Creating Video Game Music on Classical Guitar for YouTube

Making content for the Internet these days is all about finding a niche. The more obscure and specific your niche, the better chance you have at capturing your audience. Well, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many niches more specific than video game music classical guitar covers!
As it turns out, there is a vibrant community of video game music enthusiasts who love to hear their favorite tunes in the distinctive tones of a classical guitar. For those of us with a guitar and an interest in video games, guitar covers are a great outlet. They allow us to be creative, work on something we love, and produce content all at the same time.
But what does it involve? Read on for my big guide to video game music classical guitar covers.

Classical Guitar?
The chances are you already know the difference between a regular acoustic guitar and a classical guitar. Still, some guitarists-particularly self-taught guitarists-might not have delved into the broader world of their favorite instrument. Classical guitars can trace their origins back to fifteenth-century Spain, so they have been around for a while. There are many variations, and any defining attribute I could give you would almost certainly have exceptions. For simplicities sake, consider classical as a nylon-stringed guitar, as opposed to the steel strings commonly found on modern acoustic guitars. Classical guitars also tend to be smaller and more rounded in shape than their modern cousins.
Classical guitars are particularly popular with guitarists who like to play fingerstyle: the softer nylon strings are much easier on the fingertips than steel strings. Likewise, you will very rarely find someone playing classical with a plectrum.
Classical guitar, in this case, refers to the guitar itself, of course. The label also applies to a whole genre of music. As such you may see some people refer to their music as classical, even if they are playing a modern guitar.

Why Classical?
At this point, you may be wondering why I decided to play a classical, rather than a modern guitar for video game covers. Ever since the earliest days of video games, game music has been a pretty complicated thing. Developers would layer multiple different sounds to create interesting music and compelling themes.
Now, you could just take the root melody of a video game track and play it on your guitar, either a note at a time or as chords (in my early days, i thought this was the only way). The things is, I love the sound of melody and the bass played at the same time on a nylon string guitar. Also, being able to add more harmonies it i extremely satisfying. You can even add  some percussion if you are advanced enough. Don’t get me wrong, you can do that on stealth string (also know as “fingerstyle”) 

As I have mentioned, if you want to play classical , then you are on the path of a lot of fun. And, though it’s not important to your ability to make video game covers, it’s interesting to note that many early video game tracks were scored by classically trained musicians. It makes for a nice symmetry to go back to a classical instrument with your covers all these years later.

What You Will Need
Let’s set a baseline here. This guide assumes you already own a guitar and you are comfortable playing it. If not, there are plenty of great tutorials online to get you started. I’ll be here when you’re ready.

Good.
So, you’ve got your guitar, you’ve arranged or practiced some video game tunes, what next? You’re going to need a means of recording yourself. You can opt to create audio-only videos where you are not on-camera. This would save you on initial expenses as you don’t need to worry about buying a camera, and you could always use footage of the video game you’re covering to keep things interesting. It’s worth noting that guitar videos with the guitarist in the video tend to do better, however.

If money is a concern (as it is for most of us), try not to worry too much about the video quality if you are going to be on camera. You are making music videos, after all; the focus should be on the music. In the beginning, a cheap camera will do the job.

Audio-wise, however, you can’t really afford to skimp. You are making music for your potential viewers, so you want the sounds to be the very best quality you can manage. Now, for most people starting a new YouTube channel, splashing out hundreds of dollars on a Aston Origin microphone isn’t a practical option. Fortunately, it’s also not necessary.
While a more expensive audio setup will almost always bring you better sound quality, you can achieve significant improvements over basic hardware for as little as $50. A very inexpensive condenser microphone coupled with a budget microphone pre-amp will sound considerably better than any built-in or PC microphones you have to hand. You can also grab a multi-channel audio interface that will allow you to run two microphones. You can plug your guitar in directly, as well as recording it through a microphone. If you decide to use multiple microphones, be sure to arrange then in such a way that they each capture different dynamics from your guitar. There is no benefit to having two microphones if they are picking up the exact same sound. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you with this, also.

Choosing Your Music
There are a few ways to go about choosing which music to cover. You can do it purely for the fun-factor, and just choose what you want to cover regardless of whether it might be interesting to others. This is a perfectly valid way to approach a YouTube channel; not everyone sets out to become a full-time YouTuber.
If you are hoping to make something of your channel, however, you will need to put a bit of thought into your music choices. That is not to say you should never pick music purely because you enjoy it, but you will also need to make choices with an eye towards channel growth.
Look at what is popular in the video game covers the scene. That is, all of the scene, not just guitar covers. If a particular tune is seeing a lot of action consider covering it on your channel, even if it’s quite a bit different from what you usually do.
While you want to stay true to yourself with your content, you should try to make the occasional video with broader appeal. The idea is to capture the attention of people who aren’t part of your regular audience. It’s true that most of them won’t even click on your video if they see it. And many that do won’t become subscribers. But there will likely be some who like your content enough to stick around, and that makes it worth branching out every so often.
Never stop looking for ways to make your music stand out. Any guitarist can come up with a decent rendition of Zelda theme tunes, but what can you do to make it unique? Don’t be afraid to experiment, but pay attention to how your viewers react to those experiments. Even if your only way of telling is through analytics.

Don’t Be Afraid to Grow
There is only so much mileage you can get out of a specific niche. There is a reason most Let’s Play YouTuber’s eventually transition to other things, like meme reviews or vlogs. Try to avoid becoming stale, because this will lose your audience’s interest. People don’t typically unsubscribe on YouTube (unless there is a mass-cancellation happening) so you probably won’t lose subscribers. Still, YouTube will see the drop in interest.
When YouTube thinks your videos aren’t holding viewers attention, they stop putting them in recommended feeds, and your best free traffic source is gone.
The trick is to experiment, as mentioned above, but conservatively. Try something new every so often, and keep a record of what worked and what didn’t. If you think you have found something that you enjoy and hits with your subscribers, try doing a few more.
You don’t have to transition to this new format, of course, but it adds some variety to your channel and gives subscribers a reason to hang around. And, of course, finding something new to keep your viewers entertained needn’t mean moving away from video game covers: you can always put a different spin on your typical content.
As with many things in life, it is important to have fun with your videos. If you don’t enjoy making them, not only will you likely burn out and not want to make them anymore, but your viewers may get that negative energy through your content. Have fun with it, and your viewers will too.

Check out my other blogs! You can find more information about video game music, guitar and equipment I use!

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