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The Perilous Journey - peastman - 08-29-2016

I've written an album that I'd love feedback on.  It's intended to be the soundtrack to a video game (epic fantasy), though not any game that actually exists.  That's just how I imagined it.  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlRJDbe1tnSz0P8x8PCa3cvVJ4XjwgALg


I just recently got back into writing music after many years away from it.  And of course the tools have advanced amazingly, so I'm still figuring out all the things that are now possible.  The last time I did any significant amount of composing, I was working with Sibelius 3, which tells you just how long it's been.


RE: The Perilous Journey - Otto Halmén - 08-29-2016

My biggest criticism is one I've also gotten myself from Mattias Westlund: More reverb!

Other than that, I like your composing style. I often like to think that the best melodies are the ones that feel like you could sing or hum along, and you're pretty much nailing it in that department. It's tunes like those that resonate with our emotions. Smile

As to the tools... There sure is a lot available. When it comes to recording what you composed, however, the good old record live MIDI takes in DAW still reigns on top, IMHO.

Anyway, keep up the good work. Smile


RE: The Perilous Journey - Mattias Westlund - 08-29-2016

Musically I love this, but in terms of production there's a few things I would have done differently to help bring out the atmosphere and grandeur of the compositions. So, IMHO:

Like Otto said, everything's way too dry. In fact I'm not sure I'm hearing any reverb AT ALL besides the ambience present in the samples. I know, I have a tendency of complaining about this and one could easily get the idea that I'm an advocate of huuuuge reverbs and "wall of sound" type productions. That's not actually the case, but I do think that a virtual orchestration needs enough reverb to smooth out the seams you get from using sampled instruments. Doesn't have to be a large reverb -- in fact I prefer small to medium sized halls myself -- but don't be afraid make things a little bit wetter than what you initially might think. Sampled instruments and real instruments are two different things, and treating samples like they're real instruments will make them sound even more fake.

While your melodic instrument samples do their job for the most part, some percussion sticks out as not that great. The snare in The Final Showdown and the sleigh bells and other percussion in Travelling Music suffer from the machine gun effect, i.e. you can hear that it's the exact same sample being repeated over and over with no variation. This detracts from the believability of the music and I would suggest getting hold of some percussion samples with velocity layers and round-robin variations.

Speaking of believability, I also think your tracks could use a whole lot of midi Expression love. Right now all long notes are very static and doesn't change over time, like a real instrument does. I think you should experiment with using Expression (CC#11) for creating volume swells and little tapers at the end of held notes, so that everything flows smoothly from one thing to the next instead of just going on and off.

I hope I wasn't too harsh with you. Like I said, this is what *I* would have done differently. YMMV Smile


RE: The Perilous Journey - peastman - 08-30-2016

Thanks, that's all really great advice!

Quote:When it comes to recording what you composed, however, the good old record live MIDI takes in DAW still reigns on top, IMHO.

If I were a more competent performer that would probably be good advice. Smile   But alas...

Quote:I think you should experiment with using Expression (CC#11) for creating volume swells and little tapers at the end of held notes

Believe it or not, there's actually a fair amount of that going on.  Well, volume instead of expression because SSO doesn't respond to expression when played by Sforzando.  But clearly I needed even more.  Which doesn't really surprise me.  I learned a ton in the process of creating this.  Whenever I came back to an earlier track, I would immediately think, "I can make that sound better."  So I would spend more time revising it and improving the expression until it was as good as I knew how to make it.  But then a month later I would listen to it again and think, "No, I know how to do it better now."

So I suspect that when I listen to this a few months from now, I'll be immediately struck by all the things I could have done better.  But learning is a large part of the fun!  And at some point, I think it's good to just declare a project is finished and move on to something new.


RE: The Perilous Journey - Otto Halmén - 08-30-2016

(08-30-2016, 01:19 AM)peastman Wrote: If I were a more competent performer that would probably be good advice. Smile   But alas...

Virtual orchestration was my main incentive to learn keyboards!

Luckily, you don't have to be a Gershwin-grade pianist to record MIDI tracks for an orchestral project. The thing is, if you just enter each note manually, you're more likely to run into issues with note transitions. Those can be a PITA to fix by hand. When you're recording live, your muscle memory compensates for the slow attack times of orchestral samples. You'll get cleaner takes from the onset. Also, if you can patch a control from your MIDI keys into your DAW's volume or expression, you can record the swells at the same time. Smile


RE: The Perilous Journey - peastman - 08-31-2016

Perhaps I'll give that a try. Currently, I do all my composing in MuseScore. Then when it's done, I export to a MIDI file, import that into Logic, and clean up all the expression there.


RE: The Perilous Journey - Otto Halmén - 08-31-2016

Since you're using notation, have you tried composing with pen and paper? Typically, I compose on-the-fly as I record, but I do it sometimes in a small sheet music notebook, especially if I'm spending a lot of time commuting. I highly recommend you give it a try some time. It can put you in a completely different mindset, as you'll be using different parts of your brain for the process. Smile

Try something like all strings on a single piano staff, woodwinds on another and brass on a third. That way, you can fit it in a relatively small notebook. Not that there's anything wrong with composing straight to a huge conductor's score, of course. Smile


RE: The Perilous Journey - Mattias Westlund - 08-31-2016

(08-30-2016, 01:19 AM)peastman Wrote: Believe it or not, there's actually a fair amount of that going on.  Well, volume instead of expression because SSO doesn't respond to expression when played by Sforzando.  But clearly I needed even more. 

Yeah, you're probably being too subtle about it and/or not using it enough. I'd say that ALL sustaining non-percussive instruments can use a good bit of expression/volume automation. Don't be shy to use it, apply it in big, broad strokes and see where it gets you. You will hear if you're overdoing it.

(08-30-2016, 01:19 AM)peastman Wrote: Which doesn't really surprise me.  I learned a ton in the process of creating this.  Whenever I came back to an earlier track, I would immediately think, "I can make that sound better."  So I would spend more time revising it and improving the expression until it was as good as I knew how to make it.  But then a month later I would listen to it again and think, "No, I know how to do it better now."

So I suspect that when I listen to this a few months from now, I'll be immediately struck by all the things I could have done better.  But learning is a large part of the fun!  And at some point, I think it's good to just declare a project is finished and move on to something new.

Yup, that's usually how it goes Smile Like you say, sometimes you need to declare a project finished, or you'll tinker forever.


RE: The Perilous Journey - peastman - 10-31-2016

I finally got around to putting the rest of the album up on YouTube (12 tracks in all).  I meant to do it a while ago, but I'm lazy. Smile