Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

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Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » March 27th, 2008, 4:10 pm

This is a theme that I've been working for a while now. It's a battle theme and I've made developments to it to lengthen it and change the harmonic contour of the latter parts of the piece. There is a bit of balancing to be done with instrumentation but what you hear is basically what you get. :)

http://www.allacrost.org/staff/user/rai ... utumn1.mp3

Comments would be very welcome. I realize it's a lot less intense than some other battle submissions, but please let me know if this might be of use to the project.

Thank you

-Ryan

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by marcusvinicius » March 27th, 2008, 8:11 pm

Hi Rain, your ideas is good, but your music want more dinamic, arrangements and humanization.I like the samples :D
Listen to the music
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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by West » March 28th, 2008, 10:25 am

This is a beautiful piece, Rain. Reminds me a lot of Jeremy Soule, both in terms of melodies and arrangements. IMO it's too floating and dreamy to work as battle music, I'm thinking it might be better suited as "general gameplay" music. In fact, I can really imagine this being some very inspiring music for exploring and mobilizing your forces.

Now, there's a few things that bother me.

First and foremost it sounds like the various instrument sections clash a bit in places. For example, the winds seem to be battling with the strings rather than augmenting them. I'm not talking about harmony, mind you, I'm talking about frequencies. If I were you I'd try and use a parametric EQ on the winds (yes, the entire section) with a narrow bandwidth, roll it off say -4dB or so, and then sweep till you find the sweet spot. I.e. where the winds blend with the strings without being inaudible. Also, I would roll off a bit of reverb on the winds as they now seem to occupy the same Z-axis spot as the strings. In fact, maybe you should try that first before going the EQ route.

Secondly, I have to agree with marcusvinicius that you're being a bit lazy when it comes to dynamics and humanization. For instance, this is clearly evident at the part at ~1:12. The bass note sounds too static and just rumbles on when the rest of the instrumentation drops off. I would lower the volume in the beginning of the passage, so that the note is felt rather than heard, then slowly fade it in as the snare comes in and the pace picks up again. Also, the woodwind melodies sound a little dull. You need to spice them up with more rests, grace notes, changes in dynamics etc. More variation and less straight eighth notes! :)

Thirdly, your reverb levels might need some TLC, as already mentioned regarding the woodwinds. To me it sounds like there's an equal amount of reverb on everything, like you just inserted a reverb in the stereo output. While the reverb itself is very good, the excessive levels make the entire mix very muddy. I don't think I have to lecture you on typical orchestral seatings, so I'll stop at saying use the reverb levels like you use panning, but think of it as front-to-back instead of left-to-right.

Anyhow, I think this is a piece of very good music, I would personally like to see it in the game, and I look forward to hearing the final version. Keep up the good work, Rain.

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » March 28th, 2008, 5:51 pm

marcusvinicius wrote:Hi Rain, your ideas is good, but your music want more dinamic, arrangements and humanization.I like the samples :D
Thanks Marcus.
West wrote:This is a beautiful piece, Rain. Reminds me a lot of Jeremy Soule, both in terms of melodies and arrangements.


Thank you. :)
West wrote:Secondly, I have to agree with marcusvinicius that you're being a bit lazy when it comes to dynamics and humanization
Thanks for the healthy criticism guys. I realize that a lot of my pieces don't sound very humanized. It's something I am continually working on. I don't think it's a question of being lazy, I just don't hear what you guys hear. It sounds kind of realistic to me. :D I just am not THERE yet, if you catch my drift. That's alright tho, I am making good progress. It's going to take a bit of help for me to begin hearing those subtleties that you guys are describing, but no worries. :)

West wrote:For instance, this is clearly evident at the part at ~1:12. The bass note sounds too static and just rumbles on when the rest of the instrumentation drops off. I would lower the volume in the beginning of the passage, so that the note is felt rather than heard, then slowly fade it in as the snare comes in and the pace picks up again.


I think one of the things that is killing me is not being able to use automation for individual instruments in my sequencer. It seems that I can't do it properly in the DP mixboard... Maybe I can figure that out in the next few days. I'll see what I can do.
West wrote:Also, the woodwind melodies sound a little dull. You need to spice them up with more rests, grace notes, changes in dynamics etc. More variation and less straight eighth notes! :)
Really? They sound DULL? lol. Once I get a handle on automation, I might be able to add a bit more life to individual instruments. The woodwinds sound fine to me... except for the fact they are drowning in reverb, of course. I was going for a bit of a FLOATY FEELING with the mixing and the instrumentation and perhaps got a bit carried away! :mrgreen:

West wrote:IMO it's too floating and dreamy to work as battle music, I'm thinking it might be better suited as "general gameplay" music. In fact, I can really imagine this being some very inspiring music for exploring and mobilizing your forces.
Okay, sure. I think that might be better too. What kind of things would the player be doing when 'exploring and mobilizing their forces'?


