Musical Talents of Famous Martial Arts Actors

I just realized that some of the famous martial arts actors have a musical talent under their sleeves. This post popped in my mind while I was listening to High Upon High by Jackie Chan during my weekly workout. I’ve seen some videos of an interview or an event where they perform something beyond their combat skills. I’m impressed with what these guys can do. Just take a look at what each actor has to offer.

Jackie Chan

You probably know this already, but I’ll include it here anyway. Aside from doing stunts, Jackie is also good in singing. He recorded tracks for his movies, including Drunken Master 2 and Armour of God. He also sang the Chinese version of I’ll Make a Man Out of You for the Disney movie Mulan. back when he was a child, he had vocal lessons at the Peking Opera School. He has released over 20 albums from which he sang in different languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Japanese, and Taiwanese.

David Carradine

Known by the older audiences (nope, far older than me) as Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu and known by the younger audiences as Bill from Kill Bill, David Carradine can also play the guitar and flute. He can actually make flutes out of bamboo, and you can see him playing one of them in the mentioned movie. As a guitarist, he was a member of the band called Soul Dogs. They play in small venues and charity events.

Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen’s hand-speed is top-notch as you can see in his movies like Ip Man and Flashpoint, so it’s not surprising that he can utilize such skill for playing the piano. Donnie actually belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother was a soprano and a martial arts teacher while his father is a violinist, so he was taught to play different instruments at a very young age. You can actually see him playing the piano in his movie Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. He plays classical music like what you’ll see in this video…

Tony Jaa

This is the most surprising part for me. I had no clue that Tony Jaa can actually rap. This wasn’t explicitly mentioned in any of his online profiles. Probably he’s doing it for fun, but I still find it cool. I mean, how many actors can you name as a spit artist and martial artist rolled into one? Here’s a video interview where he showed this hidden talent. He’s rapping in Thai language.

It’s good to learn new skills. Like these martial arts actors, I hope you get inspired to learn something new too, even beyond the field of music. Find it, and show the world the talented person that you are. (~^_^)~

Rocksmith 2014 – A Faster and Fun Way to Learn Guitar

A few months ago, I bought Rocksmith 2014 to fill my basics in guitar playing. My initial thought is that I will be able to practice while also playing a game (for the gamer that I am), and I was not disappointed. It’s fun as a game, but it also borders as a guitar learning software. Here are some of the features that made this a faster and fun way to learn guitar.

  1. Tracks – When you start a new game, you’ll be asked to choose which track of guitar playing are you planning to learn. The three options are Bass, Lead, and Rhythm. Each option will affect how the practice songs will be presented to you. The rhythm will be more focused on strumming the chords. Lead will be heavy on plucking. And bass will play the bass guitar part.
  2. Lessons – This is my favorite part of the game. The lessons’ options are made up of a lot of items ranging from the most basic things like Picking 101 to Advance Chords. I thought I can skip to some of the lessons since I can play several songs, but after performing poorly in the power chords lesson, I was obliged to run through each lesson until I completed it to 100%. This feature is really useful since it made me aware of my wrong habits and practices in guitar playing. The lessons are usually divided to three parts:
    Lesson Screen for Rocksmith 2014

    Lesson Screen for Rocksmith 2014

    1. Lesson Proper – The concept will be taught to you in a video lesson so you can imitate it with your own guitar.
    2. Trial Playthrough – Here, you’ll play a segment of musical notes that focuses on the chosen lesson. For example, if the lesson is about slides, then you’ll encounter notes that prompt you to slide from one fret to another.
    3. Practice – The last part will let you play a longer segment of musical notes. If you performed well by hitting around 90% of accuracy and technique, then the segment will transform into a more challenging sequence. With this, you will need to repeat the lesson (you can skip to the practice part) until you reach the lesson completion to 100%.
  3. Learn A Song – This is one of the features that make this an authentic video game. The format is just like the rhythm games you play in the arcades like Guitar Freaks and Rock Band except that it’s displaying the fret board of a guitar and not the orthodox three to five buttons. The camera moves accordingly so the transition from one note or chord to another is smooth and not obtrusive to your gaming experience. There are also more notations to remember since you’re dealing with chords, slides, pulls, hammers, etc., but you’ll get the hang of it if you go through the lessons. It also has tool called Riff Repeater. It lets you select a segment of the song that you want to practice. You can adjust the difficulty which will determine what notes you are going to play for that segment. Basically, the 100% difficulty is the actual chord of the song. The lower difficulties will transform it to an easier chord (e.g. barre chord becomes a power chord) or to a single note for the lowest setting. You’ll play this segment again and again until you hit all the notes right. After this, there’s an optional setting to increase the difficulty and replay the segment or proceed to play the next part of the song. To know more about the feature. See the guide video below.
  4. Guitarcade – These are minigames that practice the different parts of guitar playing. One game might test you in playing the scales while another game will test in regulating the volume of your strum. All games are presented in 8-bit retro style which is a lot of fun to play. It has leaderboards that submits your score via UPlay account. If you need a break from the lessons and songs, this is a good diversion while still practicing your guitar skills.
  5. Missions –  This is  your main guide on what to do next. It will also show the features that you possibly haven’t explored yet. There was one mission that required me to use the riff repeater, and from there I got my resolve that I could really learn each song because of this tool. This feature is also aided with markers that stick with the game’s menu items. If you see the Rocksmith logo beside the session play, then it’s part of your current mission. Once you’ve fulfilled the requirement, the logo will be removed. It makes the entire learning process more intuitive. However, there are times that the mission may still seem unclear and will leave you wondering what you need to do. Don’t fret (pun-pun-pun). You can go to the forums and seek some advice. Chances are, that part is already resolved by your fellow players. If not, the community will be there to help you.

