preview: Pokemon – Red/Blue

Hi again! Wow, Groundhog’s Day with Beta Test Music is just 2 days away.  Remember to get your tickets in advance HERE and save some money.  We all like doing that.  Anyhow, here’s Steve with a preview of his awesome Pokemon Red/Blue medley!

Hi again.  So Doug told me to keep my posts under 1000 words.  We’ll see how that goes hahaha.  Let’s take a look into my musicial selections for my medley of music from Pokemon- Red/Blue.

First Impressions:

Pokemon is the undisputed best selling RPG of all time.  The series has made BILLIONS of dollars for Nintendo.  The characters from the games and anime are instantly recognizable… and so is the music.  This was another game I really wanted to cover with Beta Test.  There are sooo many fans of the series and so many remixes of these tunes.  I really felt like Beta Test should have their own Pokemon medley.  I wanted to present a piece that invokes the nostalgia of being young again and using Game Genie to cheat and catch 30 Mews… or… uh…  maybe something more wholesome – like stealing your friend’s Pokemon cards…. well… maybe being a youngster wasn’t all that fun, in retrospect.

The point is- MANY of us played and loved this game.  And it would be nice to have a moment where we can all sit down and enjoy the game together.  Also, I thought it would be super fun to play… and it really is.

I’ll also credit MissingnoXpert‘s Let’s Glitch Pokemon Yellow series for inspiring me to get this work completed.  And, just so you know, I’m not using any cheating devices right now.

Musical Selections:

Pokemon – 1st Generation, composer:  Junichi Masuda

So, and I just learned this today actually, the game came BEFORE the anime series.  The music in the anime series is actually based off the original compositions for the game by Junichi Masuda.  And here I was going to go on and on about how this music was adapted from the anime.  I’m glad I looked that up first.  Sheesh.  I love the Information Age!

Okay, so without going into incredible detail about sound, the music was written for Gameboy, meaning there should be only 3 polyphonic voices that really have to be mapped to instruments.  It also means that well… some of these lines will be very difficult to play on real instruments because Gameboy sound programmers usually take advantage digital sound’s speed.  I would have to tread lightly.

I also didn’t want to bore the audience terribly.  Each town has a theme, each cave has a theme, etc- a lot of these are just incidental.  For instance, does anyone really have an attachment to this?:

I mean, we all probably remember SOMETHING about Mt. Moon… but all I remember is spamming Repels and being annoyed by it.  This is actually an interesting track… but in terms of performance, we may as well just be Jigglypuff.

A lot of the town themes were kind of clunkers too.  Don’t get me wrong, they fit into the game really well but in terms of performance?  Not so much:

(Mark should cover that on toy piano, actually…. just a side thought.)

Anyhow, I decided that it would be a lot more fun to create a Pokemon medley that gives you the experience of turning on the Gameboy, loading your file, and getting into a fight- a small narrative if you will.  It was a little artsy, even for me, but I felt like that was the best way to treat the game.  So, here’s what I did.

Performance Considerations:

This piece was originally arranged for Beta Test’s old configuration (clarinet, tenor sax, trombone, tuba, piano, and drums).  I had to rearrange it for the new set up (soprano sax, french horn, trombone, tuba, and drums).  I removed the piano in the new version for simplicity.

So, back to my “narrative”.  What happens when you turn on your Gameboy to play Pokemon?

Pokemon – “Opening”

Boom – this intro.  I figured I would start off with this.  I consulted the anime/Super Smash Bros versions of this particular song to add some extra color.  I placed the upper lines in the soprano sax.  The french horn gets a chance to lay into those counter-melody responses (much like in the anime version of the song).  Tuba holds down the bass and the drums provides a steady beat.  This clip above, actually, shows pretty much how long this section will take.

Now, let’s load our file.

Pokemon – “PokeCenter”

We load the file and find ourselves in the PokeCenter.  When I used to play, I remember saving MANY times in the PokeCenter, especially while changing Boxes or getting ready to turn the game off.  I felt it would be reasonable to assume that you may find yourself starting here, checking your Pokemon, and leaving.

For this, I made it a “low end” solo.  I have the tuba take the melody, trombone take the bass, and french horn, which loves to play upbeats, play upbeats.  It’s cute.  I hope I don’t crack a note.

So, let’s walk out of the PokeCenter then, shall we?

Pokemon – “Cerulean City”

Oh, we’re in Cerulean City.  Cool.

