* This is an official 2017 NGUAC review *
This one has some great potential, I just feel like it missed the mark in some key areas. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: Overall, the production is not too bad. But it suffers from preset-itis. That is to say, when I'm listening to Meditation I can hear that most, if not all, of the instruments are presets plunked into the project. They're very basic and generic sounds - a piano, a kick drum, a lead saw, etc. and while that's not inherently bad, there's not a lot of originality to them. When you use mostly presets, it's hard for me to assess your production skills, because there's not much of YOUR production going on - it's the production of whatever presets are available in the software you're using.
There's a few ways to fix this. Make sure to carefully EQ and reverb all of your instrument tracks so that they sound unique to you and to that specific song. Ideally, you want things to sound like all the instruments are playing together in the same room. A big aid to realism is also to edit velocity. Velocity is especially noticeable on certain instruments like the piano - when a pianist plays a piece, not every single note is pressed with the exact same amount of force. So when I hear that in your track, I know it's fake, regardless of how 'good' it sounds.
Finally I would say make sure to look into mastering a bit. Overall the mix was a bit muted and muddy - good EQing and use of a multiband compressor in the mastering stage will really help your music to shine.
Composition: Really good ideas. I'm a big fan of the chords and their progression.
My main sticking point here was the length. A long track is not necessarily a bad thing, but every single second of a track has to have original, innate worth, or what's the point? There's not a whole lot of progression in Meditation, and to listen to not tons of progression for six and a half minutes can get boring. Try having some distinct sections; add a bunch of instruments for one section and take them out the next. Dynamic variety can be a great tool.
The piano is a great melodic instrument and you had some piano melodies going on, but I wasn't particularly wowed by them. The piano/synth combo worked better, and I think you have good ideas regarding melodies, they just need some work.
Hope all this helps! Keep on composing.
*This is an official NGUAC 2017 review *
It HAS been a bit of time since I first listened to this, so I hope I can remember why I gave the scores I did haha. Regardless, this is really great, generally speaking. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: I only have one real criticism in the production side of things, and that's that 90% of the instruments are pretty obviously virtual. You've done great EQing, reverb and mastering on all of them but to someone who works with lots of vsts I can still tell, and that takes me a bit out of the piece. Granted, I think most people wouldn't be able to tell. There's no easy way out here, as the solution is actually recording all of those instruments live.
All I can say is that when I'm judging a piece and there are instruments that are intended to be real - such as most orchestral instruments - but are not, I can't bring myself to give a perfect 10.
Otherwise, everything is great!
Composition: Great use of instruments, really solid chords and textures. I docked a few points in the atmosphere and originality sections for - surprise, surprise - the use of lots of virtual instruments that would be better off live. I hate to seem like a stickler on this account but it's something that's very important for me in terms of being as authentic as possible as a musician. That's one of the risks of writing music that demands a great deal of material cost. A rock band doesn't have the same production issues an orchestra does because it involves about 60 less people (not to mention hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars less equipment). So unless I'm fully convinced there's an orchestra actually playing, I can't fully emotionally commit.
Adding the guitar in at 1:48 is a refreshing move. The way you did it was a good way to work guitar in on a client request.
I don't have too much bad to say about this (despite this feeling like a particularly negative review, sorry)! You have a great sense of musicality. Looking forward to what you bring to the table for the knockout round.
Oh yeah, this one was fun! On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: One of the main areas this suffered for me was that many of the instruments didn't sound like yours - they sounded very preset-y. It's hard to give points for technical mixing and originality when it doesn't feel like you've built the instruments from scratch.
I think some more punch and volume from the percussion would really have been great. They're useful for atmosphere right now but I think they could fulfill that role and still provide some good rhythmic backing if you increase their volume and bass impact.
Generally speaking, good use of effects - reverb and delay were used well!
Composition: Most of my thoughts on the composition aspect of things can be summed with 'I was waiting for more". There are some good ideas here, good little riffs, instrument usage, etc. but it never really goes anywhere with them. The ideas are presented and then that's it.
With that in mind, I would suggest adding more in. You've got the foundations here, so add some more in and create some distinct sections with the new instruments. Then you'll really have a piece with some flow and some fully fleshed out areas.
Keep on composing!
Good thing my dolphins and I were able to defeat the alien menace, or this world would have been doomed! On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: Really, really fantastic creative work on the mix. The effects, their implementation, the panning and reverb, all of it stellar. The basic mix was solid too - everything was fairly clear and effective. The only real area where I docked points was in the mastering. This was just for some little balancing things:
Dynamic variety is a great thing to have, especially in a longer piece like this. The problem in this case was that it was difficult for me to set a comfortable listening volume. If I wanted to get the highs and melodies clearly, I'd need to turn up to the point where the droning bass was fairly overpowering. And then when things built up at 3:50 I had to turn down a bit again. Individually, all of these sections sound great. And dynamically, it's a great journey. But it was a little difficult from a volume perspective.
