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Crit My Soundtrack In Progress

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Hi everyone,

It's been a little while since i've been around these parts (mostly due to the demise of the "help wanted" section) but there's a good bunch of people here and I want to get more involved again!

So I'm currently working on the soundtrack to a platformer called Super Ubi Land:

My aim is to strike a balance between mario-type jazz-y march tracks and animal crossing's feel-good harmonicas/accordions/acoustic guitar as well as, obviously, putting my own stamp on it (which I hope specifically to be sharp/clear production). The kind of "audio brand" or signature sound is the kiddy vocals done by me :) that you'll find in most of the tracks but most prominently the main vocals.

I have the main theme:
http://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-main-theme

Two (out of three) world 1 level themes:
http://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-earth-level
and
http://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-world-1-2-loop

Shop Theme:
http://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-shop-theme

and finally a few end of level/death/continue/extra accent/stinger type tracks:
http://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-a-bunch-of

My main problem at the moment is branching out and creating a variety of tracks with different feels whilst retaining a cohesive sound. My approach world 1 was to use a sort of template of instruments (they're all in a similar metre as well) so while they are not all the same instrumentation, at each of their core is an mbira/same bass/same drums/accordion/acoustic guitar. I also tried to use the main theme melody as the basis for a lot of the material in these tracks to keep things cohesive and familiar.

My set up is - macbook laptop, logic pro 9, using EWQL Symphonic Orchestra gold for most but also a surprising amount of free soundfonts, Mo'Fatt for the drums, a few live recordings of vox/guitar (with an sm57 & an sm58).

I hope that by posting a sort of "audio dev-log" here I can get lots of useful feedback but also provide a window for people to see into my process in creating soundtracks. Please post to ask about anything you like!

If anyone is interested here is a VERY early demo of the game (so you can see how it plays with some of my SFX in as well) and here is a video trailer.

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Hey Calum,

Sounds great so far!
Distinctive and fresh arrangements and just the right amount of skillful licks and fills to mix up the catchy themes.

I've only got two small things regarding the mix:

  • The sound is a bit "harsh" to my ears. Might just be me, but I could imagine your music being somewhat tiring for that reason - plus a game like this will likely have a lot of sound effects which will need some more space.
  • I feel you're using a bit too much panning, especially for recurring sounds like hihats / shakers. This shifts the whole track a bit too much to the left or right from time to time. Again, leave space for the sound FX to be panned - just pan the percussive elements a little and use more panorama on fills etc. instead.

    Again: just my personal thoughts. You're well on your way to creating something really awesome. Keep us updated!

    Cheers,
    Moritz Edited by Moritz P.G. Katz

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Thank you caleb.

And Moritz! I think you may be right. This is actually very helpful and specific advice - the panning is definitely something I will take note of! Hmm, by "harsh" do you mean musically it is too busy or in terms of production - too much on the high frequencies or generally pushed a bit too loud? Thank you very much, i believe this issue certainly needed to be brought to my attention. As the composer its easy to give it your all but sometimes you need to step back and think about the game as a whole - a good lesson to learn. : )

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Great stuff! I especially enjoyed the use of the voices in the main theme track! Everything balances and fits together quite nicely! I wish I had more constructive criticism. The only thing I can possibly think of is the relation of the music to the game. Not in terms of fitting, but mixing the music with the character elements of the game, and how the music may be a little too vibrant.

To add, Half-Minute Melee is a gorgeous piece. Sounds like it popped right out of Sonic Unleashed. (If you haven't heard the music from that game, listen to it! It is genius.)

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ah wow! I'm listening to Sonic Unleashed tracks on youtube right now - i'm digging the hardcore drums and light jazz stuff - kinda reminds me of hideki naganuma! That's really what we were going for with that track. Me and Sam English (who both absolutely love Masashi Hamauzu) collabed with a kinda electronic/orchestral/jazz fusion in mind! : )

Anyway, thank you so much for your response. Ah, the music may be a little too vibrant you say! Hmmm, perhaps this is also what Mortiz is getting at? Do you suppose you could specify what you mean by vibrant? The music itself - melodies, harmonies, orchestration - are too distracting, too big - that the music should take a backseat? Or is it a production issue as well?

