“Miracle” (Foo Fighters Cover)

By Jeff:

Good evening and welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  I hope you are well and looking forward to a nice weekend.

Today I bring a song by the Foo Fighters called “Miracle”.  The song is among their more soft and acoustic album cuts of late.  It really shows off their instrumentation skills as well as Dave Grohl’s versatile vocal abilities.

I feel sad saying it, but I do have to let you know what’s going on.  First good news – whether you knew it or not but in a couple of weeks my life is going to change forever.  Sadly, it is this reason that I am going to have to downgrade myself to “contributer” (which is kind of what I am already anyway).  I won’t be able to post every Thursday, and there is no way of telling when Thursday comes around in the future whether I can post or not.  When I can I will, but to be honest, there will be a handful of things that can prevent me from posting.  I don’t want to be specific, but those who know me know what i’m talking about.

I have enjoyed being a regular contributor to the site for nearly 2 years now, and have recorded over 160 videos and amassed 170k in views (and rising at about 300-350 views/day).  I know that this number won’t stop increasing even if my production of videos slows down.

I want to thank everyone that has visited this blog regularly in the past 2 years, and I want to thank Chris and Jim for bringing me along for the ride.  It is amazing to look back at where we were when this blog started, and what our mission was.  I’d say we have done a pretty good job of getting a following, and I hope you bring nothing but support and joy when you read our blog.

With that said, I will see you next week ideally with another video.  If you have things you wish to pass along to me, please send me a private message or comment here.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“Development of a writer” – A retrospective by Jeff Copperthite (Part 2/3)

One of the things that anybody who knows me well is that I am into a very special type of music.

No, it isn’t anything mainstream.  In fact, I can think of only 3 other people who enjoy this type of music as much as I do.

Quite simply, it is soundtracks from video games.   Especially Role Playing Games.

I have what I feel is a very impressive collection of OST (Original Soundtrack) from a variety of games.  One reason I think I enjoy the music so much is because I did grow up listening to the music from these games almost entirely.  When it comes to my favorite activity both now and then, it certainly is video games.

More so than any of my other hobbies.  It even surpasses the playing and writing of music.

So I have an ingrained affinity to the music.  I always had a great auditory memory as well.  I can still hum music from old Nintendo games I haven’t played in over 15 years.  If you say “Flash Man from Mega Man 2”, I will hum it in tune and on key.  You may even get some of that terrible synth drum channel that NES was notorious for.

But the ones I latched onto immediately are the Final Fantasy series’ OSTs.  I have them all.  And not just some remixed versions or user-generated remixes.  Just like I was playing the original version of the game.

Why do I enjoy listening to the music so much?  Plain and simple – it is something for me to listen too, and I can do almost any regular task while I listen.  Simply put, many papers got written while I listened to “Dancing Mad”, the final boss music from Final Fantasy 6, and other songs from those series.

As I discovered the fact that some more uncommon OSTs existed, I found as many of them as I could and got them.  I have the OSTs for such obscure games as Emperor: Battle for Dune (a favorite actually), Dune 2000, StarFox, Perfect Dark, Super Mario RPG, Secret of Mana (and all of it’s prequels and sequels), Ogre Battle (and it’s derivatives), and the F-Zero series.  Simply put, there’s a soundtrack for all kinds of moods.

Actually, now that I mention the “Emperor” soundtrack, it reminds me of a story.

About a year ago, I did something that I was always a bit afraid of, but knew I had to do – I donated blood.  I’ve always been a bit squeamish about things like this, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  To get me through it, however, I popped up the Emperor Soundtrack because the music had such a driving beat to it, and the tunes are so engrossing overall (I even asked the Phlebotomist to cover the donation bags so I couldn’t watch my blood being drawn).  I looked up at the ceiling of Sacred Heart’s Field House for a while and enjoyed it.  Hey, it got me through it.  I may even do it again in the future.

Well anyway, point is I have always enjoyed VG music.   I downloaded MIDI tracks as well.  But then I found a game that had a great soundtrack, but very few MIDI files for its music.

And so, I began the Final Fantasy Tactics Battle Music Project, which at the time was a regularly updated website with the files that I created using various implements, most notably a program called Noteworthy Composer.  My methods were this easy.  I used an audio recorder to tape the particular song of interest off of the TV while the game was playing.  Then I systematically tried to pick out the different instruments and parts, then try to transcribe them on the keyboard.  Once I had figured out one or two instruments, usually the rest were easy to pick out as well.  This method certainly wasn’t the best, but at the time I was very mad that these files didn’t exist, and I wanted to change that.

I ended up transcribing quite a few of the songs from the game, and within the next two years, I noticed lots of fan sites posting my MIDI files.  I also got lots of great comments, emails, and requests.  I did the majority of the work for files in this game within those two years, but I would go back periodically until I was done in college to update some of the songs that I knew better.