For this, I covered it straight up.  I have soprano sax take the lead voice.  French horn gets to rest for a bit.  Trombone and tuba split the bottom voice (upbeats and downbeats respectively).  Right before it repeats, I have the soprano sax drop out and let the 3 brass instruments have a nice little chorale.

Let’s say we want to LEAVE Cerulean City.  It’s kind of boring…. so we’d probably:

Pokemon – “Bicycle Theme”

Get on our bike!  That’s a good idea.  We can get out of the city and try to find some Pokemon trainers to fight!  I included a version of this song above that is 10 hours long.  Enjoy!

I have soprano sax cover the upper line and trade off with the trombone half way through.  Because I’m a total maniac, I assigned the tuba to play ALL of the lower voiced notes here…. so both downbeats and upbeats.  We’ll see how well I do at the concert.  It’s really hard!  I’ll need to find a way to take a breath since well… computers don’t breathe.

Okay, we leave the city and bike around until-

Pokemon – “Female Trainer Encounter!”

YOU ENCOUNTER A LASS!  OH NO!  And her heroic battlecry:  “My boyfriend is cool!”   :/  I… see.

Covering this is easy – I have the band play it for a couple seconds so we can contemplate what the Lass is trying to say…  and then!

Pokemon – “Trainer Battle”

Lass sends out Jigglypuff and we’re not impressed.

Soprano sax takes over the upper line.  It was nearly impossible to figure out a way to get the other instruments to play the opening lick, by the way.  So at the beginning, the rest of the band kind of just… makes some hits while the soprano sax drives us into a new tempo.

The piece is a straight up cover.  Tuba covers the bass lines (both the downbeat and upbeat… which is tough… again).  Trombone takes over some of the melody as we go through.  French horn is assigned to kind of bridge the gap between all the of the parts.  It should be SUPER EFFECTIVE!  Yes.

Now that we’ve ultimately embarrassed the Lass…

Pokemon – “Trainer Victory Theme”

We win!  Yey.

I have tuba play the melody here again, in a trio set up with the trombone and french horn.  Soprano sax enters and we wind down to the end of the piece.

Opps, that’s like 1350~ words.  Oh well!  I got too excited, clearly.


A fainted Jigglypuff.  To hear us perform this live, you’re going to need to be at Beta Test Music‘s show this Saturday, February 2nd, in Philadelphia – “Groundhog’s Day with Beta Test Music“.  I hope to see you guys out there.  I have ONE MORE little blog post for tomorrow for you guys.  Stay tuned!

Check back soon for more posts from the Beta Testers!  And don’t forget to come see us play the music from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Earthbound, and MUCH more on February 2nd at the First Unitarian Church. Tell your friends!  Be like:  BRO, THERE’S THIS AWESOME GAME MUSIC CONCERT AND IT’S GOING TO BE SO COOL AND WE HAVE TO GO.  Or just ask politely.  Remember, advanced tickets are cheaper than at the door!  Mathematical! 

preview – Earthbound

Hi again folks!  Our show is this Saturday and we’re still having some of the Beta Testers provide sneak peaks into their arrangements.  Today, Steve will provide a small peak into his medley of music from Earthbound.  Enjoy!

Great!  Hi again folks!  Today, I’ll discuss my arrangement of tunes from Nintendo and HAL Lab’s Earthbound (Mother 2).

First Impressions:

I’ve always wanted to do a medley of the music from Earthbound.  The game has a massive cult following.  There are people who are very loyal to the series, especially since the 1st and 3rd installments of the series were never officially released in the US.  I’ll be honest, I never really gave Earthbound a good play-through.  I think I got to Winters and stopped or something.  It was long ago.

Strangely, my idea to do this medley was actually inspired by the music from Mother 3.  I recently finished playing through the fan-translation version of the game and was enamored with the gameplay and story.  It got me listening to Earthbound‘s music again and I figured it was finally time to do a proper medley of the music.

Musical Selections:

Earthbound/Mother 2, composer(s):  Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka

(Disclaimer: Because I know hardcore EB fans will blister me about this, I’m aware of the “controversy” between the shared composition of this game and that many of you feel that Tanaka gets too much credit for the soundtrack.  I’m still listing him here, though.)

I was first astonished by the size of this soundtrack!  This soundtrack is a massive 122 tracks of music.  It took me a long time to wade through.  Still, there’s a lot of good choices for our set up.  Much of music is in a “jazz big band” style and setting.  We have a soprano sax, french horn, a trombone, a tuba, keyboard, and drum set.

