Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carol of the Bells

First off, I would like to wish everybody HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Over the course of the past week or so, Jaxon Williams and I have been collaborating on an arrangement of "Carol of the Bells."

Jaxon Williams and I met our freshman year in the dorms.  Jaxon is a guitar performance major at BYU and honestly one of the most talented and dedicated musicians that I know.  He currently is in his senior year and is in the process of applying to grad schools to continue his education in guitar performance.

The process of composing the piece surprisingly didn't take all that long...I began composing about a week before our first co-write session.  My version of the song was this ridiculously bombastic arrangement that was all over the place (composing bombastic pieces is a tendency of mine).  I think it was partially because I was compensating for the lack of the guitar part at the time.

Our tentative schedule looked something like this----We spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday practicing and composing, and then we spent an hour on Monday and on Tuesday polishing everything up, recorded on Wednesday at Clive Romney's studio in Salt Lake, filmed on Friday.

I remember when we first started to write and practice, Jaxon and I would tell each other, "Man, I can't wait to hear the finished product!!!"

I think we all have the tendency to want to see the finished product of the things we're working on and the goals we're striving to accomplish before they finished.  This applies to every aspect of life.  We want to see the "A" before the semester starts.  We wonder how our relationships with people will end up.  We always want to see if the good guy prevails at the end of the movie, and the movie hasn't even started yet---we're still watching the previews.

  However, I believe that the beauty of life is living in the moment.  Treasuring the uphill battles towards the ultimate destination.   I believe that the happiest people in this life are the ones who enjoy the journey.

The joy of hearing the finished product would not be nearly as wonderful as it is right now without the experience of working our butts off to pull this off in such a short amount of time.

Christmas break couldn't come any sooner.  Expect more videos in January.

Happy Holidays!

Carol of the Bells Music Video

Click here to download on iTunes

Friday, December 2, 2011

Silent Night Now On iTunes!

Being on iTunes for a musician is kind of like becoming immortalized.  One of my greatest fears is dying without leaving anything behind to show for what my life was all about.  It feels great to have something to  give back to the world!

Silent Night (feat. Jake Justice) - Silent Night (feat. Jake Justice) - Single

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A lot has happened!

For the few of you who actually may be interested....hello!  It's been a while, I know.
Honestly I decided to stop blogging indefinitely for a while there.  I think it was because I read a quote by somebody somewhere which sounded something like......

"Why would you ever waste your time blogging about something when you could just do it?"


So i stopped.  And then I consumed myself with DOING music, not wasting my time writing about it.

And then, TONIGHT happened-the good ole fashioned all-nighter.

I've realized that if I truly want to accomplish all of the things that I need to accomplish and live up to all of my current musical commitments, then I need to at least pull one all-nighter per week to do it.  This is my first one in a while, so forgive me if i seem to ramble and stuff like that.

So far, everything has gone great!  Finished a huge recording project, 2 papers, sent important emails, and all sorts of random odd jobs which i may have forgotten to do during the day when I'm so crowded with other activities.

I realized though that I would be best suited in pulling the weekly all-nighter on a thursday night, seeing as I work on friday night anyways and hardly go out and then I can sleep in all i need to on saturday mornings and thus not ruining my effectivity on any other day of the week. Oh and by the way did i mention that there's probably more mountain dew in my blood system right now than there is blood?

So I think i'm going to make it a tradition to do a blog entry after all of my all-nighter chores are done.  I figured that I may as well since I won't be wasting any time during the day when i should be doing other things that actually help me develop as a musician, and there are definitely plenty of interesting stories to tell regarding the musical happenings in my life.

Well ANYWAYS, on to some of the important things going on......

I would say the biggest on-going project right now is my new YOUTUBE channel, Jake Justice Piano.

It's kind of a spin-off of a web series idea I had a year ago where each episode I would introduce a new "guest artist" and we would write and record a collaboration of a cover or an original song.  The vision is to collaborate with artists from all genres and styles---to explore new musical boundaries and see what I could do to adapt to their style with my piano skills.

I'm not sure if the channel is going to develop into an actual "show" with a strict episode format, but as for now, I am currently talking with many super-talented musicians and have a good line up in the works.  Right now we're planning on doing covers of relevant songs.  Covers seem to be much more popular and relatable than originals, so for now we're going to stick with those, and once the channel has a large enough following, I'll introduce some original music as well.

The latest video, Silent Night has only been up for a couple of days and has already been shared on Facebook by 600 people and has over 1600 views and counting.  This is largely due to the amazingness of Amy Whitcomb, an amazing singer and overall awesome human being.  She graduated from BYU in April with a degree in Media Music as well.  She has many musical pursuits going on including her band "The Whits" and "Delilah,"  the all-female a cappella group that made it to the top 6 of NBC's the Sing Off.  Amy was in Provo for a week, and I called her up and asked her if she wanted to do a recording of "Silent Night" and she graciously said yes and made lots of time to make such a high-quality rendition.  We had a wonderful time practicing, writing, recording, and filming together.