West wrote:Now, there's a few things that bother me.
GASP!
West wrote:First and foremost it sounds like the various instrument sections clash a bit in places. For example, the winds seem to be battling with the strings rather than augmenting them. I'm not talking about harmony, mind you, I'm talking about frequencies. If I were you I'd try and use a parametric EQ on the winds (yes, the entire section) with a narrow bandwidth, roll it off say -4dB or so, and then sweep till you find the sweet spot. I.e. where the winds blend with the strings without being inaudible. Also, I would roll off a bit of reverb on the winds as they now seem to occupy the same Z-axis spot as the strings. In fact, maybe you should try that first before going the EQ route.
Right. I agree. Good suggestions with the woodwinds. I would never of thought of applying a parametric EQ, but it might be helpful to see how it works. I'll try a few of these suggestions soon.
West wrote:Thirdly, your reverb levels might need some TLC, as already mentioned regarding the woodwinds. To me it sounds like there's an equal amount of reverb on everything, like you just inserted a reverb in the stereo output. While the reverb itself is very good, the excessive levels make the entire mix very muddy. I don't think I have to lecture you on typical orchestral seatings, so I'll stop at saying use the reverb levels like you use panning, but think of it as front-to-back instead of left-to-right.
FRONT TO BACK... yea. I THINK the problem might be that the flute position is at a similar depth as the strings. Therefore they might be cancelling each other out. I kind of like a little mud in my mixes, to be honest, but not a mudslide... I think my piece might border on the latter! DAMN.
Maybe I am getting a bit too IMPRESSIONISTIC with the intent of my mix. :hmm: I'll see what I can do about this.

West wrote:Anyhow, I think this is a piece of very good music, I would personally like to see it in the game, and I look forward to hearing the final version. Keep up the good work, Rain.
Thank you. :) I appreciate your pieces of wisdom!

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by West » March 29th, 2008, 1:19 pm

Rain wrote:Thanks for the healthy criticism guys. I realize that a lot of my pieces don't sound very humanized. It's something I am continually working on. I don't think it's a question of being lazy, I just don't hear what you guys hear. It sounds kind of realistic to me. :D I just am not THERE yet, if you catch my drift. That's alright tho, I am making good progress. It's going to take a bit of help for me to begin hearing those subtleties that you guys are describing, but no worries. :)
I know exactly what you mean and I have the same problem myself, so it's not like I'm trying to tell you learn from my brilliance or something. It's just that I know that it's hard to spot these problems on your own. If no one tells me that "this part sounds a bit stiff", I might never realise there's something wrong with it because, like you say, in my ears it sounds good. Probably because I tend to confuse the music coming out of my speakers with the version I hear in my head :)
Rain wrote:I think one of the things that is killing me is not being able to use automation for individual instruments in my sequencer. It seems that I can't do it properly in the DP mixboard... Maybe I can figure that out in the next few days. I'll see what I can do.
I'm not talking about volume automation, I'm talking about good old Expression (midi cc#11). Surely there must be a way to draw Expression curves in your DAW?
Rain wrote:Really? They sound DULL? lol.
Yeah well, it sounds like the little people that live inside your computer aren't having much fun playing those parts. They just go like... "daa-daa-dee-daa-daa-dee... hm, I wonder if there's anything good on TV tonight?" :)
Rain wrote:What kind of things would the player be doing when 'exploring and mobilizing their forces'?
Play the game!
Rain wrote:FRONT TO BACK... yea. I THINK the problem might be that the flute position is at a similar depth as the strings. Therefore they might be cancelling each other out.
That is exactly what I'm talking about, yes. Frequency cancellation.

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » March 30th, 2008, 4:59 am

West wrote:I know exactly what you mean and I have the same problem myself, so it's not like I'm trying to tell you learn from my brilliance or something. It's just that I know that it's hard to spot these problems on your own. If no one tells me that "this part sounds a bit stiff", I might never realise there's something wrong with it because, like you say, in my ears it sounds good. Probably because I tend to confuse the music coming out of my speakers with the version I hear in my head :)
/thumbs up!
West wrote:I'm not talking about volume automation, I'm talking about good old Expression (midi cc#11). Surely there must be a way to draw Expression curves in your DAW?
Ah! Yes, the dreadful CC # 11. My mortal enemy! I only say that because I can never seem to get a handle on how it works and how to implement it in the music.

