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I tried really hard to find something wrong in the mixing of this track. I shoulnd't have tried.

I especially like how you decided to put emphasis on the vocals using distorsion (or maybe a saturated backing track ?) in the chorus, as it really adds to the power you wanted to convey.
There's just a minor detail that bugs me, that can be heard in the choruses, for example at 2:43. It can be heard every time you say "Ideals born from reasons", at the end of the sentence. I hear some kind of noise there that reminds me of someone knocking an acoustic guitar or something like that (I know, weird comparison), I'm unsure of what it is, maybe the compression that brings in front of the mix the end of the word, or a noise in the background ? I think I wouldn't have noticed if it wasn't repeating each time in the chorus, but it's maybe just... you know, me being myself and seeing problems when there is none. xD
Well, maybe there's actually a little bit too much compression at times, but this is coming from someone who just spent two weeks mixing orchestral stuff with instruments that needed a lot of room to breathe - so I'm most probably just biased on that point.

In terms of composition, I thought, at first, that there wasn't a lot of originality (maybe because of the first chords of the chorus ?) although the track is still very efficient, but the magic is actually more in the details. The sound design/instrumentation on the melody that starts at 0:28, the last seconds of the chorus, the small risks you decided to take in the solo section of the track, it actually all adds up to create something that sounds familiar, yet has its own identity.
In terms of pace and structure, I believe you wanted to create a contrast between anger (chorus) and despair (verses), but the guitar of the chorus tends, in my opinion, to evoke determination more than anger, and the power of the vocals in what I'd call the "despair" section constrasts with this interpretation as well, so I'm not sure I got your intention right on this part - but once again, this is coming from someone used to work with different styles of music, with a different problematic. :p

MetalRenard responds:

Hey! Sorry for taking forever to reply to this. Moving around Japan and all that...
Plus I took some time to come to terms with this song, myself.

I knew, when making it, that it was somewhat generic - I had one week left before moving which meant I wouldn't have my guitar or microphone any more. I was desperate to sing. I really wanted to push past my previous limitations too and was really proud when I managed to hit my highest note ever in this track (end of the chorus). With that in mind, I definitely made sacrifices when it comes to originality.

As for the mixing - I was singing in a large, empty, badly sound treated classroom at the school I worked at. And I sing -really- loud. The echo was quite bad despite my efforts to deal with it while recording and in post because of how loud I am. The issues you're hearing are due to the echo. I could have spent more time fixing it but like I said... 1 week time limits suck for a song this complicated.

I see what you mean about the mixed impressions the song gives compared to my intentions. I feel most of my music comes off happier that it's supposed to anyway, it's just how I am, always optimistic.

I worked hard on that guitar solo... I wanted to do something unusual and I liked the synthetic sound I used in a previous track's solo (Infinite Cosmos) so I went for that little more here.

I'm glad you were honest enough to give me feedback and kind enough to say what you liked. I've missed working on music with you, sorry we lost touch over the past few years.


Edited - Thanks for the feedback! Merci beaucoup!

Help is on the way ! :p

I think one of the main issues there is that your melodies are repeating themselves a lot, and it really quickly becomes repetitive. Try to add more variation in your track, even if it means having some more drastic changes sometimes. Listen to the Hyrule Field music from OOT, and see how the track keep varying in terms of melody and instrumentation.

I also feel like the different melodies sometimes lack of coherence (they don't always go very well together, even if they could work well if they were kept separated). This might be an orchestration issue, though, but maybe you tend to stack a bit melodies without taking care with how they interact with the other elements playing at the same time. I see too many people forgetting that, and I did too, some years ago. :p

Your melodies also lack a bit of something - maybe they aren't catchy enough for what you're trying to do, but here this could also be a mixing issue, the strings/brass sounds playing the main melodies feel a bit distant. This could also be because of the lack of coherency I already mentioned. Yeah, there's a lot of things to think about. xD

The biggest issue I can hear in this track is the fact that the guitars sound REALLY muddy. It probably comes from the way they've been recorded, but while everything else in the track sounds crystal clear, the guitars feel like they're far behind the other instruments. Maybe you could try to raise the levels of the guitar and throw in some EQ to compensate for the recording issues.

I also noticed it's always the same sample, without any variation, that is used for the strings' staccatos (it can easily be heard in the intro, at 0:10). I know it's only a detail, and not that important given the style of the track and how these staccatos are buried in the mix for the rest of the track, but as someone composing mainly with orchestral instruments, I couldn't help but notice that. ^^
What we usually do on this kind of staccatos, when working on orchestral stuff, is randomizing a bit the velocity of each note, so the same sample isn't always used (I'll spare you the whole "an orchestra is naturally imperfect" argument this time xD). But again, your staccatos work as intended anyway in this context, so it's not really an issue, just a little personal nitpick because of how I'm used to work ^^
And in this style, maybe it wouldn't work really well anyway. Give it a try, and see if it works for you.

