Anonymous asked: How much creative liberty do you take with your arrangements? Are they more straight up covers or do you feel like they're more remixes?

It depends from piece to piece. I’ll give you 3 examples:

1.) Homestuck ‘Rex Duodecim Angelus’ For Orchestra I made it a note-for-note transcription. Cover song.

2.) Street Fighter For Orchestra I combined Guile’s Theme with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Cover song + Mashup + some original material.

3.) Gravity Falls For Orchestra the original is 40 seconds long, so I wrote almost all new material to make it 4 minutes. Cover song + all new material.

A Study On Cover Sales Vs Original Sales

My Gravity Falls arrangement was over 4 minutes long. However, the original song is only 30-40 seconds long. So that means there was over 3 minutes of purely original material by me. I eventually had to change it all to original material as I noted here, so the entirety of “Newton” is a complete 4 minute original composition by me.

But I’ve been thinking recently about anchoring off of covers vs. releasing original material. Would sales be better? Worse?

There’s a consumer’s psychological excitement and acceptance that goes into already being able to identify with something before it’s experienced. In fact, it happens in Jazz music all the time: the musicians will play the melody for 15 seconds, trade solos for 5 minutes, then “cap” it at the end.

And the audience LOVES it. Every single time.

But it’s really just a head fake: it was simply a solo camouflaged by a 15 second intro and ending so that the audience could identify with it.

This highlights the importance of identity. It’s not that people don’t buy original music, it’s just that if I take that same exact original music of mine and “sandwich” it in-between a cover song then everyone will love it. But what they fail to realize is that I’m including mostly original material in my cover songs anyway.

Let’s take the same exact 3 minutes of my original material that I mentioned above, and place it into 2 completely different cover songs:

1.) Slayer ‘Angel Of Death’ 2.) Justin Bieber ‘Somebody To Love’

No matter what the end result is, both groups will hate/love my work. If I “hide” my music inside the Justin Beiber track, then all the Slayer fans will say my original music sucks. And if I hide it inside the Slayer track then all the Justin Beiber fans won’t buy it or like it either. Simply put - it’s all about perspective. So does a rose by any other name smell just as sweet?

So now let’s take this idea to photographs: take a completely normal scenery picture, then add it onto an Incubus CD. No one cared about that photo before, but now it’s suddenly getting recognized. However, it’s no different than millions of others. Bluntly put: the photograph has finally been accepted simply because of it’s new association. But based on my Slayer/JB example above, Incubus fans LOVE that picture and claim it to be a work of art - however, if they first saw that same exact picture on a Taylor Swift CD then they’d claim it to be the ugliest picture of all time.

This is human psychology. It’s like assuming a guy next to you at a bar is creepy, only to find out moments later that he’s actually your best friend’s older brother. Suddenly, your perception of him has changed from really creepy to really cool. Right?

So that’s why I pay a portion of my sales to the original songwriters - it’s because I’d rather make 60% of something than 100% of nothing. Identity is important.

I understand that there are a lot of artists who follow me. So here’s the thing: I’m not saying every painter, musician, author, or film director has to start doing cover songs or derivatives of popular topics… but what I am saying is to give it a chance. Give everything a chance. It’s all about social dynamics.

And you might just find your muse, or passion, or better yet, your audience.

Walt, What Does Your Original Music Sound Like?

In today’s Mega Man arrangement, from 1:48 to 2:56 is all my own original music. So there’s an example of my writing style. It’s also easier to answer this question in a blog post rather individually.

I actually write lots of original music in my cover songs because it’s fun, plus it keeps them nostalgic while still sounding fresh.

Boston ‘More Than A Feeling’
For Orchestra by Walt Ribeiro

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Rebecca Black ‘My Moment’ For Orchestra

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Walt Ribeiro ‘SQ I’ [Original]


Back in 2006 I released a CD titled “I.I.”, which consisted of 12 pieces that weaved in and out of each other to create one complete symphony. I originally set off on the album after realizing orchestras wouldn’t play my music, and getting upset that they only performed works by the same 12 dead composers. I wanted to bring new music to the market – and “I.I” was my answer to that. It’s interesting to look back, so I’m re-publishing them in their original state – releasing one a day for the next 12 days. To hear and read about each piece click here.

‘SQ I’ is the first of what was written in as a trio: ‘SQ I’, ‘SQ II’, and ‘SQ III’. The SQ stands for string quartet, and I felt added to the structure of the entire CD, which at this point has seen full orchestra pieces, piano pieces, and now string quartets.

I always felt that writing a CD was very difficult, because there are so many directions you can take it. Should it be a theme album? All piano parts? Should I include liner notes for people to read as they’re listening? What order should each piece go?

But perhaps the most interesting thing is how I feel people forget about how much technology dictates art. Samuel Adler’s early years couldn’t write for a CD, because the CD was not around at the time. So as these new distribution platforms start to get created and discovered, and gain acceptance, then now we’re also witnessing how much that is effecting the work we do.

So here I was, in a predicament about how to include these string quartets – should they be combined as one 10-minute piece? Should they be separated? Should they follow each in succession on the album, or should they be spread out? The way the brain thinks about the composition of the music composition itself is very similar about how it thinks about the CD composition, because you have to consider that the audience will hear them in succession, so that’s what you have to plan for. That’s why I feel publishing one’s work is important, because as I grow, I’m realizing that a true musician isn’t just someone who plays a guitar – it’s someone who takes action, risk, creation, and promotes ideas and change.

‘SQ I’ was my first real piece for a string quartet I ever wrote, and it was something I look back and am incredibly proud about – not only for how I wrote it, but how I included it. In the way that technology dictates art, it’s also pleasing to think about how much that art, in itself, can dictate each other.

Pearl Jam ‘Even Flow’
For Orchestra by Walt Ribeiro

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AC/DC ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’
For Orchestra by Walt Ribeiro

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