Since you seem to know a lot about it, do you think you could describe it in detail? I wanna nail this sucker.
West wrote:Yeah well, it sounds like the little people that live inside your computer aren't having much fun playing those parts. They just go like... "daa-daa-dee-daa-daa-dee... hm, I wonder if there's anything good on TV tonight?" :)
HAHA! Spoken like a true musician. Do you play any instruments yourself? It sounds like you do. :P
West wrote:Play the game!


Fair enough!
Rain wrote:FRONT TO BACK... yea. I THINK the problem might be that the flute position is at a similar depth as the strings. Therefore they might be cancelling each other out.
West wrote:That is exactly what I'm talking about, yes. Frequency cancellation.
Sure. To be honest, I tend to select instruments for their merits without thinking about how they might operate on a stage, as a whole. I'm afraid that sometimes I compose faster than my ability to think. It's a bad habit that I am in the process of breaking. :idea:

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by West » April 6th, 2008, 9:30 pm

Rain wrote:Ah! Yes, the dreadful CC # 11. My mortal enemy! I only say that because I can never seem to get a handle on how it works and how to implement it in the music.

Since you seem to know a lot about it, do you think you could describe it in detail? I wanna nail this sucker.
Well, it's not exactly rocket science. :) I don't know what the exact technical description of Expression is, but I like to think of it as a percentage of the main volume of a particular track. No matter what Main volume a track has, max Expression (127) is as loud as that track can be, and min (0) is completely silent.

In other words, when you want to make dynamic changes in volume on midi tracks, you rarely (if ever) want to mess around with Main Volume (midi cc#7). While it certainly is possible to use Main Volume instead of Expression, it might lead to problems. If you use Main volume, there is a risk of "overshooting" if you don't pay attention when making fades; i.e. if you don't know exactly what value Main Volume is at, you might end up making a track louder than it originally was when fading it in. IIRC Main Volume changes are also more resource hungry than Expression changes, as midi is an old standard with a limited bandwith. It can only transmit so much data in one pass, and if you overload it, you might experience midi congestion. [Don't take my word for this though; this is something I picked up long ago, and it might not be valid these days].

There are several ways to add and edit Expression curves. Most DAWs will let you map any midi CCs you want to controllers on your keyboard, like for example the mod wheel or the volume slider. This will allow you to record Expression changes live; either at the same time you record a part, or by going back and overdubbing a part with just the Expression data. However, most DAWs will also let you add/edit Expression in the piano roll editor. I normally use both methods; sometimes I record Expression live, sometimes I do it afterwards, and sometimes I use a combination of the two (record live + fine tune it in the editor).

Now, I only know how to do this in Cubase SX. I don't know what DAW you're using, but I presume there is some similar equivalent.

Example.

In the Piano roll editor, there is something called a Controller Lane, which is a graphical representation of the CC data in a part. In Cubase you can have multiple lanes, as can be seen in my screenshot, but there should at least be one no matter what DAW you have. Normally, the Lane shows Velocity. Change it so that it shows Expression instead. Then, by using the Pencil tool or what have you, draw the Expression curves by hand, or tweak the recorded ones.

As for when to use Expression... well, almost all orchestral instruments except percussion* will benefit from the use of Expression. All acoustic instrument behave similarly: after the initial attack, the volume will drop off a bit, which is not always the case with samples. Also, no instruments just go abruptly silent when the player stops playing; it always sounds much smoother and more real adding a quick taper to the end of all notes. This is particularly true for strings. Generally, it's a good idea going through all (yes, all!) parts of a piece and adding Expression where necessary, particularly on long sustained notes.

Rain, sorry for the long-winded explanation. But I'm writing this for the benefit of any musician who might be reading this thread, not just you. :)

* Expression can of course be used for percussion as well; it's very useful when making snare or timpani rolls.

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Sapient » April 6th, 2008, 10:06 pm

I can't believe I didn't comment on this one yet. I've been listening to it a lot and this is just the perfect kind of battle music for Wesnoth in my humble opinion. :)
http://www.wesnoth.org/wiki/User:Sapient... "Looks like your skills saved us again. Uh, well at least, they saved Soarin's apple pie."

