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There are a number of threads going here that I would like to respond to, so I feel a little bad starting up a new one of my own; but I've had very limited free time lately because I've started grad school (it is way more time consuming than I would expect something that is "flexible for working adults" to be). What time I've had has been spent either trying to keep from getting too rusty on the guitar or putting together a master VO template to better my workflow. Now I need some objective ears, because frankly I think I'm just tinkering too much, not getting anywhere with it, and neglecting making actual music.

Below is a link to a little scratch track I started with the template that I think is beginning to take shape. there are some parts that are just sort of "blocking" and other parts that are a little more coherent. I didn't want to use such an incomplete, sloppy track or one with so much "exoticism" in the orchestration, but this is all there is right now. I'm primarily looking for thoughts on relative volume, placement / spacing, and general "technical" stuff, but all comments are welcome, of course. Remember, though, this is just a sketch at this point.

There are also some parts that I think sound like bad rip-offs of Jesse Hopkins' soundtrack to Mount and Blade, so I'll have to do something about that...

A Pair of Death's Finest Pawns
All too happy to hear rip-offs of M&B (the string runs and bassoon/bass clar combo around 1:30 had me chuckle a bit), although I severely wish the M&B soundtrack was actually recorded instead of almost completely EWQL SO- the composition of it is very solid, but I've gotten to the point after so many years of using and hearing it used where I can't stand hearing EWQL SO for more than about 10 minutes... although at this point I've modded all of the tracks in the game to be period music from the 15th and 16th centuries. XD

Overall I think the general stereo feel and mix is solid, although I'd say the strings are perhaps a little on the quiet side compared to the rest of the ensemble. The brass and percussion sound absolutely massive, going on cinematic, but that solo viol(in?) at the beginning sounded weak and close by comparison. The finger cymbals were also unusually close sounding too.

Is the harp mono? Also sounded like the finger cymbals and the cor anglais near the end might have been mono too.

The congo or taiko (?) has a lot of low-mid resonance with the reverb, which interferes with the basses when they come in, in particular around 1:14.

Given your string samples, I'd suggest avoiding rapid runs, they appear pretty unrealistic there but are fine for sustains and typical phrases.

I typically like panning my timpani over to the right, sometimes even the far right. These timpani samples are particularly distant and surreally large sounding, which isn't necessary a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Might be a good idea to use less reverb or a closer mic position for calmer pieces.
Thanks as always for the input, Sam!

I bet it's fun playing M&B with period pieces. What do you do for battle music, though?

My string section library (Cinematic Strings 2) is actually supposed to be pretty capable of quick runs. I just haven't really spent the time learning how to do it yet. These runs are really just filler here to keep my head in the right space when I return to the track; there wasn't really any tweaking or anything. But I'll certainly keep in mind your thoughts on that. I don't do too much "fast" stuff anyway, though I'd like to get better at it. These I'll turn up a bit, as well. These samples don't quite hit the high levels of forte expression that the brass and perc do.

I'm not sure what to do about the timp, just yet. It sounds, as you say, massive and cinematic, but I'm always fighting with it for space. Apart from experimenting with panning, it's a question of either reducing the volume some, or even experimenting with blending the mic positions. I'm really more of a single mic position kind of person, but there might be a useful balance to be struck between the close and stage mics.

I did mono-ize all the winds and the harp. I don't know why I did it for the harp, actually. I guess I felt it enhanced the sense of it being a quieter instrument. I used a stereo plugin to turn off a channel rather than the stereo separation to blend both into mono. The Asian perc (finger cymbal) is one of those all-in-one patches, and I think the samples may actually be mono. This patch, as well as the taiko, riq, solo strings, harp, and most of my winds (excepting your free samples that I use to build sections) are stock Kontakt so they are very close and dry. I've have to see what I can do about proximity with some EQ and reverb.
Not to derail completely but...

There isn't much music from the approximate era of M&B (~1200's, I think?), mostly church music, so instead I focused on music of 1500-1650, generally 'renaissance music'. This fit not too bad of a fit too, since I did it originally for the mod 'Nova Aetas' in addition to the base game, which is set mostly in the 1500's.

For battle music, I used mostly a type of period piece called Battaglias ('battalias'). They were basically program pieces which depicted real battles (think 'distant ancestors of the 1812 Overture')-

As program pieces, they begin with the rallying of the armies, the King riding forward, the trumpets sounding orders, etc. before the battle actually starts. Then typically a part of fast repeated notes (e.g. 1:45 in the first, 3:20 in the second) when the battle begins... which tends to be about when the forces collide in a typical M&B battle. 60 Swadian Knights charging at full tilt towards some Forest Bandits across the plains never felt so perfect until I stuck this piece in. XD

It's also important to note that composers in Susato's time did not score for specific instruments like we do today, and there is certainly no drum part written out from the time, so any guesses as to instrumentation and whether or not drums were used and to what extent are strictly the artistic license and preferences of the performing group. For example, this funny guy has a different take on that first one featuring a bunch of viols, crumhorns, and harpsichord... and a little next-gen AfterEffects work-

I also used up-tempo dance pieces for the battles which fits quite nicely, e.g.-

In general, I elected to pick pieces from different areas or genres for different cultures. For example, Swadians got more late-Renaissance towards early Baroque French and English music with harpsichords and lutes, while the Rhodoks more Italian and Spanish, but similar period and 'sophistication' to the Swadians. Vaegirs got simpler sounding vocal and viol ensemble music, Nords got mostly percussion & woodwind pieces (and one or two bits of Celtic folk music where I ran dry on stuff). The truly hard part was Khergits as I don't have any Mongolian music lying around, so I sort of went towards Eastern European and Mediterranean. I tried in general to at least somewhat match the feel of the original music too so it wasn't too jarring if, for example, they use a piece out of context.