Finally, I don't really like the snare. While it doesn't disturb me too much, maybe I'd have added some mid/highs to it. It may be a bad idea though, I'm not really familiar with this style in terms of mixing.

Apart from these things, I really liked your track : it is highly energetic and works really well, it's just sad that these guitars don't shine as they should.

yunqatsi responds:

Thanks for the feedback !!! yeah the strings staccatos are actually a nexus arp patch i was too lazy to work on them XD. Thanks for the advices. It was a bit hard to work on the guitars because my friend sent me all the tracks in one audio file and he doesnt have a very good recording materials, i should have more work there :/ Thanks for the long review it means a lot !

Honestly, this would have been a great track if it wasn't killed by production issues and your lack of experience regarding MIDI programming for orchestra.

I have read the other reviews, and saw you use notation software. One of the issues with this kind of software is that you don't have as much control as you could on the dynamics of the instruments you are using.
If you use notation software, it's a good idea to import the MIDI in another DAW, and to add more changes to the dynamics of your instruments, for example by using the CC#01 on the DXF patches from EWQLSO (other libraries from EWQL will have similar patches, but I think it's EWQLSO, given how it sounds), and adding some velocity changes. Just to give you an example, this bass drum becomes incredibly tiring because it doesn't feel "human", it is ALWAYS played with the EXACT same intensity, every single note. The same goes with most of your other instruments, even if it's more subtle.

If you really don't know where to start, you could read EWQLSO's user manual (chapter 5 mainly). I don't know if this is the best thing to begin with, but I remember it contained some useful information about how the library worked. If you don't use EWQLSO, you can disregard this, but the "Creating an soundscape" and "Volume, velocity and expression" give some very general advice and vocabulary that can be used with any other library.

On a more general basis, you could also keep in mind that an orchestra will never play a piece perfectly. Part of making an orchestra sound realistic is to reflect these imperfections in the way you "program" your MIDI tracks - something that can't be done easily in a notation software.

Don't be afraid to spent a lot of time reading on the subject of MIDI programming or sound engineering, you'll end up learning a lot. I also recommend looking at how other composers work. You could look at Blakus' Template Walkthroughs or Behind The Scenes videos for example : Watch the beginning of his video on the Hobbit 3 trailer music, and look at his tracks, how he uses the MIDI Control Changes, how the notes don't start exactly in time, how the staccato/spiccato notes aren't all at the same velocity, how each note of a chord don't start exactly at the same time. It's the sum of all these imperfections that makes an orchestral mockup sound realistic.
...well, there's other things, but this is what you need to work on for now, I think.

I truly hope you'll take the time to improve on these points, to give your music the sound it deserves.

CloakedSoup responds:

Thanks a million for the amazing review Ylmir! I have practically no experience with production lol. I've done a lot of composing using notation software, but I've never had to worry about anything except the notes (that and making sure everything looked tidy for the performers).

You weren't too far off with the EWQLSO. I actually recently purchased EWQL's Hollywood Orchestra and I've begun to write my pieces with it. I spent a day or two just figuring out how to use the sample libraries in FL Studios.

In this piece, the main things I messed with were the MIDI control changes 1, 7, and 11; Modulation, Volume, and Expression, respectively. The only reason I knew they existed was from reading the manual EWQLHO came with lol. I touched on some small effects here and there, but I was slightly hesitant, because I wasn't 100% sure what to do with them. I'm thinking of eventually getting a midi plugin keyboard, which could help for getting a more 'human' sound; rather than having to always manually move the notes around for the 'imperfect' sort of sound you were speaking of. Plus I'm a fairly confident pianist, so using it shouldn't be too difficult! :D

I just purchased 'The Mixing Engineers Handbook,' by Bobby Owsinski and will begin studying that religiously! I'll also be looking for online resources to learn as much as I can! Thanks a ton for the awesome recommendations and general advice, it'll come in handy in the future!

P.S. Your piece for the A.I.M. Contest was fantastic!

This is one of these tracks where I don't really know what to say. There's a lot of issues - including repetitiveness, a problematic sound quality and/or mixing for some instruments (the short string notes for example), but on the other hand there's still enough things to make this track enjoyable. FL Slayer didn't bother me that much, maybe because it was more in the background - actually, the kick and snare seemed to be more out of place IMO.
I feel the levels are pretty well balanced though, there is some good ideas in terms of composition, and it reminds me a bit of Phrynna's Epic Battle Fantasy Soundtrack in some way.
While this track is maybe not flawless, it's still enjoyable and shows some potential. I could easily hear it in a flash game here at Newgrounds as a battle theme. Just remove the parts that repeat themselves too much, throw in some more ideas and variation, make it loopable, and you'll probably hear it a lot in flash games. :p

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