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » April 7th, 2008, 12:48 am

West wrote:I don't know what the exact technical description of Expression is, but I like to think of it as a percentage of the main volume of a particular track. No matter what Main volume a track has, max Expression (127) is as loud as that track can be, and min (0) is completely silent.
Well... you weren't kidding. That doesn't sound too dreadful at all! Why am I making this more complex than alchemy? :D Story of my life I suppose.

Now I just need to find a means to make the process of implementing C#11, efficient and natural via sequencing. Might take a bit of tinkering to get it right!
West wrote:In other words, when you want to make dynamic changes in volume on midi tracks, you rarely (if ever) want to mess around with Main Volume (midi cc#7). While it certainly is possible to use Main Volume instead of Expression, it might lead to problems. If you use Main volume, there is a risk of "overshooting" if you don't pay attention when making fades; i.e. if you don't know exactly what value Main Volume is at, you might end up making a track louder than it originally was when fading it in. IIRC Main Volume changes are also more resource hungry than Expression changes, as midi is an old standard with a limited bandwith. It can only transmit so much data in one pass, and if you overload it, you might experience midi congestion. [Don't take my word for this though; this is something I picked up long ago, and it might not be valid these days].
Gotcha.
West wrote:There are several ways to add and edit Expression curves. Most DAWs will let you map any midi CCs you want to controllers on your keyboard, like for example the mod wheel or the volume slider.

This will allow you to record Expression changes live; either at the same time you record a part, or by going back and overdubbing a part with just the Expression data. However, most DAWs will also let you add/edit Expression in the piano roll editor. I normally use both methods; sometimes I record Expression live, sometimes I do it afterwards, and sometimes I use a combination of the two (record live + fine tune it in the editor).
Cool. I will begin experimenting this week.
West wrote:Now, I only know how to do this in Cubase SX. I don't know what DAW you're using, but I presume there is some similar equivalent.
I am using Digital Performer. I CAN input the CC 11 information in a similar looking window, thankfully. In the case of Cubase, do you have to enable automation for EastWest in order to utilize the expression changes?
West wrote:Example.
Thanks much for this. Seeing is believing! ;)
In the Piano roll editor, there is something called a Controller Lane, which is a graphical representation of the CC data in a part. In Cubase you can have multiple lanes, as can be seen in my screenshot, but there should at least be one no matter what DAW you have. Normally, the Lane shows Velocity. Change it so that it shows Expression instead. Then, by using the Pencil tool or what have you, draw the Expression curves by hand, or tweak the recorded ones.
As for when to use Expression... well, almost all orchestral instruments except percussion* will benefit from the use of Expression. All acoustic instrument behave similarly: after the initial attack, the volume will drop off a bit, which is not always the case with samples. Also, no instruments just go abruptly silent when the player stops playing; it always sounds much smoother and more real adding a quick taper to the end of all notes. This is particularly true for strings. Generally, it's a good idea going through all (yes, all!) parts of a piece and adding Expression where necessary, particularly on long sustained notes.
Understood. So in theory, I could copy and paste similar expression values between different instrument groups to create a sense of unification... I suppose this could be used for 'swelling' as well.
West wrote:Rain, sorry for the long-winded explanation. But I'm writing this for the benefit of any musician who might be reading this thread, not just you. :)
I thank you for your purported "long-windedness". I prefer to think of it as being thorough. You did an excellent job of making sense of it, imo.

Thanks much for the well thought out response. :geek:

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » April 7th, 2008, 12:51 am

Sapient wrote:I can't believe I didn't comment on this one yet. I've been listening to it a lot and this is just the perfect kind of battle music for Wesnoth in my humble opinion. :)
Thanks Sapient. 8)

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by West » April 7th, 2008, 2:36 am

Rain wrote:I am using Digital Performer.
Never heard of, sorry. (yeah, I could google it, but that wouldn't change the fact that it's late, I'm tired, and I still know nothing about the program in question ;))
Rain wrote:I CAN input the CC 11 information in a similar looking window, thankfully. In the case of Cubase, do you have to enable automation for EastWest in order to utilize the expression changes?
Well, I don't use EWQL, but Expression has nothing to do with "automation" per se. Automation is normally a ways of controlling output levels in your DAW (output levels from, say, samplers or audio tracks). Midi messages happen... uh, before the output stage of your DAW. I really can't think of a better way of explaining it. If it's still unclear, read up on basic midi/audio recording principles.
Rain wrote:Understood. So in theory, I could copy and paste similar expression values between different instrument groups to create a sense of unification... I suppose this could be used for 'swelling' as well.
Yes, in theory. I advise against just copying and pasting an Expression curve though. For a "swell" (I assume you mean a crescendo), draw an Expression fade in for *all* instruments involved. It's the small discrepancies that make it sound good. The subtle differences in speed and amount of volume change will make it sound more live. If you just copy/paste an Expression curve across all instruments, it will end up sounding like you're just riding the Master fader.