I think I was producing these tracks as though they would stand alone and one must certainly think about their role in the game. I can understand this issue however so far i've felt that playing early builds and listening to the music, it hasn't become a problem for me. But certain tracks (world 1 - 1 - the light dubstep bit at the end) i could see making people go "huh?"... But anyway that's why I'm asking for help - because I am often blinded by the fact that it was I who made it! : )

Thank you guys for more feedback. I will hopefully have some new music, decisions to make, and more insight into how i'm making this soundtrack soon!

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OK! Digging up this topic. Haven't been on Gamedev in a while!

Here's some new music I've made for Super Ubi Land:
https://soundcloud.com/calumbowen/super-ubi-land-midnight-lake

33mbln4.jpg

This is the level (in World 1 like the other two tracks I've shown) - for most of the time you're riding on a turtle and jumping around, bouncing on things. The level of action and tension is less than in other levels. So the music is a bit more relaxed and much slower paced. 6/8 has always felt quite bouncy to me. Also, I saw this as an opportunity to bring some of the small wub parts from the earlier tracks and bring them more to the fore here. So in that way there's a progression and interactivity within the whole of the first world's music.

One thing I've tried to do is keep bringing back this melody or parts of the melody in different forms. Both as a challenge to myself to keep it fresh and also as a way to reinforce the main theme in player's minds indirectly. So you'll hear that the A section of this track is a 6/8 re-harmonisation of the main theme the B section takes the chords from the main theme's B section but introduces a new melody. You'll also hear that new melody later in the game. So making references throughout the game in order to strengthen melodic content is something I'm actively trying to do with this soundtrack.

Any more feedback is wonderful! I'll hopefully be finishing up some snow level music just in time for christmas and I hope to keep up this thread and give as much insight into my process as possible if people thing that's interesting.

Calum

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Hey Calum,

I love how you put the catchy main theme into a new context - and the mix is very solid yet daring with those fat snare "thwaps"!

Lots of detail in there with the counter-voices, modal interchange and everything - I like!

The only concern I might have is that some parts could clash with the sound effects - in particular, the breaks starting @ 0.48 might interrupt the flow of the game a bit.
Then again, it depends on leveling the music with the rest of the audio - and also on the general pace of platforming gameplay.

Is there a public video of the game actually being played? I'd love to hear your music in action!

Cheers,
Moritz Edited by Moritz P.G. Katz

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Hey Calum,

I love how you put the catchy main theme into a new context - and the mix is very solid yet daring with those fat snare "thwaps"!

Lots of detail in there with the counter-voices, modal interchange and everything - I like!

The only concern I might have is that some parts could clash with the sound effects - in particular, the breaks starting @ 0.48 might interrupt the flow of the game a bit.
Then again, it depends on leveling the music with the rest of the audio - and also on the general pace of platforming gameplay.

Is there a public video of the game actually being played? I'd love to hear your music in action!

Cheers,
Moritz


Completely agree with the point that you raised here again. This is something I'm constantly worrying about! I think, though this may be a foolish move on my part, I will write all the music uninhibited at first and then put it in the game and see what works and what doesn't and then if volume changes don't fix some of it I'll go back into the project files and change instrumental parts which seem to be messing with specific SFX. This may sound counterintuitive but I think this method may work for what I want with this so far. I never want the whole game to suffer because the music is too overbearing but my main focus is definitely on the music being as great and full as it can be. : )

Here's some footage of it in action:

Only problem is that some of the SFX aren't finalised (you can hear the click track in one of the powerup sounds!!!)

Here, I think the SFX sound alright but I know in other places from playing through the game the music vs. SFX is an issue!

Thanks for checking it out again man!

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Looks and sounds awesome Calum, you're definitely on the right track!
The music is right on spot mood-wise, and being aware of the music / SFX issue is half the deal. :)

Cheers,
Moritz

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