Is Video Game Music Headed in the Wrong Direction?

It is no great secret that videogames have come a long way in the past few years. No longer are they five minute diversions, but now are vast epics spanning across many hours. Videogame music has changed as well. The simple bleeps, bloops and zings of early videogames have been replaced with huge sweeping orchestral scores. And yet for all that change I can't help but fear that videogame music might be headed in the wrong direction.

The Ultimate Guitar Tab Symbols Guide

Symbol Meaning
h Hammer on. Usually this symbol occurs inbetween two numbers. The First number represents a note that is to be played normally. The note after the "h" should be played simply by "hammering" down on the note with another finger. Since the string is already vibrating from playing the previous note, the hammer on will produce a very strong tone.
p Pull off. This is the opposite of a hammer on. It also usually occurs between two numbers, where the first number represents a note to be played normally, and the second number represents a note mean to be played by "pulling" off with another finger.
v, ~ or, = Vibrato. Vibrato means what it sounds like. It's a vibration effect produced by bending the note back and forth. Sometimes the tab will indicate how many times to vibrate by indicating multiple v's, ~'s or ='s.
s Slide. This symbol usually occurs between two notes. The first note indicates which note to play normally, the second note indicates which note to slide up to.
b, ^ or, () Bend. Bend the note to raise the pitch. Most of the time this symbol is placed between two notes. The first note is the played normally, and the second note is the one which the bent note's pitch should be raised to. Sometimes the second note isn't given.
x String mute or dead note. The string should be "muted" to produce a very suppressed tone. This can be done in a number of ways. The most popular method is probably the palm mute. This is where the edge of the palm of the picking hand is placed at the very base of the strings.
v Down stroke. The strings should be strummed downward, lowest notes first.
^ Up stroke. The strings should be strummed upward, highest notes first.

Duration Symbols

Symbols for duration are unique to guitar tab applications like Guitar Pro and Power Tab. They attempt to introduce rhythm into guitar tabs.

Symbol Meaning
W Whole note. Hold the note for the duration of 1 measure. If the piece is in 4/4, hold the note for 4 beats. If the piece is in 3/4, hold the note for 3 beats. The whole note is the only note whose duration depends on the time signature.
H Half note. Hold the note for 2 beats.
Q Quarter note. Hold the note for 1 beat.
E Eighth note. Hold the note for 1/2 beat. 2 eighth notes take up 1 beat.
S Sixteenth note. Hold the note for 1/4 beat. 4 sixteenth notes take up 1 beat.
T Thirty-secondth note. Hold the note for 1/8 beat. 8 thirty-secondth notes take up 1 beat.
X Sixty-fourth note. Hold the note for 1/16 beat. 16 sixty-fourth notes take up 1 beat.
L Tied note. Hold the preceding note for the indicated duration of the preceding note, plus the indicated duration of the tied note (L). For example, if the preceding note is a quarter note and the tied note is an eighth note, play the note for a quarter beat plus an eighth beat.
. Doted note. A dot adds half of the dotted note's duration to that note. For example, a dotted half note means to play a half note plus a quarter note, or 3 beats.
|-n-| n-tuplets. In general, a tuplet is a consecutive group of the same notes whose total value is equal to the next highest note value of the notes that make up the tuplet. "n" is a variable that indicates the number of notes in the tuplet that make up that duration. For example, a triplet is 3 consecutive notes of the same value whose total value is equal to the next highest note value of the notes that make up the triplet. Say the triplet is made up of 3 eighth notes. This would indicate that the 3 eighth note's total duration makes up 1 quarter note.

Final Fantasy 7: Voices of the Lifestream

Posted in Reviews

If you're a fan of OC ReMix, then you probably know all about this album. If not, then you should probably check out their site. OC ReMix is a community of video game music fans who arrange, interpret, record and mix their favorite video game music in MP3 format. They have almost 1,500 remixes, from a very wide spectrum of games and platforms.

Last month, they released Final Fantasy 7: Voices of the Lifestream, an entire album devoted to the legendary game, which has some of the most memorable video game music ever. As with everything that comes from OC ReMix, the album is completely free. It contains 45 arrangements arranged by over 40 different artists. It covers all genres of music, including rock, jazz, classical, techno and much more. Some tracks even include recorded vocals!

This thing is a masterpiece. It represents the spirit of the game music community, and how far it has come in the past few years in terms of the passion, creativity, devotion and popularity. When I first began listening to this album, I could not get rid of the chills. The nostalgia factor in this album is high, be warned.

Simple Fingerpicking Exercise

If you've been playing guitar for a few months and are curious about fingerpicking, now is your chance to practice a little. Here are some basic fingerpicking exercises for you to try out. Remember, the thumb plays the 3 bass strings (6, 5 and 4) and the index, middle and ring fingers play the treble string (3, 2 and 1). The pinky is seldom used, but can be useful at times. I often rest it on the pickguard and use it as a base to steady my hand.

C Major


Now try varying it up a little.


Now try another chord.

D Major


Now let's try combing the two chords.


That's it for this tutorial. Check back for more later.

How to Read and Write Guitar Tabs

In a nutshell, guitar tabs are a form a music notation, specific to fretted instruments, that tell the musician which fret to play and not a whole lot else. They can't effectively express certain things that standard sheet music notation can, such as timing. But they are easy to read, easy to write and can give the guitarist a good idea of what fingering to use to play a certain piece of music. And because of this, guitar tabs are a widely accepted and often preferred form of notation.

How to Read a Guitar Tab

Most guitar tabs are made up of 6 lines. Each line represents a string on the guitar. Often times they look like this:


If you can imagine the fretboard of a right handed guitar facing you, you can see that the top line in the guitar tab represents the 1st string on the guitar and the bottom line represents the 6th string. This particular tab doesn't tell us anything though, so we have to fill it out.


Each number in the tab represents the number of the fret to hold down while the particular string the number is on is plucked. '0' represents no fret being held down, or the "open" position. Go ahead and try this tab out. It should sound something like this.

That's basically it. Guitar tabs can only really tell you what to play, not how to play it. The timing and nuances of the song can usually only be determined by listening to the song itself. There are a set of standard symbols you will come across in guitar tabs though, listed below.

Symbol Meaning
h Hammer-on
p Pull-off
b Bend note
s Slide
v or ~ Vibrato
x Palm mute

How to Write a Guitar Tab

Once you know how to read a guitar tab, not much needs to be said in terms of writing one. There are a few things to keep in mind as you write it though.

  1. Avoid writing on just one string. Beginners often tend to put most or all of the notes of a song on one string. At first this can seem like a good thing to do, but you'll quickly find that using all your strings is the way to go. For example, this:

    Would best be written like this:

  2. Write notes to your audience. Remember, guitar tabs can only tell you what to play, not how. So often times it's helpful to write little notes in your tabs saying things like "Slow down a little here" or "Play this part then jump back up to line 2". It's always good to use notes in your tabs when necessary.
  3. Space notes accordingly. It's true that tabs can't effectively express timing, but it's always a good idea to give your audience a general idea of the timing by leaving adequate space between notes.