t given a choice of what card to use or whether I would like to add a new card or anything like that. I ended up going to the paypal site and updating my information after the WAV music transaction. If you ever get notified that you never got payed by a clueless dork by the name of aniki91344, please send me an email, and I’ll try to make things right. Sorry about that😄.

    • Hi Chris! Thank-you so much for your support, I really hope you enjoy the album! And I agree, I love the tea ceremony term… sometimes if I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling unhappy with whatever task I’m stuck with, I try to tell myself 一期一会 because it really helps me to make the best of it.

      What kind of art do you do these days?

      • Wow, I read through my post about 3 times trying to find my name in it. I feel pretty starstruck that you remembered my real name, even though I only used my online title in all my posts on your sites, aside from the first few, some forever long ago. You made my day! ^_^

        Well, I used to draw lots of manga style designs, and I feel that I got pretty good at them too. But living in America, I need to learn to draw in American cartoon style as well, so I’ve been working on those. Currently, my character designs look like an interesting mash up between eastern and western designs.

        It’s like my hand is struggling to go for the American style simple shapes and caricature, but my hand fights to keep the essence of manga designs alive. I just know that somewhere during that struggle I’m bound to define a harmonic blended style of the two.

  17. Hi, love your work. I was wondering what your experience has been like with copyrighting your work. At what point do you want to copyright your songs? I have some songs myself, and I’m thinking of getting them copyrighted through the government’s online electronic copyrighting service. It’s $35 and it seems like it would be a good idea. I don’t want anyone to be able to take credit for songs I’ve made.

    • Hi Nathan, thank-you🙂 I think copyrighting your work is a great idea, especially now that people can do it all online (when I first copyrighted my music I had to send in a form and it took forever… now it’s much more convenient). As for when to do it… I’d probably copyright a song once it’s finished (since you need to submit lyrics as well as the completed song), and before you make it public.

  18. They’re putting PvZ in WoW…….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWI5XTmGrmo&feature=sub

    • Yup! Whoa, I didn’t realize it was public yet😛 I’m actually right in the middle of recording the voice for the “singing sunflower” pet! I’m so excited about it!

  19. No lyrics for “The best it can be”?😦


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