    Missions will serve as your guide for all of Rocksmith's features and learning path.

    Missions will serve as your guide for all of Rocksmith’s features and learning path.

Some Clarifications

  • What do I need to play the game?
    • You need an actual electric guitar, a copy of Rocksmith 2014 game, and a Rocksmith™ Real Tone Cable. If you buy the game on game shops, the copy is already bundled with the cable. If you buy the game from steam, you’ll have to buy the cable separately.
  • Can I use my Steam account if I purchase the game from a game shop?
    • Yes. The copy also comes with a key which you can redeem from steam. After installation, it will be added to your account’s library. You won’t need to insert the disc again.
  • Can I use my acoustic guitar?
    • YES. As long as it has a pickup where you can plug the Real Tone Cable.
  • What guitar brands are supported by the game?
    • Technically, it should support any brand, but I suggest that you use a mainstream brand like Epiphone. I’m currently using Yamaha EG112C.
  • Can I plug other types of instruments?
    • NO. You can only use a guitar. There’s actually a feature called  Session Play that will let you play with a wide range of accompaniment based on the notes that you play, but all of the sounds will be provided by the game and not from an actual plugged instrument. The said feature is pretty impressive, and you can create a lot of possible combinations.

I won’t claim that this is the best way to learn because I really value the importance of an actual teacher. However, if you’re someone who wants to play the guitar and is looking for other options to learn, then I suggest that you give Rocksmith a try. It has a 60-day challenge program that will boost your current skill level. You can even share your experience with fellow players. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next great rockstar of this generation. Enjoy playing and rock on! (~^_^)~

A Night of Indie Music – Dirty Deeds 2 at Route 196

I went to Route 196 last Wednesday with my friend stump3d to watch some indie bands including my college orgmate, Jai Barrientos. This was the second event that was produced by DiRTY DEEDS Productions, with the first one held a couple of years back. All five bands had a distinct beat and well diverse types of genre, from techno to hard rock, that will suit the taste of any music enthusiast. Here’s a glimpse of their performances.

BPM

Lazaro

Mr.Dirty

Parada

Jai Barrientos

After the program, some of the audience had the chance to jam with the band members. It was a fun night! As for the place, the space is just right to enjoy the band up-close. The ambiance is cozy, and the drinks are quite cheaper compared to other music bars. I recommend that you try to visit the place for a night. A lot of the performers here are indie musicians so you’ll hear original compositions, but there are performers who do covers if that is your thing. Just check Route 196’s facebook page for daily updates of the bar’s guest performers. Let’s support the local indie music industry! (~^_^)~

 

DiRTY DEEDS 2 @ Route 196

Useful Mobile Apps for Aspiring Musicians

Music is one of my effective stress-relievers, so sometimes I just strum away for some random jam or experiment on some new combinations of tunes. As much as I would like to compose with instruments alone or play a song only by hearing the tune, my musical background (or lack thereof) isn’t just enough to do such things. With this, I get some help from these music applications to get my fix.

Pano Tuner

This is by far, the most accurate guitar tuner that I’ve used for mobile phones. The tuner’s less sensitive, compared to the couple of other tuner apps that I used before, it can even gauge chords from a pre-recorded sound. As one of my bandmates suggested, this app can also be used to gauge your voice if you’re singing the right tune. Best of all, it’s for free!