My early favorites for covering were, in no particular order, “Pokey Means Business”“Demo Intro”, any of the town themes (I had already arranged “Winters” for Beta Test’s last show), “Saturn Valley”, and maybe really any of the battle themes.  I figured that doing a whole “Runaway Five” set would be cool too, especially because of our instrumentation… but I also felt like that could literally be its own medley.

I also realized this game had a lot of tracks that, well, would not work with our group.  A lot of the battle themes are very atmospheric and crazy.  For example:


Yeah.  Uh, I didn’t think a trombone could make some of these sounds so I had to pass.  Though, I love these tunes.  Anyhow, let’s see how this turns out.

Performance Considerations:

One of the things I realized right away is that tuba did not fit in the medley.  I could use it to cover “Saturn Valley” but it just wouldn’t provide the right sound for many of the heavy bass driven tracks.  So while I had originally planned on having tuba, I decided to write the piece for soprano sax, french horn, trombone, bass guitar, toy piano, and drums instead.  And yes, I added toy piano.  You’ll see how that fits in in a moment.

The completed piece is a medley but structured in three movements.  This gives us the option to pause between pieces for instrument changes or what have you.  On February 2nd, however, we will be performing it without stops.

Earthbound – Opening Credits

I felt like this is the perfect opener to the medley.  The piece could actually stand alone as an opener, really.

The best part of this piece is the instrumentation.  It’s like it was perfectly designed for our ensemble.  I put the “trumpet” line in soprano sax.  French horn would serve as a “trombone 1” and trombone could cover the lower trombone sounds in the piece.  Bass would play… well… bass.  There’s bound to be some parts missing in the drums because of the dense texture but I tried my best to figure that out.

Also, there is a CRAZY, almost “just for effect” triplet run at around :44.  Yeah, I kind of wrote something else there.  There’s no way we could make that sound like music haha.

Earthbound – Onett

So yeah, I did choose to include some town themes.  I figured that these are tracks that even the casual gamer would remember.

I assigned soprano sax to all the upper lines you hear.  I made the trombone cover the upbeats.  The french horn helps out with the counter melody.  The melody at :45 sounds like it was written for a MIDI trombone… so why not a real trombone?  Bass is bass.

I decided to try to retrofit some of the weirder instruments here into our ensemble.  The result, unfortunately, is the loss of guitar strumming, weird glockenspiel like sounds, and some other effects.  I feel like it’s still very effective, though.

Earthbound – Twoson

This was WRITTEN for french horn.  Clearly.  I assigned Mark (our soprano saxophonist) to move to toy piano to cover the piano sounds.  I put french horn on the melody and bass on bass.  I let trombone take a little break and come back for the reprise.  (This track is so much fun to play on bass- so awesome.)

Earthbound – Pokey Means Business

Any of you familiar with the game will be pretty much amazed that I decided to include this piece.  And I wanted to make sure we do it justice because it’s so freaking awesome.

I have soprano sax, stopped french horn, and muted trombone cover the 3 “emulated” NES lines.  The drum part is written to be played as mechanical as possible.  I doubled up the very little melody before the 2nd part of the piece (I like to call it “Business Time”).

Now, “Business Time” presented issues.  I originally wrote the part to include double bass drum pedals and the whole deal.  Unfortunately, I found out that our drummer did not have any experience with metal drumming and I didn’t want to put him in an awkward situation.  Therefore, I changed the drum part to be more of a “punk rock” feel instead.

Everything else though?  Line for line covered.  I have our guitarist come in JUST for this piece and rock out with total distortion.  I’m pretty proud of how this particular part turned out- it’s going to be so cool live.

Earthbound – Eight Melodies

To finish it off, I decided to include “Eight Melodies” and have the main line on toy piano.  I re-orchestrated the bass line and harmonies for some extra surprises.  The entire melody ends with a short bass guitar and toy piano duet.


Want to hear how it turned out?  This arrangement will be premiered by the ensemble at our show this upcoming Saturday, February 2nd, at First Unitarian Church – Chapel in Philadelphia.  It’s going to be great.  You better be there!

Check back soon for more posts from the Beta Testers!  And don’t forget to come see us play the music from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Earthbound, and MUCH more on February 2nd at the First Unitarian Church. Tell your friends! Advanced tickets are cheaper than at the door!