December 14th, 2023

ToneGym Hero: Lucas Guimaraes

ToneGym Hero: Lucas Guimaraes

Web developer and music enthusiast from Brazil, now living in Athens, GA, balances his tech career at the University of Georgia with a deep passion for music production and involvement in the ToneGym community. Lucas Guimaraes is this month's ToneGym Hero!

Who are you, and Where are you from?

My name is Lucas Guimaraes and I’m a ToneGym Hero.

I’m 30 years old. During the day, I work as a full-time web developer for the University of Georgia. I work in the division of Student Affairs. If you see a page around that site, chances are I had a hand in it.

At night, I mainly work on music and other creative projects a lot (writing, programming, drawing). That and experiencing more fiction. Movies, music, books, games, I can’t get enough of it. My love for making music is what lead me to Tonegym in the first place.

Where I’m from? Well, I was born in Brazil. I lived most of my childhood in Georgia (the state) and Texas. I spent my 20’s in Washington state, and I currently reside in Athens, GA.

How did you get into music?

Man I can’t even remember how I got into music. Or how long I’ve been producing music. I kind-of had several periods of getting into it. So I’ll try and go over all of them.

First, there was playing recorder and choir in grade school. Obviously I heard the radio, but that was when I started to get really involved in music. I played the recorder in 3rd and 4th grade and did choir in 4th and 5th grade. I even got selected as one of the four people part of a “Combine a bunch of kids from different school districts to create a choir” Sort of thing. I don’t remember much about it.

I then got into guitar. That was a bit rough for me because I hadn’t really listened to a bunch of music, and I had a hand-me-down guitar, haha. Like, when I say it was a beat-up guitar, it was really a beat up guitar. But all hope was not lost. One summer in middle school, my sister brought home a copy of Guitar Hero 2. And man, that was where I really fell in love with music. Almost 20 years ago and I can remember my obsession with figuring out new artists, learning what other songs they’ve done, and then having those artists lead into even more new artists. I probably have well over thousands of bands I’ve listened to now.

Then there was my love for music production. I started in about 2014? With a copy of FL Studio, but I didn’t start getting really familiar until 2016. Ever since then, there’s always been a mountain load to learn, but I keep finding new ways to get re-engaged with the process.

What changed in 2016 was getting introduced to the Video Game Music Community. The past two years in particular have been a huge escalation in the amount of music I make. I was in-between jobs and decided to start working on arranging for 3-5 hours a day. I found myself super in love with the process and participating still in the amazing community of people (GameGrooves, OverClocked ReMix, Dwelling of Duels and Pixel Mixers).

I know it's a mess of a story, but there’s no other better way to summarize – A lot of falling in and out of the hobby until I stayed in. To recap: I got into music 20 years ago in grade school, and a lot of small steps, including communities and learning more music, helped me get to where I am today.

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?

Game Development is my main thing, actually! Back almost two decades ago, after completing Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for the first time (my favorite piece of fiction) I decided I wanted to make games. I fell in and out of it for a number of reasons, but when I’m not working on music, I’m working on art, programming, or writing. Building up my skills to help me further make experiences for other people. Other than that, I experience a lot of different fiction to help keep myself inspired! I keep myself pretty busy. Beyond that, not much to me.

My latest interests (outside of working on more projects, lol) include catching up on The Boys and going to live concerts. Some of the last concerts I’ve went to include Plini, Sunn O))), the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and The Mountain Goats.

What's your most useless skill or talent?

Most *useless*? Uh, probably my ability to not snore when I sleep. According to everyone who’s ever slept near me, I’m one of the most quiet sleepers they know. It’s a skill that’s useless specifically because I’m the only one that never gets to experience it, so while other people benefit, I literally have no idea. Haha. Good question!

What inspires you to keep making music?

Other music.

I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s a completely serious answer. I hear other songs and I want to dissect how they work – how to make something that gives the feel of that same song. How DO you make a song with the punk energy of Queens of the Stone Age’s Song for the Dead? How about emulating the blues-with-rock feels of Palace’s Live Well? Or the ballad-y nature of Let It Be by The Beatles? I could go on all day. Part of what led me to the community of ToneGym is improving my ear to make deciphering other songs easier.

One of the most fun exercises I’ve ever done is try to find a song with the stems (just the song will suffice!) and then I try to emulate it as close as possible. Often I don’t even get 50% of the way there, but learning how other songs are dissected keeps me engaged. Honestly, even if I wasn’t making my own music, I’d still love that process.

If you could sit down to a session with any artist, who would it be?

Uh, oh wow. This is a hard question.

If it could be ANY artist in history, I’d be here for hours listing artists. Currently I’d probably pick either King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard or The Mountain Goats. I’d pick one of them because I’m impressed by both quality and quantity, and I feel like I’d learn so much from them, whether I’m performing with them or sitting in.