I also did a version of the Viking Conquests soundtrack where I replaced all of the music with pieces by Arnold Bax, a British composer from the early 1900's who wrote very 'filmish' sounding orchestral music drawing from British myth and landscape, which gives the DLC a more cinematic/mythic feel-

I could probably do a way better job of it with a few more hours and some extra CD's to pilfer, but it's enough to get immersed and really changed the game for me. Not really better or worse, just super different feel!

Anyway, back to the track/template!

I think if you just put a really gentle highpass on the taiko or scooped the mid-lows (e.g. around 100-500 Hz) it would clear things up. You could also try highpassing the reverb slightly.

I'm not really much of a fan of the mono approach tbh. The stereo part of the recording isn't the instrument, it's the space that's stereo. When you squish the instrument to mono, you squeeze out that sense of space with it. There are plenty of cases for using mono audio, but I'm not entirely certain this is one of them... unless you just want to blend a mono close mic with the stereo main to give more of a sense of center. However, I'd say you definitely have the right idea about how to go about getting a proper mono result, so that's flawless and I guess it's just a matter of preference. Smile

I'm pretty sure I've shared these clips before, but they show how hard it is to try to get mono samples with an existing sense of space to fit nicely with only reverb-
Summed to mono:
Mono with reverb:
Original stereo w/ [similar] reverb:

It's not a perfect demo, as there is a lot of stereo panning/info going on aside from just basic 'space', but I think it works well enough.

I was for a long time also a fan of just using one mic position or another, but when I first got the close mics for EWQL SO back in the day, it massively improved things for me to be able to sneak those in and cut through the mud of the main mics.

Regarding the timpani, you might have luck using lower velocities perhaps, and maybe bringing in a little of the close mic(s).
This sounds great! I'm going to defer commenting on mixing etc until later since I'm in the middle of something, but I really love the sound and style of it.

Would the title by any chance be a Fafhrd and Mouser reference?
(03-12-2019, 10:43 AM)Samulis Wrote: [ -> ]Not to derail completely but...

This is all very interesting... I've never listened to Susato. I'll give that a go. As for Bax, I checked him out awhile ago and have been meaning to do so again ever since. I really liked what I heard, and I have a copy of Tintagel that I ripped from the library at school back in '08 somewhere Blush  I'll have to dig it up again.

Quote:I was for a long time also a fan of just using one mic position or another, but when I first got the close mics for EWQL SO back in the day, it massively improved things for me to be able to sneak those in and cut through the mud of the main mics.

Regarding the timpani, you might have luck using lower velocities perhaps, and maybe bringing in a little of the close mic(s).

I have a couple of ideas for the timp. I'm playing around with it. Already mixing in some close mics has provided a nice sense of tonal clarity and "bounce," and brought down the stage mic volume to where it's not entirely gone but not as overpowering; but Project SAM close mics tend to sound weird and thin to me, often with strange panning issues I don't quite know how to deal with yet. It may be a couple days but I'll post a version with some adjustments here and there to the track for dissection.

(03-12-2019, 12:11 PM)Mattias Westlund Wrote: [ -> ]This sounds great! I'm going to defer commenting on mixing etc until later since I'm in the middle of something, but I really love the sound and style of it.

Would the title by any chance be a Fafhrd and Mouser reference?

Thank you! And yes, I wanted to do a sort of "symphonic character portrait" where I had a theme for each of the characters and a theme for them as "the Twain." It's all a bit ambitious for me, so I think it'll probably just become a track that plays with those concepts without being overly restricted by any "structure." We'll see where it goes...

I think the line was actually something like, "...most useful pawns in some of Death's finest games," from "The Sadness of the Executioner" in Swords and Ice Magic.
[EDIT: loaded the wrong clip earlier...]

Ok, here's a version with a few experimental tweaks: String sections and solo violin volumes are up a little bit; harp is no longer mono (because I'm still not sure what I was getting at with that...); taiko has some cut with a wide Q around 145hz; and most notably, timpani is a mix of stage and close mics (with stage predominating), and volume has been cut accordingly.

Personally, I think that the timp sounds a bit more pronounced, but overall things sound pretty much the same in that department. I'm still not sure that it isn't just that the timps are too loud and wide to begin with. Also, a lot of the reverb is actually baked into the samples, which is where a lot of that high end content is coming from on the timpani and bass drum, though I do have everything going into the verb at about 50 percent.