The droning bass could have been a little quieter if you're going to use it throughout most of the track in the way you did. It starts to wear on the ears a bit. Or, if you want to keep it at that volume and intensity, then an option is to not have it run through 75% of the track.
Besides those things, there's not too much else I can pick out here. The end mix is never dramatic and in your face, but it's not supposed to be - it's a subtle journey done well.
Composition: Very original, great atmosphere, very cool textures you've built. Solid journey structure as well. My only real points off were for melody. This track is super for a number of reasons, but melody is not one of them. Naturally, with a piece like this, having catchy melodies is not really at the forefront of your goals, nor should it be. But you can't ignore melody entirely and expect a perfect score, either.
You don't need to have melodies throughout, but I think a good, clearly defined melody at a couple points here and there would really have made Sea Quest pop and excel. A good example I can think of is 1f1n1ty's track 'Peaks' (also in the NGUAC audition phase) - it's a similar journey piece, but there are a couple moments with some fantastic melodies.
Ultimately, good stuff though! A very mature kind of track. I'm looking forward to see what you come up with for next round.
* This is an official 2017 NGUAC track review *
Ah yes, the cinematic choir. This one was interesting. As a side note, check out the soundtrack for Heroes of Might and Magic V; I think you'd really like it, based on this piece. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: Generally speaking, everything is pretty solid - no huge weaknesses. At some bits the virtual nature of the instruments came through (as in when I was listening I could tell I was listening to a virtual instrument and not a real one) but nothing severe there. Honestly, listening to this again I probably would have given you a bit of a higher score in the production section.
I can't really pinpoint other things to improve on, except that overall the mix and master didn't really 'wow' me. There was never any moment of production that was unexpected and added a lot, or a point where an effect or instrument really stood out. Naturally, with orchestral pieces this is less likely to occur, but here's something to consider: You've gotten the production well enough that all of your musical ideas are being conveyed. So now you can consider other steps to take with the mix - perhaps a creative effect here or there, perhaps a moment of extreme panning. This is a tricky zone as you don't want to undermine the power and tradition of orchestral instruments. But it's at least an avenue to consider. Even if you try these bits and don't end up using any of them, you'll be more for having tried them.
Composition: I really enjoyed it. Some excellent atmosphere, and good use of exploring each chord. Great use of the choir. My only real nitpicky elements here are structure and progression. Every section in The Laughing Sun is very good, but some of the transitions between them are pretty awkward. At 2:41 for example, we have the horns dying out, then 4 seconds of pause, then piano starts. It felt to me a little lazy, like you couldn't find a better way to weave the transition in.
There are a couple areas like that, where the orchestra stops, there's some pause, and then the piano begins. Or vice versa, where the piano stops, a few seconds of pause, and then the orchestra comes in. Having one, maybe two of these moments would work well, but I feel like there are too many of them - they break the flow of the piece, and although that can be a good dramatic tool, it feels like the momentum in The Laughing Sun gets stopped over and over again.
Otherwise, very good stuff. Good dynamic variety, good showcase of different instrument groups. The only reason I didn't give higher scores than 9s for most of the composition section is because I wasn't truly, completely blown away or flabbergasted. 9 is basically the highest score I'll give if I haven't fallen off my chair in my amazement.
I think it's a bummer you're not in the next round - kind of surprised at Samulis' low score for you. But don't let it faze you - keep on composing, my friend!
Haha yeah what @TaintedLogic said - you definitely caused a stir. I for one loved the lyrics. I get such a Slim Shady-era Eminem vibe. Anyways, on to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: This was the real killer for your scores. In terms of mix, I can hear that all the IDEAS are there - but the execution isn't. Really great ideas.
So first thing in a mix is we want to look at base quality. Every instrument should be clear and audible, and ideally sound satisfying. With a rap song, this is super, super important for the vocals. I could hear all the words but it's pretty obvious that you were just recording with a very basic mic. There were also several points where you caused some clipping. So be careful with your recording, especially when you're close to the mic. Once you're done recording, make sure you listen to everything you recorded and re-record it if it clips at any point.
Once you're recorded, the vocals definitely need some work in post-production. Good use of EQing, reverb, a compressor will go a long way.
Every instrument you use should be carefully EQ'd and reverbed so they sound consistent, together, and clear (unless you're intentionally making them sound fuzzy or something).
Generally you panned stuff pretty well but I could've used a bit more in the verses where you were doubling vocals or doing callbacks with yourself. You've got 100 to the left and 100 to the right to work with so make sure to use them! Don't be afraid to pan all the to one direction if you need to.