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by yobbo » April 12th, 2008, 12:59 am

In most of this piece I really have no idea what is supposed to be going on :?. It could be because of the reverb / echoes which really linger. I can't tell if the actual melodies are dischordant or if it's just the echoes of previous notes which are clashing with the current ones. But throughout most of the piece they really do clash.

In principle I have nothing against these sorts of quickly shifting chords / harmonies, but if the notes aren't clear and crisp you end up with something that sounds, to put it bluntly, like a dischordant mess.

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » April 12th, 2008, 2:30 am

:D Thanks for your honesty. I can tell you right off the bat, and I can see this in the way that we both replied very differently to West's new reverb additions for the piece'Over Cold Mountains', that we possibly are going to look at the music in a different way. This isn't a bad thing.

Here is where I am coming from...

The point of this piece was to entrench the listener in a bed of sound. The 'bed' might be a bit too fluffy for some but it feels comfortable to me. ;) I take many of my musical inspirations from the impressionistic composers, who would often try to get the orchestra to 'blend' in unconventional ways, many times resembling the soft brush strokes found in paintings from that era. This piece is largely atmospheric, and the orchestral palette may be a bit too soft and undefined for your liking. I can see why you wouldn't like it too much but it's exactly what I was going for.

I would agree that the piece might need a bit of clarifying to be more effective for possible inclusion in the game.

I appreciate your comments! :)

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by yobbo » April 13th, 2008, 1:46 am

If that's what you're going for... I'd really recommend making sure the chord progressions and melodies don't clash.

Have you tried working with individual echoes / delays to build up the effect yourself, in stead of using a canned reverb? I think you might be able to do something quite interesting that way.

This is a problem I have with quite a few of your pieces. It doesn't really sound like a bed of sound... it sounds like you simply haven't considered how the chord progression and individual melodies reverberate back onto themselves, and have just added one huge reverb effect to the whole lot.

This could be effective... if it were A LOT subtler. As it is, it's all full on, all the time. It's totally not soft and fluffy. It's loud and harsh and in-your-face. It sounds like you have a beef with Harmony and feel you have something to prove ;).

Have you tried reducing the whole lot in volume to use as a background, and individually bringing instruments out for a bit and dropping them back into the background?

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Re: Solemn Autumn - Battle Theme

Post by Rain » April 13th, 2008, 2:15 am

I see what you're saying. However, the melodies and the chord progressions do not clash apart from the instrumentation. There is very little dis-functional melody/chord interplay going on, little dissonance regarding the actual notes. The instrumentation reverb tails are long and is probably making the sounds bleed together and you are having trouble sorting it.

It's clear we hear the piece differently. The piece sounds 'clear' to me. Then again, I wrote the music so I know how it's SUPPOSED to sound! :D That may be the rather large fundamental difference between how you are perceiving the sound in contrast with me.
This is a problem I have with quite a few of your pieces. It doesn't really sound like a bed of sound... it sounds like you simply haven't considered how the chord progression and individual melodies reverberate back onto themselves, and have just added one huge reverb effect to the whole lot.
Interesting theory. So I am trying to hide how ineffective the music is by muddying it up with reverb? I'd appreciate a second opinion as this is the first time I've heard anything of the sort. :| Maybe I am reading you incorrectly.

To be honest, each instrument group is reverbed separately. I am not sure when I said I used one big reverb to muddy it up, but that's not what is happening. To be honest, I built this piece up before I had a decent reverb plug-in so I was probably trying something different with my verb to compensate. I was pretty happy with the mix initially but it's not very good, is it? 8)
This could be effective... if it were A LOT subtler. As it is, it's all full on, all the time. It's totally not soft and fluffy. It's loud and harsh and in-your-face.
Fair enough.
It sounds like you have a beef with Harmony and feel you have something to prove .
...ha. Well then, perhaps I can receive some much-needed harmony lessons from you...?

:D

In the meantime, please tell me how a comment like this is helpful? :annoyed: I think you know the difference between positive and negative criticism and this kind of comment doesn't really make you very clever, in my eyes.

That being said, thanks for being critical. This is the kind of stuff which allows the creative spirit to toughen and tighten. ;) I know that some of my pieces are a bit 'loose' and they certainly aren't perfect but I am making good ground.

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