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Hey guys, I haven't posted any of my monthly compositions in a while, mainly because I knew exactly what was wrong with them. I took a few months to see how far I could push some things, develop my skills, and take all the advice I got previously into account, so now I'm back to get roasted again (no, you guys were actually insanely nice.)

So this time, it's my first piece for an actual project I'm attached to. The project is quite a ways from seeing the light of day, but I'm also a sort of producer on it, and wanted to get a musical palette out ASAP to avoid some of the temp music pitfalls.

Here's the track: https://lordthayer.bandcamp.com/track/he...rrangement

Also, for fun, here's the piano-only one that I made first to get feedback on the melodies before I dove in: https://lordthayer.bandcamp.com/track/he...-prototype


I really like a close sound for some instruments; as if they are maybe mic'd on top of the orchestra. Possibly because of video game music, and possibly because of my background in rock music. This time around I didn't really concern myself with "placing" the instruments in the correct positions, and just let them be panned as the tracks were naturally, and I don't know if that was a good or bad decision. I always find that my compositions sound a lot weaker when I start vying for more realism there (and realism isn't all that important to me, BUT I'd rather break the rules on purpose than out of ignorance.)

I also used Quantum Leap's Spaces convolution reverb here, and I think I like the results? It's certainly easier, since I'm still shit at reverb, so any specific tips there would be great. (I left most of the instruments at full dry sound and just fiddled with the wet knob, as previously recommended to me. Didn't really play with predelay or anything.)

Also, here's a list of patches I used, if that helps at all:

First, I used a lot of the Versilian Studios stuff I recently purchased. I found this stuff GREAT for the solo instrument sound I was looking for.

Strings:
8Dio Adagio Shorts and Sustains
8Dio Agitato Violins to help with melodies
VSCO solo Violin for most melodies

Brass: 
All Cinebrass set to the Bright setting

Winds:
VSCO solo Flute and Bass Clarinet backed by a couple of 8Dio Flutes. I didn't use any Oboe, because I'm just finding myself hating the sound of it. Very nasally and sharp, and I can't seem to blend it without negatively affecting the sound of the flutes for my taste.

Percussion:
A few VSCO instruments: Bell, Shaker, timpani, solo snare, cymbal, and some gong-like big cymbal that I can't name, as it was a part of a larger patch.
All of that was layered on top of the Kontakt Action Strikes snare, shaker, cymbals, and bass drum, as well as the Spitfire timpani.

All of that used with the Spaces reverb, a Voxengo warmifier, and some light distortion on the final flute melody to help it cut through.

As usual, any and all advice/critiques are greatly welcome and appreciated.
Sounds very competently produced, very snappy, with the rhythm sounding like some kind of modern pop or r'n'b song.

The melody is what I have a problem with. There are good starts in there, but it feels like half a melody that kinda never really resolves in a satisfying way. You start something and then you begin rambling instead of finishing the current phrase. I kept thinking, where's the second half of that phrase? That's what it feels like to me. Breathless, pushing frantically on instead of doing one thing right, then another. Like half a melody is being repeated instead of getting finished by a second half. Like call-call-call with no definite response.

The structure is varied, which is nice, some good stuff in there, but it pushes a lot of stuff down my throat trying to impress with tempo and rhythm and stabby brass, when all I'm waiting for is the melody to take off but it never quite does? A bit hectic maybe.

Regarding reverb, this sounds good to me. I also like to use less reverb than others. I also have a pop music background. I agree that you should pan etc the instruments in the way you like best, you don't necessarily need to imitate a real orchestra.

This will probably impress a lot of videogame players, but as a musician I think there's more work to be done.

I'm not trying to be an ass, just giving honest feedback.
Very nice!  I really like it.

Something that jumps out at me in the opening section is that you're combining instruments with very different attacks.  You begin with piano, which of course has a really short attack.  Then you bring in some other instruments with much slower attacks accompanying it.  The result sounds like the musicians aren't quite together, especially on the syncopations.  Do the instruments give you control over the attack rates?  If so, I'd shorten them a bit.  You also can adjust the note timings to make them start slightly before the beat.