Pano Tuner Main Screen (courtesy of panoapps.net)

GarageBand

The flagship music software of Apple made portable for the iOS devices. Get access touch instruments and recording tools and create some cool tracks like a pro. Types of instruments include keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. The app also includes an audio recorder and amplifier effects. It also boasts a feature called smart instruments, which will enable the user to create music by mixing chord combinations and play patters from different types of instruments, somewhat like Music Shake’s music editor. I’m most impressed with the virtual guitar as it can accurately simulate your strum in the touch device. You can even do multi-touch bend and sustain with it. Moreover, it provides more opportunities for collaboration and sharing. You can do some live recording with your other bandmates over Wi-Fi. You can share your works on-the-fly through facebook, soundcloud, youtube, or AirDrop for iOS. Your save data can also be synchronized for all of your devices through iCloud. The core application is free, but you need to buy an in-app purchase to unlock all the smart instruments. Though this can be used for iPhones and iPods, I think it’s dsign is more utilized for iPads. Heck, you can use multiple devices to create an entire music accompaniment of a song, especially if you connect the audio output to mixers or amplifiers. Don’t believe me? Watch this!

Walk Band (formerly Perfect Piano)

A company outside google made an Android user’s answer to GarageBand. You can even see the resemblance with the app’s user interface. This application evolved from a virtual piano to a multi-instrument learning tool.  The app has a corresponding feature for Keyboard, Guitar, Drum Pad, Bass, and Drum Machine (mixer), with the first four having subcategories for a more precise set of tunes (e.g. the keyboards has Rhodes, Bright, Organ, etc.).  The app also features multi-track recording and midi-device support, playing inputs from actual midi devices like midi keyboard. You just need a USB2GO cable for interfacing. One big edge that this app has over Garage Band is that you get all the features for free. For some reason, there’s a google play entry for a premium version, but it has the same description as the free version. I tried it with my SamSung Galaxy Note 8.0, and the features listed there are already available.  Just like Garage Band, you can do full band collaborations using your android devices. I like this one better since it shows multiple instruments in real-time play and not an edited collection of solo videos.

Ultimate-Guitar

From the website of the same name, the app not only features the chords and tabs of your favorite songs, it also includes powerful features such as metronome, tuner (though I prefer Pano Tuner), interactive tabs complete with loop and tempo control and track separations, plus chord and tab sharing. Long-time users of the site will feel right at home with the app as it emulates the user interface of the song entries, including the auto-scroll feature and chord chart tooltips. The app is not for free, but you’ll get a great deal with the functionality that you’ll get for 134.37 pesos (one-time purchase for all of your devices with similar mobile OS).

Chord Entry for a Song (courtesy of mobiles24.com)

There, I hope I piqued your interest to create some unique music of your own. It’s really fun to play with random tunes and come up with something you’ll love to listen to. Who knows, maybe it will pave your way to actually get more serious with learning music and start making some advanced compositions and collaborations. Until then, happy sound trip! (~^_^)~

 

My Top JPOP Song Revivals and Renditions

I seldom see some JPOP songs get revived by other artists, whether Japanese or non-Japanese, that’s why I thought of writing this post. One local artist actually made it to my list. Can you guess who that is? Well, read on to find out. 😉

Combatler V – TK+9 Factory

I consider the original version as one of the most intense robot anime opening song that I’ve ever heard. My teammate and I even listened to this song during our overtime work to rejuvenate our spirit LOL. The revived version, performed by TK+9 Factory transformed it to something more rock. The result may diverge from its accustomed tune, but I think it fits more with the other modern anime themes, besides, the same level of energy is still in tact with the song. Just watch the video above, and you’ll see what I mean.

Love So Sweet – Glay

Yes, you’re not mistaken. A JROCK band revived a song from the famous JPOP boy band Arashi. Originally a theme song to the JDrama version of “Hana Yori Dango”, this song was performed in one of Glay‘s concert. To be honest, I’m still seeking the boy band type of voice that fits with this song, but then again the live performance and the musicality that comes with it (Arashi just danced with the song  while Glay actually played it XD) make it an impressive performance.

Zutto Kimi no Soba De – Oystars(?)

I’m sorry, but I’m not that sure if Oystars was the one who sang this version XD. All I know is that they did a great job considering that the original one was sung by a female singer, Yuki Masuda. For those of you who were too young to know (ouch), this was the second ending song to the anime Flame of Recca. The opening song was performed by Oystars, hence the speculation haha. For those of you who haven’t watched the series, the Filipino version is currently aired so give it a try. One of the pretty decent series I’ve watched back in my *cough* *cough* high school days.

Cha-La Head-Cha-La – Gino Padilla / Flow

For this entry, I included two versions. The first one is from the famous JRock band Flow. This one was used for the recently released DBZ movie “Battle of Gods”. Even though I was disappointed with the movie, the revived song was pretty cool and gave justice to the original version. The other version I included here was actually performed by Gino Padilla. Yep, that same local artist who sang the theme song for an old Close-Up commercial. This version was used for the promotion of one of the DBZ Movies that was shown here in the Philippines, “The Greatest Rival” where Goku fought against Frieza’s brother Cooler. The translation is pretty decent, though some of the measures had to be adjusted, overall it sounded great.

