New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

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Rain
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New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 3rd, 2008, 8:49 am

Started some music tonight. I just began with bass drums ... and it gradually transformed into this. :)

http://www.allacrost.org/staff/user/rain/WarDrums.mp3

I am not sure it's long enough to be a battle theme but perhaps it will suit some other purpose, if not that? I could always make the piece longer.

Anyways, it's kind of a mix between Kodo and african tribal rhythms, highly modified to suit my own purposes. I didn't want to use too many pitched instruments in this piece. I wanted to see how long I could keep the flow of the piece going with percussion only.
I could really use some ideas for adding additional percussion instruments to the piece without muddying the sucker up. The mix is pretty full as is, but recommendations are still welcome.

... And don't ask me what the choir is saying. :mrgreen: I don't know and I don't want to know. It's like they are speaking in tongues.

Enjoy!

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by doofus-01 » April 4th, 2008, 1:25 pm

Rain,

This sounds interesting, is it for Wesnoth? I liked how it started out, up to 1:20. Might it be difficult to make this longer without adding more instruments?

A mostly drums piece is a good idea, gives an alternative to northerners.ogg. I look forward to hearing how this turns out and hope you keep working on it.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 4th, 2008, 7:08 pm

Yes, this piece is for Wesnoth. I am not against adding additional instrumentation. Some woodblocks for instance would be awesome, provided I can find the right patches. East West orchestra Platinum doesn't come with decent wood block examples, as far as I know.
I just want to keep the piece fairly percussive. :)

You didn't like the piece after 1:20? Did you not like how the energy died down down during that part? Or do you mean that you want the intensity to keep up for a longer duration using different rhythms?

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 5th, 2008, 6:42 am

I decided I didn't want to wait and added some japanese woodblock action afterall! YES!! I have wood!

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

Please feel free to take a listen! :)

I wasn't sure how decent the Reason wood block samples would sound, but with a bit of tinkering, they turned out alright after all. (They are used in the second half of the song.)

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by doofus-01 » April 5th, 2008, 3:14 pm

Sorry I was vague, I didn't mean to imply the piece fell apart after 1:20. I think what bugged me (a little) was the whispering voice and the loss of energy. It picked up again after that though.

I thought the whispering voice was a nice touch when it wasn't dominating.

I'll download your new version. The blocks sound like a good idea to me, I look forward to listening.
---------------------
EDIT: I just got to listen to it. The first part sounds better each time I listen to it. The second part is interesting too.

This may be too subjective to be helpful, but here it goes: The piece seems to have lost its aggression in the second part, and reminds me of hardwood forests - sounds like there are tree frogs? The first part seemed more general purpose, I could see it being used for underground or any battle really, that wasn't loyalists vs loyalists.

I don't have any authority, but I really like the first part. Hopefully West or some other musician can weigh in on this piece.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 6th, 2008, 12:11 am

No worries. Thanks for clarifying. ;)

I think I know what you mean about the second half of the song having a bit of a different feel than the first part. I also believe both parts are equally intense in their own ways, albeit a bit more softly stated in the second half. The thing that comes to mind for me, is that both parts are going about their musical goals utilizing different means. That is, the type of instrumentation in the first half of the song is a bit harder and is therefore more "outspoken" than the second half. However, I did try to carry the sense of intensity through from beginning to end. This might create a range for more dynamics in the way the song plays out, but the second half of the song might warrant additional instrumentation to better connect it to the first part...

:hmm:

Btw, really interesting part about the woodwind forest and the frogs. I can totally hear that now that you mention it! :)

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by yobbo » April 12th, 2008, 12:30 am

I finally gave this piece a really good listen and I really like it :). The texture, the reverb, the timing, and the expression are all excellent.

It really does feel like two different songs with the same theme though. I don't think this is a bad thing. Just it might be more useful to scenario designers if the two halves were separate. Especially as they can be playlisted into a scenario in the same order anyway.

I can't think of any wesnoth scenarios off the top of my head that this would fit into, but I can think of a few potential scenarios. An example for the first half: gladiatorial arena fight, similar boss-type fight; for the second half: tropical jungle scenario; an example where both might fit: an escape flight through vast underground caverns.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 12th, 2008, 2:37 am

yobbo wrote:I finally gave this piece a really good listen and I really like it :). The texture, the reverb, the timing, and the expression are all excellent.
Thank you!
yobbo wrote:It really does feel like two different songs with the same theme though. I don't think this is a bad thing. Just it might be more useful to scenario designers if the two halves were separate. Especially as they can be playlisted into a scenario in the same order anyway.
I agree and have been giving this some thought quite a bit this past few days. It is kind of like sandwiching to contrasting pieces together in the span of 1. I'd be happy to break it down if there is the possibility that the music will be useful for a given scenario. It still looks a bit too early to tell. I'll keep this thought in mind for later on.

yobbo wrote:I can't think of any wesnoth scenarios off the top of my head that this would fit into, but I can think of a few potential scenarios. An example for the first half: gladiatorial arena fight, similar boss-type fight; for the second half: tropical jungle scenario; an example where both might fit: an escape flight through vast underground caverns.
Thanks for the suggestions. Those are good ideas. I am hoping a scenario might call for this piece(s) at some point.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by West » April 12th, 2008, 9:19 pm

Humm. Erm. Uh. Hmm.

