Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Benny Davis’ World – Musical Interlude

In 3DS, DS, Game Boy, Gamecube, N64, NES, SNES, Virtual Console, Wii, Wii U on September 26, 2013 at 10:14 am

Today’s post is by musician Benny Davis, of comedy rock gods The Axis Of Awesome.

Title: Anything with Mario in it

Format: Anything with Nintendo on it

Released: Anytime after July 9th, 1981

Mario Through The Ages

I played Mario as a kid. I wasn’t a huge gamer, I played Nintendo a lot, but mostly Mario. If Mario wasn’t in it, then I probably wasn’t interested. Countless hours of trying to save the Princess made for a singular approach. With many Nintendo games of an era gone by, save points were rare, so in order to beat a level you had to go from the start to the finish in one go. One slip and you’re dead, back to the start. Maybe 3 slips, depending on what your life bar is like. Of course fall down a hole and you’re toast; you could be fit as a fiddle but no level of strength will help you survive a plunge into a bottomless pit. Or maybe it will, but you’re still stuck down there, descending ad infinitum.

This style of game developed in me a particular style of practice in music, one that I have only noticed now in the wisdom of my old age (27). A sensible method would have me play through the work, find the most difficult passages, highlight them and practice them on loop, first slowly, and then gradually build up the tempo to that of the rest of the piece. It’s how I usually learn a piece these days. This is far too reasonable and tedious to a ten year old who is impatient and simply wants to perform the piece from beginning to end on sight.

Super Mario Bros

So you play from the beginning, and as soon as you make a mistake, you lose the beat, and go back to the start. The piece begins on a level field, with few gnarly traps or goombas to make you slip up, but turn the page and BAM! Those damn piranha plants that shoot fire throw 16 semiquavers at you out of nowhere. You struggle past them a few times until your fingers just magically remember all the buttons to push, and you’re into uncharted territory. Down a pipe and all of a sudden you’ve gone from one accidental above ground to a goddamn underwater level playing in some bullshit key with 7 sharps. You were pressing B! You should have been pressing C! Didn’t you see the sharp?! Back to the start.

This continues for several hours until the easy passages can be performed while in a state of unconsciousness brought about by heavy chloroforming, and the trickier ones simply need a decent level of concentration. The game doesn’t let you skip to Bowser, drug him to slow his movements and increase his attack speed as he eventually revives. You just charge in blindly and pray that by the time you get to him, it’ll just work out. Keep at it and eventually it does.

SMB Bowser

Similarly, I’ve been making videos playing songs and medleys lately that I force myself to do in one take, no editing. If I can do it when nobody’s watching then I should be able to get it right once on camera. This has required the same approach; as soon as I make a mistake, I stop and start again. I’ve never got anything right first time, but depending on the complexity, it can take as little as 2 goes or as many as 10.

I made a medley playing as many popular video game themes as I could. It took maybe 15 takes to get the damn thing right. It was like the Inception of the idea I’ve just explained. I thought it was kinda funny.

That video? Right here:

Benny Davis is a musician and comedian, best known as the short one in The Axis of Awesome. He also performs solo with his new act The Human Jukebox, writes snarky elitist solutions of cryptic crosswords, and can be seen here falling over repeatedly in a giant inflatable ball. He is an adult.

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