If you're interested to know how making a music video works, it goes a little something like this---  First, you MUST record the song so that you can have something to work with when you're filming later.  Make sure the song has a click track so that when you're filming later on, the movement of your lips, or fingers (in my case) synchs up with the film.

I learned this the hard way with my first video, Be Still My Soul.  In this case, we actually filmed first, and then I thought that I could just simply record the piano and play along with what i heard from the camera audio using headphones.

hehehe.  Nice try.

It took me about 30 minutes to record maybe the first 10 seconds in this way.  With time constraints, this was not going happen, so I had to think outside of the box.  (The video was to be released in 2 days)

So instead, I turned to a midi keyboard and protools.  I made a tempo map of the video and lined up each beat on protools to the beat in the video  (theres a lot of rubato and tempo changes).  I now had a tempo map, but that still wasnt enough.  After recording the song, I lined up each note using the midi note map with the video.  Thats right, EVERY SINGLE NOTE.  The process took about 5 hours.

Unfortunately I hate to break it to everybody, but the piano you see is not the piano you hear.  What you're hearing is just me playing on a midi-keyboard with a sample sound from a sample library.  Yes...it was FAKE!  AN ILLUSION!!!!!  

But I had no other choice.

With Silent night, the piano you see is also not the piano you're hearing, but at least its a real piano, and i didn't cheat using MIDI quantizing!  :)

Along with my youtube channel I have had the opportunity to score other people's youtube videos as well.  Here are a few examples:

Cool Time Lapse Video
People of Sundance
Raiders of the Lost Archive
In the Garage ep. 1 (main theme music)

Maybe I can become a Tube-scorer instead of a film-scorer.  :)  Who knows?  The direction society is taking is leaning more towards the web than the big screen.....so we'll see.....

Also in the works is an original BALLET and another Christmas youtube video.  Stay tuned.

Until next week's all nighter, enjoy the beginning of the holiday season!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Article from the Daily Universe

Stadium of Fire to feature local talent

By Erik Westesen
Local musicians, including several bands with BYU students, are competing for the chance of a lifetime — and the public gets to decide who wins.
The contest is giving local and little known talent the opportunity to play in front of 60,000 people and rub shoulders with some big names in pop culture at the Freedom Festival’s Stadium of Fire. The public is invited to vote online for their favorite act, and the top three will open for David Archuleta and Brad Paisley this summer.
Even though this is the first year for the contest, an overwhelming number of applicants entered.  Emory Cook, communications manager for the Freedom Festival, said more than 400 performance videos were submitted. Only 40 videos made the cut to be voted for online.
“One of the reasons we decided to do [the contest] was because of the tremendous talent that’s here in Utah,” Cook said. “We thought this would be a fun way to include those people in the Stadium of Fire.”
The contest is more than just a fun way to be involved, for many artists this could be a big break. Entries in the top 40 include current and former BYU students from groups such as Truman, The Whits, The Vibrant Sound, Noteworthy, Ryan Innes and others.
Amy Whitcomb, lead singer of The Whits, heard about the contest through classmate Jake Justice. They are a relatively new band, having only started last November, but they haven’t wasted any time. She said that with a powerful commercial sound, she thinks her band will be a good fit at the Stadium of Fire.
“We are really unique,” Whitcomb said. “[Our music] is very soulful, with a lot of attitude and a lot of sass.”
Provo is full of musical talent and potential, Justice said. This contest gives local bands a chance to get exposure they wouldn’t find otherwise.
“I’m sure they’re going to be able to meet lots of music industry executives, it’s just a great way to open the door to further opportunities in the music industry,” Justice said. “I think this is the best way possible to promote local music.”
Justice, a media music student at BYU, said Provo is a great place to get started in the music industry. Bands like Neon Trees have paved the way for musicians from BYU. He said for more musicians in the area to make it big, students need to become more supportive of them by visiting local venues like Muse Music and Velour to find out what local bands they like.
“For all we know, Amy Whitcomb could be the next big thing,” Justice said. “We’ve seen it in basketball with Jimmer, why can’t that happen in music?”
Online voting closes on Friday. The top 25 performers will then be narrowed down to the top three during performances at Mountain View High School in Orem at 7 p.m. Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14. Both the May 13 and 14 events are free and open to the public.
To vote in the Stadium of Fire Talent Search, go to the website at freedomfestival.org.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The JJ Song of the Week

Hey everybody, guess what today is?

IT'S THURSDAY, THURSDAY, gotta get down on THURSDAY!!!!

April fools.  It's actually...yes....you got it right.  That one day of the week that has caught the "Black" plague.  That's why this week's JJ Song of the Week goes to....."Friday" by Rebecca Black.


I'm committing myself right now to never speak about that horrid song ever again.  Everybody keeps wondering how such a simple song, with ridiculously weak lyrics, that is obviously a COMPLETE rip-off of Justin Beiber's "Baby"could get 77 million Youtube views in a mere 3 weeks.


Now onto some real music.

I am committing myself to write a review on one song per week.  Lets call it "JJ's Song of the Week."
There's only two criteria by which I will judge.

