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LotRO's music system: Interview with Achazia of The Shades

Shawn Schuster
10.30.08
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The following is an interview with Achazia of the LotRO band The Shades. This band has become extremely popular on the EU server Laurelin, and has performed several concerts throughout their time in the game. Achazia writes all of the music herself, and is very well-loved by the community for her talent.

In fact, this coming Sunday, November 2nd at 7pm Laurelin server time (GMT), The Shades will celebrate their first anniversary with a concert at the Thorin's Hall forges. If you're into RP music and have access to this EU server, check them out! Their Youtube page can give you a bit of a preview of what to expect. Now on to the interview!

Massively: Can you tell me more about the band, how it was formed and when it started?

Achazia: The Shades is a band that belongs to the Kinship: The Shadows. The core members (if I can say that) are myself (Flute), Abergar (Theorbo) and Morosi (Lute/Harp). Otherwise many others from the kin join the Shades in between.

The band was actually formed about one year ago: November 2007. It started when the patch of Book 11 came. There were lots of changes regarding the music system. The sync functionality was first introduced, which mean that you could play with other members in a fellowship at the same time, using the sync command.

At that time I had just joined The Shadows kinship, and I was really interested in the ABC music system. I remember I asked my kin if they were interested in starting a band. I wasn't quite sure how well that would be received. My kin primary played the game because of the quests, leveling up the characters, joining raids and such. I felt very "girly" asking them about the band thing. There weren't very many other bands around Laurelin at that time either, so I didn't know if this was something that would be popular at all. I only got positive feedback from my kin, though, which motivated me to make my first ABC song. The song is called Storm and you can find it on my Youtube page.

The ABC system was totally new to me, so I used a lot of time to transcribe my first midi file into a suitable ABC file that would work in LotRO. I only make my own songs though, so I have to make all the music from scratch, of course. This means I play tunes on my keyboard and tape it through Reason. Reason is a program I use to make songs in RL as well. When the song is finished, I export it to midi files, and import them into Melody Assistant, where you can transcribe the songs to ABC. It seems like lots of work, but it's quite simple when you have done it a couple of times. The most time-consuming part is to make the songs themselves.

I remember some of the members in my kin were surprised when they heard Storm for the first time, and I got so much positive feedback. This motivated me to continue and make more songs. Suddenly we had a few more, and players around our server actually liked the songs. Then we were invited to play at different events, and that was so much fun - and still is! So from there The Shades have joined many events, concerts, festivals, weddings, birthday parties, etc.

All of your music is written by you, right? How do you get the inspiration for your music?

Yes, all my music is written by me, as I have always loved writing music. LotRO is a game I really love and to be a part of Tolkien's universe really brings out some special feelings in me. So it is not that strange that I bring music into Middle-earth. It is a perfect way to combine these two hobbies. Plus, instead of playing music with references from the real world, I play music made by Achazia. In that way, the game feels even more real for me.

The songs I make are very much inspired from folk music/Celtic music/medieval music, and also some "fairytale" tunes that I often hear on fantasy/historical movies. I make songs that I imagine the folks in Middle-earth were listening to. For this reason, they tend to be a bit melancholic/fairytale-ish. Yet they are really simple as well, and for me it doesn't work to make a very advanced ABC, because the music system has its limits. So if the ABC contains many notes or chords, the song will be very messy, and you can't divide the instruments from each other. So I am very careful to exaggerate my songs.

With the recent changes to the music system and the way it reads .abc files, has this posed a problem for you and the band?

With Book 13, there was a new clever upgrade regarding the music system. You could put all the multipart ABCs into 1 file only. Then you could change the index number for each instrument part. Like x:1, x:2, and decide that the first ABC part (x:1) is the Lute, and next ABC part (x:2) is the Theorbo, etc.

So when typing: /play mylullaby 1 sync, and the other member: /play mylullaby 2 sync, we could play the same song synced with Lute and Theorbo.

But with Book 14, this new upgrade that came with Book 13 is gone. When we tried to play music at one of our rehearsals, we got this error message: usage: /play *song* [sync]. So this sync function was broken, and we had to divide all the parts into separate files again. Of course it was a little step back and a bit annoying. All in all though, it is a better way to organize the files, and easier to explain to new members what to do.

Do you know of any changes in Moria that may change the music system?

No. I haven't heard anything, but rumours say that the bug above will be fixed!

Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck at the November 2nd concert!

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