Song: Dark Knight

Listen online:last.fm

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“Dark Knight” is one of my oldest compositions.  I wrote the initial 8-10 measures as a sophomore in high school, but it took several years before I finally dedicated the time to produce a full-length battle theme from the original motif.  In this form I’m not even sure it embodies its title, but since it’s been known as “Dark Knight” for so long, I guess it deserves to stay that way.

My biggest hurdle in completing this song was the ungodly 5/4 time signature.  (I think I was tempted to try 5/4 after hearing FF8‘s excellent battle theme.)  Up front, I didn’t anticipate much difficulty working with a 5-beat pattern, but now I can unequivocally state: it’s a major p.i.t.a.  When done properly, however, the climatic feel of 5/4 is hard to beat.

I’ll let you decide whether or not “Dark Knight” constitutes “done properly”, haha… :)

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"Dark Knight" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Crossroads

Listen online:last.fm

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“Crossroads” was written well before the Britney Spears movie, lest any of you think there’s some kind of connection between the two.

There isn’t.  I promise.

“Crossroads” has been the character theme of several unfinished game characters.  Generally, it seems to embody a secondary party member who – in typical fashion – has something to prove but not necessarily the means to prove it.  Using what was, for a time, my trademark mix of instruments (gotta love the ol’ charang), this is another harmonically simple piece with a simple but catchy melody.  I firmly believe that the best “theme” songs are actually thematic in nature…something often lost in modern video game and film scores.  Theme songs should have a recognizable “theme”, i.e. something that you could sit down and plink out on a piano and know right away what it was from.

I’d like to think that “Crossroads” has such a theme.  Something simple, something memorable.

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"Crossroads" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Clowns

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As a “ha ha” (think Nelson Muntz) to music professors everywhere, I wrote “Clowns” – a song that breaks just about every traditional rule for songwriting.  I feel the need to say that up front so no one thinks I wrote “Clowns” under the impression it was a harmonically sound piece of music.

Because it’s not.  If I have to explain this song to Bach in the next life, I’m in big trouble.

The instrumentation of “Clowns” is completely arbitrary: organ, sawtooth, charang and timpani?  Honestly!  Parallel fifths and harmonizing errors run amuck (not unlike a good Foo Fighters album, heh)… and yet the song is almost clever.  Some may even find it catchy.  Personally, the song drives me insane but it fulfilled its role – to prove that music can be written while disobeying all rules of tradition.  Sometimes it’s fun to bust out of the traditional mold and throw down something funky like this.

Just don’t hate me if “Clowns” gets stuck in your head for a lot longer than you’d like.

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"Clowns" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Now or Never

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This song would sound 100% better with a real orchestra and choir behind it.  One of the unfortunate downfalls of MIDI is the extreme difficulty in getting synthesized instruments to sound “full”.  As an orchestral battle march, “Now or Never” certainly demonstrates this.

In writing this piece, I envisioned a captain touring his camp, readying his troops for the morning when they will stand and fight in defense of their homeland.  Soldiers are shining their boots, checking and double-checking their guns, and the captain inspires each with a gentle nod and a grim smile.

“Now or Never” was purposely designed to be a notch below the intensity of actual VG battle music, and is instead a preparatory or preliminary battle theme.  As such, there is much less percussion, and the driving beat is left instead to the accompanying strings.

Creative Commons License

"Now or Never" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Surreptitious

Download song: mp3 MIDI

Every time I hear this song, I think of sneaking around in a castle.  In fact, it sounds like it belongs in FF9 during the scene where Steiner runs around looking for Princess Garnet.  Fitting, eh?

Surreptitious is still very unfinished, as you can hear.  It is still in need of more “filling out” and the current version tends toward repetition (especially toward the end).  That said, the new mp3 arrangement certainly adds some depth to the piece, and hopefully this song will someday get the full treatment it deserves.

“Hopefully.” :)

Creative Commons License

"Surreptitious" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Ominosity

Download song: mp3 MIDI

Ominosity. Such a clever name.  Hehe.

I hate naming songs (I’ve got no less than twelve unfinished songs with the name “Battle” ), so I get excited when I actually think up something witty.  Simple things for simple minds, as they say.

A couple experiments are taking place as you listen to this song.  First, I decided to write something in 6/4 just because I could.  I’d never used this time signature before “Ominosity”, so what you’re hearing is my trial run.  (Note that I’d already tried 5/4 with “Dark Knight”, and I have no plans for trying 7/4 anytime soon.) Second, I wanted to stick as much as possible to using only complete minor scales.  Don’t ask me why I wanted to try such a thing, because I don’t have an answer for you.  I guess I was bored.

What amazes me is how well the minor scales ended up working for a song like this.  This was also one of my more fitting drum lines.  The cymbal work in this nothing short of masterful (especially for a hand-entered MIDI drum track!).

I suppose that part of the inspiration for Ominosity came from Metallica’s S&M album.  There is something so cool about a full orchestra and rock band playing together, and Michael Kamen really outdid himself with the orchestral work on that album.  In that spirit, here is a tribute to one of the more influential bands in recent rock history.

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"Ominosity" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Bloody Tears (Castlevania II Remix)

Listen online:last.fm

Download song: mp3 Ogg FLAC

Although I’ve never played any of the Castlevania games (shame on me), I’ve long been a fan of their stellar soundtracks.  So it seemed appropriate to contribute a modernized remix in honor of a series of great, great music.

“Bloody Tears” is one of my favorite Castlevania MIDIs and although I didn’t write this song (full composition credit goes to the Konami Kukeica Club) or sequence this particular arrangement (Ricoberto Dones deserves full credit for that), I did arrange the instruments and fill out much of the accompaniment. I don’t know how this song sounds in the actual Castlevania II game, but this remix is pretty loud…

Hope you like it, and kudos to Kenichi Matsubara, Masahiro Ikariko, Kazuhiko Uehara, and T-San for their brilliant original rendition.

Creative Commons License
This remix of “Bloody Tears” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Rights to the original song are retained by the Konami Kukeica Club.