Mastering is another crucial step. Good use of a multiband compressor, EQ, maximizer and limiter will go a long way. For a song like Hoes, you want a big, thick, tasty master. So play around with mixing and mastering and never stop trying to improve!
Composition: Real solid lyrics and flow. Awesome rhymes too. Seriously. Two of my favourites: "You fargin' iceholes" "I'll make you sick of me - I already am (awesome callback)"
Pretty good harmony and texture too. It sounds full, it's got that kind of goofy, bouncy, character that matches the lyrical content.
The structure and progression was decent, but it didn't do much to surprise me. Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro. I've heard it a million times before. Don't be afraid to experiment!
The atmosphere and emotion were okay, but they suffered from the mixing and production issues I mentioned above. It's hard to get in to the track and be in the emotional headspace when there are technical issues holding you back.
Hope this all helped! Keep spitting bars.
Mm, the epic journey. I love me an epic journey piece. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: I really don't have too much bad to say here. Great EQing, panning, and volume balancing. Your subtle use of effects really shines in Catalyst - just the right amount of reverb on each instrument. I only would have given higher scores if I was absolutely blown away and pleasantly surprised by bits of production here and there. That's trickier to do in a long piece like this.
I suppose if I had to say one really nitpicky thing, I could have used some more hutzpah from the drums, especially the kick. The way you've mixed and mastered them right now is great in the way that they don't wear on the ears during such a long piece. But they don't stand out much in the bigger sections.
Composition: Super ambitious, and for the most part you pull it off.
The main areas I docked points in were structure and melody. Here I was looking for something to hold on to, to remember, to be catchy, or for some obvious repetition. Ultimately I didn't feel like there was a lot of melody going on. When there's a melody to focus on, what's really happening is it's an aspect of enhancing chords or atmosphere - arpeggiating chords for the most part. There was never a point where a true, strong melody came in (at least for me). And because of that lack of melody, it was somewhat difficult to track the progression of the song. Every section is done excellently, but there's a lot of sections and some of them are different only in subtle ways.
Hope all this helps, and really looking forward to what you come up with for the Knockout Round!
Yeah, the meta one! This was a fun one. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: No massive weaknesses here, but bits and bobs and small things.
The main thing that jumped out at me is vocal quality. With a hip hop song, the vocals are so, so key. They carry the song, they're such a big part of everything. The vocals in Time were mixed fairly solidly, but the raw quality of them could have been higher. This is likely something to improve with your mic, your vocal preamp, and your recording setup. It would have been nice in Time if the vocals had a bit more bass and were a bit louder. Ultimately, you want to make them more full. This isn't to say that they weren't clear; I could hear every word clearly. But something to note. The little bits in the verses were the vocals were doubled for potency could have been panned further out. I could hear what you were trying to go for, but if you stack 3 vocal layers all within 10% pan of each other, it's not going to make much of a difference. Pan those doubled tracks out to 30% on either side or so and you'll really hear them.
There were some little bits of volume balance I think could have been improved. Just nitpicky stuff: a little bit more bass would have worked well; the flute synth in the verses was a bit too loud in the right ear; the hi-hats were a hair quiet; the female vocals in the chorus were a little too intrusive, being decently loud and panned completely to the right and left ear.
As I said, all this is little, nitpicky stuff so don't be too discouraged. Generally speaking the mix was decent, there are just little things to improve.
Composition: Basically a real solid hip hop song.
Let's talk about the main thing, melody. Good flow and good editing at the beginning and ends of lines. Nice meta content haha, the callout track to other competitors. I'm pretty forgiving on grammatical sense to get the rhyme and flow right, but there were a couple moments that seemed a little lazy to me (If you doubted me before, then you really reconsider this, for example).
I liked all the instruments used, but I could've gone for a little more instrumental variety between the chorus and the verse. Just a couple subtle touches, adding some things in and beefing it up or stripping it down would have made a big difference.
Overall, pretty solid. Looking forward to what you come up with for next round!
I liked this one - definitely some good potential here. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering, and production: The main point where TDMO suffered in terms of production was that many of the instruments felt a bit obviously virtual. I can tell that I'm listening to a virtual piano playing a MIDI file, for example, as opposed to hearing someone perform the exact same piece on a piano. Of course, not everyone has a piano, but many of these instrument problems can be solved with very careful EQing, reverb, panning, and other mixing tracks. One in particular that might prove helpful for you is 1) plugging in a keyboard with MIDI capabilities and actually performing parts yourself, or 2) manually editing the velocity and timing of your instrument parts. When a pianist plays a piece, for example, they never do so with absolutely perfect timing or with absolutely the same amount of pressure on every note. The slightest touches of off-timing will help the realism, and so too will editing the velocity - part of what makes a great performance is the use of dynamics. So if you can't perform it yourself, you can still try and work in elements of performance that will make the music sound better.
