Recently, I got the chance to talk to pianist and composer Kyle Landry, one of the biggest up-and-coming musicians on the Internet.
Kyle Landry is most famous for his YouTube channel, which reached 400,000 subscribers just last week. Since March of 2006, when he was just a teenager, Kyle has uploaded hundreds upon hundreds of videos of himself playing the piano, mostly improvisations of various pieces from video games, movies, and anime. His piano arrangements for these songs are some of the most popular in the world, and he has become one of the most famous musicians on the site. Some of his most viewed videos are his arrangements of "Passion" and "Dearly Beloved" from Kingdom Hearts, and "Time" from the movie Inception. His videos have gained over 110 million views and have inspired thousands of young musicians around the world to follow his lead.
Kyle has also started to work as a composer for the game Bacon Man, a fast-paced, cinematic platformer from indie company Skymap Games. Kyle has written a huge soundtrack for the game, which has been made into an orchestral score by Braxton Burks from Pokémon Reorchestrated. Bacon Man will release for the Xbox One and PC later this year, and it has kicked off Kyle’s career as a video game composer.
These days, Kyle spends most of his time teaching students from all around the world, and performing at events like weddings and birthday parties. He also streams live on Twitch three times a week, improvising massive medleys of different songs from games and movies at the request of his viewers.
Hey Kyle! To get started, could you please introduce yourself a little bit to our readers? Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got started in music.
Hello Gamnesia! I am a YouTuber, pianist, composer, arranger, and piano teacher. My musical journey began on July 28th, 1998 when I had my first piano lesson at the age of 8. It took me months and months of begging, but in the end, my mother and father finally agreed to sign me up for lessons. Back then (and now), I was a bit ADD, and high energy, and both my parents believed I was not fit for piano lessons. Even my piano teacher told me many years later that when she initially agreed to take me in as a student, she believed I wouldn't last very long. The funny thing was, after she told me that, she also mentioned I turned out to be the best student she had ever had in her 40+ years of teaching.
How did you start your life as a gamer? Could you tell us about some of the games and experiences that led you to love video games like you do today?
My parents used to play a few games on their SNES, and I of course was intrigued, and watched them play all the time. Eventually, my sister and I began playing the SNES, and the N64 that we got the Christmas it was released. My best experiences in games would have to be playing through Ocarina of Time, Banjo Kazooie, and Super Mario RPG. I tend to love games with long adventures, and with some story to them.
What are your favorite video game soundtracks and composers?
My most treasured game soundtracks in no particular order:
- Banjo Kazooie
- Zelda Series
- Final Fantasy Series
- Elder Scrolls Series
- Kingdom Hearts Series
As you may have gathered, my favorite video game composers include:
- Nobuo Uematsu
- Koji Kondo
- Grant Kirkhope
- Yomo Shimomura
You have been uploading videos to YouTube since July of 2006, back when you were just a teenager. Why did you first start uploading your videos to YouTube? Did you ever expect it would take you this far?
Actually, I started uploading back in March of 2006, on my first channel, kyle556, which was banned for copyright infringement during the year of 2007. That was the year large corporations were cracking down on YouTube, forcing them to remove many many videos. Back when YouTube first started getting a little buzz and hype, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided to post a video of myself improvising. From there, after reading the comments I received, I was hooked ever since. I would have never expected my internet video career would have taken me this far, but it sure has been fun so far!
What is your process for making a YouTube video? How long does it take you to record and edit a typical video? Where do you get your inspiration for what songs to cover?
My process is almost entirely focused around the music. As you may notice, I don't invest, or spend much time on making the video look pretty, it's more about how it sounds. A typical production would consist of me printing out sheet music to a basic arrangement of the piece I'm recording, and doing a run through or two. After that, the camera is rolling, and I simply do as many takes that is necessary to get a recording that I feel is good enough. This may take anywhere from 5 minutes to over a year. It all depends what I'm recording! Sometimes I will be able to record a video in one take, but often times it takes about an hour or two. In extreme cases, it may take me many hours worth of takes, spanned through different recording sessions, sometimes taking a year or so to finally get a recording I'm happy with. An example of that would be my video for Fighting, the battle theme from
Final Fantasy VII, or my video for the opening song of Shingeki no Kyojin. Editing a video takes no longer than 5 minutes.
In order to choose what music to record, I either pick what I truly love, or I will seek inspiration from my fans, as they always seem to know the best new music in games, movies, and anime!
Well, after almost nine years, you’ve reached over 400,000 subscribers on YouTube, making you one of the most successful musicians on the site. Congratulations! What has been your favorite part of this journey so far? Will you keep uploading videos in the future?
