The[Crafty]Gamer: Rob Kovacs (Piano Interpretation Of Air Man Theme)
This week The[Crafty]Gamer features NYC pianist and composer, Rob Kovacs. Check out his piano interpretation of Mega Man's Air Man theme, find out what it takes to learn to play classic 8-bit tunes on live instruments, and more.
Full name: Rob Kovacs
Hometown: Grew up near Cleveland, now lives in New York City
Occupation: Pianist and composer
Composition: Air Man Theme (Mega Man)
Tell us about your musical piece. What’s the inspiration behind it?
A couple friends and I were talking about how great the music in the Mega Man games is. Those composers wrote some truly unique music, considering that they were limited to only three linear melodic lines and a linear drum track. I thought it would be cool to try and recreate this music on piano. I looked to see if other people had already done this on YouTube, and at the time, there were only a few videos. None really captured the whole song.
How much time did it take to learn?
It took me over a span of nine months to make the recording. I began by downloading different MIDI versions of the theme and comparing the notes to the original game. From there I tried to play it on piano, working out the arrangement as I learned the notes, and trying to incorporate as much of the song as possible. I tried to capture as much of the song as I could, especially the sounds that a piano really can't do too well, such as drum sounds, drum fills, pitch bends, and delay effects. That was the fun stuff though! It's easy to just play all the notes, but what really makes this unique is all that extra stuff.
It took me some time to overcome the limitations of my own playing. There's a lot of tricky jumps in the left hand and fast repeated notes, which are difficult to play on piano. The key to learning anything difficult is to slow it down to where you can comprehend it and speed it up over time. Throughout the nine month period I would casually play the piece off and on. It was only a month before I made the video when I decided to really put the time in to learn at performance level.
Have you performed any other video game related songs in the past?
I had a band in 2000 called Open Blind, and we would play the Super Mario Bros. theme. I sometimes slip in a jazz version of Mario in restaurants. In general, I'm intrigued by 8-bit video game music and enjoy figuring it out on piano. Marble Madness has some really cool tunes.
Any other information you’d like to share about yourself? (Do you have a background in music? Favorite games? Want to talk about future projects? etc.)
I've been playing piano and video games since age 3, so I guess it's natural to try and combine the two. I intend to post a video of a new Mega Man song a month. I'm also looking to give live piano recitals featuring music from video games as a single work along with works by other contemporary composers such as Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt.
I write and record music for my piano rock band, Return of Simple. If you check out some of our music you can probably hear the influence of early Nintendo tracks. I also have a degree in Music Theory. I enjoy playing as an accompanist, lounge pianist, dueling pianist, pit musician and from time to time, writing music for e-cards.
Any Web links to other work?
Check out my band Return of Simple, and if you like what you hear, sign up for the monthly newsletter and become a fan on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. If you enjoy hearing what electronic music sounds like on live instruments, here's my band's version of Daft Punk's Harder Better Faster Stronger.
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