But mainly I really like this.  Since you asked for feedback, I'd feel like I wasn't being helpful if I couldn't suggest something to change. Smile
Very nice, I like the theme melody though I would agree with kneedeep that it doesn't feel resolved somehow... like the first few notes sound great, then it just trails off into some kind of "dum-de-dum" thing almost like you shrugged and gave up on it halfway. Also, a +1 on the hectic bit. The snare and the shaker (?) gives it a frantic, busy feel that I'm not sure is fitting. Maybe backing off a few BPM would help? Or maybe there's just too much stuff going on in too short a time? One doesn't necessarily rule out the other either.

As for the mix and production... I have to say I prefer a more traditional orchestral panning and z-depth placement. At least when you're going for an obviously big orchestral sound. I mean, had it been a sparser tune with just piano and a few solo instruments, the the panning doesn't matter. You can just place instruments where they sound best. But an entire orchestra? I dunno. A big part of the orchestral sound is the placement of the instruments, same as you don't hear a lot of metal tracks with the guitars hard panned left and the drums hard panned right like in a 1960's recording. Even if realism wasn't your main ambition with this piece the inconsistencies in panning detract from the believability of the orchestral parts and, I think, is a contributing factor to everything sounding overly dense and busy. The strings and brass are basically just one big wall of sound and aside from the violins that pop out here and there I can't hear what's going on. If that's what you were going for then that's fine of course, just saying.

I'm not saying one must slavishly follow conventions, only that if you're going to do things differently, put some real thought into why. Otherwise it might sound like you're being different for the sake of being different or, at worst, don't know how to do it properly.

I know you said you left the instruments at their default panning which might be the problem here. Sounds like a lot of them are actually centered and not panned at all, and moreover as you're using stuff from a lot of different libs, changing the panning so that everything fits together is an absolute must. All libraries are different and you can't expect one to sit well with another straight out of the box.
Thanks for the feedback, all. I was afraid I was blowing it with the panning there, but I don't have a developed ear yet to tell. Had I more time, I would have experimented with it anyway, but I'm currently on a self-made schedule to produce one orchestration a month, and I simply ran out of time for wide experimenting in a few categories; kind of just had to make some decisions and move on.

I hadn't considered messing with attack times, but that's something to keep in mind. One of my current struggles is keeping things quanitized while still allowing things to sound realistic, so I guess I was afraid to line things up perfectly, but I will say that I'd honestly rather sound closer to robotic than not (which is one reason why realistic piano has also been a big challenge for me. I'm an absolute shit pianist, so most of my stuff is drawn in.)
I have to agree with the other people on the melody, that its starts nice, but is somewhat not resolving. I really like the arc of suspense though, starting with only on instrument and going more and more extreme. I really like the way the brass gets in at 0:50 and I feel like there the melody is also stronger. I like the rhythm you got going on, I think you're use of percussion is to me rather unconventional in an orchestral setting but it fits what is happening, so why not?

I think you should maybe render like 2 more seconds of the song, in the end it sounds like the reverb is not fully decaying.

1000 Dollars for 1.40minutes song? Big Grin Seems fair.
(07-06-2017, 11:21 AM)Viktor Wrote: [ -> ]I have to agree with the other people on the melody, that its starts nice, but is somewhat not resolving. I really like the arc of suspense though, starting with only on instrument and going more and more extreme. I really like the way the brass gets in at 0:50 and I feel like there the melody is also stronger. I like the rhythm you got going on, I think you're use of percussion is to me rather unconventional in an orchestral setting but it fits what is happening, so why not?

I think you should maybe render like 2 more seconds of the song, in the end it sounds like the reverb is not fully decaying.

1000 Dollars for 1.40minutes song? Big Grin Seems fair.

Thanks! I'm going to look into simplifying the melody a bit and see if I like it. The client and I both quite like the way it resolves right now, but I'm always open to ideas for improvement. 

Honestly, a lot of my rhythmic (and even melodic) elements are products more of being a REALLY big video game music fan with a background in high-tempo, punk-inspired rock with absolutely no formal training or classical knowledge. I read a couple of orchestration books, watched many YouTube videos, and a few podcasts before I dove in, but that's about all the "formal" education I have. 

I don't even see my music as all that unique when compared to the Japanese RPG soundtracks that inspired it, so I'm going to take that as a compliment. It took me a second to figure out what you meant with the "1000 Dollars" bit, until I remembered that Bandcamp simply would not allow me to have the track up without some way to acquire it, so I just set the price as high as I could; I don't actually want anyone to have it, since it's for an actual project. I tried to set it to one million dollars, but they didn't like that.