Thank you so much! My absolute favorite part of the journey so far is how much joy it brings me, and my viewers. Without my channel, I wouldn't be making a living doing what I love, and I wouldn't be able to inspire thousands of kids to never give up, and to play their hearts out. Of course I will keep uploading videos! It keeps me going :).
Recently, you’ve been working as the composer for the soundtrack of the game Bacon Man, which will release later this year. How has this experience been for you? Do you think you would like to continue writing music for other video games in the coming years?
The experience has been lovely so far! It is so much fun working along side composer and orchestrator Braxton Burks, who orchestrates all of the music I have been writing for Bacon Man, and I love watching the game together piece by piece! I would love to continue writing video game music in the future.
How does writing original music for a video game feel different to writing music for your albums or for your YouTube channel? Is it a challenge to try to write songs to fit the different scenarios in Bacon Man?
It is quite different. There are way more restrictions. A lot of times I have to stay within a certain style, or genre, and some tracks take up to 5 different concepts before the team accepts the composition for the game. It is definitely more challenging than I imagined, yes!
Obviously, you’ve shown the world that you’re a huge fan of video game music, and you owe a lot of your success to your beautiful arrangements of songs from The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts. As a classically trained musician, how do you think that video game music compares to classical music, with composers like Chopin and Beethoven? Which do you prefer to play or listen to?
They are truly two different animals, and I could never really put one over the other. Let's talk about game music first. Video game music tends to focus most of its energy to the melodic content of the piece, which is definitely not a bad thing! That is what I love about video game music, it catches your interest with beautiful melodies that stay with you for years to come. Every time I hear Zelda's Lullaby, for example, I cannot help but imagine meeting Zelda for the first time in Hyrule, while playing Ocarina of Time in my basement as a child, lol. However, in general, video game music tends to be much less complex than classical music, including the arrangements for piano. That's where I come in! Taking a basic arrangement of a video game track, and turning it into a difficult piece of music to play, is one of my greatest hobbies!
As for Classical music, the subject is so broad it's hard to begin. I've always been more inclined to enjoy the Romantic period, most notably, Chopin. His music speaks to me more than any other composer in the world. That being said, that doesn't mean I would prefer to play or listen to Chopin over video game music. I'm the open-minded type, and I would never say something as arrogant as "Classical music is just better than video game music, I would never listen to video game music." Heh, and there are people out there like that, scary isn't it? Basically, what I'm saying is, I LOVE BOTH GENRES. I can't choose, sorry Gamnesia.
Final Question: Do you have any advice for any young musicians reading this? What would you like to tell music students worldwide, who aspire to play like you someday?
My number one advice is to play the music that makes you happy. I find that I get the most practice done, and excel the fastest at improvement when I'm studying music that I truly wanted to learn. It wasn't until I discovered Chopin and Nobuo Uematsu until I really started investing countless hours into my practice. I will warn you, I learned the most when studying classical music. There tends to me more educational value to it, such as proper fingering, common technical patterns, and the sheer difficulty which truly challenges your hands.
If you want to be the best you be at anything in this world, you need to put your mind to it, and never give up. You need to practice everyday at least 3 hours. You can't miss a day, and you can't stop thinking about music. You need to listen to as much music as possible, and you need to sight read every day. Find a composer that speaks to you, latch on, and never let go. Learn everything they've ever written, and I'm sure it will take you somewhere. I wish you all the best of luck :)
It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, Kyle, and thank you so much for taking time to be with us today.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It has been my pleasure!!
If you want to see more of Kyle, remember to check out his YouTube channel and visit his website. If you’re an aspiring pianist like myself, I seriously recommend joining his forums to have access to sheet music for all his videos and be surrounded by a really helpful community of musicians.
Also, you should check out Kyle's original albums on iTunes and Loudr. He has released six albums for the piano: five albums consisting of original compositions, entitled Works for Piano I through V, and Storytale Soundscapes, a beautiful, hour-long concerto of music from all sorts of movies and animation.
If you can, you can also go help out Kyle on his Steinway Fund, a Patreon fund that he has set up to raise money to buy a grand piano. He has raised more than $6,000 so far, over the course of the past three months, after generous donations from hundreds of patrons. Any donation, no matter how small, would be a big help.
What do you guys think? Have you heard of Kyle Landry or watched any of his videos? Are you a big fan of his arrangements? What do you think about the views he expressed here, about the differences and advantages that video game music has over other genres?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!