The Mountain Goats I’d want to learn about songwriting. Like the storytelling/lyric writing process. John Darnielle (the band leader of TMG) is known for using a tape deck at first to demo his songs – just recording a guitar and his vocals. Getting a track to click with as little as possible is something I’d be very interested in learning from myself.

King Gizzard is my other choice. The way they all click as a band is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Okay, sure, there are other artists who click well, but there’s not many bands who release five albums in a year! And they’re all pretty great! Being able to learn how to just jam and then edit a jam session into a song would be such a fantastic learning experience on the other end. Instead of something more planned and calculated (like The Mountain Goats) how do you take just jamming around and form it into a whole song? As a bedroom musician, I’ve never had this luxury.

Plus both of them seem like good hangs.

Any habits you have before starting a session?

Production session? My first habit is to find a way to break in. I know that might sound silly, but at the beginning, there’s a bit of a “Writer’s block” that’s easy to feel. I try to find any way possible to get over that initial barrier. Once the momentum gets going, a song REALLY gets going. I’ve been really working at getting past that initial barrier lately. The one thing I notice always helps is to write 8 bars – No matter how bad they are. The best case scenario? I’ve made a banging tune. The worst case? 8 bars of music that I will never let anyone else hear.

With saxophone (my primary instrument), I try to practice long tones and focus on breathing exercises. After I’ve done that, I try to warm up by practicing up to 20 minutes of sightreading a song on VGLeadsheets. Then I start recording and/or working on whatever material I have.

What have you been working on lately?

A couple of projects! I have a viola quartet album of Final Fantasy music releasing on December 18th – I did the mastering, the album art, and some of the arrangements. I will be working to release more Viola Quartets throughout 2024.

I also have a Ragtime Piano EP of Wild Arms music. Both of these will be available on my Spotify. I was also on a couple of albums recently, including Snow Stage (I also did the album art for this!), King of Rad Lions: A Surf Rock Tribute to Wind Waker and Through the Sacred Realm: Ocarina of Time 25th Anniversary Album. I’m currently working on arranging/composing a bunch of music that will be released next year, including a few projects I can’t talk about.

So yeah, lots of music that I’m making and lots of that will be released!

If you could pick one, what would be the theme song of your life?

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – November

The way this song covers existentialism in one song while also not telling the listener what to think. There’s this bounce of energy that covers a more “Having fun” energy, while the second half shows that there’s a lot more to learn with more melancholy. That… about sums up me. There’s a lot of fun, like going out and experiencing new things, learning more about my craft with other people but there’s also a lot of melancholy, working hard and contemplative reflection.

Overall it represents a journey, and a journey that’s larger than life. It’s about me. But it’s not just about me. And it's about the destination, but it's more about the journey. Take a listen for yourself:

What's your favorite musical instrument?


I enjoy how the cello sounds the most, but I absolutely love playing saxophones. I own a Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bari and EWI! I want to have more in the future too. Absolutely adore the saxophone.

Why? I just love how it feels to play. Something about putting your breath in, even with not the greatest technique, always sounded really satisfying. It's so satisfying to click buttons to move up and down a scale too! All the mechanisms in it. I can’t get enough of that instrument. The fact that I’m purchasing.

What's your favorite ToneGym feature?

Just one? Just one?! JUST one?!

If I had to pick one, and this is a bit broad, I love the gamification of Music Theory that the site is committed to.

I tried to get a second bachelor’s degree in music. I also took some theory classes in my undergrad. In that time, there was a class that turned me off like no other: Ear training. I can’t tell you enough how much I despised ear training. Every subsequent ear training class got worse. And why? It felt so grating to hear a piano note, guess, and then not have that instant feedback. It felt like experiencing music at a snail’s pace.

ToneGym’s ability to give me instant feedback and let me try as much ear training as I want in the day, whether that’s for 4 minutes or 4 hours, has helped me improve so, so much faster and better than any other class.

To me, gamification is not just the future of music education: it’s the future of education. And I’m proud to be a part of a community that helps serve that mission.

What does the future hold for Lucas? 

Projects! I’ll keep making many, many more projects. I hope I’m not done making stuff, and that my decade in my 20’s is spent on me learning my 30’s. I’m hoping this is the decade I get fully back into game development too, but for now, I’m very happy working on making projects with friends and honing my skills.

Specifically learning music theory, I’m working to improve my ability with harmonies. Both in terms of listening better for them (Looking at you, Route VI!) and using them better in my compositions. I want to be able to write beautiful harmonies and know what I’m doing. I’ve spent a lot of years, and I mean a LOT kinda winging it with composition, so I’m looking forward to starting composition/arranging lessons next year! I also want to get better at promoting my own work. I feel very bad about it right now (you might notice some of my social media accounts are a little... dead, haha)

Overall, what's in store is to keep continuing my musical journey with projects and enjoying the ride! In the long term, I do hope to start my own game studio. Or maybe some of my musical projects will take off. For now, I'm still very happy enjoying the journey :) 

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