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Original composition - five hours' work

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So in my efforts to see if I can produce something speedily, I spent about five hours this afternoon working on this piece from scratch. It's about 53 seconds and loops once in this track (to demonstrate that it loops seamlessly).

It's a slow piece (obviously) that uses a grand total of 9 instrument patches, which is a really low number compared to the last one I posted here (the "Adventure Theme" had some 70+). The solo oboe has 3, with a harp, and one for each string section.

I think about 3 hours were spent on the composition itself altogether. I did a LOT of micromanaging the modulation (cc1) and expression midi controls on all the parts, but since the strings are all together, I only needed to do that once for the section, and then a lot of work on those controls and velocities on the oboe part. Beyond that are details like balancing and timing (string patches can be wonky with timing).

How does that sound? ;) I think of a track like this looping during a tragic scene in a game. I imagined the venerable Yasunori Mitsuda's somber piece "Tears of the Stars Hearts of the People" in Xenogears and this track serving a similar purpose.

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Awesome! The composition is really nice! A few things popped out to my ears: 

1) It would be nice to hear a change of texture. Instead it's mostly strings with oboe. A moment or two with either thinned out strings by themselves or only oboe with perhaps a few lower to mid strings would change the texture. 

2) Consider having the melody change to another instrument at some point. Even having the higher strings take over could be a nice change. Also a bit of a change in melody or harmony could be very effective too. Especially with loops, I try to not have strict repeats since the loop itself will be repeating. 

3) There's not much low end in your mix. I feel the mids and highs outweigh the bottom end which is making the overall mix feel a bit lopsided and thin. Also I had to turn up the speakers quite a bit, so I'd also recommend looking into what your loudness level(s) are set to when bouncing out. Sometimes doubling a synth layer into your strings and blending it into the mix can help deepen up the sound. 

4) I know you're doing a lot of CC automation, which is excellent. Have you also considered doing some volume automation (or envelopes) depending on your DAW? That can further help taper some of the phrases a bit more. 

5) Finally I'd consider some tempo changes to let the musicality of the phrases really shine through. 

It's a great mood and the pacing of the piece is quite nice! I agree with you - this could work very well in a sad moment of a video game. 

Thanks so much for sharing!

Nate

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Hey Nate,

Thanks for your input and those are some great ideas. I'm not sure I understand the #3 comment (just from a technical standpoint) about doubling a "synth layer." (my technical lingo may be lacking here) Does that mean something like simply duplicating an instrument? For the dynamics in general, the oboe is generally a single dynamic marking and the volume changes are really subtle (the midi line for volume looks like small ripples if that makes the picture), so maybe you're saying the that might still get more pronounced? For the strings - volume-wise - there's a bit more dynamic contrast and they're identical in shape except the double-bass is toned down quite a bit from the others, so it sounds like you'd rather hear more double-bass to avoid the top-heaviness - just my interpretation. ;)

One question I have for you, if I may, is in the interest of my understanding timeframes of work, how does five hours sound for coming up with this sort of work? I mean, just for what it is and the kinds of work/micromanaging I did with this track at this point.

Thanks again. And the input has been valuable and appreciated. :)

Josh

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23 hours ago, JoshCzoski said:

I'm not sure I understand the #3 comment (just from a technical standpoint) about doubling a "synth layer."

It's an old trick when working with sampled strings. Double the notes with a synth that has a nice, full sound (usually a sine way so it's really clean) then duck it way down in the mix. Until it's basically more felt than actually heard. This helps beef up the string sound. You may only want to do it with mid-to-low notes. 

 

23 hours ago, JoshCzoski said:

For the dynamics in general, the oboe is generally a single dynamic marking and the volume changes are really subtle (the midi line for volume looks like small ripples if that makes the picture), so maybe you're saying the that might still get more pronounced?

It doesn't feel dynamic enough to my ears, especially at the ends of phrases where you could pull the volume back some more. Taper the phrases so they feel more musical. 

 

23 hours ago, JoshCzoski said:

One question I have for you, if I may, is in the interest of my understanding timeframes of work, how does five hours sound for coming up with this sort of work? I mean, just for what it is and the kinds of work/micromanaging I did with this track at this point.

It's not a bad piece! And definitely not a bad pacing for 5 hours of work. I think you'll find that your time will get better and better the more you work on these production tricks and such. In some cases you may be spending a lot of time and effort on certain CC data when doing a simple volume automation could achieve much of the same effect. Or especially when both CC and volume automation is combined. 

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4 hours ago, nsmadsen said:

In some cases you may be sending a lot of time and effort on certain CC data when doing a simple volume automation could achieve much of the same effect. Or especially when both CC and volume automation is combined. 

So, when I've been working with midi controls, the "expression" layer, or cc11, seems to be the most direct control on the volume. I did see a main volume control at cc7 but it didn't do anything when I've tried it. So when you're talking abotu "volume automation" I might not be familiar with what that is.

After googling this briefly it looks like I just have some learning to do with DAW software, so that gives me something to look into.

Thanks!

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