I give up. I've listened to this at least eight times now, but... it's an interesting idea and the vocal parts are cool, still... no. It doesn't work for me. Overall it sounds far too synthetic and machine-like, and the percussion sounds are outright wimpy. These are EWQL samples? I expected more frome a high-end orchestral library. If you're gonna do stuff like this, maybe it's time to have a look at some Project SAM samples?

This feels more like weird world music electronica than something that would be performed by an orchestral percussion section. Admittedly, I dislike all-percussion music as I find it terribly boring to listen to, but often that, uh, boringness is amended by groove and power. This, unfortunately, has neither. I'm the first one to admit that percussion is very, very hard to do with midi. But if you're bent on doing it, play everything live. Practice those rhythms, then whack them out on your keyboard, don't program or quantize them. Yes it takes a lot of time unless you're a drummer, but the end result will be so much better. The appeal of big percussion sections is a) the sheer power of a lot of people playing their instruments in unison, and b) the small differences in timing and "togetherness". It's what gives it that huge, fat sound. That can never be faked with midi and samples (just as a really good drummer can never be faked with midi and samples), but with a lot of work one can make it reasonably convincing.

Sorry Rain, I'm not impressed. Also, I can't imagine where this kind of music would fit in the game :(

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 12th, 2008, 9:39 pm

No. That's alright! I think that the piece has a groove... but admittedly there definitely is something missing. I am with you on that one. The lack of full-ness of the drums might have something to do with adding too much compression to the east west samples. I got a lot of high end in the final mix, but most of the BOOM, and low end head-room isn't there. I mainly put a compressor in place because I couldn't get the drums sounding as powerful and strong as I wanted without completely red-lining the master fader. (!) If a live drum were added to the mix, it'd definitely make the drum work more convincing. Most of the rhythms are probably quantized a bit too properly and perfectly.

I am actually pretty happy with the mixing after comparing it with similarly styled ensemble recordings. (check out Kodo for referencing)


(It could just be that the EastWest drum samples weren't really meant for bass drum solos.) :p

I think the synthesized nature of the drum work, at least with the drum samples, is correlated with some hard panning that might not generally be found in a conventional sound stage. I had 3 bass drums at different depths, one hard left, one hard right and the closest drum right down the center. That might be what you're hearing, but then again who knows? I've talked with a few peeps who really liked the idea and found it tasteful for what it was doing, but it was worth a shot!


Anyways, thanks! :) It's a bit disappointing to write something and not have everyone appreciate it, but that's life. (I am rather used to it!)

I'll check into Sam percussion samples if you think it would help. Otherwise, this is kind of a dead-end piece.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by West » April 12th, 2008, 11:33 pm

Rain wrote:The lack of full-ness of the drums might have something to do with adding too much compression to the east west samples. I got a lot of high end in the final mix, but most of the BOOM, and low end head-room isn't there. I mainly put a compressor in place because I couldn't get the drums sounding as powerful and strong as I wanted without completely red-lining the master fader. (!)
Hmm. From an orchestral music standpoint, compression is always a last resort (in my limited experience at least). Personally I don't mind it in other types of music -- there is nothing like really agressive, saturated compression for making the drums more punchy and alive in a rock mix -- but for orchestral stuff, it's usually a sign of something being wrong when you have to resort to heavy compression. Maybe the samples you're working with aren't fat enough? Rather than using compression, I would suggest layering the beats with other samples and lowering the overall volume.
Rain wrote:If a live drum were added to the mix, it'd definitely make the drum work more convincing.
Yes, I think so too. That's what I meant with layering above.