1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou – Flow

Okay, as much I want to avoid entries from the same artist, I guess Flow just knows how to make a kick-ass revival of an anime song. If you’re a self-proclaimed Otaku and you don’t know where this song came from, shame on you LOL. For the others, this song was originally the 6th ending song of the anime  Rurouni KenshinI actually like the new song better. Compare the song with Siam Shade’s version and see for yourself. It seemed like the song evolved to a greater level due to the new arrangement. I’m excited to see their next target song (*_*).

I know that there are other songs that I missed with my limited knowledge of the Japanese music industry, so if you have any recommendations in mind, feel free to post it in the comments section. Now, time to replay 1/3 again. (~^_^)~

Some Unexpected Performances from OPM Artists

I’m not quite updated with the latest music videos, but back then (i.e. before I reached the age of 21 *cough* *cough*), I watch MTV, Channel V, and MYX a lot. During those times, there were occasional shocks and awes that I get from some of the music videos that I see as out of character, based on how I know the artist. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them XD. Here are some of the OPM music videos that surprised me in more ways than one.

Halaga – Parokya ni Edgar

Boy band formation set in a beach, that’s not the first thing that crosses my mind when I think of  Parokya ni Edgar. Released in 1999 under album Gulong Itlog Gulong, this song became famous not only because of the appealing lyrics but also because of the dance moves that were associated with it. There were more unorthodox performances that came after this, but the music video showed how far the band’s wise antics can bring them. Everything else was less unexpected.

Doobidoo – Kamikazee

From a band with equally crazy antics as Parokya ni Edgar, Kamikazee made their own rendition of Doobidoo, originally popularized by the APO Hiking Society. I remember during one of their live performances, Gim Paredes was shocked when he heard the scream after the first line of the song. That moment was priceless (lol). Just when I thought the cover was surprising, the music video was insane to say the least, but it’s the entertaining type of insanity. Yeah, Indian theme for the win! (lol)

Limang Dipang Tao – Barbie’s Cradle

I know Barbie’s Cradle with their feel good and soothing melodies like Torpe and Tabing Ilog. However, I was surprised to see this jumpy music video of their own version of Limang Dipang Tao, a song composed by Ryan Cayabyab. I never thought that Barbie Almalbis could pull off ballet and sharona dance moves. This is probably her cutest performance ever! (*_*) Sorry, I got carried away. Just see the video so you’ll know what I mean.

Well, I guess that’s my top three. Anything else I can think of has not much of an impact. Besides, I posted something about Barbie, so I’m happy already (hahaha spare my fanboy side XD). Anything I missed? Please post in the comments section. I would love to see more surprising music videos. (~^_^)~

My Work Music

There are times when you have to be “in the zone” , but your focus is just too rebellious to stay in one place. In such cases, a good music can help us create a barrier from the outside world, set our pace, and push ourselves back on  what we’re suppose to do. Here are some of my sample work music to keep me pumped in my tasks XD.

Sad Run – City Hunter OST

This song only lasts for one minute and 42 seconds, but that length is enough to give me the productivity rush I need. By the way, the Korean version of City Hunter also knows how to program, so it adds to the immersion. Okay LMH fangirls, no need to complain, I’m only immersing myself to the character and not the actor :P.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Main Theme

Skyrim fans will all agree that this main theme is one of the reasons that makes Skyrim a great game (among other things).  The song is geared towards  the epic theme complete with battle-cry accompaniment. This is just right to set the mood in battling the big tasks ahead.

I’ll Make a Man out of You – Mulan

This is the best music to listen to if you want to feel like a soldier preparing for a war. It’s suitable since most of our work is deadline-driven, so consider this as your motivational speech to take the challenge.

Guren no Yumiya – Attack on Titan

The first time I watched Attack on Titan, I repeated the opening song like three times before proceeding to the rest of the episode. The music is just too awesome to play it once. Okay, the song is in Japanese, so if you don’t want to listen to something you don’t understand, then you can pass on this. As for the others who are contented to hear great tunes or patient enough to look for the translation, savor yourself into this heart-pounding piece that will keep your blood running.

Shaider (Tagalog Version)

All Filipino children of 90’s should recognize the memorable tokusatsu series like Maskman and Shaider. What makes it more awesome that time were the tagalized versions of the opening songs. The lyrics’ translation for Shaider just describes how bad-ass he is in so many ways. Imagine comparing yourself as a thunder summoned from the heavens, durable tree under a typhoon,  and a great and noble police, how can you possibly beat that??? It can almost make you scream “I can do this!” to every obstacle that you face. Well, almost.

I have a lot more work songs that I can include, but might as well limit this post to five. Just remember, listening to music at work should help you focus more with the tasks at hand and not give you more distractions. Now, I’m curious on the songs that you guys listen to (~^_^)~