Timing – Upbeat Bird Teaches Accuracy

June 1st, 2014

This is a guest post by Zach Burnham.

Upbeat Bird teaches you to be better at upbeats and musical timing in a unique way. The game is simple – you need to tap the screen to make the bird fly through obstacles and see how far you can go. There are also bass notes playing a downbeat (so crank up that volume!), and drum hits play in between downbeats on the perfect upbeats and 16th upbeats. When you tap the screen, the bird flies higher if you are far from the downbeat, which means closer to the perfect upbeat. It looks like this: the bird jumps high if you tap right in the middle of two downbeats (the perfect upbeat), but only jumps a little bit if you tap right after the beat plays or right before the beat plays (the 16th upbeats). You use this to control the bird, with two goals: jump on the perfect upbeats and 16th upbeats, and fly as far as you possibly can.timing-upbeat-bird-teaches-accuracy

But wait! If you tap on every possible upbeat perfectly in Upbeat Bird, you’ll be on your way to a great score but will definitely fly into a wall! The challenge is to know where those upbeats are and to use them to your advantage and get through those posts. This aspect of Upbeat Bird teaches you to think ahead, analyze the physical and musical landscape, and perform accordingly. When playing, you will undoubtedly tap on a few wrong beats. That’s okay! Just as with playing music, when you miss a beat you have to keep playing and have better timing on the next one. That is an important skill that Upbeat Bird will help you with – I know it is helping me!

Remember this: you can use a wrong beat to your advantage. Playing exactly with the downbeat in Upbeat Bird will make the bird stop where it is at and start falling. So, if you need to stop the bird in mid-air, by all means play on the downbeat! As the bird flies and the beats per minute increase, it gets harder. Give it your best shot. Even if you tap and you are nowhere near a perfect upbeat but you get through the posts, keep going! It’s better to be wrong than to crash.

Upbeat Bird teaches you to develop your timing skills surprisingly well. Start playing! You’ll see yourself improving drastically as you learn to time the upbeats better. After that, you’ll continue to improve consistently as you keep at it.

I (Zach) play guitar, and playing Upbeat Bird has helped me with timing. Now I feel comfortable practicing guitar along with a metronome. I can understand the rhythm of what I am playing and visualize the upbeats like never before. Thanks, Upbeat Bird!

Is Orchestra Music Generally Movie Music?

February 24th, 2014

No…well it depends on who you ask. Historically it most certainly is not. But here’s the problem: orchestras cost a lot of money. Movies have large budgets. Since music is one of the cheapest parts of a movie, you may as well go big. There aren’t too many things bigger than an orchestra. Now, not many companies can afford to hire an orchestra. There are big cities and there are movies. Movies are popular and symphonic concerts are not. Therefore people associate orchestra music with movies.


This used to bother me. Then I realized that it’s really not that important. If people aren’t interested in a certain art form, then we musicians should do something else. Yeah, orchestras are beautiful but so is a lot of other music. We may as well focus on stuff people will like. We’re entertainers, not priests. As artists, we need to swallow our hubris and focus on entertaining. Teaching people about beauty can come after you have an audience to teach.

So, is orchestra music generally movie music? Uhh…sure. Why not? I’m just here to make cool stuff you love. If you love epic movie soundtracks then you like something admirable. If someone says that The Dark Process sounds like movie music, I’ll take it as a compliment. 😀

A Little on the Creative Process

February 23rd, 2014

Arnold Schoenberg

Every creative person works differently, but no one starts from scratch. Even pioneers who are breaking new ground start from the place from which they were standing. Schoenberg, for example, came up with the idea to eliminate a pitch center (you know how most songs seem to have a home note?) but in order to come up with that he needed hundreds of years of music history. In reality, he simply took what was already going on to its logical conclusion (long story for another post).

The way I compose is a lot like the way I built lego spaceships when I was a kid (and still do every now and then!). I started with the same 4 block 2×4 template, and built onto it until it was something I’d never made before. It’s the same when I write. I start with something I already know, and just keep adding to it. I never try to be original. I’m a strange enough person as it is. I don’t need to try to be different since nothing I’ve ever written has ever really sounded like anyone else (something I’m trying to cut back on, actually). The more you try to sound like a precedent, the better. You will end up sounding different no matter what you do, I promise. Let previous masters pave your road to your own mastery.


C. S. Lewis on the Creative Process

It really all comes down to this brilliant C. S. Lewis quote: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”


Rdio and the Listening Life

February 18th, 2014

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I’ve recently concluded a chapter of my life where I really didn’t listen to music unless someone else had it playing. This started at the end of graduate school. Simply put, my professors weren’t around to make me listen to stuff. My wife doesn’t really listen to music on her own either, so we just didn’t listen to music for a long time. Although, I suppose there were the 10-20 artists that we were already familiar with to whom we listened in the car.

For a long time my brother was pushing me to check out Rdio and to make sure that my own music got on there. So I checked it out but it didn’t stick with me. After listening to a few classical things in a similar genre to my previous work I just lost interest. Looking back I realize that I was just stuck in a mindset that listening to music was supposed to be an active process of consuming ideas. The artist has something to say, so I should listen attentively and not do anything until the music is over. But I just don’t have time for that.

A year or so has passed and recently I’ve tried listening to music again. Turns out I was listening to the wrong stuff. I like classical music, but it’s really not my favorite. My favorite is a massive variety: metal to jazz, electronica to rock, dub step to folk. I just love music and just because I don’t have time to actively engage it all the time doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have it on!

Don’t limit your listening. Listen to everything; even stuff you don’t think that you’re going to like. I highly recommend using Rdio to help you do this.

Inspiring Art Inspires Us to Build Inspiring Things

July 28th, 2013

My friends and I recently watched the Avatar series. It was great. Really great. The music was even better. Inspiring even. After watching through it, there were new and incredible sounds going through my head all of the time. But I haven’t written anything lately and this is a problem.



So often we get inspired by something great and we just keep all of the energy to ourselves. Next time you sit down to watch a great film or listen to great music, have a plan to use the inspiration you get from it. Build something great (it doesn’t have to be art, it can be anything). Don’t just sit there and let that intellectual energy turn into intellectual fat.

Or even better; don’t you usually enjoy these inspiring works of art with friends? You may as well include them in your energy using endeavor! Build something great together.

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