Rain wrote:Most of the rhythms are probably quantized a bit too properly and perfectly.
They shouldn't be quantized at all! Play 'em live, then go into the piano roll editor and nudge the off notes around till it sounds good. :)
Rain wrote:(It could just be that the EastWest drum samples weren't really meant for bass drum solos.) :p
Bingo. That's my suspicion as well; they're intended for backing stuff, they're not meant to be able to carry a tune all on their own. That's why I suggested Project SAM, they have some mega-fat orchestral percussion samples.
Rain wrote:I think the synthesized nature of the drum work, at least with the drum samples, is correlated with some hard panning that might not generally be found in a conventional sound stage. I had 3 bass drums at different depths, one hard left, one hard right and the closest drum right down the center. That might be what you're hearing, but then again who knows?
Newp, the panning is not a problem. The overly neat and machine-like beats are...
Rain wrote:I've talked with a few peeps who really liked the idea and found it tasteful for what it was doing, but it was worth a shot!
Like I said, I'm not a fan of all-percussion music. So I'm not saying it's bad, I'm saying I don't like it much. ;)
Rain wrote:Anyways, thanks! :) It's a bit disappointing to write something and not have everyone appreciate it, but that's life. (I am rather used to it!)
Heh, I know the feeling. However, I'm a fan of your music so I'm trying to be honest but (hopefully) constructive.
Rain wrote:I'll check into Sam percussion samples if you think it would help. Otherwise, this is kind of a dead-end piece.
Nah nah, I didn't say "forget about it, this sucks". If you rework it and possibly add some melodic instruments, this might come out very interesting.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by yobbo » April 13th, 2008, 12:22 am

West, you are looking at this piece in entirely the wrong way

It is an artsy world-music piece ;). There's no way this is supposed to be an orchestral percussion piece. It's not supposed to have punch, loud bass drums, huge ensembles or additional instruments. It's performed in a small space with hard flat walls, and with the audience very close to the performers.

This sort of thing is about rhythm and intensity, not groove and punch.

Having listened to similar pieces performed live I can tell you that it sounds very realistic in all the points I mentioned in my above post, including the beat timing (well, in the first half/part at least).

Of course, it doesn't fit in at all with any of wesnoth's current music, or with most of wesnoth's current game content. But IMHO it would be better for content designers to have more choice in this area.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Blueblaze » April 13th, 2008, 4:11 am

In light of the situation, readding my useful comments;
1. Give your choir more of a grunt, as right now it is too airry, and that's not good for a warlike piece.
2. Don't overuse syncopation otherwise it loses it's flavor, as the second half over uses this, it is not a good feeling.
3. The timing is off for too long of a period of time which is really nasty.
4. Less hip hip horray in the choir (particularly at the end of that section) unless you want the highschool pep rally sound.
5. Try to add more variation in the second half as it gets boring quickly.

----
Please do not add this piece of music to Wesnoth, no matter the state. Wesnoth is no place for percussion ensembles.
Last edited by Blueblaze on April 13th, 2008, 7:11 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by Rain » April 13th, 2008, 4:27 am

West wrote:Hmm. From an orchestral music standpoint, compression is always a last resort (in my limited experience at least). Personally I don't mind it in other types of music -- there is nothing like really agressive, saturated compression for making the drums more punchy and alive in a rock mix -- but for orchestral stuff, it's usually a sign of something being wrong when you have to resort to heavy compression. Maybe the samples you're working with aren't fat enough? Rather than using compression, I would suggest layering the beats with other samples and lowering the overall volume.
They shouldn't be quantized at all! Play 'em live, then go into the piano roll editor and nudge the off notes around till it sounds good. :)
I'll keep these points in mind if I try something this ambitious in the future.
Like I said, I'm not a fan of all-percussion music. So I'm not saying it's bad, I'm saying I don't like it much. ;)
That's cool. It's been fairly recent that I've really begun digging this kind of music myself.
Heh, I know the feeling. However, I'm a fan of your music so I'm trying to be honest but (hopefully) constructive.
Thanks West!
yobbo wrote:...
<3

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Re: New Battle Theme? - Percussion ensemble and choir

Post by West » April 13th, 2008, 8:39 am

Blueblaze wrote:Wesnoth is no place for percussion ensembles.
Hrm. I know what your view on percussion is Blueblaze, so you're biased. However, I think you have a point. See below.
yobbo wrote:West, you are looking at this piece in entirely the wrong way

It is an artsy world-music piece ;).

...

Of course, it doesn't fit in at all with any of wesnoth's current music, or with most of wesnoth's current game content. But IMHO it would be better for content designers to have more choice in this area.
The problem with that is, where would we draw the line? If we can have (IMO) electronic-sounding percussion pieces in the game... why not Peter Gabriel-type electronic world music? Or Vangelis/Jarre-like synth songs? Or dub... ?

If I seem conservative when it comes to Wesnoth music, it's because we need clear guidelines for music submissions. If we allow more experimental stuff in the game, the soundtrack will soon branch off into so many different directions that it will lose all sense of consistency. It won't be a soundtrack, it will be a large pile of random music. And for the record, I'm not some stuck-up classical music onanist who detests electronic instruments -- on the contrary I use tons of synths in my other projects -- I'm just saying this kind of all-percussion music doesn't fit the game.

I would very much like to hear some other devs' opinion on this. Does any of you share yobbo's view* that Wesnoth music should be more varied in terms of style and influences?

*edit ...if that is what you meant, yobbo. Looking at your post again, I might have read more into it than what you intended.

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