I approach life with a simple philosophy: I want to “take the road less traveled by.” I grew up listening to what my family did: the oldies and hip-hip like Michael Jackson and Tupac, then my interests expanded to classical, jazz and selective rock. I recently started listening to microtonal music as well. I’ll listen to anything as long as it’s not cliché or it doesn’t cause my ears physical pain.
When I was younger, I wasn’t very musical. Somewhere along the line, my mother brought home a cheap Yamaha keyboard and I slowly stole ownership of it and played around with it. I took a one-year intro piano course in high school and was exposed to the likes of Debussy’s dreamy harmonies and Joplin’s foot-tapping rags.
As far as composing, it’s something I enjoyed doing since I started on piano. I remember playing a simple melody on the Dorian mode and my mom exclaimed that I needed to copyright it because it would become a famous film score. I laughed then, but here I am a couple years later, pursuing a career in film, videogame and TV music. I’ve never had formal instruction in composition; I just read through allot of forums, practiced Hannon and tried my best at analyzing and understanding music. As a great pianist once said, “There is no short cut. One cannot go around or under the mountain. One must climb straight over it.”
I joined Jazz and Symphonic band, where I began playing trumpet and understanding the orchestral side of music. That’s pretty much where my formal music education skids to a dead end. Google became my best friend at that point. When I learned about virtual instruments, everything took off from there.
I continue to study music independently while attending Cal State Fullerton majoring in- nothing for the time being. I’m an old wandering soul. The only thing that I’m certain of is my love of making music.
On a personal level, my music is like a diary. It tells a story. It communicates an emotion. Of course, on the business side, it’s not as personal, but it’s still a method of communication. My working method is pretty much to “get in the groove” of what I’m writing for. If it’s upbeat, I’ll just start skipping around and humming something that sounds upbeat. If you were to watch me during this process, I’d look like a lunatic, but it works. If It’s for horror, it’s the same situation, except I’ll look like more of a lunatic because I’ll walk around the house with an evil expression, waving my arms and humming pessimistic melodies.
Once I have the melody down, I make sure that it’s the right “kind” of melody. Sometimes a melody can be difficult to work with because it has too much harmonic information in it or the intervals aren’t very memorable. Having a part with some upward diatonic steps can do wonders to give “lift” to the piece. I treat melodies/voices like birds in a sense- they have a motion and a direction and when they go in flocks, it’s usually a satisfying harmony. Once I have the primary melody down, everything else falls into place.
As far as inspiration, there’s certain things that come to mind depending on the genre. I usually have some example in my head. If it’s Egyptian or ancient, I think of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody. If it’s a very romantic piece, I often take influence from Rachmaninoff. If it’s comedy, I’ll think of Elfman and his Simpsons theme or any cheesy upbeat film today. Heroic? John William’s Superman Theme. Horror? JW’s Star Wars Imperial March theme or either Bernstein’s old-school approach with Hitchcock films (dissonant string staccatos).
Many of my ideas come from pure experimentation. Screwing around with random chord progressions can bring up some cool ideas.
The sound I aim for is the classic cinema sound, somewhat to the effect of John Williams in terms of grandeur, also somewhat similar to Zimmer because I try to use modern progressions, but with more interesting orchestration. I’m slowly trying to develop my own signature style, but it’s going to take allot of experimentation to do so. Good thing I experiment every day.I don’t use electronics or dramatic drum samples very much, though I’m learning them and sometimes applying them just to keep up with the trends.
My favorite instrument is piano because... well it’s the most versatile instrument. Other than that, I can’t really name favorites. Every instrument has a time and place to shine.
My long-term goal is to open a café dedicated to original composers/artists. The only requirement would be that they be “original” to some extent. I want to really encourage the growth of music.