I also at one point in college (~2000 I think) did a similar site for Final Fantasy 9 called (how original) the FF9 MIDI Project.  Similar to FFT, I transcribed select songs due to not many being transcribed at the time.  I still find both of the MIDI files from these games around the internet.

It wasn’t long after this that I began composing music similar in style.  There will be more on that in the next edition of this series.  Stay tuned for that next month!

Ask the Musician: “Do You Record Video & Audio Together on Your Acoustic Music Videos?”

By Jim Fusco:

Well, back earlier than expected for another edition of “Ask the Musician” with me, Jim Fusco!  If you’ve never seen this column before, let me give you a brief introduction.  I’m Jim Fusco of the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs and original music video series on YouTube and on our blog here at LaptopSessions.com.  Every day, I get thousands of views on my cover songs and original music videos on YouTube.  With that popularity comes some great questions from people all around the world.  They want to know technical questions, music theory, and other great general music tidbits.  I’ve completely submerged myself into making music these past few years and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned- hundreds and hundreds of hours reading, researching, playing, writing, singing, and recording.  I’m glad to answer these questions here on “Ask the Musician”!

Tonight, we have an email from christianamagic on YouTube.  She writes:

Hi.  Just wanna ask. So when you record song, do you only record the audio? or record both audio and video??
and what did you use to edit it all together? Thanks

Well, that’s a good question.  She’s asking about the acoustic music videos I perform on YouTube.  You know, sometimes I’ve considered going back and recording the audio over the video to make a better take, but I can never bring myself to do it.  To answer your question: I record the audio and video at the same time!

That’s not to say that I don’t have to tinker with it sometimes.  I remember on a Ben Folds song, “Time”, I recorded the video with the microphone facing backwards!  So, you could hear a LOT of piano and a little of my voice.  Well, I had recorded this in a remote location, so I couldn’t go back and re-record the video.  My solution was to work some EQ magic.  I brought out the vocals in the mix.  It’s not perfect, but it made due for the video.  I guess I could’ve gone back and re-did the audio, but believe me, that would be much more of a burden than it seems.  Imagine syncing the vocals up perfectly to a live performance like that?

For hardware, I use a ZOOM H2 microphone that plugs into USB.  This thing is great.  I used to use the built-in microphone on my Macbook laptop.  It’s actually a pretty decent condenser microphone, but my computer’s fan would run so much (and SO loudly), that I had to think of a better solution.  Sometimes, you’d hear more fan than song!  So now, I keep the microphone close to me (and only turn the front mics on as to not hear the fan noise behind it) and record on the laptop.  For ease of production, I use iMovie to edit the video and audio.  If I didn’t do so many videos, I might use Final Cut Pro, but even still, it’s nice to have a simple solution to get the song out there in a nice neat package.

I hope this helps and answers your question.  Just like Peter Griffin’s advice on Family Guy is “To grow a beard,” my advice to you here is, “To get a Mac!”  It’ll make your life a lot easier when putting music videos on YouTube.

Submit your question to admin@laptopsessions.com and comment below to tell us how you record your videos!


“No Excuses” (Alice In Chains Acoustic Rock Cover)

By Jeff:

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  I’ve got a great alternative song that I had completely forgotten about up until recently.

Two weeks ago my wife & I bought a Nintendo Wii after a long time of debating whether we wanted it enough to buy it.  Well, thankfully that answer is yes.  We bought a few games we knew we’d like, which included the line of “Wii” games (including the Wii fit, which i’m happy to report is actually quite effective), and I also bought Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero: Metallica.

Well,  next week I hope that I can actually…cover a Metallica song!  An acoustic cover?  You bet!  I’m sure those that are reading this will probably narrow the possibilities down to about 3 songs.

But the reason I mention Guitar Hero: Metallica (besides the fact that I love it and am currently working on 5-starring all the songs on Hard) is because today’s song is in this game.  It helped to remind me that it existed, and that it would make a great session entry.

So today I bring you “No Excuses” by Alice in Chains from their 1994 album “Jar of Flies”.  This song always sounded like it’d be more difficult than it actually is.  The lyrics and song always made me sing along throughout my teenage years.  I love the chorus that fits right in to the mood.

The song is very easy to play.  Tune the guitar down 1/2 step, and play a standard A barre chord, but only press down on the low E string with your index finger, leaving the B and high E string open the entire song.  Slide that up to the 7th fret, and back again for the verse.  For the chorus, bring it down to G, then A, B, A, G, A, then E in standard position (I use my middle, ring, and pinky to play the chord so it allows me to return to the barre position for the verse).

I tried to use a slightly different position today, facing the sound hole from the guitar towards the camera.  It seemed to work for “Hello, it’s Late” from last month.

I hope you enjoy today’s entry, and next week perhaps I’ll see you for another great session!  TTFN!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!