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How can I improve this song?


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#1 BradDaBug   Members   -  Reputation: 897

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 10:05 PM

I know absolutely nothing about music composition, and yet I'm attempting to write a song be the theme for a game I'm working on. I was thinking of the old Harvest Moon SNES game when I wrote it, since that's kind of the idea I'm trying to get across.

Anyway, how can I improve the song? It seems so basic and flat. What does it need?

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#2 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4352

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 08:26 AM

Anyway, how can I improve the song? It seems so basic and flat. What does it need?


Good song writing is all about tension and release - and the contrast between the two. This can be soft vs. loud, high vs. low, thick vs. thin texture, fast vs. slow, dissonant vs. consonant, changes in instrumentation, etc. When a song comes off as flat is usually means there's too much of one kind of "flavor" throughout the song. Listening to this song I these things pop out right away that make this song feel flat:

- there isn't any real progression in the instrumentation. What you hear from the get-go is what you'll hear the entire song. Consider adding in a new instrument or dropping all of the instruments but one. Why no drums? Progression is possible even with very repetitive ideas. Just listen to Bolero.

- there are no dynamics (i.e. loud vs. soft). You're most likely working with virtual instruments so experiment with note velocities. It sounds as if these notes were entered in via the mouse-n-click method. That's fine but it sets all of the velocity levels to the same amount. No human plays like that - only computers. Even the 8-bit NES tunes had some dynamics thrown in. Aside from velocity settings you can also implement dynamics with automation. I usually recommend doing a bit of both - especially if you have multi-layered samples.

- there isn't any real change in the texture. It's always the bass, piano and wind synth at all times.

- there isn't any panning. It sounds as if all instruments are panned to the center the entire time. I'm not saying your instruments have to change panning the whole time but even having the piano panned right and the synth panned left could create some interplay between the channels. Right now it's 100% static.

- tempo changes: somewhat less common in retro music but a great way to build then release tension.

Your music ideas are not that bad! I definitely think you could "massage" this into something with nice appeal! Your best idea is to listen, listen, listen. Work on this piece some, then take a break and listen to a bunch of cues from Harvest Moon and similar games that you want to emulate. Go take a jog or a walk and just listen to what you like about the piece. Do what's called an A/B comparison. Listen to your piece then listen to a piece you feel is the "gold standard" of that musical style or genre you're shooting for. I think you'll start to see where you can improve your piece and make it come off more alive!

Thanks for sharing and best of luck.
Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#3 Tim Aza   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 12:30 AM

As I listened to the piece for the first time, I noticed that I had a hard time establishing chordal clarity. I think you could improve that by incorporating a sort of rhythm either by interspersing the chord structure throughout different musical phrases, or even by simple chord playing throughout the piece.

I think Nathan addressed all of the other major points very clearly, and if you follow that advice as well you will have a very nice, organic piece of music.




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