I liked most of the effects you used on an individual basis (although some careful reverbing would have helped - remember, you want your mix to sound like every instrument is playing together in the same room), but I did question why you used some of the effects you did. It's always worth asking yourself, when adding a new instrument or effect into a piece, "does this make sense to have given the context of the rest of the track?" Some of the effects I felt you like thought sounded cool and threw them in without thinking about how they affect the rest of the piece. I'll talk more about this below in instrumentation.
Finally, I think the track could've stood to be a bit louder - good use of a maximizer and a limiter in the mastering phase would solve this.
Composition: Generally speaking, pretty good. No dramatically weak spots here. I really liked most of your chord choices.
One of my biggest nitpicky things for TDMO is instrumentation. There's a whole gaggle of instruments, from 80s synths to acoustic piano, to strings, to electric guitar, to modern synth effects. Many of these are instruments or sounds that would not normally play together, so when you're blending them you have to be sure that you're doing it for a good reason. You're at the point of musicality where you have the talent to work all these different things in, but...should you be? (enter Jeff Goldblum for Jurassic Park "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.")
What happens when you throw in all of these instrument types is that they break the cohesion and atmosphere of the piece. When I listened, I didn't get a sense of TDMO having everything together - it was more of a patched quilt made by 30 different stitchers. What would help here is deciding what the foundation of the track will be. Is it going to be more rock? (electric guitar and drums) Is it going to be more ballad-y? (piano) Is it going to be more synthy? In order to have the whole piece come together and work as a whole, you have to decide what you're going for, instead of just deciding along the way. Once you know your foundation, you can reasonably ask yourself when adding in new instruments "should I be adding this in? If I am, why? Does it work with the rest of the piece?" And when you do, you'll be able to have an answer.
Otherwise, I liked most things. I think it would have been nice to have the melody tag off the piano at some point. Even when it was on the guitar, the piano was doubling it. So some variety would spice things up.
Overall, great potential. Go forth on your musical quest!
Wow thanks for the awesome feedback ! <3
I'm gonna use your precious advice for my last track ever ("Work, Buy, Consume, Die") ! The achievement of my masterpiece will be partly thanks to you ! =)
Ah yes, the journey. Really enjoyed this one. On to specifics...
Mixing, mastering and production: All excellent. Not many people earned at least 9/10 in every production category for me. What that means here is that there is nothing wrong with any of your production elements. Nothing sticks out in a bad way (except that the snare at 9:42 seemed a bit dry - a little more reverb would have helped); all the instruments are clear, effects are executed excellently, and mastering clearly enhances the piece.
The only way to go is up - I would've given higher scores if something here had really unexpectedly wowed me. A brilliant original effect here, the introduction of a completely beautiful instrument sound there, a magical moment thanks to mastering. It's hard for me to be specific here because, as I said before, there's nothing wrong with your production. But I hope that comes across - try and surprise me in the knockout round, push yourself to have those extra moments of pure mastery, and I could see you getting a perfect production score.
Composition: Very original, excellently executed. It's a testament to your sense of musicality that I was never disinterested the entire fourteen and a half minutes. Granted, I'm partial to epic journey pieces, but it's easy to get them wrong. My biggest nitpicky thing to mention would be regarding melodies. In all the spots you had melodies, they were well done - they fit the piece and enhanced it. What I would have liked to hear is more variety. Your core melody and progression are more or less the same throughout the piece, and that's a long time to listen to one melody. When you free yourself from the constraints of writing 3-minute songs, as you have, you have so much space and material to work with. It felt like a little bit of a missed opportunity here to not hear more melodies. One idea (and I'm just throwing it out here based on what I imagine when listening to Different) might be to have two distinct main melodies, introduced in different sections and fully fleshed out, then blended in a final sections where it's revealed one of them is a countermelody to the other. And together, they make beautiful harmonic music. Just an idea - obviously you're capable of coming up with melodies!
My other points off were in structure, progression, harmony, and texture. None of these things were done poorly, but they didn't completely wow me like your atmosphere, emotion, and originality did. In terms of structure and progression, there was never a section that took me by surprise, that changed the piece for the better, that took it in a new direction. Everything felt more or less the same, in a dynamic and instrumental sense, the whole way through. Again, since Different is so long, having that kind of variety tends to a big plus in my books. The key is to weave that difference in without sacrificing the atmosphere and vibe of what you've already achieved.
One thing to remember - while I hugely enjoy long journey pieces, not every judge will. Keep in mind that this is a contest, so having your music be more universally accessible, so to speak, might garner you some points with the other judges who would otherwise pass you over. Good luck in the Knockout Round!
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