A) I have to like it
B) There HAS to be somebody playing the piano in the song!

I know I'm way biased. :)

The winner this week goes to.......

"Somebody Like You" by Adele
Click here to watch her youtube video

    There's just something about Adele's soulful voice, heart-felt lyrics, and warm melodies that just get me every time.  There are so many break up songs out there that are filled with things of anger, regret, and remorse.  In "Somebody Like You," Adele turns the other cheek to bitterness, by proclaiming her love and respect for her former lover and by looking at the bright side of things.  The bridge sums up the story best;

Nothing compares,
No worries or cares,
Regrets and mistakes, they're memories made,
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste? 

Killer lyrics.  Boom.  Now lets talk music.  First of all, for those of you who watched the youtube link, wouldn't you just LOVE to be the pianist?  Nothing more classic than a black guy wearing black shades wearing all black playing a black, upright piano.

The music behind the lyrics of "Somebody Like You" fit together like a hand in a glove.  The perfect mix of major and minor chords in the progression go along well with the bittersweetness of the song.  The simplicity of the piano riff together with Adele's burning passion in her voice have certainly pulled the heartstrings of listeners around the world.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

BYU's Got Talent

                 One day, I was in the basement of the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU and I saw a poster for BYU's Got Talent.  I then thought to myself, "Hey, why not sign up for this thing?"

       Afterwards, I immediately sent a text to Andy Thomson, my good friend and go-to violinist.  We met in Poland and performed together for the first time in Warsaw at a concert on the last night of my mission trip there.  We performed Mozart's "O, Divine Redeemer."
    I then began to write a violin part for the piano piece I had written entitled, "Light Shadows."  By adding a violin part, I was able to add richness  to the piece by giving the melody to the violin and adding more depth to the piano accompaniment.
    Since this was my first time writing anything for violin, Andy assisted in  writing the violin part by teaching me certain techniques of the violin that can be used.
     The method of judging was similar to that of "America's Got Talent."  Basically it all comes down to audience choice.  However, instead of texting in your vote, at the end of the show the audience gets the opportunity to cheer for each contestant.  Whoever gets the loudest cheers according to the decibel reader wins.  There are three preliminary shows; one in September, October, and November.  The finals are in December.  The top two contestants, along with an additional "judge's pick," advance to the finals.  Therefore, there will be nine contestants in the finals.
 There were 12 contestants in the first show, including us.  The contestants varied from singers, guitarists, actors, and even a yo-yo tandem act.

Some acts were amazing, and others, well....not so much.  I thought that the judges were a bit nice to the ones that weren't as good.  Someone call Simon please!

       Overall our performance went really well.  The passion was there and we just had a good time with it.  Definitely missed a few notes, but apparently no one who I've talked to even noticed.  The judges told us that we needed to "interact more on stage...."   (Still not sure exactly what they mean by that.  What were we supposed to do---jump up and down on the piano???)  but overall they loved the performance.
        Apparently, everyone else loved it too.  Andy and I took first place overall. The yo-yo tandem group took second  (they were amazing!  dancing all over the place, doing stunts, while doing yo-yo tricks!) and a theater performance major  who re-enacted various scenes from different movies took third.  We will all advance to the finals in December.  I am really excited for it, since it should be really competitive, entertaining,  and free of any wanna-bees.

        (This isn't the actual performance, but we will make sure the finals performance is recorded!)

I'd like to thank everyone who made it out for the show.  It wouldn't have been the same without you guys!  When we were up on the stage for the final announcement of the winners, I got a little teary-eyed seeing all our friends who came to support us.  It wouldn't have mattered to me if we got last place, because I knew that we tried our best and I knew that we had some of the best people in the world out there supporting us.  Hope to see everyone again in December!
Even my Mission President, Torben Enbjerg and his wife, Anette flew all the way from Denmark to see the show!  (Actually they were in town for the Poland Warsaw Mission reunion, but they got to see us perform in the meantime)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall Semester 2010

         A new chapter in life has begun.  A new semester, new friends, new roommates, new apartment, new classes, new teachers, and a new adventure.  Having a fresh start can be a wonderful thing, and thus far this semester has been wonderful.  Although I have been incredibly busy and sometimes stressed out, my life is filled with exciting endeavors and I am doing what I love to do.

      I decided to take a full load of classes this term (16.5 credits).  This is the most I have taken in my entire life.  I probably ought to drop one of the classes, but all of them are just so fascinating that I can't bear to do it!  My class schedule includes Music Theory III, Sight Singing III, Audio Principles, Acoustics, Projects for Music in the Media, Electronic Music Composition, and private recording studio lessons.   

     As the semester goes on, I will try to post samples of the projects I'm working on to give you all an idea of what I'm doing.

On friday I started working on a piece that would fit well into an action movie.  I've only finished 2 minutes of it and it's nowhere even close to being finished, but what the heck, I'll show you what I've got so far.  :)  You can listen to what I have so far by pressing the play button on the right hand side of the blog.